A sigh of relief passed my lips as I opened my absentee ballot that had just come with our daily mail. It had been some journey to exercise the rights of my German citizenship: After applying in April the ballot finally arrived two weeks before the election. As I opened the grey envelope, perfect German structure greeted me while my mind wandered of to the consequences of my vote and that of 82 Million German citizens. Even though nobody really expected a political messiah, many of those near to me set their hopes on the main stream parties. And I must admit, the rather uneventful political campaign without any major scandals had a consoling effect on me. But these quiet and intellectual campaign trails have not always been part of Germany´s political makeup.
When Hitler headed for being reelected in November 1933 a incredibly accurate planned show was orchestrated by Hitlers Propaganda minister Goebbels. In many ways it had particularly similar elements of a boastful and arrogant attitude, which was exposed during the last US-American campaign for the oval office. The loud outward appearance was even called by some “American style”. Victor Klemperer diary entry from Nov 11, 1933 is a shocking and insightful reminder of this time:
“The excessive propaganda for the ” Yes”. On every business car, postal car and bicycle , at every house and shop window, on wide banners stretched across the street – everywhere slogans by Hitler and always “yes” for peace. It is the most unbelievable of all hypocrisies. We want more soldiers to make the army to the militia and to blend with the million of SA [Sturmabteilung]. Parades and choruses until into the night, loudspeakers on the streets, music cars (with on the top mounted radios), cars like trams.
Yesterday from thirteen to two o’clock the “festive hour”. “In the thirteenth hour Adolf Hitler comes to the workers.” Perfect the language of the Gospel. The Redeemer comes to the poor. And in addition the America-appearance. The sirens’ haul, the minute of stillness […] A highly skilful, calmly spoken report on the disposition by Goebbels, and then about forty minutes of Hitler. A generally hoarse, overwhelmed, excited voice, wide passages in the vindictive tone of the preaching sectarian. Content: I know no intellectuals, citizens, proletarians – only the people. Why have millions of my enemies remained in the country? The emigrants are “rascals” like the brothers Rasser. And a few hundred thousand rootless international – interjection: “Jews!” – want to oppose millions of people. I only want peace, I have risen from the low people, I do not want anything for myself, I have three and a half years’ full power and do not need a title. You must say yes for your sake. […] The man [Hitler] is a excessive enthusiast. And he hasn’t learned anything.” (1)
As I started to fill out my absentee ballot, I couldn’t get my mind of the present difference of politics in both countries. Here was I in one of the greatest nations in the world casting my vote for the highest office in Germany – and in some ways things have been tossed upside down. My fear of seeing this nightmare happen again intensified significantly in the last weeks when hearing about the rise of right winged parties in the country of my upbringing. We may not have the choice of electing a “political messiah” – and I am very honest: I do not hope, we will ever be blinded and lulled into disaster by a crazy and powerful politician! But by exersizing the rights of my citizenship in a democratic way, I will be able to be a small drop making a difference against any right winged tendencies.
(1) Victor Klemperer, Tagebücher (1033-1934), p. 67-68. Translation (MG)