Friday, December 26, 2008
Oath: A Sipsey Street Irregulars Review of "Valkyrie"
"The Ride of the Valkyrs" (1909) by John Charles Dollman.
"Sneaking into power."
"Ich schwöre bei Gott diesen heiligen Eid, daß ich dem Führer des Deutschen Reiches und Volkes Adolf Hitler, dem Oberbefehlshaber der Wehrmacht, unbedingten Gehorsam leisten und als tapferer Soldat bereit sein will, jederzeit für diesen Eid mein Leben einzusetzen." -- Die Vereidigung der Wehrmacht auf Adolf Hitler, 2.8.1934
"I swear by God this sacred oath that I shall render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the German Reich, supreme commander of the armed forces, and that I shall at all times be prepared, as a brave soldier, to give my life for this oath." -- The Wehrmacht Oath of Loyalty to Adolf Hitler, 2 August 1934
"By swearing loyalty to the person of Adolf Hitler rather than the nation or the constitution, the officers and men of the armed forces found themselves bound by their honor to the Führer, even after Hitler had set out down the path to war and ordered the Wehrmacht to commit war crimes. . . As the dictator's desire for war became increasingly clear in late 1938 during the Sudetenland crisis, a number of Wehrmacht officers hatched plans for a conspiracy against Hitler that was to be launched as soon as the dictator launched the invasion of Germany's neighbor; the Munich Agreement put an end to the dispute as well as the plot against Hitler. Though historians cite a number of factors why Hitler's opponents within the armed forces failed to act when they realized the dictator's aims, their reluctance to violate their personal oath of loyalty is cited as a prominent factor." -- Wikipedia.
Prior to the Fuhrer-eid above, members of the German army, then called the Reichswehr, swore this oath:
"I swear loyalty to the Reich's constitution and pledge, that I as a courageous soldier always want to protect the German Empire and its legal institutions, (and) be obedient to the Reichspräsident and to my superiors."
Compare this to the oath American soldiers take:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
Not so very different, really, from the Reichswehr-eid. But when Hitler brought the German Army to heel by instituting the Fuhrer Oath, as Louis L. Snyder points out in the Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, "The rule of traditional law was now finished (Pg. 156)." The German civil service also had to swear an oath to the Fuhrer.
"I swear: I will be faithful and obedient to Adolf Hitler, Führer of the German Reich and people, to observe the law, and to conscientiously fulfil my official duties, so help me God."
The oath represented the culmination of "Machtergreifung," a German word meaning "seizure of power". This term was first coined by the Nazis themselves in order to portray their accession to power as an active seizure. However, since Hitler's accession to power was the result of intrigue rather than of an active revolution, the term has been criticized by historians, some of whom prefer Machterschleichung ("sneaking into power"). This term could apply to any tyrant who uses existing democratic forms to sneak into absolute power. It remains to be seen whether Barack Obama has committed Machterschleichung.
"I am a soldier, but in serving my country, I have betrayed my conscience."
It is not accidental that Tom Cruise's new movie Valkyrie opens with the Fuhrer-eid. No German struggled more with that oath than Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, the German army officer and Roman Catholic aristocrat who was one of the leaders of the failed 20 July plot of 1944 to assassinate Adolf Hitler and remove the Nazi Party from power. It is the story of Count von Stauffenberg and the 20 July conspiracy that Valkyrie successfully portrays.
In Norse mythology, a "valkyrie" (meaning "chooser of the slain")is a female figure who chooses who will win or die in battle.
"The valkyries bring their chosen who have died bravely in battle to the afterlife hall of the slain, Valhalla, ruled over by the god Odin, where the deceased warriors become Einherjar. There, when the Einherjar are not preparing for the events of Ragnarök, the valkyries look after their tableware and drinks. Valkyries also appear as lovers of human beings and heroes, where they are sometimes described as the daughters of royalty." -- Wikipedia
It was a Wehrmacht contingency plan for the seizure of control of Berlin to protect Hitler's regime, codenamed Valkyrie (Walkure in German), that von Stauffenberg and the other 20 July plotters sought to turn into the means of the German people's deliverance from the Hitler regime. It was, as Wellington said about Waterloo, "a near run thing." The tragic ifs are detailed in the movie and are completely historically accurate.
IF von Stauffenberg and his aide had not been interrupted in the bathroom while preparing the bomb so that it consisted of only one charge instead of the planned two, Hitler would have been killed. IF the meeting had not been changed from the bunker at the Wolf's Lair to the more open structure next to it because of the July heat, Hitler would have been killed. IF, after von Stauffenberg left the room, the satchel containing the bomb had not been moved from one side of the massive table leg to the other, thus shielding the dictator, Hitler would have been killed. IF von Stauffenberg's co-conspirators hadn't been waffling trimmers who delayed the seizure of power within Berlin for hours while they waited for confirmation of Hitler's death, the plan might have succeeded despite Hitler's miraculous survival.
It was on the failures of those ifs that von Stauffenberg and his fellow officers were chosen by the Valkyries for their tragic fates.
For that matter, and this to me is the principal lesson of the story, IF the Wehrmacht generals had openly opposed Hitler early on, the regime would have folded. History tells us what the movie does not: that von Stauffenberg, Generaloberst Beck and most of the other key plotters of the 20 July conspiracy took the Fuhrer oath freely, and in some cases, happily, because they believed that Hitler was the salvation of Germany, much as some believe, according to Rolling Stone magazine, that Barack Hussein Obama is the "savior" of our country today.
Beck supported Hitler until the dictator turned against him, believing him to be insufficiently bloodthirsty for what Hitler needed him to do. Count von Stauffenberg supported the attack on Poland and didn't come to the conspiracy until 1942. Yet it was only through von Stauffenberg's struggles with his conscience that the otherwise hapless German resistance came as close as they would ever come to ending the Hitler menace.
Stauffenberg's resistance flowed from his Catholic faith. Although the Roman Catholic Church had signed a modus vivendi with Hitler ("the Reichskonkordat") in 1933, the Nazi government quickly violated this agreement, leading German Catholic bishops and the papacy to protest to the Pope. Finally in 1937, the Pope condemned the ascendancy of Nazism and other racist ideologies.
But it was the evidence that von Stauffenberg witnessed with his own eyes that offended his strong personal sense of religious morality and justice. Yet even when urged by his uncle and other family members and personal friends to join the anti-Hitler resistance, von Stauffenberg demurred, reasoning that all German soldiers had pledged allegiance not to the institution of the presidency of the German Reich, but to the person of Adolf Hitler.
Yet gradually von Stauffenberg came to the position that, as Cruise's character says, "I am a soldier, but in serving my country, I have betrayed my conscience." He concludes, "You can serve Germany, or the Fuhrer. Not both!" He tells his new aide, "I am involved in high treason with all means available to me. Can I count you in?"
Even at the end, when the coup fails and he is stood against a wall, moments before his death, von Stauffenberg exclaimed, "Long live sacred Germany!"
The tragedy was not that they tried to overthrow the Nazi regime and failed. The tragedy was that they waited so long to try. In one of the lines in the film that hit me like a fist, von Stauffenberg finally concludes, "I am a soldier. I serve my country. But THIS is not my country." Is this not the situation we find ourselves in today? The Gramscian revolutionists have pilfered the country that we used to be and substituted a twisted profanation that would be a joke were it not so tragically real. I look at what we have become and worse, what we are about to become under the tender mercies of the Obama administration, and like von Stauffenberg I must conclude that THIS is NOT MY country. Nor is it the country of the Founders, nor does it represent the hopes they had for their Republic.
The past as prologue.
I believe that this movie has appeared at a particularly critical time. There are many who fear, perhaps rightly, that the United States military will be used by the incoming regime to further attack our liberties, our property and our lives. There is much posturing by commentators who should know better and name calling of American servicemen who have as yet done nothing save in the imaginations of those who conjure their fears and dress them in ACUs.
I have two observations for such poeple. First, if you treat someone as an enemy before he has done you injury or even insult, he will surely BE your enemy.
Second, if you are really concerned about preventing the use of the United States military within the boundaries of the Continental United States as the striking arm of tyranny, you should go out and find a soldier and buy him a ticket to this movie. Or, failing that, wait until it comes out on DVD and buy him or her a copy so they can watch it and pass it on to their buddies.
For in the end, whether the United States military allows itself to be used against its own people depends entirely upon that oath they all took to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" and to "bear true faith and allegiance to the same."
Valkyrie reminds us all of the good or ill that can come from simple words, solemnly repeated. In Absolved, one of characters is asked whether or not he agrees to resist the predatory regime that the United States federal government has become. He explains his agreement simply, "I took an oath."
Have a little faith, my fellow gunnies. When the time comes, that oath could save us all.
Bust of Colonel Count von Stauffenberg
(Memorial to the German Resistance, Berlin)