by Friedrich Christian Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe
Part 2 – The masses readily become a hangman…
The Frenchman Gustave le Bon (1841-1931) was one of the foremost psychologists. He knew a great deal about the nature of human reactions, and so I will quote him at the outset: “It does not take much to turn the broad masses into a hangman, but just as little to make them a martyr.”
We will have to recall le Bon a number of times yet, since for a long time now our people have been at the mercy of a cruel enemy of whom they still know next to nothing. If for no other reason than that, we must finally put our cards on the table, so that we Germans – all of us – will not slowly but surely become dehumanized by never-ending calumny.
Without wanting to admit it, our nation became a martyr long ago, perhaps precisely because it does not have what it takes to become a hangman. The Germans have always been too trusting, too decent and too honest, but most of all: too frank and open – especially when times were good for them. Then they have to virtually broadcast their good fortune. And that had unforeseeable consequences, as there is nothing more suited to arousing enmity in others. Soon there were those who turned this essentially harmless fact into the basis for a large-scale political racket: the world-wide slandering of our nation.
Le Bon writes “…that in intellectual terms, the masses are always subordinate to the person who stands alone. In terms of emotions and the actions brought about by them, however, they may be better or worse. It all depends on the kind of influence the masses are under.”
In times of misfortune we Germans have always tended to look for the blame within ourselves. This throws the gates of opportunity wide open to slander.
Le Bon: “A person’s nimbus always vanishes in the moment of failure. The hero whom the masses cheered yesterday will be reviled by them tomorrow if fate strikes him down. The greater the nimbus, the greater the backlash. The masses then regard the fallen hero as the likes of themselves and take revenge for the fact that they once submitted to superiority which they now no longer acknowledge. When Robespierre had his colleagues and a great number of his contemporaries beheaded, he possessed an incredible nimbus. A shift in only a few voices immediately deprived him of this nimbus, and the masses dogged his heels to the guillotine with as many curses as they had hurled at his victims the day before. The faithful always vent their fury by smashing the icons of their former gods.
“Misfortune rapidly cancels any nimbus. It can also be worn down, however, by discussion; that takes longer – but it is a more certain way. A nimbus discussed is no longer a nimbus. Idols and men who understood how to preserve their halo have never tolerated discussion. He that wants to be admired by the crowds must keep them at a distance.”
Witnessing as I now do a fourth epoch of German history, I feel that I have seen an unusually great deal and certainly am in a position to compare. I hope that my readers will not consider it presumptuous of me to suggest that, in terms of this period of time, I am one of the very few people who are able, and entitled, to recount events from personal experience – and to judge them.
Now you will perhaps say: if that is so, then why are you speaking up only now, more than fourty years later?
For two reasons:
a) because I still believed that others were far more suited to this task, since their positions of particular responsibility ought to have afforded them greater insight, and
b) because I simply could not believe that one and the same people could be so terribly different. Unfortunately I have had to realize that it is no longer a matter of one and the same people. If it were, then a great many things would be different today in the German sphere of influence – better for everyone.
Therefore I feel that it is my duty to take up my pen in order to record what I have personally learned and seen, and make what testimony my personal experience enables me to make with a clear conscience, against the slanderers and for our people – for the sake of the truth.
I lived in the days of the monarchy, the son of a governing Prince. As a child I saw what close, honest and loyal ties our people had to our family, and vice versa, our family to the people. The clearest proof of this was the fact that only a few days before my eldest brother’s abdication the Schaumburg-Lippean Landtag unanimously requested its sovereign not to step down. At that time the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany) was the strongest party in Parliament! But the pressures exerted by the Emperor and the government of the Reich were too great, and our state too small, for continued independent statehood to be possible. National defence was given up, and the military as well as the provincial police forces withdrew. But I felt such solidarity with our citizens of Schaumburg-Lippe that I managed, with only my wife to help me, to carry out and win a petition for a referendum, so that the Landtag had to break off its almost completed negotiations with Prussia, and Schaumburg-Lippe remained a Free State until after 1945.
In the mid-1930s Hitler strove to put the Reich Reform into effect. This entailed amalgamating the small states with the large in order to render administration much cheaper and more efficient, thus strengthening the unity of the Reich. I asked to speak to him and recounted what I had successfully done for our Schaumburg-Lippe in 1928. He was so enthusiastic about it that he immediately summoned the Reich Minister of the Interior, stated verbatim: “This young Prince is the best democrat of us all, we must help him!”, and ordered a prompt review of whether the sovereignty of Schaumburg-Lippe could be maintained.
Only a short time later, Hitler personally informed me that my homeland would remain a Free State, in other words, independent within the Reich. And our citizens of Schaumburg-Lippe were very happy. Hitler had made an exception to his Reich Reform, an exception to his own principle – was that dictatorship? I think it is rather the exact opposite.
Events such as this one, even if it was of no particular political import except for the little State and its citizens themselves, were never mentioned in Hitler’s favor after 1945.