An Obituary by Gilad Atzmon
In his book Heidegger and the Jews, the French philosopher Lyotard contends that history may promise to narrate the past, but what it does instead is conceal our collective shame. American history conceals slavery and genocidal American militancy, Brits attempt to cover their imperial crimes and Jewish history covers the astonishing fact that Jews are uniquely skilled in bringing disasters on themselves. The real historian, according to Lyotard, is the one who unveils the shame and exposes it to the light. The real historian is a philosopher - an essentialist who introduces logos to an epoch that initially conveys itself as ‘irrational.’ Like a psychoanalyst, the real historian removes layer after layer of repressed shame aspiring toward reason, coherence and the truth.
Professor Ernst Nolte, who died last Thursday (93), was a real historian. This makes sense, during the Second World War, Nolte was a student of the great Martin Heidegger.
Nolte was probably the first post war academic to break taboos against equating Nazism with Bolshevism. He was immediately denounced by the conventional academic institutions as an ‘apologist for Hitler’ and a ‘Holocaust denier.’ However, most of Nolte's findings that were revolutionary in the 1960-80s are now accepted by most historians as a valid understanding of German National Socialism.
Nolte, found himself in a ferocious battle with the academic establishment in 1986 for suggesting that the Germans’ inclination towards National Socialism was a natural response to the ‘existential threat’ posed by Bolshevism. He also compared Hitler’s brutality towards Jews and other minorities with Stalin’s mass killings. Nolte was correct that Stalin’s brutality towards mass populations predated Hitler’s oppressive measures towards people he identified as enemies of the state. “Did the ‘Gulag Archipelago’ not exist before Auschwitz?” Nolte asked in his 1986 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) article.
Nolte attempted to examine German shame in a search for logos in German modern history. In fact, that logos is more relevant now than ever. Nolte realised in the 1960s that fascism was the great anti-movement: it was anti-liberal, anti-communist, anti-capitalist, and anti-bourgeois. It opposed modernity. It is Nolte’s inclination towards logos in understanding fascism that helps us interpret the popularity of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Both men are regarded by their followers as a counter force to the mommonite/oligarch establishment.
Unlike Wilhelm Riech and the Frankfurt School enthusiasts who came to the ludicrous conclusion that Germans favoured National Socialism over Marxist revolution because they were ‘sexually repressed’ and inclined towards authoritarianism, Nolte bravely revisited the past and discovered that it made a lot more sense than most of us were willing to admit at the time.
As one might predict, being a real historian didn’t make Nolte’s life easy. Immediately after the publication of his FAZ article he became subject to an orchestrated onslaught led by Jewish academics and others. One of Nolte’s bitterest enemies in Germany was the notorious Frankfurt School shabbos goy Jürgen Habermas who accused Nolte of “grossly apologetic tendencies.” If history were left to Habermas and his Frankfurt School idols we would still blame German sexual repression for WWII and the rise of Hitler.
Professor Nolte wasn’t an admirer of Hitler. He consistently condemned Nazism. However, Nolte did react with interest to Fred Leuchter and Germar Rudolf ‘s reports that questioned the scientific possibility of the homicidal use of the gas chambers in Auschwitz. If history is there to narrate the past, such a narrative must evolve and shift as time passes, more facts come to light and we can reconsider what happened and rewrite the past accordingly.
The real historian is a person who transcends temporality and introduces rationality where it has been lacking. Nolte replaced the absurd notion of ‘collective authoritarian psychosis’ with historicity. He did it all by essentialism. Thus, Nolte, the real German Historian was quicker than others to see Israel for what it is. In his 1991 book “Historical Thinking in the 20th Century,” he referred to Israel as an“extraordinary state” and warned that it could become fascist and commit genocide against Palestinians.
To his last day Professor Nolte was unrepentant, he said what he believed to be true.