1931 – Debt, Crisis, And The Rise Of Hitler
By Tobias Straumann
Oxford University Press – £16.99
It felt like the end of capitalism as people knew it. Looking back at the year 1931, Arnold Toynbee considered it an ‘annus terribilis,’ observing that ‘men and women all over the world were seriously contemplating and frankly discussing the possibility that the Western system of society might break down and cease to work.’
(‘The Rise Of Hitler’)
The (many) parallels between this most concise and coherent book, and so much of what is going on in the world today – especially in Venezuela, Brazil, the United States and Brexit Britain – really doesn’t bear worth thinking about. Admittedly, such is easy to stipulate and ponder upon when aided with the frightening confirmation that is hindsight; but hey, reading certain pages of 1931 – Debt, Crisis, And The Rise Of Hitler, is reflectively akin to that of a mirror of today’s, elongated, troubled society.
For instance, on page 196, Tobias Straumann, continues from that of the above opening quote, when he writes: ”Especially the period from May to December 1931 seemed to him ‘unlike any months which the living generation of mankind had lived through’ since the end of the war. ‘To those who lived through those critical months, it felt as though the combined forces of Fate and Folly were making a concentrated attack upon the the citadel of civilization.”
What with a greed riddled, unquestionably, self-serving, dishonest Prime Minister having recently been ensconced in Number 10, the inexorable, highly inflammatory ramblings of Nigel Farage, and a modern-day rendition of Adolf Hitler in the White House, it seems ”the combined forces of Fate and Folly” really are ”making a concentrated attack upon the citadel of civilization.”
That there’s an austere photo of Adolf Hitler running for the presidency of Germany on the opposite page, substantiates the aforementioned parallels even further.
Hitler’s vile ideology clearly gained from Germany’s acute debt crisis of the nineteen-thirties (”Hitler managed to profit from the crisis because he had been the most vocal critic of the reparation regime responsible for the lion’s share of German debts. As the financial system collapsed, his relentless attacks against the foreign creditors and the alleged complicity of the German government resonated more than never with the electorate”).
So too will that of Messrs. Johnson, Farage and Trump.
The only difference being, instead of an out and out debt crisis, we currently have a crisis of moral ambiguity and racist intolerance. The latter of which, in Hitler’s Germany at least, came to fruition within the confines of the concentration camp – which the British invented, and America is currently utilising at the behest of its President (to incarcerate Mexican children).
Tobias Straumann’s 1931, is, like George Orwell’s 1984, dour and disturbing; ironic and important.