The Weimar Liberal Intelligentsia

A short, short story on the foibles of liberalism.

For the Weimar liberal intelligentsia, the dinner parties of newspaper editor Klaus Gütenstrum were a hot ticket. Held with a reliable frequency just about every fortnight, they became a hub of discussion and debate for some of the most eminent citizens of Berlin and the world beyond. In the parlance of our times, they also happened to be an unfailingly right-on bunch. Not for them the rising tide of chest-thumping nationalism that had been slowly engulfing their nation for years. Consequently, by the time Gütenstrum hosted a typically illustrious gathering one night in 1927, as they chewed the fat on the issues of the day, a tangible sense of worry gnawed its way through the conversation.

“I am deeply distressed,” said the academic Helga Macht, “by reports of a growing swell of support for this mop-haired clown Adolf Hitler.”

Gruber Von Halstein, an irreverent tabloid journalist interjected.

“Ah, but in the words of George Orwell, ‘I have never been able to dislike Hitler.'”[1]

Guests groaned.

“I think when Mr Orwell has spent a little more time with Mr Hitler and his supporters he will find much to dislike about the odious demagogue.”

“And what say you, Hans?” the novelist Jurgen Ibold asked a newcomer to the Gütenstrum dinner parties, the suave out-of-towner Hans Steiner, who had definitely written a book or two at some point, yet still nobody really knew what he did. He carried an air of mystery about him. Perhaps his name had not always been his name. He often did not answer to it. “You are known, after all, as the biggest liberal in all of Berlin.”

“Yes, Hans, it is said you are a massive liberal.”

This assertion was made to seem more credible than it might otherwise as a result of the fact that Steiner had a textbook next to his plate called The Economy in a Liberal Democracy. Steiner carefully put down his fork and cleared his throat.

“It was Hitler’s speech at the 1925 Berlin Rabbit Show that convinced me of the National Socialist Party’s commitment to animal rights, in which I take an avid interest in my capacity as a massive liberal. He pledged to protect every last adorable hair on every last darling, cute little bunny’s sweet, playful, innocent, floppy-eared head…and that was when I knew I had nothing but admiration for the Nazis for their principled stance on the treatment of animals…”

The assembled delegates of the Weimar liberal intelligentsia were gobsmacked. Everybody sat in stunned silence. Steiner looked down at his food and began calmly cutting into his chosen vegetarian dish before he spoke again.

“…and also the matter of the Jews.”

———————————————————

[1] This quote, which I took hugely out of context, appears in Orwell’s 1940 review of Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

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