Among the many devastating ideologies that originated in Germany one has only recently been identified, isolated and traced back to its source. Conspirationism, the ideological escalation of conspiracy theories took the major steps to its modern form among German aristocrats and nationalists.
Step one: In the 1780s, German bureaucrats and religious censors started attributing all the evils of “Frenchism”, that is, of the eruptions of absolutist and feudal order to a secret society called the Illuminati which had existed for a short period of time mostly among teachers and noblemen in Bavaria and Northern Germany. Soon after the French Revolution, a whole movement of counter-revolutionaries devoted themselves to the proof that there was a direct historical line from Satan to the Illuminati. They gained some influence with their “Wiener Zeitschrift” which became one of the major inspirations for the first modern conspirationism classic by the French cleric Auguste Barruel.
Step two: As a reaction to the more substantial threat German aristocracy faced in the revolution of 1848, noble stateservants of Prussia painted an even bigger picture than that of the bourgeois Illuminati trying to shake Absolutism. This time, they expanded the plot geographically and socially by accusing the British trading bourgeoisie of organizing a European workers’ revolt in order to destroy the entire social fabric of the continent, thus rendering it a cheap and easy to control market for Britain. Prussia actually sent agents to London to gather information about the democratic exilants there and put a couple their comrades to prison in 1850’s “Kommunistenprozeß” (Trial against Communists) in Cologne. Prussian arictocracy succeeded in convincing the King and most Germans of the sinister threat to their and every society against which only the incorruptible nobles could form any resistance. The military stayed in the hands of the reactionary aristocracy imprinting romantic nationalism, strict obedience and conspirationism into several generations of army recruits. German military became “the school of the nation”, as a popular proverb said. As both bourgeoisie and working class had been successfully accused of fraternazation with the enemy, both classes were from that time on seen as divided – consisting of a loyal and an illoyal fraction.
Step three: After 1871’s triumph over France which gave such a bad example to the world – especially to Japan – war time and post-war accumulation resulted in a short, but significant economical crisis which could hardly be blamed on foreign powers, even by conspirationists. This became not only the “Gründerzeit”, the founding epoch of Germany as a nation, but also of modern antisemitism as we unfortunaltely still know it today. Into the already established concept of a world-wide sinister plot using all the modern social classes against traditional society, German conspirationists introduced the Jews as the driving force behind the global conspiracy. The illoyal parts of the classes were now simply the Jewish workers and bourgeois, inciting revolts and spreading cultural decadence. Modern antisemitism couldn’t have developed its form without the previous establishment of a conspirationist concept.
As most readers of this blog probably know, the “International Jewish Conspiracy” became the core issue of the Nazis – and it’s safe to say it had been a core issue of many Germans already before. As antisemitism was outlawed after WWII and could only be expressed in less obvious forms as anti-zionism, we can’t properly tell how heavily German society is still influenced by conspirationism. But many modern day popular issues indicate a strong tradition. Whenever it’s about Israel, about foreign economic power (referred to in mass media and by leading politicians as “locusts”), about threats to “social peace” (the obedience of the loyal classes) you see conspirationism shining through.
I’ll give you some examples in upcoming postings as I’m coming across them all the time. I’m going to start translating my current book on the issue into English and have a separate blog for that purpose. If anybody can offer assistance I’d be glad about it.
(first posted at the Trots’)