“Heil Hitler, Herr Friedmann”

Mahler0001_2Timeless wisdom from The Clash: "But I believe in this and it’s been tested by research / He who f%$^s nuns will later join the church."

Exhibit A:  Horst Mahler.  He started his career in Berlin as a relatively successful business lawyer, then migrated to the far left of the political spectrum.  Because of his conservative dress and horn-rimmed glasses, he was called the "Opa der APO," the grandfather of the opposition.  On the left, we see him at a 1968 May Day demonstration sponsored by a left-wing group (the picture is from Butz Peters’ immensely readable RAF history Toedlicher Irrtum). Eventually, Mahler grew close to the RAF.  It was his silver-tongued eloquence that convinced a prison warden to let Andreas Baader visit the Institute for Social Questions to "research a book."

During the visit, Ulrike Meinhof and several accomplices broke Baader out, shooting and severely injuring an institute employee named Georg Linke in the process.  Mahler, alas,  wasn’t very good at life underground.  After some terror training with the RAF in Jordan and a few months on the run committing bank robberies,  he was arrested on October 8, 1970, after police saw through his disguise.  Bond-like, he complimented them on the arrest.  From prison, he gave interviews to anybody who came by, generally reciting the kind of revolutionary word-salad popular in the 1970s.

Has Horst Mahler changed his opinion about fascism (bad! and right around the corner!) since the early 197s0?  I’ll let you judge for yourself from the first four words of his recent Vanity Fair Germany interview [h/t Ralf] with Michael Friedmann: "Heil Hitler, Herr Friedman!" 

Mahler goes on to say lots of things about Jews (Angela Merkel is their "marionette") and the Reich and the struggle between the peoples of the world and the Holocaust.  Friedmann, former head of a prominent German Jewish organization, listens bemused, occasionally trying to make sense of it all.  I found Mahler a bit disappointing.  He’s sometimes described as "diabolically clever" or the like.  I was expecting some kind of eloquent, reasonable-sounding melange of accurate historical observation, questionable historical interpretation, and just a delicate whiff of understated anti-Semitic conspiracy-mongering.  Instead, except for a few classy quotations from Buber and Goethe, it’s the kind of stuff you hear in a skinhead bar or a right-wing German fraternity.

By the way, kids, don’t try this at home!  Mahler will likely be indicted for just about every sentence of this interview, and is fully aware of this fact.  He claims not to mind, since prison is a place where you can get a lot of things done which you’d otherwise never have time for.

7 thoughts on ““Heil Hitler, Herr Friedmann”

  1. I am very fond of “Vesper, Ensslin, Baader” by Gerd Koenen:

    In the beginning of the book, it shows the opposite (and earlier) flip of opinion from the right to the left, where Vesper (with Ensslin) try to re-popularize Vesper’s father’s Nazi literature before the RAF.

    But the entire book is excellent, if sad, reading.


  2. I’ve read the first five or six of the 30+ pages online but coulnd’t stand it any longer. The interview claims to be meant about the Deutscher Herbst 1977 but if you put Michel (no a) Friedman on the other side of a table nothing good could come out. Vanity Fair provocated this boring interview on purpose.

    Btw, do you read the NPD-Info blog? Very interesting and sometimes amusing.


  3. Will read in full if I come across a print copy.

    What especially amused me from the pages I did read on-line was HM’s assertion that “the Jews” have infiltrated the Vatican. Also liked the way Friedman kept trying to get HM to say that he wished he were Jewish.


  4. Just one comment:
    Friedman was the head of the “Central Council of Jews in Germany”, _THE_ organisation representing jews in Germany. The council is the most important organisation of that kind in Germany.


  5. In the early Eighties I once rescued an old desk from a rubbish collection. It was a serviceable item except for one thing: a drawer stuck. With the help of a screwdriver I managed to open the drawer and found the problem: a copy of a newspaper wedged alongside the drawer. It was the Völkischer Beobachter (roughly “People’s Observer”), the press organ of the Nazi Party, bearing a wartime date.

    Just before reading it, I had read a pamphlet handed to me by a member of the MSB-Spartakus student communist association.

    I found it very striking that the two publications had the same style and tone; the vocabulary differed, however. Where, for example, the MSB-Spartakus spoke of “Americans,” the Beobachter spoke of “Jews.” This led me to the Orwellian insight that. . . Go ahead and connect the dots.

    What does this have to do with Mahler? Not much, or everything. I suppose I’m trying to show that radical German leftists aren’t very different from Nazis and that it isn’t surprising that one of their pillars would spout anti-Semitic invective.

    On the other hand, Mahler, obviously, is ill (and boring, as Thomas writes). Not much of a political point to be made using a paranoid schizophrenic as an object of demonstration.


  6. @alphager:

    Friedman was the head of the “Central Council of Jews in Germany”

    No, he was deputy chairman (under Paul Spiegel). That was, of course, before they caught him with the blow and the hookers, he married Bärbel Schäfer, and started interviewing nazis.


    Pay some attention on Otto Schily.

    Schily and Mahler had their showdown in the NPD banning lawsuit, exactly 30 years after Schily had been Mahler’s defence attorney. That must have been strange for both of them.


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