Moving from Germany to the United States

 

 

I moved from Germany to the United States after arriving at the disappointing realization, that the Germans never changed after 1945.

There was never a break with the past. The touted "Re-Education" of Germans after the end of World War II and the "De-Nazification" did not succeed. The opposite is the case: the absence of a 'change of mind' in the German mind and instead there is continuity from Nazi Germany into the Federal Republic of Germany of today.

After the end of World War II the German people never changed; in my childhood in the 1950s I experienced the fear and paranoia in everyday life stemming from the Nazi totalitarianism; my teachers in the 1960s continued to propagate their Nazi value system to me.

After the end of World War II Germans did not miraculously turned full-fledged Democrats, but the German political system after 1945 just reverted back to the Weimar attempts at democracy before 1933.

"THE MIGRATIONS had begun. At that point in time, the trains, the ships, the rutted dirt roads, the cement highways, the vaulting air lanes of the earth and seas and skies were beginning to carry again the ones in flight.

From the early thirties onward, the flow of the migrations swelled and thickened. In nineteen thirty-seven and -eight and -nine, two millions of Europe's people were moving, fleeing before the bitter fact that they were not wanted, not safe on the ground they knew and loved.

Movement, flight, the roots uptorn, the dear belongings left behind, the unknowing roses abandoned in the garden -- gone forever the beloved view from the kitchen window, the comfortable smile of a twenty-year-known neighbor.

Movement, flight, the aching decision, the visit to the Consulate, the seeking for affidavits and visas and Passports, the last locking of the door, the train pulling away forever from the friendly station, the border crossed, the sea sailed -- already the surface of the earth was restless and harassed with the ones in flight.

These new ones were to be the aliens wherever they went."

(Laura Z. Hobson, The Trespassers, 1943)

" We gave up our mountain chalet and took a flat in Munich,
prepared to settle down there for life.
Our plans and our hopes expanded together

until the shadow of the Nazi regime fell upon us.

We remained as long as we could after the rise of Hitler,
but we soon saw that it was impossible to continue a psychology
that taught individual freedom and love of one's neighbor
with a regime which turned its citizens into state slaves,
and tortured its minorities - Jewish, Catholic, or Liberal.

We realized the falsity of the Jewish red herring,
since no one could possibly prove what his exact racial origin may have been;

and we guessed that behind it lurked the necessity of choosing a scapegoat
with sufficient possessions to make wholesale robbery worth while.

Adler, we knew, had already established himself in America,
where we soon joined him."

(Phyllis Bottome, Alfred Adler - A Biography, 1939, p. 296)

German science and culture suffered a severe and irreversible blow by the Nazis. For example, close to one hundred Jewish scientists had to leave Vienna/Austria for the United States after the occupation of Austria by the Nazi Germans in 1938. They were Adlerians, psychotherapists with the mindset and the attitude of Individual Psychology (IP), taught by Alfred Adler. An essential part of Adlerian Individual Psychology propagates individual freedom and universal brotherhood of all men, the "Gemeinschaftsgefühl" (social feeling), which obviously was utterly incompatible with the teachings and worldview of National Socialism.

The U.S. Pocket Guide to Germany describes that from 1933 on Ethics and Morality were thrown out the window by the German Nazis. Decent and Christian values were sabotaged and inverted in Nazi time, and replaced by the worldview and the value system of a Psychopath: a lack of empathy, "Might is Right", "Whatever I can get away with, is OK", "The Strong lord it over the Weak", etc.

In 1933-1945 German citizenship was made conditional: The German Nazi Government suddenly decided to strip a group of 550.000 Germans of their citizenship, to make life miserable for them, took all their assets - Phyllis Bottome called it "wholesale robbery". The Nazis committed all kinds of atrocities against these 550.000 Germans - and ultimately killed about 60% of them. Since a citizenship is something permanent and supposedly based on law, by that very administrative act of stripping Jews of their citizenship, German citizenship has lost its value - because if it happened once, it could happen again.

The feeling of security and of the reliance on lawful judiciary process in Germany disappeared after 1933, when German judges were no longer deciding cases on the base of law, but followed their "folkish feeling", searched their soul for: "whatever is good for the Nation", "what is in the spirit of the Fuehrer". In other words: the judges felt free to spin it! Empowered by the Nazi party, of which they had to be a member in order to practice Law, they felt omnipotent, arrogant, felt backed by the elusive rule "whatever is good for the Nation".

As for justice, my quest for answers led me to the disturbing discovery that after 1945 the German judicial system was not thoroughly cleansed of the taint of the Nazi time, that laws are still on the book in Germany that should never have been, and that all in all, denazification and reeducation as propagated by the Allies after the end of World War II did not have the expected results.

I grew up in post World War II Germany, when the "shadow of the Nazi regime" Phyllis Bottome felt could still be felt. After being an established computer scientist in a German government research facility, in my late twenties I began asking questions: I wanted to understand the lack of ethics in German business, the lack of cooperation, and the adversarial conduct between Germans. I wanted to understand why the undemocratic, rigid German system of social stratification still existed despite the reeducation efforts of the Allies after the end of World War II.

I wanted to understand why I felt apprehension at things associated with military, with guns, military marches, and marching bands, why I felt apprehension when dealing with German government authorities, why I did not feel safe and protected by the German judicial and law enforcement system - until finally at age of 48 when I was preparing to leave Germany for good I wanted to understand why I still felt apprehension and why I anticipated all kinds of legal obstacles to emigration, like the Jews experienced insurmountable obstacles in Nazi time.

In my late twenties I started to read a lot. I discovered that the constitution of the German state I was living in was modeled after the American constitution - it looked good on paper but it did not reflect reality! None of the American morality, ethics and values necessary for a functioning democracy were ever installed in any German institution; the caste-like rigid social class system still existed and the German school system after World War II was not changed whatsoever, was not adapted to teach the essential tools for a democracy.

I was a student in one of the few concessions the Germans made to the Allies: they allowed for the United States to fund the erection of one experimental school in Germany, the "Schuldorf". The advances in this school were only in form but never in depth of morality, ethics, or in values preparing for practising democracy in Germany.

"One of the things in which we take pride in America is the spirit of sportsmanship, decency, and fair play instilled into our boys during their education.

Most young Americans hate a bully, despise a snitch, and have nothing but contempt for a double-crosser.

In school you learned from your teachers and from the other kids that it wasn't smart to pick on a little guy, or tell tales. When you played games you were taught to fight to the last whistle no matter how big the score against you: you learned not to cheat and that if you couldn't win fairly, then you took your licking like a man and shook hands with the man who beat you.

You learned that these rules were good ones to take into life with you when school was over, that you belonged to a community of free men with all the rights and privileges inherent in a Democracy, that the loyalty you gave to your government was loyalty to a country governed by representatives of your own chosing.

You know that to be born free and equal meant that you were no better and no worse than anyone else but that you would have a decent chance to prove your abilities in fair competition.

Since the year 1933, the German boy has been taught deliberately the exact opposite.

The young German, through his most impressionable years, has been taught that the strong are entitled to pick on and destroy the weak, that it is noble to squeal on a pal, or even snitch on a member of one's own family, that if you can win by cheating it's just as good as winning any other way, that a promise or word of honor given is to be kept only as long as it suits its purpose and can be broken at any time. "

( U.S. Pocket Guide to Germany, 1944, p. 7-9)

" ... solche deutsche Hochschullehrer, deutsche Denker, deutsche Pfarrer, deutsche Richter und deutsche Regierungsbeamte aus ihren Berufen und erworbenen Rechten hinausgedrängt werden ...

... die deutsche Wissenschaft durch einen überaus radikalen Eingriff in ihren Personalbestand ihre bis dahin schwersten Verluste erlitten hat. Über Nacht ihres Lebensberufes, jeglichen Rechtes, oft auch der Freiheit, der Gesundheit, und aller Zukunftshoffnung beraubt, haben die von diesem Eingriff betroffenen Wissenschaftler und Forscher eine Verelendung erlebt, die zumindest als eine Kulturgefährdung bezeichnet werden muß."

(Hans Grimm, Warum - Woher - Aber Wohin?, 1954)

 

My translation:

... German college professors, German thinkers, German priests, German judges and German public servants were forced out of their professions and out of their acquired rights and privileges ...

... by a rather radical intrusion in its personnel stock the German science has suffered the heaviest loss ever. From one day to the next robbed of their lifetime profession, of their rights, of their freedom, of their health, and robbed of all their hopes for the future - all scientists and researchers subject to this intrusion have suffered a misery that must rather be called a threat to [German] culture.

Could this appalling quote from Hans Grimm in 1954 about the denazification not be applied equally, without even changing the wording, to the undeserved "fate" of the German Jews in 1933-1945, that was caused by these complaining Nazis? Does it not sound eerily similar?

After 1945, Allied "interferences" in German matters, like the denazification and the attempt of a reeducation along democratic principles, were resented by the Germans. The presence of a high percentage of Jewish American occupation personnel did not help in eliminating this resentment. As seen in the quote from Hans Grimm, German Nazis felt victimized when losing their job in the course of the denazification, saw it as an injustice.

After 1950 all was good again: all the Nazis in Germany were back in powerful government positions. All teachers in 1933-1945 in Germany had to be a member of the Nazi party. Now my teachers in the 1960s continued to propagate their Nazi value system to me, to the post-World War II generation. As Phyllis Bottome put it, "the shadow of the Nazi regime" fell upon me squarely. Generally, the Nazi past remained unprocessed in Germany, as the members of the German intellectual elite, the Baader Meinhof Group, discovered in the 1960s and which ultimately led them to turn to organized terror.

More than fifty years after the Holocaust, the Germans believe that their grandparents had not been involved or had opposed the racist policies of Nazism. After a re-definition of the events in Nazi time has taken place, the plight of the Jews is transposed to the plight of the Nazis: fifty years after the Holocaust now the Germans appear as the heroes that suffered atrocities, and the focus is now on the German suffering after the end of World World II!

Individual freedom, love of one's neighbor, and above all, cooperation are no strengths of the Germans. Like Phyllis Bottome, I am an Adlerian. I concluded that Adlerian psychology and the Social Discipline Model of Rudolf Dreikurs can not find fertile ground in Germany. Since an individual is embedded in the culture surrounding him and his possibilities limited to his environment, I decided to move to a more conducive environment for practicing positive Adlerian psychology.

My wife worked as a certified translator and part time as an instructor at the Education Center of an American Army base in Germany. In preparation for our move my wife was able to acquire a Master's degree in Education. We prepared our daughter by exposing her to the English language as a member of the local Girl Scouts, and by gradually participating in conversations we had with American service members.

Two times we participated in the yearly Visa Lottery, without any result. After my wife got hired as a High School teacher in the United States, she applied for a work permit on a temporary H1-B Visa. I felt apprehension and anticipated all kinds of legal obstacles to emigration, like the Jews experienced insurmountable obstacles in Nazi time. However, we did not exceed the quota limit of 65,000 foreign nationals who may be issued a visa or otherwise provided H-1B status each fiscal year. My daughter and I were issued a dependent visa H-4.

All was good now: My wife started teaching German language in high school in the United States. However, the American immigration law did not permit me having a work permit for the first seven years of our stay in our country of choice: With our daughter in high school and later in college, we had to manage to live solely on one teacher's salary.

After one year in the United States, we applied for permanent residency. The temporary H1-B Visa then had to be renewed for another three years, and after that, renewed yearly, until after seven years finally a decision on our permanent residency came down. In these seven years we had to cover lawyer costs and immigration processing fees totalling $20,000. Then we had to spend another five years in the status of a permanent resident before we could finally apply for naturalization as United States Citizens.

"It was one minute past midnight, on the first of July, 1939. Now again the ones with their dreams centered in the United States could see in their minds the unfilled pages, the empty ledgers, of the quota books at all the consulates.

Now again, none but the higher officials could know the true ratio between the expectancy and the chance.

One year before, at this very moment of midnight, the high officials knew that 139,163 Germans and Austrians were registered and waiting for the 27,370 American visas that could be issued in the next twelve months. Now they knew that the number registered and waiting was 309,782 and that the quota was full until 1950.

...

Full, full, if never another German or Austrian, never another Czech or Pole, should go into an American Consulate in Berlin or Stuttgart, in Prague or Vienna or Warsaw, in the desperate months that lie ahead for Europe, these quotas are hopeless for eleven, seventeen, thirty-seven years...

From these four countries alone, there were 509,111 Christas and Pauls and Ilses and Franzes and Januces and Celoviks and Esthers and Ottos - over half a million registered and waiting for the precious visa stamp of the United States, land of asylum to the prosecuted, to the political or religious outlaws of the world. And for those 509,111 there now opened 37,637 new chances, spaced tidily of course over the next twelve months.

The high officials knew, and some of them hated the impasse as personally as if themselves and their own families were blocked by its awful dimensions. But there were also the officials who were aloof, untouched by the clamor, vexed by the endless surge. Damn foreigners, anyway. What makes them want to travel? Why do they have to go rushing toward the United States?"

(Laura Z. Hobson, The Trespassers, 1943, p.358)

"Kind, good, happy, gentlemanly, secure people never go Nazi. They may be the gentle philosopher whose name is in the Blue Book, or Bill from City College to whom democracy gave a chance to design airplanes—you’ll never make Nazis out of them. But the frustrated and humiliated intellectual, the rich and scared speculator, the spoiled son, the labor tyrant, the fellow who has achieved success by smelling out the wind of success—they would all go Nazi in a crisis.

Believe me, nice people don’t go Nazi. Their race, color, creed, or social condition is not the criterion. It is something in them.

Those who haven’t anything in them to tell them what they like and what they don’t - whether it is breeding, or happiness, or wisdom, or a code, however old-fashioned or however modern, go Nazi."

(Dorothy Thompson, Who Goes Nazi?, Harper's Magazine, 1941)

So how can we prevent people from "going Nazi", from getting overwhelmed by any political system in the future?

Dorothy Thompson recommends that people have to "have something in them to tell them what they like and what they don't".

A solid education in ethics and a thorough training of individual thought would be a start. The Adlerian concepts of individual freedom, love of one's neighbor, and cooperation, should follow.