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Posts Tagged ‘Communism and Nazism’

            The end of the war found Charlotte living in Westfalen, an industrial district in Germany.  A series of jobs ended with her working in a lithographic office.  It was during this time that she became interested in and involved in politics.  Her mother joined the KPD (German Communist Party) after the war.  After that she was recruited for the Free German Youth – a Communist affiliated youth movement started by Germans living in exile in England during the war.

When someone has lived through intense oppression and has witnessed the atrocities of a regime like the Nazis, they often develop an extreme ideology in reaction to their life experiences.  Nazism is the extreme end of the conservative/right wing of the political spectrum.  Communism is the extreme end of the liberal/left wing of the political spectrum.  Both have led to totalitarian regimes in which power, in the name of the masses of believers in the system, is concentrated in the hands of a very few.  The tenants of the ideology justify, in the minds of the followers, this concentration of power.  It is seen as a necessity in order to create an “ideal” system.

For Charlotte Romberg, her life experiences and the realization of the truth of Hitler, made her a receptive vessel for the Communist perspective on the world.  Through her involvement in the Free German Youth, she came to believe that it was capitalism that was the cause of all the evils of the world.  It was capitalism that led to the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.  It was capitalism that was the cause of all war.  The idealism of the youth movement she joined was a vision of a world without weapons and without war.  This was truly the vision of Isaiah (Nation will not lift up sword against nation, nor with they study war any more).  But it was placed within the context of a Communist system, not a religious system.

Her exposure to Communism taught Charlotte several things.  First, and perhaps most important, was the falseness of Hitler’s racial theories.  Second, was that the Russian people suffered greatly at the hands of the Nazis.  This, of course, is quite true.  The Nazis were incredibly cruel to the Russians in the territories they occupied.  It is also true that the Soviet regime under Stalin was as repressive and repulsive as the Nazis.  Millions of political opponents to Stalin were murdered.  Soviet anti-Semitism, while not having the goal of the physical extermination of Jews, tried to keep Jews from any kind of religious expression and the result was an oppression that moved many Soviet Jews to flee to America as well as Israel.  All of these are easily overlooked when one has the idealism of youth confirmed by oppressive childhood experiences.

Charlotte went to the DDR (East Germany) to study in a seminar on Communist political activism.  She also met her first husband there and returned to West Germany to continue her political activism.  In 1953 was the World Youth Games in Berlin.  Youth came from all over the world but those in West Germany were turned away by West German authorities at the border.  The Cold War had already begun.  After the third try she was let into East Berlin.  The theme of the games was peace and friendship for all nations.

By 1955 Charlotte was pregnant with her first child.  As it is difficult to be a political activist with a young child, her friends suggested that she return to the DDR.  She lived there until 1964 getting the education she was not able to get while a child growing up in Nazi dominated Germany.  In addition to political indoctrination she also learned the arts, music and German literature.  But Charlotte always felt that her real work was in West Germany, so she returned to live there.

For many years, especially the height of the Cold War years of the 1950’s, the KPD was outlawed in West Germany.  Charlotte’s first husband was imprisoned for his political work.  But in 1968 a legal Communist party was formed in West Germany and Charlotte spent most of her adult years advancing left wing causes.  The most successful demonstration she described was a protest against nuclear weapons in which 300,000 Germans participated.  They formed a human chain from Bonn to Stuttgart.  She lived for many years in the Baden-Wurttenburg area and was politically active until the early 1990’s.

The collapse of the Soviet Union, the coming down of the Berlin Wall, and the breakup of the Eastern European Communist block was a shock to Charlotte and her companions.  She said that they still discuss how this could happen today.  She mentioned that my father did not approve of her politics.  I explained that this was understandable as Dad was very involved in left wing politics as a young person, even helping the Communist controlled furniture worker’s union organize a factory in New York after the war.  But as he opened his own business, he became totally disillusioned with both the union and Communism.  While maintaining liberal attitudes about many things, Dad was without doubt opposed to union control and Communism.  He was proud of the sister he found late in life, but absolutely did not approve of her politics.

It is easy to understand how the combination of child experiences at the hands of the Nazis could lead to an embrace of Communism.  The cognitive dissonance that Charlotte experienced regarding Hitler was resolved through an embrace of an idealistic political philosophy.

But of course this is just a new form of cognitive dissonance for the many Communist followers who do not see that the totalitarian methods of the Communists resulted in the suppression of many people’s human rights in the name of the workers.  One cannot dismiss the Soviet gulags or the large waves of people who sought freedom in the west.  In the end, extremism on the left ends up in the same place as extremism on the right.  I hope one day I am able to discuss this with my aunt.

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