Mixing Green With Red Makes Brown (Shirts)
In light of the recent environmental controversy over splattergate, where the green propaganda ad in the United Kingdom explosively became gory red in the classroom, it is time to be reminded that the Nazis started out green but became bloody red. This political reality came much to the dismay of many German conservationists as they slowly found out the real intent of Adolf Hitler.* Naïve German greens had no idea that many of the Führer's savage premeditations about continental hegemony were conjured up at his mountain retreat in the wild Bavarian Alps. The greens just assumed that he was enjoying the alpine serenity of the region away from the hubbub of Berlin. Neither did they apprehend that the sweeping Nazi environmental laws of 1933-35 were an implicit anti-Semitic precursor for the racially charged Nuremberg laws. Together, these laws specifically targeted Jewish internationalism, whether coming from the capitalist West or the communist East, as being unnatural and alien, i.e., not indigenous to Germany. One of the most embarrassing environmental facts of the 1930s was that between 60% and 70% of the German greens were Nazi Party members, compared to only 10% of the population at large. In fact, German greens outperformed even medical doctors and teachers, with Nazi foresters and veterinarians leading the charge. Somehow, the so-called independent German wandervogels (German word for "wandering free spirits") found themselves at the footstool of Der Führer. Their wandervogel attitudes about civilization and the wild forestlands found a political niche in the isolationist biology of the Nazi Party. Furthermore, their strong beliefs in holism found a political voice in the totalitarian Social Darwinism of the Nazis, which was largely rooted in Ernst's Haeckel's ecology of the 1800s. In those days, racism was good, "scientific" biology. Racism (disguised as eugenics) was the rage of the late 1800s and early 1900s. It required the cataclysm of World War II to bring about an international repentance on the subject. In Germany, ethnicity and nature, racism and environmentalism, often went hand in hand. By the time of the Nazi period, this collaboration had hardened into a political-biological ecology known as "blood and soil." Though the German greens predated the Nazis by well over a hundred years, with the advent of the Nazi Party, their previous Romanticism was transformed into something far more sinister because of its ties to a strong totalitarian state, where, for the first time, they became political players at the federal level. While environmental historians are quick to point out that the Four Year Plan's great battle for production later compromised the new conservation laws, the fact of the matter is that the idea of a political totalitarian environmentalism was born in the Third Reich. Indeed, the 1935 Reich Nature Protection Act trumpeted the slogan, "it shall be the whole landscape." Green historians may debate on how effective this totalitarian conservation law was, but nonetheless, here is seen the birth of environmental impact statements and the like. In Nazi Germany, private property could even be seized without compensation for the sake of environmental concerns. As such, what was unique about Nazi environmentalism was not in its setting aside of nature reserves à la Teddy Roosevelt, but in its willingness to regulate already developed properties for the sake of the environment. This was a line that Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot did not cross. The green Nazis did. Another man who worked with Kurt Tucholsky in the late 1920s was pacifist-Marxist John Heartfield. He was a very gifted political artist who often used exaggerated metaphors to hyperbolize the contradictions of National Socialism. Not surprisingly, upon Nazi accession to power, he was forced to suffer through a harrowing escape from Germany in 1933. In the later thirties, he made up a montage of Hitler watering an oak tree which bore the acorn fruit of army helmets and shells painted with swastikas. Like Tucholsky before him, Heartfield astutely recognized the dark shade of green that characterized Hitler and the Nazis of the 1930s. The oak tree was considered the sacred tree of Germany. Hitler loved oak trees and had them planted all over the Reich as "concordant with the spirit of the Führer." Oak leaves and acorns were even the symbols of the SS, Hitler's green Praetorian Guard. Hitler gave oak saplings to all of the gold medal winners of the 1936 Olympics as nationalistic living symbols of the competitive Olympic spirit. Jesse Owens received four of them. American gold medal winner Glenn Morris also took one home. Some of these Olympic oaks are still alive. In July of 2009, a tremendous controversy erupted in Jaslo, Poland over one of Hitler's oaks planted by the Wehrmacht in 1942 to celebrate his birthday. According to the U.K. Times, "The ritual was always the same: a brass band and a speech by the German-imposed mayor that would always invoke the metaphor of deep roots, of tiny acorns turning into great oaks, of 1,000-year Reichs. Attendance was compulsory."
The Jaslo oak tree is evidence of Nazi Germany's green plans for the East. Landscape planners were even chomping at the bit to get started in Ukraine and Belarus behind the Wehrmacht's advance into Russia. The oak tree was scheduled to be taken down due to a construction project, but an eyewitness to the event intervened and informed the people of the city that the oak tree should be saved since it was a silent witness to some of the greatest crimes committed in the 20th century. With all of the articles that were written about the Jaslo controversy, it is intriguing how uninterested so many of them were in delving into the Nazi environmental record behind the planting of that oak tree. It seems that postmodern Western man has become too infatuated with environmental fascism to take notice.
While many continue to use the eco-fascism label as a figure of speech to help illustrate the growing totalitarian menace of the modern green movement, it is no metaphor. Eco-fascism is rooted in history like a German oak tree. This is nowhere more shockingly evident than at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Buchenwald means "Beech Forest." The SS enjoyed a zoo just outside the camp, and in the midst of the camp are the remains of Goethe's oak. The famous scholar Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) blazed the trail for the German Romantic Movement. Goethe spent much time around the environs of that particular oak tree, the destination of his favorite forest retreat. Today, Romanticism is known as Environmentalism. When the Nazis cleared the ground for the construction of the camp, they carefully preserved Goethe's oak tree. Late in the war, the tree died during an Allied bombing raid. However, the stump still remains thanks to the special care that the Nazis gave to it at its funeral.
* This was first pointed out by pacifist-leftist Kurt Tucholsky