In Response to the ‘Unite the Right’ Rally

Keir Martland: In response to the violent white supremacist ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, I thought that I would re-print the text of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s 1943 essay ‘Credo of a Reactionary.’ Kuehnelt-Leddihn was very far to the Right himself, which is what makes his own perspective on fascism, Nazism, and racialism so interesting. He was firmly of the opinion that an “extreme conservative arch-liberal” such as himself must abhor fascism and racialism. This essay is therefore a must-read for all open-minded ‘Alt-Right’ sympathisers, note in particular the distinction between patriotism and nationalism. 

Credo of a Reactionary
By Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
The American Mercury 57, July 1943


evklI do not hesitate to announce that I am a reactionary. I take a deep pride in the fact. I see no more virtue in looking forward longingly to an unknown future than in looking backward nostalgically to known and proven values.

The term “reactionary” as I use it does not stand for a definite and immutable set of ideas. It stands for an attitude of mind. As a reactionary I resent and oppose the spirit and the trends of the epoch I am forced to live in, and seek to restore the spirit which had its finest embodiment in by-gone periods.

The circumstance that the term “reactionary” is applied as an epithet to fascists and other brands of modern man for whom a true reactionary has only contempt is no fault of mine. As an honest reactionary I naturally reject Nazism, communism, fascism and all related ideologies which are, in sober fact, the reductio ad absurdum of so-called democracy and mob domination. I reject the absurd assumptions of majority rule, parliamentary hocus-pocus; the bogus materialistic liberalism of the Manchester School and the bogus conservatism of the big bankers and industrialists. I abhor the centralism and uniformity of the herd life, the stupid mob spirit of racialism, the private capitalism as well as the state capitalism (socialism) which have contributed to the gradual ruin of our civilization !in the last two centuries. The real reactionary of this day is a rebel against the prevailing assumptions and a “radical” in that he goes down to the roots.

I am personally a reactionary of the traditional Christian faith, with a liberal outlook and agrarian propensities. Where so many around me worship the “new,” I respect forms and institutions which have grown organically over a long period of time. The periods that preceded the two great storms — the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ended by the Reformation; and the Eighteenth Century, ended by the French Revolution- are rich in forms and ideas of lasting importance. The universality of a Nicholas of Cues or of an Albertus Magnus, the glory of the Cathedral of Chartres and the late Baroque of Austria, inspiring figures like Maria Theresa, Pascal, George Washington or Leibnitz fascinate me more than the three “common men” of our time–Mussolini, Stalin and Hitler- or the democratic splendor of a department store or the spiritual emptiness of communist and fascist mass meetings magnetized by ecstatic mobmasters.

The introductory note to this decline of civilization was written by Martin Luther, who worshipped the nation, exalted the state and ranted against the Jews; by that royal barbarian on the English throne who supplanted the Catholic spirit of his country with a paralyzing parochialism; by the first “modern” — the Genevan who denied the basis of all philosophical freedom, Free Will — and the other Genevan who preached the return to the jungle and idyllic barbarism. These four horsemen–Luther, Henry VIII, Calvin and Rousseau –were but the heralds of more fateful things to come. The disaster was final when the French Revolution, faced by the eternal dilemma of choosing between liberty and equality, decided for equality. The guillotine and the Strasbourg magistrates who decreed that the spire of the cathedral be demolished because it rose above the equalitarian level of all other houses, are everlasting symbols of modernism and perverse “progress.”

The masses, forming organized majorities’ holding identical ideas and hating uniformly all those who dare to be different, are the present-day product of these various revolts. Priest and Jew, aristocrat and beggar, genius and imbecile, the political non-conformist and the philosophical explorer- all of them are on the list of the proscribed. The herd rules today almost everywhere with various means and under the most diverse labels. This tyranny is what I oppose.


As a reactionary, I believe in liberty, but not in equality. The only equality I can accept is the spiritual equality of two newborn babes regardless of the color, creed or race of their parents. I accept neither the degrading equalitarianism of the “democrats,” nor the artificial divisions of the racialists, nor the class distinctions of communists and snobs.

Human beings are unique. They should have the opportunity to develop the personalities–and that means responsibility, suffering, loneliness. I not only like the principle of monarchy but I like all people who are crowned. And there are all sorts of crowns, the noblest of them consisting of thorns. Modern Man –this docile, “cooperative” and urbanized animal–is not after a reactionary’s liking.

I believe in the family, in the natural hierarchy within the family, and in the natural chasm between the sexes. I love old men full of dignity and proud fathers, but I also love courageous and upright children. In a hierarchy the lowest member is functionally as important as the highest. And the abyss between men and women seems to me a good thing too; there is no triumph in building a bridge over a mere puddle.

I like people with property. I am not at all enthusiastic about the rootless fellow in an apartment house, with a social security number as his main distinction. I loathe the capitalism that concentrates property in the hands of a few, no less than socialism which wants to transfer it to that great nobody, the hydra with a million heads and no soul, Society. I like people with their own abode, their own field, their own views prompting them to independent action. I fear the herd: the 51 per cent who voted for Hitler and Hugenberg; the howling mob which supported the French Terror; the 55 per cent of Whites in Southern States who keep the 45 per cent of Negroes “in their place” with the help of blow torch and rope.

I dread all masses consisting of men afraid to be unique, to be persons; caring for safety more than for liberty, fearing their neighbors or “community” more than God and their conscience. These are the people who demand not only equality but identity. They suspect anybody who dares to be different. They want merely “ordinary, decent chaps” after the British, “regular guys” after the American or “rechte Kerle” after the German pattern. Modern Man seems to have only one wish: to see everything moulded after his own image; he loathes personality and wants to assimilate. What he cannot assimilate he weeds out. Our whole age is marked by a vast system of levelling and assimilating agencies comprising schools, ads, barracks, mass-produced goods, mass-produced newspapers and books and ideas. The darker side of this process can be seen in the social ostracism practiced against minorities in pseudo-liberal democracies; in the human abattoirs and concentration camps of the superdemocratic totalitarian nations; in the endless streams of homeless refugees wandering aimlessly all over the world. Common Man in any aggregation is pitiless, wholly lacking in generosity.

.Liberty, after all, is an aristocratic ideal. In Washington, right in front of the White House, on Jackson Square, there is a wonderful symbol: the monument to the first American egalitarian surrounded by the statues of four European noblemen who came to America to fight for liberty and not for identity–the Polish-White”- Russian nobleman Kosciuszko, Baron yon Steuben, the Comte de Rochambeau and the Marquis de Lafayette. Baron de Kalb is commemorated elsewhere and Count Pulaski’s name graces a highway in New Jersey and a statue in Savannah. Pulaski was the only general killed in the Great Rising of the American Whigs. We reactionaries (whether we know it or not) are all Whigs. Our tradition, in English-speaking countries, rests on Magna Charta, which only the ignorant will call “democratic.”

I have no relish for nineteenth century “liberalism” with its gross materialism and the pagan belief in the “survival of the fittest,” i.e. the most unscrupulous. For European conditions I am naturally a monarchist because monarchy is basically supra-racial and supra-national. Not only did free institutions survive better in the monarchies of Northwestern Europe than in the republican heart of the continent but in the ethnically mixed area of Central and Eastern Europe one ought to prefer monarchs of foreign origin with alien wives, alien mothers, and alien sons- and daughters-in-law to political “leaders” belonging passionately to specific nationalities, classes, parties.

I feel freer under a man who is nobody’s choice than under the appointee of a majority following blindly their overheated emotions. Voltaire had more chance to sway the courts of Paris, Potsdam and Petersburg than a Dawson, a Sorokin, a Ferrero or a Bernanos has to sway the “democratic” masses. The European monarchs intellectually and morally have matched their republican top-hatted epigones. The Bourbons certainly compare favorably with the politicos of the three French Republics. The Ftihrers of the totalitarian era have of course often been more “brilliant” and successful because less scrupulous. Backed by carefully staged plebiscites, they feel justified in indulging in slaughters no Bourbon, Habsburg or Hohenzollern would have risked. Plato told us more than two thousand years ago that democracy degenerates inevitably into dictatorships and de Tocqueville re-emphasized it in I835. Most fatheads on both sides of the Atlantic continue to confuse democracy with liberalism, two elements which may, or may not, coexist. A “prohibition” backed by 51 per cent of the electorate may be most democratic, but it is hardly liberal.


What we reactionaries want freedom and diversity. We believe that there is even a peculiar strength in diversity. St. Stephen, King of Hungary, said to his son: “A realm of only one language and one custom is foolish and fragile.” This is contrary to the demo-totalitarian superstitious belief in our epoch of uniformity. The Italian fascists who destroyed all cultural institutions of non-Italians in their country found imitators in the streamlined and progressive Technocrats who clamored, once this war had reached America, for the confiscation of the whole foreign-language press.

As a reactionary I like patriots, who get enthusiastic about their patria, their fatherland; and I dislike nationalists, who get excited about tongue and blood. The reactionary upholds the idea of soil and liberty, he fights against the complex of blood and equality.

As a reactionary I hold definite views as well as tentative opinions. “In necessary things unity, in doubtful things liberty, in everything charity” is a fine reactionary program. If I consider something to be Truth, I discount every opinion opposing it. But I disagree with certain medieval ecclesiastics or with the shortsighted conservatives who believed that error can be fought by force. Any meticulous eradication of error by artificial means (always directed against persons, not against the idea itself) ends by making the Truth unpalatable, stale, unattractive. As a reactionary I respect any person who courageously and sincerely holds erroneous views following his conscience. I have infinitely more respect for a fanatic Catalonian anarchist, an orthodox Jew, a hardbitten Calvinist or an ecstatic Dervish than for a humanitarian pseudo-liberal with a secret veneration for the omnipotent state. A real reactionary is a man of absolute faith and absolute generosity. He reconciles dogma and freedom.

As a reactionary I would like to see materialized in this country more of the anti-democratic ideas of the Founding Fathers. Indeed, few European writers fuIminated more strongly against the demos than Madison, Hamilton, Marshall, John Adams or even Jefferson who stood for an aristocracy of merit, not for mass-rule. Yet Hamilton’s centralism is basically leftish. Neither here nor in Europe should it prevail. What we need on either side of the Atlantic is more of a personal attitude. Colossalism and collectivism are the enemy. The farmer Schmidt from Hindelang, for instance, should first of all be proud to be the head of a family, the master of a homestead, and then to be a dweller of Hindelang. Upon further reflection he ought to find pride in being a peasant of the Allgau valley and also to be a Bavarian. His Germandom ought to be a mystical unity at the very horizon of his thoughts. But the modern tendency is to establish the hierarchy of loyalties the other way round. The Nazi emphasis on the ninety million Germans, the Soviet emphasis on “the masses,” the general identification of “bigger” with “better” show our debasement expressed in the worship of quantity, our contempt for the person, our whole modern despair in human uniqueness.

I hold that state, business, manufacture are the great slaveholders of our times, John Doe works like his spiritual ancestor, the medieval serf, one and a half days a week for his landlord. Of four weekly checks he hands over at least one to the corporation which rents him his habitat. Failure to do so would result in dispossession, a menace unknown to the villein of the thirteenth century. In the factory he slaves, unlike the guildsman, for unknown investors as well as for corrupt labor leaders, if not, as in the USSR, for a combination leviathan of State and Society. The workers should own the tools of production; there is no earthly reason why they should not own the factories in a literal sense or be the holders of all shares distributed after a certain key. A plant could be a living community no less so than the medieval workshop.

I like free people who are frequently “backward” people, like the Tyroleans, the Swiss mountaineers, the Scots, the Navarrese, the Basques, the grim peasants of the Balkans, the Kurds. They escaped the lesser evil of serfdom in the Middle Ages and the major evil of urbanization in modern times. They are very reactionary, conservative, liberty-loving. They can afford to be conservative because their culture is out of tune with modern times; what they have is worth preserving. The urban conservative, on the other hand, is nothing but an inhibited “progressive.”

I believe in the man of excellence, the man of duty as against the Common Man whose only strength lies in numbers, whose political manifestation is submission to prefabricated “convictions” or to “leaders” who unlike “rulers” do not differ from the masses but personify all their worst traits.

Today a handful of genuine reactionaries carry the brunt of the fight against super-progressivism in its totalitarian form. They know that democracy as a force cannot deal with the totalitarians; embryonic forms cannot succeed against their more mature manifestations. Plato, de Tocqueville, Donoso Cortes, Burckhardt all knew this. Progressive democracy like pseudoliberalism is nothing but a Gironde, a forerunner of the Terror.

Among this handful are Winston Churchill and Count Galen, Count Preysing and yon Faulhaber, Niemoller and Georges Bernanos, Giraud and d’Ormesson, Count Teleki, Calvo Sotelo, Schuschnigg and Edgar Jung. None of them did compromise with the wickedness of either the Gironde or the Terror in their modern forms; dead or alive, they will not yield. They do not, and they did not necessarily believe in a Brave Old Past as opposed to a Brave New World, but they saw the calamities of the present as growing out of the errors of the past into the catastrophes of the future. They are isolated by the suspicion that surrounds them. They are considered killjoys for not joining in the universal panegyric of Progress. They have become adamant and passionate. They will carry their banners even unto death, and their banners are very old, very proud and very honorable.


  1. Well, I’ve written about the issue of nationalism versus patriotism on this very site:

    …and my interchange with David McDonagh on that thread I still find most interesting!

    But whatever there might be to be admired in Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s analysis, I can’t agree with him. Because he looks only backwards. A better approach, I think, would distinguish between good and bad “progress.” The Internet? A good thing. Cameras on every street corner? A bad thing.

    And without wishing to be rude, I think that our new Director, Keir Martland, should be cautious about putting forward too much Catholic thought (not to mention reactionary thought). As far as I’m aware, Ludwig von Mises was born a Jew, and didn’t have any big positive or negative views about particular religions or sects. Nor was he, as far as I know, a reactionary!

    Let’s also not forget that this piece by von Kuehnelt-Leddin was a propaganda piece, in wartime.

    But, all that said, Erik was spot on in the last two sentences of part II.

    • As I said above, the intended audience for this re-post was open-minded members of the ‘Alt-Right’. The purpose was to convince them that one need not be a fascist or racialist to be an arch-conservative. And as far as I’m aware, I haven’t been “pushing Catholic thought” (though something doesn’t become untrue just because a Catholic says it). Mises was not Jewish in practice, but was clearly heavily influenced by the Catholic culture of Austria, and Menger and the Austrian School are also clearly in the Thomist and late Scholastic traditions. Lew Rockwell and Jeff Tucker’s excellent essay on the cultural thought of Mises would also contradict your point about Mises being some sort of progressive. Mises was the opposite of Keynes, a moral libertine who described himself as an “immoralist”, in almost every sense.

  2. I’ve read this blog for a while now, but haven’t commented previously. I’m in general sympathetic to elements of the Alternative Right, although undoubtedly there are aspects of it, such as a tendency towards a kind of paranoid antisemitism, and a sometimes crass misogyny which are pretty off putting. I’m not particularly familiar with reactionary thought, although I have read Hans Herman Hoppe’s ‘Democracy the God that failed and Leftism by Kuenelt-Leddihn, so I think I understand the political tradition you are invoking which is hostile to democracy, and democratic nationalism in particular. Democracy is essentially a demotic political system in which there is an elision between the governed and the government. The modern ‘politically active’ citizen on a superficial level has some political influence, and believes that he is self-governing, when in reality he is still ruled by an alien state which now has a democratic mandate giving it a level of arbitrary power which no absolute monarch had. The modern citizen identifies with the democratic state when the state ultimately pursues its own interests and could never act according to something as intangible as a common interest. A form of government such as monarchy, in which there is a clear delineation between tge subjects and the ruler, will never tend towards despotism because the subjects, recognising that the monarch is a political force distinct from them will never assent to the growth of its power. Furthermore within a traditional monarchy there are multiple sources of political power, such as a landed aristocracy, semi autonomous regions and a supranational church which also act as a check on any centralising tendencies. In your view nationalism as it emerged in the 19th century was basically egalitarian, centralist and identitarian, destroying preexisting local identities and replacing them with a uniform national identity. Paleoconservatives and many contemporary nationalists have argued that democracy requires a degree of ethnic and cultural homogeneity within a polity, which forms the basis of a strong pre political loyalty. Multiethnic democracies tend towards disintegration, and the formation of competing ethnic coalitions as was seen in Yugoslavia, and can arguably be seen in the increasingly diverse USA. Rather than using democracy as an argument against diversity, you use diversity as an argument against democracy. Supranational monarchies can act as neutral arbiters within a multicultural framework. I don’t necessarily disagree with parts of this outlook. It makes sense in the context of central Europe over three quarters of a century ago, and also makes sense in the contemporary middle east, but I don’t think it is relevant to what the Alt-Right are responding to. Firstly the Alt-Right are not “white supremacists”, while the recent violence in Charlottesville was instigated by far left groups (as most political violence is). The Alt-Right do not seek to establish a racially hierarchical state, along the lines of lets say apartheid South Africa. They are primarily responding to an imminent demographic reality, which is that whites will become less than 50% of the US’s population sometime in the 2040s. White Americans who have historically defined what America was and what at a fundamental level constituted the essence of the American nation will have become an ethnic minority in their own homeland. Imagine what would happen if blacks became a racial minority in a sub Saharan African country? It would be decried as colonialism, the dispossession of an indigenous people. Historically European nations which had a definitive and immutable set of characteristics which were unique to them, and which defined national membership are now expected to exist in a state of demographic fluidity. If Britain or the US are simply blank slates upon which successive waves of immigrants can imprint their own historical identities upon then nationality has become meaningless. It purely signifies geographical birth place or legal citizenship. The Alt-Right aren’t fascists . They are no politically further to the right than most of my grandfather’s generation. They simply recognise than ethnic homogeneity is desirable and that preserving the demographic integrity of a polity is a political necessity.

    • I largely agree with these comments.

      Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s essay is very good (subject to my several reservations, expressed below) but the nationalists of today, represented by the Euro-ethnic Alt-Right and similar people, are responding [reacting?] to problems that vK-L might not have envisaged.

      Let us not forget that vK-L was writing his essay within the context of a society that was implicitly ethno-European, and in which ethnic homogeneity was taken for granted. He would have expected this to remain the case. I don’t know what he wrote later in life, but I suspect at the time, the notion that ethno-Europeans could lose their demographic status in the United States would have shocked him – and would almost-certainly have jolted him out of his rather smug, high horse mentality.

      While not personally a fan of Enoch Powell, the first few lines of his 1968 speech come to mind when thinking of complacent white people like von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. Powell included those lines having observed the type of person prominent in the West, who likes to babble abstractly about “spiritual equality” and romanticise the “liberty” of medieval peasants, while ignoring the practical realities of life:

      [quote]”The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils. In seeking to do so, it encounters obstacles which are deeply rooted in human nature.

      “One is that by the very order of things such evils are not demonstrable until they have occurred: at each stage in their onset there is room for doubt and for dispute whether they be real or imaginary. By the same token, they attract little attention in comparison with current troubles, which are both indisputable and pressing: whence the besetting temptation of all politics to concern itself with the immediate present at the expense of the future.

      “Above all, people are disposed to mistake predicting troubles for causing troubles and even for desiring troubles: “If only,” they love to think, “if only people wouldn’t talk about it, it probably wouldn’t happen.”

      “Perhaps this habit goes back to the primitive belief that the word and the thing, the name and the object, are identical.

      “At all events, the discussion of future grave but, with effort now, avoidable evils is the most unpopular and at the same time the most necessary occupation for the politician. Those who knowingly shirk it deserve, and not infrequently receive, the curses of those who come after.”[unquote]

  3. I think it’s a good and cogent essay. I have never been a conservative formally, but I find I gravitate to conservative notions and ideas naturally, if that makes sense, and inevitably this means that I also often find common cause with reactionaries, even those who seem to reject modernism entirely. But von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (‘vK-L’) romanticises the past (as reactionaries are wont to do) and gives us the selective version (again, a habit of reactionaries). He also forgets, or omits to mention, that the past he wants restored was that way partly because the people were, variously, implicitly or explicitly nationalistic and tribal (nationalism – in its multifarious preforms and precursors – having preceded the modern nation-state itself). I can think of nothing more organic and natural – even ‘liberal’ – than blood itself, and the nation is an extension of family, the world’s most organic institution.

    He derides: “…the 55 per cent of Whites in Southern States who keep the 45 per cent of Negroes “in their place” with the help of blow torch and rope.” This twists and misrepresents things, but in any case, he omits to mention why whites in the South (and in other implicitly white countries of the time) might have been motivated to act in this way. Could it be that they wanted to maintain the very tradition and reaction that vK-L valorises, including peasant-like freedom? That was their older tradition. How would vK-L propose to maintain tradition without maintaining the ethnic peoples whose ancestors created the traditions in the first place? He seems not to recognise (or want to acknowledge) that there is a link between the two things.

    I do strongly agree with vK-L that reaction is liberal – the most important insight in the essay – but I would propose that ethnicism and racialism are liberal because they provide the backcloth and security against which individualism and freedom are possible. vK-L is right to point out that National Socialism is modernist (I would also say humanist), but I disagree with the conclusion he comes to about this. A closer examination would tell him that Nazism is a form of ‘reactionary modernism’ – consider Hitler’s Aristocratic Principle of Nature and the Führerprinzip as exemplars of ‘modernist reaction’, i.e. deeply reactionary concepts set within a modern context.

    Why was vK-L so keen to reject the precepts of the modern world entirely? I sympathise completely with the sentiments he expresses, but how practical or realistic was this pining for the restoration of an older, more in sympatico existence without a movement in-between? When the Nazis came to power in Germany, they were faced with a conundrum that would, or should, have animated the sternest European reactionary: How to vitalise Germany. The country was not just beaten fiscally and economically, but also ruined socially and culturally. The currency was debased, and so was the life of the people. The Nazis prescribed reactionary solutions within a modernist framework. Why did vK-L oppose this? The end result of National Socialism was something similar to the world he wanted: Europe would have been governed by an anti-democratic meritocratic elite, the ordinary people would have been freer than they are today.

    Orwell famously posited a distinction between nationalism and patriotism in his much-misunderstood and misinterpreted essay, Notes On Nationalism. Certainly, a distinction can be made, but I am not sure I accept the two as mutual exclusives, which vK-L seems to. It should be noted that Orwell wasn’t arguing against nationalism (though everybody mistakenly thinks he was) and almost-all the distinctions I have seen between the two words are flimsy, including Orwell’s and vK-L’s in this essay, and seem to be more about the need for a writer or speaker to distance himself from views he probably holds privately but doesn’t want everybody else to think he has: de Gaulle’s laughable attempt at distinguishing nationalism and patriotism come to mind, in which he tells us that patriots love their own country whereas nationalists hate everybody else (or words to that effect).

    vK-L writes: [quote]”As a reactionary I like patriots, who get enthusiastic about their patria, their fatherland; and I dislike nationalists, who get excited about tongue and blood. The reactionary upholds the idea of soil and liberty, he fights against the complex of blood and equality.”[unquote]

    To me, this just looks like empty rhetoric, as I do not believe soil and liberty can be separated from ‘blood’. I also do not accept the way that VK-L conflates nationalism with mass politics and equality. These things need not follow. Nationalism (in the broad Orwellian sense) has always existed: it’s just human nature.

    • Not sure I could write as well as this today as I have lost touch with these topics. I don’t mind saying, I am quite proud of this.

      • I’ve spent most of my life thinking I used to be better. My advice to to put such worries aside and hit those keys.

  4. On a further note I always found Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s distinction between patriotism as something based on the veneration of a patria, and nationalism as a blind worship of race as really odd. Nations are ultimately founded on a people who have a shared set of ethnic characteristics, common cultural practices, and a collective historical consciousness. Hungary historically did contain within it national minorities, who would have been tolerated but they would never have determined what it meant to be Hungarian. Hungary was Hungary because it was inhabited primarily by ethnic Magyars; on the periphery of Hungary Slovaks, Romanians, Croats and Germans did exist, but they weren’t part of the Hungarian nation. Its not soil that makes a nation. America for example exists in North America and has a similar constitution to many Latin American nations, but has a completely different historical experience to its southern neighbours. This is because the USA has historically been a homogenous anglo-protestant society. If America had had a large pre-existing native population, who had gone on to form an ethnic underclass, and furthermore if America had been settled by the Spanish then America would have ended up with the social and political problems of a Latin American country.

    • Going off at a bit of a tangent, but since you mentioned Hungary and Romania, my late father was born in Transylvania in 1915. I do remember him once saying that he lived in three different countries in his childhood without moving house. I believe (and I apologise for the vagueness of my account) that the language used in schools changed to Romanian at some point. My father was an ethnic German (part of the Saxon community who had emigrated – or been dispatched – to Romania a thousand years prior, and who had never inter-married with the Romanian population, and whose story formed the basis of the Tale of the Pied Piper. During the war he was conscripted by Hitler. I believe he had the choice of joining the Romanian army or the elite SS, which was, as we say today, a ‘no-brainer’. Unfortunately for him, Romania changed sides later in the War, so he went from serving his country to being a traitor overnight. He lost everything – the family farm, his house, everything – all confiscated by Stalin’s mobs. He ended the War as a P.O.W. in England, and he had no country to go back home to, so England is where he stayed. The ethnic Germans who did venture back to Romania generally didn’t live very long. I wonder what he would have made of the notions of Patriotism or Nationalism? As a personal footnote, I only discovered after he died a pocket-book in which he had written a note, or poem, to his mother. A typical letter from a young man wrenched away from home – ‘I promise to be a better son when I come back’, that type of thing. But of course he never saw her again.

  5. That’s really interesting. A lot of territories in central and eastern Europe switched between states constantly. I think Transylvania used to be part of the Kingdom of Hungary within the Austro-Hungarian Empire and was ceded to Romania in the Treaty of Trianon after WW1. Parts of it then went back to Hungary during the late 30s and early 40s in the Vienna Dictates when Germany favoured Hungary over Romania within the Axis. Ethnic Germans outside of Germany itself tended to fair badly at the end of World War Two. There were also significant German populations in Slovakia and Croatia as well, all of whom along with the Sedenten Germans experienced ethnic cleansing. Germans and Swedes in the Baltic states and very old ethnic German immigrant communities in Russia itself experienced deportations. My grandfather was also a German PoW who ended up settling in England after the war. His family was originally from Silesia which had traditionally been part of Prussia but was annexed to the artificially enlarged communist Poland after the war. Germans in what became Poland also experienced persecution and forced expulsions. Its a part of the war which doesn’t get talked about much. Im not sure how German diaspora populations viewed nationalism. I would suppose most, at least after the Hapsburg Empire collapsed were sympathetic to German expansionism. My grandfather was able to meet most of his family again who ended on both sides of the Berlin wall.

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