A Book by Peter Wyden
It is shocking to many to find out that there are plenty of people out there that still think of the notorious psychopathic dictator, Adolf Hitler, as anything more than a monster that should be reviled in the pages of history books. No matter how many years pass, the so-called “Hitler Virus” still clings to German society. People still celebrate his birthday, visit his numerous sites as tourist traps, sell memorabilia with his face emblazoned in it, and produce TV and films where his issues are downplayed. Sure, you have your militaristic Neo-Nazis and other racists that revere the man for his most nefarious deeds, but many simply ignore those guys as some sort of aberration and by-product of the right to free-speech. But what about someone’s kindly old grandmother that fondly remembers how quaint and warm her peaceful childhood was in Nazi Germany? How can one explain how a man so hated, so detested by the general populace can still be such a force in modern times? Whether it be through historical revisionism, political misguidance, accidental (or deliberate) propaganda, or outright denialism, there are many vectors to which “The Hitler Virus” spreads, and if this book is any indication, there appears to be no expiration date for the trouble it causes.
“More than a half-century after Adolf Hitler committed suicide in a Berlin bunker, the dictator’s legacy and influence lives on, precisely as he predicted before putting the gun to his head. In the spring of 1945, as it became increasingly clear that the Nazi cause was lost, Hitler dictated his final political testament to his secretary: “Out of my personal commitment the seed will grow again one day, one way or another, for a radiant rebirth of the National Socialist movement in a truly united nation.” The next day, Hitler ended the Nazi regime by committing suicide. Respected author and publisher Peter Wyden, who himself escaped the Nazis, has returned to Germany many times over the years and, to his dismay, he has found evidence that Hitler’s last testament was startlingly accurate.”
In the preface to this book, we find out that the book’s bestselling author, Peter Wyden, had written a large majority of The Hitler Virus in the late nineties, only to succumb to complications of a heart attack he had suffered the previous year (he was also 74). The book was finished by this aforementioned editor and his widow, updated with new information up to around the year 2000 or so, and released to a generally good reception. It is due to this unconventional publication that that the main problem of the book arises – it sometimes feels like a series of essays that lack the sort of narrative thread one would expect in a book like this. Had Wyden been in better health, I’m sure that this could have been achieved, but sadly we appear to be left with a book that is a decent look into this topic versus what could have been truly great. That said, what we do have is fairly well thought out and covers a range of topics we largely do not hear about around here. Most Americans seem to think that the fall of the Nazi Regime meant that everyone in Germany saw their misdeeds and moved on better for the ordeal. These sorts of people always seem shocked to hear about little right-wing uprisings and political attacks (such as one that made the news in late 2022) that happen throughout Germany more often than most would like. The ghost of Adolf Hitler is not fully removed from the German psyche, and Wyden does an adequate job of explaining why and giving examples from the last seventy years.
The book goes into great detail about the many steps that allowed “The Hitler Virus” to flourish. Initially, he details how the eradication of a lot of Nazi Ideals was halted by Allied ambition and the need for new allies to help fight the new world boogieman, COMMUNISM. This meant that a lot of Nazi war criminals destined for the gallows were instead “de-nazified”, dressed in new suits, and allowed to be officials for the American government (like Wernher von Braun) or stay in Germany largely doing what they did before. With many, this was a mere “wink and nudge” change, and a lot of small communities still kept their Nazi culture largely unchanged by the passage of time. As soon as people weren’t held accountable, historic revisionism and outright denial became mainstream. As with any “truther” movement, Holocaust denialism is utterly idiotic and morally bankrupt, that that hasn’t stopped many from capitalizing on it and indoctrinating the next generation of deniers in their image. Next the book talks about the stage where you see the romanticism of the Nazi era, with it being remembered as some kind of “glory days” that modern times has gotten away from. and finally, we learn about revival movements – scary little groups that often try to force a shift back to that earlier time. It’s rather scary that America has often followed in similar path with many of our politicians in regard to many of these things and our own blemished history.
But surely, with most people alive during World War II dying off, everything should be easing up in 2023? Right? Might I remind you that it was not too long ago that Kanye West, a billionaire musician, decided to use the better part of multiple months giving interviews where he espoused the virtues of Adolf Hitler, demonized Jews, ad ultimately started a rash of antisemitic hate crimes in the name of performative mental illness. Just when you think we, as a society, have moved past such a backwards mindset, there’s always an influential agent of chaos that has to rope everyone back in. This is why I personally fear the sort of material this book warns about. With a lot of our politicians wanting to actively hide what they would deem “bad history”, we seem to be destined for wave after wave of this moving forward.
This book was both eye-opening and informative, and filled in some gaps for me on how Hitler is seen today in parts of Germany. As a in-depth analysis of post-war “Hitlerism”, I’m not sure this book was wholly successful, assuming that was even the author’s original intention for the book. It does chronicle how this mindset has persisted through many different mediums, and how many notorious Nazis were allowed to keep peddling their ideological wares despite supposed laws against it. Like stated before, this is a flawed book due to the nature of how the book was completed, and lacks the final touches to give a sissifying conclusion or “bring it all together”, but what we do have is an important book nonetheless. If anything, each chapter is a thorough essay on the topic at hand, and you can tell Wyden did TONS of research, and was well-informed through interviews and personal experience. if you have in interest in history, extremism, or even sociology, this might be worth checking out.