Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A READ Poster From Hell

  ( Originally written and posted on MySpace on December 3, 2008 )


The following is excerpted from a review, which appears in the December 1, 2008, issue of The New Yorker,  of Timothy Ryback's new book Hitler's Private Library:

    " Hitler was a voracious reader, finishing a book every night, either at his desk or in his armchair, always with a cup of tea in his hand.  His library at one time contained more than sixteen thousand books, of which some twelve hundred survive in various archives. . . . "

Suddenly an image of an American Library Association READ poster from Hell flashed across my mind.  The A.L.A. posters always feature some politically correct celebrity.  Hitler would be a celebrity, of course, but the antipodes to everything that is politically correct. 

On second thought, however, he would not be totally 180 degrees away from political correctness.  In some history of the Third Reich, I recall reading of the expression "politically right-thinking," which was applied to those who supported the Nazi regime.  Also, not so incidentally, the Nazi regime was formally the National Socialist government.  National Socialists never called themselves Nazis.  Though they were anti-Marxists, they always insisted that they were socialists.   Hitler was as much a man of the left as of the right.

But all this is beside the real point, which is how the image of Hitler as a reader clashes with the easy assumptions of the kind of facile liberalism which prevails among librarians.   They "know" that politically right-wing people never read.  What will they make of this revelation that Hitler, who in their minds epitomizes the right wing, was a voracious reader?

I have the greatest problem with envisioning Hitler the German sitting there reading a book with a cup of tea in his hand.   A typical German would be swilling down a mug of  Bier.   One finds it difficult to visualize a German man drinking a cup of tea.   Originally from Ohio, one of the most German American of the states, I do not in fact remember seeing a single German American neighbor drinking a cup of tea, the quintessentially English drink.


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