Page 2 of 2 BOOK REVIEW The incredible lightheadedness of being German I Sleep in Hitler's Room: An American Jew Visits Germany by Tuvia
Reviewed by Spengler
The book is full of Germans who profess love for Jews and concern for the
security of the state of Israel, but somehow they bring to mind the old joke:
"What's the definition of a philo-Semite? That's an anti-Semite who likes
Jews." There is the Carmelite nun, Sister Jutta-Maria, at the Dachau convent,
who found her vocation because she "had a sympathy with the Jews."
She believes that God is "total forgiveness". Tenenbom asks her, "Is Adolf
Hitler forgiven by God?" She replies, "Yes, I think so." Tenenbom doesn't have
to spell it out, but she is saying in effect
that for the Germans to be forgiven, Hitler himself has to be forgiven. The
Germans can't forgive themselves.
Germans don't like being German. Tenenbom converses with a group of
Are you happy to live in this country?
"It's OK," one of them says.
If there's a war between Germany and France, how many of you will join the
fight to protect Germany?
Not a single one of them. Now, this is surprising.
But I shouldn't be surprised. "This is not America," one of the boys explains
to me. "We're not like the American students. We don't recite the pledge of
allegiance every morning."
"My great grandfather," one of the students suddenly speaks out, "was a train
driver during the war. In the service of the Nazis. I don't know if he drove
people to their deaths."
"My grandfather," says another, "was in the SS."
Is that why you are not going to protect your country? I stop this sudden group
"Yes. This is our history."
Germany is incapable of seeing
itself as a nation, because the history of its national aspirations is too
painful to keep in memory. It is hardly a new thought that Germans would rather
think of themselves as Europeans. But no recent writer has provoked such a
display of passive hysteria and erupting rage as Tenenbom's.
To understand the Germans, one has to learn their language and live with them -
or read Tuvia Tenenbom's book. Its only deficiency is that it would have been
more fun as a documentary, that is, as actual theater. Some of his materials
falls flat, but I suppose you had to be there.
Without knowing the intensity of German trauma, it is hard to understand the
mad passion of Germany's political class for European unity. To the Germans,
the risk that the whole European project might dissolve seems even more
horrifying than the manifest danger three decades ago that Germany would become
a Soviet satrapy.
Some background on that period is in order. As a young consultant to the
National Security Council, one of my jobs was to interview German political and
business leaders. Without exception, the entire circle around Helmut Schmidt,
Germany's chancellor in the early 1980s, believed Russia would win the Cold
In my book How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying, Too), I
According to Herbert Meyer, Vice-Chairman of the National
Intelligence Council under President Reagan and an advisor to Reagan's CIA
chief William J. Casey, ''They were trying to neutralize Europe: that was the
number one objective. They thought that if they could split NATO, they would
At the time I consulted for Dr Norman A Bailey, a
special assistant to President Reagan at the National Security Council. He told
me in 1981 that America's economic recovery and military buildup would bring
down Communism by 1988. He was a year off in his forecast. As Meyer points out,
the Soviets said that ''history was on their side - except we knew at CIA that
they didn't believe that. They're not stupid. They knew that the window of
opportunity was beginning to close. If they couldn't beat us now, they couldn't
beat us all. There was a nuclear superpower who knew that their opportunity to
win the cold war was running out.''
As I report in my book, "The Soviets very nearly won, by holding a gun to the
heads of the West Germans … If the Soviet Union had effectively blackmailed
West Germany and other European nations into meeting its economic requirements,
its military expansion would have returned a dividend."
defeatism had rational grounds: Russian military strength on the European front
dwarfed that of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
If Russia had launched a conventional or nuclear attack on Germany, NATO
doctrine called for the United States to retaliate with a nuclear strike
against the Soviet Union. No such thing would ever have happened, of course,
for no US president would risk a strike against the American homeland to save
Even if the US had been willing to meet its obligation, the Germans would never
have known who had won World War III - for all of them would have been dead.
Thus Germany's ruling Social Democratic Party in 1982 saw little incentive to
stick with the American alliance, and Russia had every hope of turning Europe
into a satrapy.
Installing Pershing II nuclear missiles in Germany with a six-minute flight
time to Moscow was a decisive act of pre-emption. The missiles turned the
tables on the Soviets. Were Russia to attack Germany, the Pershings would
strike Russia. If Russia were then to launch nuclear missiles against the
United States, the response would be an annihilating counter-strike. No Russian
premier would sacrifice the Russian homeland for Europe.
Thus the Russians sponsored an enormous "peace movement" to prevent the
deployment of the Pershings. Once the intermediate-range missiles were
installed in 1983, and once the US was embarked on the Strategic Defense
Initiative, Russia had lost the Cold War.
Schmidt had always
opposed installation of medium-range missiles in Germany; he used to joke that
the definition of a tactical nuclear weapon was one that exploded in Germany.
His government fell in 1982 when his coalition partners, the Free Democrats,
dumped him and formed a government with Helmut Kohl's Christian Democratic
Union. I always suspected (with no evidence) that the United States dug out
some old dossiers to persuade the Free Democrats to bring Schmidt down.
The installation of the Pershings was a critical step towards the fall of the
Berlin Wall in 1989. Many believed at the time, as I did, that once the threat
of nuclear annihilation was lifted, Germany would enjoy a spiritual renewal. On
the contrary, Germany's slow spiritual deterioration continued. It is literally
a dying country, with a fertility rate of just 1.35 children per female. In the
long term, a country that wills its own disappearance has no national interest.
Why should it think in terms of national interest today?
I Sleep in Hitler's Room: An American Jew Visits Germany by Tuvia
Tenenbom (The Jewish Theater of New York; New York 2011). ISBN-10: 098393990X.
Paperback. Price US$15.99, 336 pages.