Heikki Kolehmainen

My book recommendation and letter to Sam Harris

Hi Sam and greetings from Finland

My recommendation:
Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing and Dying, The Secret WWII Transcripts of German POWS
by Sonke Neitzel (Author), Harald Welzer (Author), Jefferson Chase (Translator)
Originally published by S. Fischer Verlag GmbH, Frankfurt am Main, in 2011



My recommendation is not one more book about Nazi Germany though it is about German soldiers in WWII. The book is a collaboration of two German researchers, a historian and a social psychologist. The part I’d like you to read is the prologues and the two first chapters “What the soldiers Discussed” and “The soldiers’ World”, which makes about 63 pages. In the Finnish translation those parts are separated from the rest of the book in order to give insight to the cultural and psychological frames, in which the Germans found the Nazi rule overwhelmingly appealing.

The writers argue that racism was not some grace note in Nazism but in the core of the ideology. Racism contributed a lot of the dynamic appeal of the Nazi rule by giving a sense of superiority to the Aryan population. It was very appealing to feel above the rest after the humiliation of WWI and the political and economic chaos of the Weimar Republic. When one mixes this (1) feeling of superiority with (2) the strong traditions of cultures of honor, militarism, nationalism and Protestant work ethics and furthermore with (3) long-awaited safety and order in the society (for privileged majority) and with (4) dynamic, non-hesitant implementation of a dictatorship, one gets to the bottom of the mystery, why the Germans literally were in love with Hitler and the Nazi rule around 1937-1941. I think that the same could happen almost anywhere.

Maajid Nawaz says in his TED talk that Islamic extremism is most popular among the educated and among those with a high social status. According to the book, this was the case with Nazism too. And the Nazis were young men (most barely over 30 when coming to power) just like Jihadists. The Islamists talk about “the hundreds of years of humiliation” of the Islamic culture by the West (like WWI and the Weimar) and I guess they too want desperately to feel equal or even superior again.

There is massive unemployment, bad governance and now the failing states of Arab Spring like the Weimar Republic or year 1848 in Europe. There is a strong tradition of honor and patriarchy like the German traditions. And there would be the non-hesitant implementation of the religious sharia laws that would ensure (they think) safety and order (for Muslim males), if the extremists would have their way.

In addition to all of the above there is the question of getting to paradise for those who die in a Jihad. But fanaticism and fundamentalism should be seen as a “solution” and not as a cause of action. Religion and other strong traditions only build the foundation and add fuel to the flames, but are not enough alone.

Could there be an Islamic, militarily aggressive “Nazi” state with a fanatic, racist (towards other religions, westerners and women) dictator that could start a new world war in and from the Muslim world? And could that turmoil spread to Europe and cause a severe threat of violent uprisings and even civil wars in the West? I think it certainly looks that way.

But please, read at least those 63 pages (most of them are readable in Amazon’s preview). They are more convincing than the jumping to conclusions that I did here.

Best regards

Heikki Kolehmainen


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