These Historical Figures Toed the Line of Leadership
These Historical Figures Toed the Line of Leadership

These Historical Figures Toed the Line of Leadership

D.G. Hewitt - January 24, 2019

These Historical Figures Toed the Line of Leadership
Literary legend Ezra Pound never backed down from his support for fascism. Times Literary Supplement.

4. Ezra Pound was so enamored by Mussolini’s Fascist movement that he moved to Italy and even became a spokesman for the authoritarian regime.

In the 1920s and 30s, a number of writers and academics flirted with authoritarianism. Most, however, were quick to renounce their views once the true nature of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia were revealed. Not so Ezra Pound. The American fully embraced far-right politics. Indeed, he aligned himself with vile regimes for 20 years and even became a spokesman for fascism. According to his supporters, Pound was mentally unstable, and was even exploited by Nazi and Fascist propagandists. To his critics, however, the author was fully responsible for his actions, and his was more than just a relatively harmless flirtation with the politics of repression and hate.

Pound didn’t start out a fascist. He moved to the right steadily from 1915 onward. In 1924, he moved to Italy, largely as he believed the new Fascist society was sympathetic to his economic views. By the 1930s, however, he had embraced the anti-Semitic ideology of Nazism. As such, the radio broadcasts he made from Italy between 1941 and 1943 blamed America’s descent into war on ‘the Jews’. In 1945, Pound handed himself in to be tried for treason. While in prison, he welcomed numerous literary guests and was finally deemed mentally unfit to stand trial. After 12 years in an asylum, Pound was released – he immediately returned to Italy.

These Historical Figures Toed the Line of Leadership
When fascism came to Ireland, W.B. Yeats was one of its most passionate supporters. Wikipedia.

3. W.B. Yeats may be regarded as one of Ireland’s literary greats, but the way he used his talents to pen marching songs for fascists will forever taint his legacy.

William Butler Yeats, often known as W.B. Yeats, was one of the giants of 20th century literature. The Irishman was one of his country’s greatest poets, with a keen interest in his country’s rich past as well as in the occult. Yeats was also a deeply political figure. He was a lifelong Irish Nationalist, writing prose supporting independence during the 1920s. During the 1930s, however, Yeats became increasingly authoritarian in his politics. For him, the ‘people’ could not be trusted. Democracy was for the weak, and a strong arm was needed. Unsurprisingly, then, Yeats was attracted by far-right movements springing up across Europe, including in his native Ireland.

Yeats was a vocal supporter of the far-right Blueshirts movement that emerged in the Irish Free State at the start of the decade. The poet saw in the movement’s leader Eoin O’Duffy the strongman the newly-independent Ireland needed, a homegrown Mussolini capable of keeping Ireland Catholic, well-ordered and free from Communism. Though no street fighter himself, Yeats helped the only way he could, by writing marching songs for the Blueshirts. Within a few years, however, he had become disillusioned, and publicly denounced the group as amateurish. Even then, however, Yeats maintained his distrust of democracy right up until his death in 1939.

These Historical Figures Toed the Line of Leadership
Some English aristocrats feared Communism, and saw Nazism as a safeguard against it YouTube.

2. The 5th Duke of Wellington was just one of many English aristocrats who felt the Nazis could save Europe – and their family fortunes – from the Communist threat.

The 1st Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, was a true British hero, defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo and then serving as Prime Minister. His descendant, the 5th Duke of Wellington, was less distinguished. Born into immense wealth and privilege in 1876, he served in the military and then fought in the First World War. By the time he inherited the Dukedom in 1934, however, he was proudly pro-German and had aligned himself to a number of far-right causes. Above all, the 5th Duke of Wellington was one of Britain’s most-outspoken anti-Semites. Unsurprisingly, he did more than merely flirt with Nazism.

Wellington took over as Chair of the elitist Right Club in 1939. He stated openly that the aim of the association was “to oppose and expose the activities of organized Jewry”. He believed Britain should align itself with Germany and against the Soviet Union and was aghast when the two countries went to war in 1939 – a war he would blame on “anti-appeasers and the f***ing Jews”. The disgraced 5th Duke of Wellington died in 1941. Notably, his son and successor was to die just two years later, killed in action while taking part in a daring commando raid during the Allied invasion of Italy.

These Historical Figures Toed the Line of Leadership
The renowned philosopher joined the Nazi Party but claimed he never went to any meetings. Wikipedia.

1. Martin Heidegger might have stopped going to Nazi Party meetings in 1934, but was the philosopher’s flirtation with Nazism really so fleeting?

German thinker is widely-regarded as one of the most important Western philosophers of the 20th century. Above all, his debut book, 1927’s Being and Time continues to influence scholars to this day. Notably, several Jewish thinkers and academics have spoken out in favor of Heidegger, including Hannah Arendt. However, for some critics, Heidegger’s reputation will always be tainted due to his association with the Nazis. Moreover, the discovery of his private notebooks – ‘the Black Notebooks’ – in 2014 have called some scholars to question just how antisemitic Heidegger was – and the extent to which his thinking was shaped by his personal bigotry.

Heidegger joined the Nazi Party in 1933 and stayed a member right through the worst of its excesses. On the one hand, he resigned from his post as Rector of the University of Freiburg in 1934. Furthermore, he stopped attending Party meetings soon that. Such a lack of overt support for the regime have led some supporters to argue that his flirtation with Nazism was merely an “error” he regretted. On the other hand, even after the war, Heidegger never condemned the Nazis. He never even mentioned the Holocaust, lending weight to the argument that he was profoundly antisemitic and merely concerned with his own career and reputation.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Charles Lindbergh: Hitler’s all-American hero.” Daily Express, September 2010.

“SAS founder was a Nazi sympathiser.” The Guardian, July 2000.

“Happy Birthday, Mr. Ford. Love, Adolf.” The Chronicle, July 2008.

“Heidigger’s ‘black notebooks’ reveal antisemitism at core of his philosophy.” The Guardian, March 2014.

“Philosophy and a little passion: Roy Foster on WB Years and politics.” The Irish Times, June 2015.

“The Great Duke and others.” The Spectator, November 2008.

“Coming to Terms With Ezra Pound’s Politics.” The Nation, March 2018.

Literary Fascists of the 1930s, Great and Small.” Literary Hub, August 2018.

“New book reveals Wallis Simpson flirted with Hitler and Duke of Windsor called him ‘not a bad chap’.” People.com, February 2018.

“Edward VIII: Nazi sympathiser, playboy prince or peace-loving reformer?” History Extra.

“Historian reveals Chaplin’s praise for Mussolini.” Angela Ruskin University, April 2017.

“Williamson and Hitler.” The New York Times, March 1984.

“The screenwriting mystic who wanted to be the American Fuhrer.” Smithsonian Magazine, October 2018.

“How British High Society Fell in Love With the Nazis.” The Daily Beast, July 2015.

“The prime minister with a man crush for Hitler: The day Mackenzie King met the Fuhrer.” National Post, May 2017.

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