If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the process of writing “The Furred Reich,” it’s that a lot of people get nasty and triggered when someone really digs into Third Reich Germany. Even though I’m just writing a furry fantasy fiction novel, a very large number of people freak out and lose their shit on various fan platforms. Their meltdowns have precious little to do with reality, and I’m often demanded to explain various things, most of them ridiculous fantasies mixed with about a dozen different empty platitudes which are complete non-sequiturs when it comes to my book series.
One of which is the ever-annoying “Hitler was Austrian” line, as if it has any real significance. Usually it’s people from English-speaking countries, as those from continental Europe frankly know a little better than to think Austrian and German are mutually exclusive. They are not.
Yes, Hitler was Austrian, but he was also German because German is not merely a geography, but also is a people. This is where a lot of English-speakers really jump into unfamiliar waters, because most really aren’t familiar with the history of Germans.
I don’t mind that people are ignorant about Germans, but I do mind when ignoramuses act as if they actually know something.
Who is attacking us? Oh, nobody in particular.
Britain, and the United States, for example, were an idea before they were a country. Both of them were ultimately formed by men sitting down at a table, drawing up a map and declaring all those who lived there to be Britons or Americans. The same goes for Canada, New Zealand, Australia and many other countries.
Unlike the US and Britain, when Germany was created in the 1850s, it had a people of its namesake that had already been around for quite some time. The concept of Germany was a state created for those people. It’s even apparent in the name.
The German people are ancient, the German state is not. Germans, therefore, are not necessarily defined by a national boundary but also belong to an actual distinct people, with a distinct culture and a distinct language.
I can’t stress enough how much English-speaking people miss this, although it’s hard to blame them, because today’s Germans aren’t exactly open in talking about this subject. Nevertheless, a good bit of ignorance can be cured by honesty here.
So let’s go back in time to about 300 AD, a full 1,500+ years before Germany as a state even existed. Yet, if you were to ask any Roman general who the Germans were, they’d tell you that it was a distinct collection of tribes to the east of Gaul. One of those ‘Germanic’ tribes went on to settle in what we know today as Austria.
Or what about the Renaissance time?
Germans, Germans anyone?
There was no ‘Germany’ in 1500s Europe, either. In reality, there never had been a Germany at this point, but yet, Germans were readily discernable by a distinct language, culture and folk likes. Whether one lived in Prussia, Mecklenburg, the Holy Roman Empire or the Kingdom of Austria, one was still part of the German language, culture and German people. That was just as true then as it was in Hitler’s time.
From an historical context, and that’s the only context you can have, Hitler was Austrian, but he was part of the German people as well. After all, why else would Germans today feel so compelled to “take responsibility for Hitler?” It’s because he was one of them and they know it. Ignorance by English-speakers who fail to grasp this concept is unfortunate, but most of the blame for this misconception falls on Germans today who try to downplay and obfuscate their own history to outsiders. But I say facts first, feelings second, if ever.