JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 666
Harold, like the rest of us, had many impressions which saved him the trouble of distinct ideas George Eliot.
First (and other early) impressions get made once, for the very first time, and then re-invented, re-examined every time after that, especially as the first impressions start to age and get forgotten, slipping around the windsock of time. But every so often these antique first impressions come back onto the playing field, and it is remarkable, really, what lessons can be learned of them.
A review of a very early biography of Adolph Hitler appeared in the pages of The Illustrated London News for 27 August 1932—this was the year before Hitler assumed formal control of the government and nine years after he began his rise to power. The book was Hitler, by Emil Lengyel, published by Routledge in 1932; it is the subject of a very sharp-eyed review by “C.K.A” in the pages of the ILN. It was also reviewed so to speak by the Nazi leadership, which ordered that Lengyel (1898-1985) be picked up and disappeared at any early opportunity for being an enemy of the state. Some of the interesting bits that the reviewer pulled from the Lengyel book include the following—I’ve included several here because of his particular and early insight):
“There are no limits, however, fantastic, to which this fanaticism will not go; though what the Jews have done to Germany to deserve this frantic vendetta remains obscure.
“It is almost incredible to Englishmen that this barbaric mania (Jew hating) should be erected to the position of a fundamental political tenet…”
“Some of the Party principle are Olympic in their sweep and scope. Thus:” “offenders against the interests of the community, usurers, profiteers, etc., are to be punished with death…” Much virtue in your ‘etc.”!
“Behind all stand the emotional political impulses—repudiation of war-debts, hatred of France, hostility to the League of Nations, fanatical exaltations of race,…All this was to be expected…it is not too much to say that by the Treaty of Versailles the allies brought the Nazi movement upon themselves. The marvel is that it has been so long postponed.”
“What Hitler’s flag stands for he has never revealed beyond irresponsible generalizations and decrepit platitudes..."
“(On Lengyel’s Hitler): He is a vox et praterea nihil—a shallow, paltry, neurotic person, with no constructive ability, a woodly intelligence, and little to comment except glibness and passionate prejudice. This is difficult to believe but by no means impossible.”
“It may well be…that Hitler the man is as empty as his absurd Swastika”.
The Yellow Spot, The Extermination of the Jews in
This really is an endless and mammoth subject as what I’m
talking about is a history of perception, and all I’ve done here really is to
draw a few things together that I have within reach. It seems an interesting pursuit, following the
threads of thought regarding early impressions of major (and minor) events, and
one could easily construct a large Borgesian encyclopedia of them. Check under “C”, for cable, for example: the physicist Jacques Babinet thought it
impractical and far too expensive to construct a communication line under the Atlantic ocean
*A note on the production technology using interchangeable parts--this idea really did have its seat in American industry. Colt’s “system of manufacturing” (c. 1851), Charles Tomlinson’s 1853 Rudimentary Treatise on the Construction of Locks, rifle manufacturing at the Springfield Armory in the early 1850’s, Eli Whitney and the cotton gin, Singer Sewing Machines, (ca. 1865) phonograph machines produced on conveyors by Thomas Edison, and so on, till you get to Ford’s own Highland Park Factory around 1913. All are indicators of this sort of conveyor belt, standardized parts, interchangeable units that marks this brand of manufacture. For an early, interesting reading see Charles Fitch’s “Report on the Manufacture of Interchangeable Mechanism” (1881) as part of one of the reports of the massive overall report of the Tenth U.S. Census, and also “The Rise of the Mechanical Ideal” in the Magazine of American History (1884)