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Confessions of the Old Wizard: The Autobiography of Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht (Inglese) Copertina rigida – mag 2011

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Book by Schacht Hjalmar Horace Greeley

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3.0 su 5 stelle Schacht, by Schacht is better than Schacht by others 31 luglio 2013
Di SteveGinGTO - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina flessibile
I've read a good deal about Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht, and this is an indispensable volume for anyone hoping to learn about the man, his life and his times.

I was amazed at how flippantly Schacht dispenses with his monumental achievement in stopping - IN ONE WEEK - the historic runaway hyper-inflation of 1921 to late1923, for which he was forever known as the Wizard of Finance. Entire books have been written about its ins and outs and complexities and causes - and yet Schacht waves it off as no big deal, other than setting up a new currency and being rigid with speculators , which all seems inadequate, but perhaps I am not veresed enough to see the power in his actions.

Many authors who cover Schacht make him into a total blow-hard. I come to a different opinion about him, even though this book seems a bit more "Me, me, me" than most autobiographies. But the man had some very real achievements and his lack of false modesty about them makes him seem more real, not a bigger egotist.

As in all autobiographies I've read, Schacht's accounts of his early years was basically boring, but he made a concerted effort to show how those years affected his mental development, so they are important to understanding the man.

His dealings with Hitler, which many have castigated and many have woven into something more than it was, I found genuine, if perhaps leaving some things out that we all may never know about. Hitler was a hip-shooter in areas he was ignorant about, so Schacht's professional attitudes toward Hitler's policies and character would be expected. No expert ina field who is being directed to do unwise things would react otherwise if he had a spine. Schacht seems to present himself as one who, because of his recognition of his own legend, felt like he was above being punished by Hitler. And he seems also to have been correct in that assumption. Prior to the war, Hitler seemed always concerned about how the Western leaders - and normally to read them fairly well. And Schacht's international reputation defintely appears to have protected Schacht from Hitler's vehemence. The butted heads many times, and Schacht seems to not have backed down or allowed Hitler to maneuver him into giving bad advice or go along with poor economic decisions.

Cold and proud he may have been, but many ministers in modern history have been like that. The Germany that produced Schacht probably produced many like him - stiff, proper, pedantic, sure of himself, and sure of the economic principles he applied with so many successes. If he wasn't a hale fellow well met, why should it matter?

Perhaps the issue with others is not Schacht himself. Perhaps the issue was the Hitler connection, that anyone who helped Hitler in any way is seen to be a flawed and criminal person - guilt by association.

However, Schacht's participation in the 1938 and 1939 plots to oust Hitler are covered well in other histories by people including Shirer and Fest, and though they show that Schacht was not centrally figured, he was one of the earliest and most constant of the opposition. Schacht explains this that he was under close observation and would have had little chance to operate, and might have put the Gestapo onto other conspirators, simply by being seen with him. There is little reason to doubt that this was the case.

I came upon Schacht initially in reading about his apoplexy at being in the docket with Göring and the other top Nazis, whom he referred to as criminals. His vociferous insistence that he was innocent and would be exonerated surprised me. I'd never heard of the man, and had thought all the 20 in that trial were hung (only 3 were found not guilty). I thought that this was someone I should look into. Even the psychologist there in Nürnberg picked up on Schacht's pride and pomposity. So soon after the war, in the first year after he war, one must expect that attitude from the Allid individuals shocked at the revelations about the death camps. Extending guilt and little sympathy to all connected with the Nazi regime seems only natural.

But in my extensive readings I found out that a shocking number of higher-ups in Germany were operating right under Hitler's and Himmler's noses for years - even a very close friend of Heydrich's. So it was possible to have been a higher-up in Nazi Germany and still not have been helping with the criminal actions going on. Such distinctions were not often made in the early post-war years, and haven't abated much since.

Schacht and those others well into their careers in Germany were unfortunate to have made their careers at a time when those careers put them into contact with and responsibility for aspects of Germany of Hitler's reign of criminality. Schacht got out when Hitler went beyond what Schacht thought was prudent and wise, economically. That was in early 1938, 2-1/2 years before the war and before the Munich Accord, the invasion of Czechoslovakia, and even before Kristallnacht. Why Schacht was on trial with "The Big Boys" makes no sense. His only participation could have been - and was - only helping Hitler economically to build up the military. Yes, that was in contravention of the Versailles dictates. Yet, the Western Allies took no meaningful action themselves, in response, so as enablers they were reasonably at fault almost as much as Schacht was. Their own culpability cannot be overlooked, since Hitler's later actions came about because of his assessment of the Western Allies as weak, and such things as the non-intervention over the 1935 outing of the new German military by Hitler himself played a major part in his thinking. He predicted they would do nothing, and that is exactly what Hitler predicted. That attitude would carry on until the invasion of Poland. The real story was that the Allies had disarmed themselves to such a point that no effective actions were possible against Hitler's increasing aggressiveness. They made the decisions based on their real inability; he translated it that they were weak WILLED.

Schacht battled Hitler on every front he could have, without overstepping and disappearing into Dachau or Sachsenhausen.

The man lived in interesting times and was a central player from the chaos of the German Revolution in 1919-1923, and until 1938. His later title as "Ministry without portfolio" was without meaning nor power nor contribution to Hitler's cause. Not just this book but others show this to be the case. Schacht had no part in the conduct of the war or in the death camps in any way at all. He never should have been put on trial. His non-guilt at Nürnberg showed this to be the case - in spite of the eagerness of the Allied atmosphere to find them all guilty. That last is a factor overcome that should not be overlooked by later inquirers. In what could have been a kangaroo court, three out of 20 walked. It speaks well of the Allies and their effort to be objective and have a fair trial.

I give this book 3 stars. It was worth 3.5, but not 4, so I rounded down. Though there will always be a remnant suspicion that Schacht was being self-serving, little beyond suspicions has ever been turned up to disagree with the story as told here. And the question remains about autobiographies: In writing an autobiography, who doesn't do it to make himself or herself look better? It is the default position, isn't it? So why is Schacht self-serving but others aren't?

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