I’d forgotten Adolf Hitler was ‘woke’

McMaster et al applauding the Scout deal. Photo from Henry’s Twitter feed.

If I ever knew it, that is. Guess I need to go back and read my history some more, after reading this this morning:

Gov. Henry McMaster on Monday defended South Carolina’s $1.3 billion incentive deal with Volkswagen subsidiary Scout Motors after a group of conservative lawmakers this month criticized the company as “woke.”

Woke? Scout Motors? The subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group? Here’s how that company got started:

Volkswagen (meaning ‘People’s car’ in German) was founded in Berlin as the Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH (‘Limited Liability Company for the preparation of the German People’s Car’, abbreviated to Gezuvor) by the National Socialist Deutsche Arbeitsfront (German Labour Front) and incorporated on 28 May 1937.[14][15][16] The purpose of the company was to manufacture the Volkswagen car, originally referred to as the Porsche Type 60, then the Volkswagen Type 1, and commonly called the Volkswagen Beetle.[17] This vehicle was designed by Ferdinand Porsche‘s consulting firm, and the company was backed by the support of Adolf Hitler.[18]

Whatever der Führer‘s role (and see the photo below), if you say a company got started in Berlin in 1937, the last word I think of is “woke.” Although there was, to be sure, an element of populism in the production of an affordable “People’s Car.” But as we all know, populism is a persistent feature of both the left and the right.

Folks, I can think of reasons to oppose this Scout deal, if you press me. But I can also think of a number of reasons to support it, and I suppose those win out.

But this “woke” business?

You learn something new every day. Or at least  I do…

1938: Hitler lays the foundation stone of the first Volkswagen plant…

18 thoughts on “I’d forgotten Adolf Hitler was ‘woke’

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, lest anyone at the Volkswagen Group get hurt feelings over this little review of history, I mean no criticism of the present management.

    In fact, the first new car I ever bought was a 1978 VW Rabbit. That’s particularly remarkable when you consider I’ve only ever bought three NEW cars; the rest have been used.

    By that time — actually, for my whole lifetime up to then — I had seen VW in terms of the roles it played in this country after the war, and it was generally a positive one.

    In fact, I remember being a bit appalled to learn — when I was still quite young — about the Nazi origins of the “People’s Car.”

    But I really think they’ve put that WAY behind them. Just not quite so far that I would think of them as “woke”…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        One more thing about this: As soon as you put “Hitler” and “Volkswagen” together in a sentence, someone will rise up to say “the Nazis didn’t have that much to do with it.” Such arguments have validity, especially since we’ve had generations of people work for that company with no motivation other than to produce good cars — and sometimes even cool ones.

        So here’s an example of that sort of argument: The Real Story Behind The Nazis And Volkswagen

        I’m sure you can find others.

        Yup, as I’ve so often said, history is complicated. Way more so than the arguments recently offered by both the left and the right, trying to reduce it to ones and zeroes, so they can label it and yell at it…

  2. Doug T

    I worked for a German company back in the 1970s-80s. Early on during my time there I was in an office when the German plant manager walked in. He walked up to a guy and said “Isn’t this a beautiful day? Isn’t this a wonderful day?” The guy said “Yes sir, it’s a wonderful day”. The plant manager, with a smile on his face, walked up to a 2nd guy and repeated his questions. The 2nd guy responded in the affirmative.

    Without approaching me, the plant manager left the office. I asked one of the guys what was that all about. Without raising his head or making eye contact, he said “It’s Hitler’s birthday”.

    Geez. You never know what other people are thinking. It was only 30 years after the war, but still…

      1. Barry

        I guess if someone just stick their fingers in their ears and imagines something isn’t true, anything is possible.

        Saturday, in front of thousands, the leading Republican Presidential candidate was introduced by a man who accused the married- Jewish -President of a country at war with a much stronger neighbor of being a gay Nazi.

        It’s fair to assume the “gay” part was what angered that crowd more than anything else.

        That statement was met by loud cheers.

        The more telling thing is all those that hold themselves out as “intellectual Conservatives” on social media (Yeah, it’s a made up term in my opinion too) that- to this point on Sunday afternoon at almost 3pm haven’t denounced such a statement or even mentioned it.

    1. Barry

      Regarding Doug T’s post –

      One of the “higher ups” at a former employer was very sympathetic to Nazi propaganda. To say I was shocked it an understatement. I did not find this out until he retired.

      After he retired, I learned from a family member of his about some very disturbing beliefs he had. Then he showed me a social media site he had created (that did not have his name on it but was his). I thought a joke was being played on me at first and then I showed a former co-worker of mine the material and was told something like “Yeah, he was into all that stuff.” Stunning is the word.

  3. Doug T

    Huh? What? It happened, believe me.

    A couple years later a few of us were at lunch in the canteen sitting with a 20 something person who transferred from Germany. She spoke very good English. Just a rambling conversation when all of a sudden she said: “…and those Jews…they could make money from a piece of !%$@! (crap)”. We all just started staring at our plates. I don’t blame Bryan for doubting. We had no idea back then those sentiments still held. But they did.

    I’ll leave out the story where one of the German supervisors called one of his African American employees a monkey.

    I’ve worked for a Japanese and a German company. Hope the Superiority complex has faded. But it was strong back then.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You mean she said “they could make money from a piece of Scheisse?”

      Just wanted to show off one of the few words I possess in German.

      I’d be interested to know what you ran into in Japan. I’ve never spent any more time there than a few hours at the Tokyo airport, but I’m curious what it’s like to be there as a gaijin

      1. Doug T

        Traveled to Japan a couple of times on business. Everyone so formal. Nothing is wasted. They managed their limited resources exceedingly well.

        I got on the wrong side of a Japanese colleague here in the States. After a few emails back and forth, he told me straight away that he could speak several languages where I could only speak “southern”. Well now. I had much respect for the Japanese way of doing business…so thorough, so detailed. I guess the respect wasn’t mutual.

  4. Mark+Stewart

    Woke isn’t about Volkswagen or certainly Nazi Germany. Woke is lemming-speak for the corrosively sad state of the “Conservative” movement today in America. Woke is shorthand for I am afraid of all that I don’t know, understand or find different. It is a stamp to tamp down curiosity and acceptance.

    It’s just a verbal version of Battle Flag. Woke is letting fly one’s self-entitled sense of ignorance. As an odd cultural appropriation from the left, it is a weird word to hurl around indiscriminately.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Hey, Mark! It’s great to hear from you. It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? How are you?

      Gotta quibble with you a bit on the word “woke.” I agree with you that “it is a weird word to hurl around indiscriminately.” In fact, I’d go farther and say it’s a weird word, period.

      As I see it, the problem with the way conservatives use it (aside from the usual problem of going out of one’s way to alienate people), is that they use it to condemn ANYONE with whom they disagree, or think they disagree.

      They seem to think it means “liberal.” But there’s an ocean of difference between the two words. The chief difference being that liberals are tolerant of other people’s views, and the “woke” are not.

      Unfortunately, when conservatives (people who just call themselves conservatives, usually) go ranting about “wokism,” and using it to refer to everyone to the left of themselves, instead of laughing at them, liberals get all worked up and defensive as though they really ARE woke as the “conservatives” claim.

      That reinforces the absurd notion there are only two kinds of people, and the binary madness just gets worse and worse. Ones and zeroes…

      1. Ken

        There is no proper reason that being “woke” should raise anyone’s ire. ALL it means is AWARENESS: being aware of what’s going on around us, and, more specifically, expanding our awareness so that we begin to see things we may have been blind to or failed to fully understand. It means consciously modifying our perception of reality. (Which, I suppose, is why so many people resist and resent doing it, thinking: “My perception of reality is perfectly fine, thank you very much!”) More specifically, it means becoming better aware of how majorities with power treat vulnerable minorities generally lacking in power. Of how the power that majorities wield serves to create circumstances – whole environments – that prevent or hinder minorities from enjoying the kind of inclusion that makes them whole, that makes them truly equal citizens. In this sense, wokeness is part of a deeply good American tradition: expanding the circle of toleration and embracing those previously left out or not offered an equitable part in American life. Put simply, it means: to make room for.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          That’s a very clear and lucid explanation of how people who embrace the word define it.

          Of course, that definition fails to “make room for” all the people who notice that it means other things as well.

          For my part, I’ll stick with liberalism…

          1. bud

            Ken is correct on this. Woke most assuredly does not include a component of intolerance. Sorry Brad you’re just wrong on this. It’s a word that has been co-opted by MAGA extremists to insult liberals. They sound foolish when they constantly misuse it but that’s what they do. Sort of like the term Democrat Part. I think of wokeness as a philosophy that believes it is high time we have an African American mall Santa.

Comments are closed.