Maurice Bardèche’s Vision of the Future: Excerpts from “Nuremberg or the Promised Land”

Excerpts from Maurice Bardèche’s Nuremberg or the Promised Land, translated by George F. Held

The appearances of justice [at the Nuremburg Trial] were maintained perfectly. The defense had few rights, but these rights were respected. … Several defendants were discharged. In the end the forms were perfectly well observed, and never was a more debatable justice rendered with more propriety.

For this modern machinery, as one knows, had the result of resurrecting a jurisprudence like that of Negro tribes. The victorious king is set on his throne and has his witchdoctors called in: then, in the presence of warriors sitting on their heels, someone cuts the throats of the vanquished chiefs. We start to suspect that all the rest is a bit of comedy, and the public, after eighteen months, is no longer taken in by this kind of play-acting. The chiefs have their throats cut because they were vanquished; the atrocities with which one reproaches them, well, no just man can avoid saying to himself that the commanders of the Allied armies could be reproached with atrocities just as serious: the phosphorus bombs well counterbalance the concentration camps. An American court which condemns Göring to death has no more authority, in the eyes of men, than would a German court which presumed to condemn Roosevelt. A court which creates the law after being seated on its bench brings us back to the beginning of history. One did not dare to judge so at the time of Chilperic.[1] The law of the strongest is a more honest way. When the Gaul shouts Vae victis,[2] at least he does not take himself for Solomon. But this court succeeded in being an assembly of Negroes in starched collars: this is the plan for our future civilization. It is a masquerade, a nightmare: they are dressed as judges, they are serious, they are capped with ear-phones, they have the heads of patriarchs, they read papers with a saccharine voice in four languages at the same time, but in reality they are Negro kings, it is a costume party for Negro kings, and in the icy and staid room one can almost hear in the background the war drums of the tribes. They are very clean Negroes and perfectly modernized. And they have obtained without knowing it, in their Negro naiveté and in their Negro unconsciousness, a result that none of them undoubtedly had envisaged: they have rehabilitated by their bad faith even those whose defense was almost impossible, and they have given to millions of destitute German refugees, ennobled by defeat and their condition as the vanquished, the right to scorn them. Göring mocked them, for he well knew that they were rendering him right in everything, since they, with their panoply of judges, were paying homage to the law of the strongest, on which he had based his own law. Göring laughed to see Göring disguised as a judge judge Göring disguised as a convict (p. 14).


What proves to us that National-Socialism was not also the truth? What proves to us that we did not take for its essence what were just contingencies, inevitable accidents of combat, as we do perhaps also for communism, or is it that we have simply lied? And what if National-Socialism had actually been truth and progress or, at least, a form of truth and of progress? What if the future world could be built only by a choice between communism and authoritative nationalism, if the concept of democracy were not viable, if it were condemned by history? We admit that what is essential is to save civilization and that, to make it triumph, it may be necessary to crush cities: what if National-Socialism were also one of those chariots which carry the gods and whose wheels may need to pass over thousands of bodies, if that is necessary? The bombs prove nothing against an idea. If we one day crush Soviet Russia, will communism be any less true? Who can be sure that God is in his camp? At the bottom of this debate, there is only one church which accuses another church. Metaphysical proof is not possible (p. 18).


The Super-State does not exist, but the vetoes of the Super-State do exist: they are in the verdict of Nuremberg. The Super-State does the evil which it can do, before being able to render services. The evil which it can do is to disarm us against everything, against its enemies as well as against our own.

This is a singular situation. We are disarmed and threatened by an idea and by nothing other than an idea. Nothing is prohibited, but we are warned that a certain orientation is not good. We are invited to prepare in ourselves certain sympathies and to instill in ourselves several definite refusals…. And what about those whose minds are not open to these sympathies, or who reject these refusals? Those whose hearts answer to other calls, those whose minds think only in terms of other categories, those who are made differently? I have the same impression here as when reading certain Marxist texts: these people do not have a brain made like mine, it is another race. This thought puts us back on track. There is a closed world of democratic idealism which is of the same order as the closed world of Marxism. It is not astonishing if their methods manage to coincide, if their justice ends up being the same even though words, as they use them, do not have all the same sense. It too is a religion. It is the same attack on our hearts. When they condemn nationalism, they know well what they are doing. It is the foundation of their Law. They condemn your truth, they declare it radically wrong. They condemn our feeling, our roots even, our most profound ways of seeing and feeling. They explain to us why our brain is not made as it should be: we have the brain of barbarians.

This permanent warning prepares for us a form of political life of which we should not be unaware and of which the experience of the last three years on the continent does not permit us to be unaware. The condemnation of the National-Socialist Party goes much further than it seems to. In reality, it reaches all the solid forms, all the geological forms of political life. Every nation, every party which urges us to remember our soil, our tradition, our trade, our race is suspect. Whoever claims right of the first occupant and calls to witness things as obvious as the ownership of the city[3] offends against a universal morality which denies the right of the people to write their laws. This applies not just to the Germans; it is all of us who are dispossessed. No one has any more the right to sit down in his field and say: “This ground belongs to me.” No one has any more the right to stand up in the city and say: “We are the old ones, we built the houses of this city, anyone who does not want to obey our laws should get out.” It is written now that a council of impalpable beings has the capacity to know what occurs in our houses and our cities. Crimes against humanity: this law is good, this one is not good. Civilization has the right to veto.

We lived up to now in a solid universe whose generations had deposited stratifications, one after the other. All was clear: the father was the father, the law was the law, the foreigner was the foreigner. One had the right to say that the law was hard, but it was the law. Today these sure bases of political life are anathema: for these truths constitute the program of a racist party condemned at the court of humanity. In exchange, the foreigner recommends to us a universe according to his dreams. There are no more borders, there are no more cities. From one end to the other of the continent the laws are the same, and also the passports, and also the judges, and also the currencies. Only one police force and only one brain: the senator from Milwaukee inspects and decides. In return for which trade is free, at last trade is free. We plant some carrots which by chance never sell well, and we buy some hoeing machines which always happen to be very expensive. And we are free to protest, free, infinitely free to write, to vote, to speak in public, provided that we never take measures which can change all that. We are free to get upset and to fight in a universe of wadding. One does not know very well where our freedom ends, where our nationality ends, one does not know very well where what is permitted ends. It is an elastic universe. One does not know any more where one’s feet are set, one does not even know any more if one has feet, one feels very light, as if one’s body had been lost. But for those who grant us this simple ablation what infinite rewards, what a multitude of tips! This universe which they polish up and try to make look good to us is similar to some palace in Atlantis. There are everywhere small glasswares, columns of false marble, inscriptions, magic fruits. By entering this palace you abdicate your power, in exchange you have the right to touch the golden apples and to read the inscriptions. You are nothing any more, you do not feel any more the weight of your body, you have ceased being a man: you are one of the faithful of the Religion of Humanity. At the bottom of the sanctuary there sits a Negro god. You have all the rights, except to speak evil of the god (pp. 21–23).


To present the facts without context is a manner of lying. There are no bare facts, there are no documents without circumstances: to systematically ignore these circumstances is to disguise the truth. Our lies will not be eternal. Tomorrow the German nation will raise its voice in its turn. And we know already that the world will be constrained to take account of this voice. It will say to us that if Hitler attacked Poland, other men anxiously awaited this attack, desired this attack, prayed that it take place. These men were called Mandel, Churchill, Hore Belisha, Paul Reynaud. The judeo-reactionary alliance wanted “its” war, which was for it a holy war: it knew that only a blatant aggression would enable it to manipulate public opinion. The German archivists will have hardly any trouble proving to us that the Allied leaders have coldly manipulated the public about the conditions of this aggression. Fear the day when the history of this war will be written.[4] At that moment the context of the local aggressions will appear clearly. The silence of the Allies will then become a self-indictment. It will be seen that they omitted to say that their ploys and their intrigues made the interventions inevitable (p. 26).


From now on, this conscience which is clear about its duty is no more —the order of the sovereign is deposed from its absolute power. The indisputable, the certain is abolished everywhere. The edict placed on the wall no longer has any authority, obedience to the magistrate is a matter of circumstance. It is no more permitted to anyone to say: the law is the law, the king is the king. All that was clear, all that enabled us to die in tranquility is undercut by these absurd sentences. The State no more has a form. The city no more has walls. A new sovereign, without a capital and without a face, reigns in their place from now on. Its tabernacle is a radio. It is there that one hears each evening the voice to which we owe obedience, that of the Super-State which has primacy over the fatherland. Because the sentence written by the judges in their Judgment is clear, it leaves no place for ambiguity: if the conscience of humanity has condemned a nation, the citizens of that nation are released from their bond of obedience, and not only are they released from it, but they must act against their own country: “the international obligations which are imposed on individuals have precedence over their duty of obedience towards the State of which they are citizens.”. . .

We had concluded previously that it was nationalisms . . . which were attacked by the spirit of Nuremberg. The new law led to a dispossession. We see now that it is not only nationalisms which are put under indictment, but the fatherlands themselves. Internal laws are dethroned by the advent of a higher law; sovereign States are deposed if they do not agree to be the servants of the Super-State and its religion. But it is not only that. The Messianic spirit is unmasked in the end: it says clearly its new Gospel. All cities are suspect. They are in reality only the agents of the power. Their temporal power is no more than a power of administration. The fatherlands are now only managers of an immense anonymous company. One leaves them a certain power of regulation: their domain is so circumscribed and defined, but in essence they are dispossessed. The spiritual power, the power to reassure consciences, to make legitimate what is in conformity with the law, does not belong to them any more. As managers of the temporal, they must bow and be silent, as soon as it is a matter of State decisions. And not only one invites them to be silent, but one invites the citizens to mistrust their cities. The fatherlands can give birth only to heresies. They are all suspected of being under an original curse. They are declared unable to formulate dogma and are suspect even when they interpret it. One withdraws from them any power over consciences. The spiritual is confiscated for the benefit of a higher international authority. It is that which says what is just, it is that which is the conscience of the world. The fatherlands are deposed. They are deposed for the benefit of a spiritual empire of the world which “has precedence,” as they say, over all the fatherlands. They reinvented Rome. There is from now on, there is officially since the judgment of Nuremberg, a religion of humanity, and there is also a catholicism of humanity. We owe submission to the very holy church of humanity, which has bombers for missionaries. The judgment of Nuremberg is the bull Unigenitus.[5] From now on, the conclave pronounces and the sceptres fall. We enter the history of the Holy Empire (pp. 72–73).


When we think of a human person, we see a father with his children around him, with his children around his table, in a room on his farm, and he shares soup and bread with them, or in a house in the suburbs, and there is nowhere he’s so well off as on his farm, or in his fourth floor apartment, or in his house in the suburbs…. It is this human person whom we defend and respect, this human person and no other, and all that belongs to him, his children, his house, his work, his field. …And that his field belong to him, that means that he has the right to call himself the master of this house which his grandfather built, master of this city which his grandfather and those of the other men of the city built, that no one has the right to drive him out of his residence or out of the council house and that the foreign workmen whose grandfathers were not there when they built the belfry, the Negroes, the Asians and the Semites who work in the mine or who sell at the crossroads will not have at all the power to decide the destiny of his little boy. That is what we call the rights of the human person, and we say that the duty of the sovereign is nothing other than to ensure respect for these essential rights, and to manage his nation well, like a good father of a family….

This man of the earth and the cities, this man who has been man as long as there have been peoples and cities, it is precisely he that Nuremberg condemns and repudiates. For the new law says to him: “You will be a citizen of the world, you yourself will also be packaged and dehydrated, you will not listen anymore to the rustle of your trees and the voice of your bells, but you will learn to hear the voice of the universal conscience; shake the dirt from your shoes, peasant; this land is nothing any more; she soils, she obstructs, she prevents one from making pretty packagings. Modern times have come. Listen to the voice of modern times. The Polish laborer who changes jobs twelve times a year is the same man as you; the Jewish rag-hawker who has just arrived from Korotcha or Jitomir is the same man as you; they have the same rights as you on your land and on your city; respect the Negro, O peasant. They have the same rights as you, and you will set places for them at your table and they will enter into the council where they will teach you what the universal conscience says, which you do not yet hear as well as you should. And their sons will be respected men, and they will be established as judges over your sons; they will govern your city and they will buy your field, for the universal conscience gives them expressly all these rights. As for you, peasant, if you meet with your friends and long for the time when one saw only local boys at the city fair, know that you are opposing the universal conscience and that the law does not protect you against that.

For such, in truth, is the condition of man after the demotion of fatherlands. One perforce supports regimes that make cities wide open to strangers. One demands that these foreigners receive the same rights as the inhabitants of the country, and one condemns solemnly every attempt at discrimination. Then, one recognizes as legitimate only one manner of deliberation: that which is purely numerical. Under this system, what city will not be, in a given time, overcome by a peaceful conquest, swamped by an occupying army without uniforms and offered finally to the reign of foreigners?

The end result is thus attained. National differences will be little by little annihilated. International law will establish itself so much better than native law that the latter will no more have defenders. The national administrations which we were just describing take on in this perspective their true meaning: the States will be no more than administrative districts of a single Empire. And, from one end of the world to the other, in perfectly similar cities (since they will have been rebuilt after bombardments), there will live under similar laws a bastard population, a race of indefinable and gloomy slaves, without genius, without instinct, without voice. Dehydrated man will reign in a hygienic world. Immense bazaars echoing the sounds of record-players will symbolize this race of men of equal worth (à prix unique). Rolling sidewalks will run alongside the streets. They will transport every morning to their slave work the long line of the men without faces, and they will bring them back in the evening. And this will be the promised land. They will not know anymore, these users of the rolling sidewalks, that there was formerly a human condition. They will not know what were our cities, when they were our cities: no more than we can imagine what was Ghent or Bruges at the time of the aldermen. They will be astonished that the earth was beautiful and that we loved it passionately. For them, the universal conscience, clean, theoretical and die-cut in disks, will illuminate their skies. But this will be the promised land (pp. 77–79).


The Jews are originally foreigners, who were initially allowed into our country warily, then in an increasingly large number as some of them obtained influence. In spite of this hospitality which was granted to them, they did not abstain from taking part in the political discussions of our country: and when it was a question of knowing if we would transform the invasion of Czechoslovakia or the war in Poland into an European war, they did not hesitate (it is they who currently affirm this to us) to fight any spirit of conciliation, that is, to involve our country in a disastrous but desirable war, because it was directed against an enemy of their race. We have ceased today being a great nation, we have perhaps even ceased actually being an independent nation, because their wealth and their influence have made their point of view prevail over that of the French who are attached to the conservation of their land and who wanted to maintain peace. We found them then opposed to all reasonable measures which could have preserved our lives and our goods, and at the same time their own lives and their own goods. And, later still, we found them at the head of the persecution and calumny against those of our comrades[6] who had wanted to protect from the rigors of the occupation this country where we have lived longer than they, where our parents have lived, and which the men of our race had made a great country. They say today that they are the true husbands of this land which their parents did not know, and that they understand better than we the wisdom and the mission of this country of which some of them can hardly speak the language: they divided us, they claimed the blood of the best and the purest among us, and they rejoiced and they are rejoicing at our deaths. This war that they wanted, they gave us the right to say that it was their war and not ours. They paid for it the price which one pays for all wars. We have the right not to count their deaths with our deaths.

In spite of the silence imposed on our intellectuals, this effort to pose the Jewish question in concrete terms cannot be eluded. It need not at all be accompanied by anti-Semitism and, for my part, I am not anti-Semitic: I wish on the contrary that the Jewish people find somewhere the fatherland which will enable them to group themselves together. But it seems obvious to me that if I were a refugee in Argentina, I would not concern myself with the internal affairs of Argentina, even if I had obtained the nationality of that country. I would not demand that the Argentineans become the avengers of the persecuted French; I especially would not ask that Argentineans be condemned to death or be imprisoned because they were indifferent to the fate of the French refugees in their land. Why should we feel obliged to avenge and lament in the name of a compatriotism that the law forces us to confess, but which does not touch our hearts? Fraternities are not manufactured. A Jew is for me a man like another, but he is only a man like another; I find it sad that he is massacred and that he is persecuted, but my feeling does not suddenly change, my blood does not suddenly solidify if it is added that he lives in Bordeaux. I do not feel obliged to take up particularly the defense of the Jews, no more than that of the Slavs or that of the Japanese: I would like very much that one cease massacring without reason the Jews, the Slavs and the Japanese, and also the Madagascans, the Indochinese or the Germans of the Sudetenland. That is all. I feel nothing special for the Jews who live in France and I do not see why I should…. Let them not accuse us of having no heart: we think first of our own…. Their reaction to the demands of loyalty, honor, and the defense of our land was not the same as ours; this solidarity that we had the right to expect, even in times of ideological war, from co-participants in our nationality, we did not obtain from them; today we can have in regard to them only the impression of a separation, of an incapacity to think of unison, of a failure of assimilation (pp. 61–63).


This monstrous geographical mutilation, that is what everyone can see: another vacuum is not less grievous, another abyss exists, that which we created by brutally extirpating from the surface of the earth the only revolutionary system that one could oppose to Marxism. The universe of ideas is a universe which has its laws and its geography. It is as dangerous to brutally raze a whole ideological area as to destroy a nation. We abruptly reversed an ideological balance that time had arranged and which was not less necessary to the political health of Europe than was the existence of Germany to its strategic defense.

Let us not forget that what we have destroyed and condemned was, not only for the Germans but also for millions of men throughout the Occident, the only durable solution to the dilemma of the modern world, the only manner of escaping capitalist slavery without accepting Soviet slavery. What we destroyed was, in the minds of these men, not that reactionary and military tyranny which we pretend to denounce, but an immense effort at the emancipation of workers…. And not only for German workers but for all the Occident, this new revolution was a signal and an immense cause for hope. It had not been carried out everywhere, it had not succeeded everywhere, but in all the countries it represented a chance for the future, which was the chance for the Occident, the annunciation to workers of a merry and strong life. We have said that they were mistaken, that they were misled. But what do we know about it? What is certain is that today in the desert that is the Occident they find nowhere else the revolutionary substance which the new nationalisms brought to them. This combat was for them greatness, fraternity, spilled blood, justice: yes, justice, in their hearts it was that, no matter what our courts say. It is forbidden for us to forget it, for us who speak to them. These words against which we have fiercely set ourselves, these gigantic blocks of will and hope which we have blown up like a piece of a continent, they were for millions of men as recently as yesterday the irrepressible call to nobility and sacrifice, they represented justice, long sought and finally found, a justice which is worth dying for. We have created a desert for hearts.

Our policy in Europe has succeeded in making revolutionary enthusiasm something exclusively Soviet. After ten years of our potions, all the world’s youth will be arranged under the red flag: to protest against injustice, we have left them only that.

Let us return then to justice and probity. How much experience will we need to learn that just contracts are the only durable contracts, that right and honest peaces are the only peaces? In 1918, our statesmen learnedly upset the geography, and they were astonished to see a war come out of it. Today the same prigs take great trouble to destroy the European ideological balance: will they understand that this attack is no less grave and that a war will just as surely come out of it? It is essential that there exist in Europe a dynamic zone replete with social justice which crystallizes people’s wills to resist Marxist annexation. Some men today have understood the enormous mistake they made in destroying the German army and industry: they think that the peninsula Europe needs a rampart. But it also needs a soul. The cry of anger which the men of our time raise against social injustice, against corruption and lies, it is necessary that the Occident echo it. This revolutionary will, this joy of the revolution marching along, must again be ours. Social justice is no less necessary to the Occident than steel and coal. If we do not have anything else to offer to workmen in our countrysides and in our cities than the usual democratic masquerades, no argument in the world will prevent them from looking with hope towards the land which speaks to them about emancipation and the power of the proletariat. We do not have the right to forget, and it would be insane to forget that this dream of a socialism proudly affirmed by the nation was that of millions of men in Europe. Truths are like fatherlands: they are not crushed by a boot kick. Whether we want it or not, this thought which was the great hope of yesterday, this fraternity of close combat, is today the natural basis for a community of the Occident (pp. 82-83).


And today even those who wrote this verdict turn toward German youth: “Germans, good Germans,” they say to them, “don’t you like the cause of Freedom? Aren’t you ready to defend the world with us against Bolshevik barbarity? Germans, young Germans, would you not look good on long Sherman tanks, like dark gods of combat?” And their eyes fixed with rapture on a Germany at the same time Weimarian and invincible, peaceful and yet armed to the teeth, they cherish the dream of shock troops for democracy, Liberty’s assault-troops, sentimental and intrepid, fair and muscular, docile as young girls but eternally engaged (fiancés) to the Declaration of Rights and ready to die for the Congress, the Occident, and the YMCA, a gigantic army of eunuchs who in combat would miraculously regain the strength of the Germans (des Germains) (p. 81).


Final Comments by George F. Held, Ph.D.

The mild anti-Americanism detectable in the last excerpt is perhaps the only one of Bardèche’s healthy attitudes still prevalent among the French populace. It would be wrong to conclude from the penultimate excerpt that Bardèche was an advocate of National Socialism. He was an advocate of authoritarian nationalism and an opponent of democracy because he, like most European fascists at the time and unlike George Orwell, recognized that democracy could not save Western Civilization and was not essential to it.

It must be admitted that there are some omissions from Bardèche’s vision of the Occident’s dismal future: promotion of equality among the sexes in all regards (even for transsexuals), civil unions, gay marriage, etc. And it must be admitted that in at least one regard Orwell’s vision is more accurate: government spying through devices that one cannot or normally does not turn off. The last excerpt, I might point out, obtains somewhat greater poignancy today if one substitutes “American(s)” for “German(s),” “undemocratic” for “Bolshevik,” and “bankrupt” for “Weimarian,” etc. The phrase “bankrupt and invincible” applies all too well to modern America and has a certain Orwellian oxymoronic ring to it. Perhaps, with the help of our politicians, Orwell’s vision is making a comeback. “Bankruptcy is Invincibility” could be the campaign slogan of some future American presidential candidate.

Bardèche says above that National-Socialism was “not only for German workers but for all the Occident . . . an immense cause for hope.” It was a cause of hope also for some French fascist intellectuals. One of them was Lucien Rebatet, the author of Les Décombres (The Ruins), the best selling book in France during the occupation. This book is an autobiographical account of Rebatet’s experiences in the prewar and wartime years up to 1942 (its year of publication). It provides an insider’s view of the relations among the intellectuals and journalists of the French fascist right. Bardèche is not mentioned in it, but Rebatet and he must have known each other. The book’s first chapter is entitled: “Between Maurras and Hitler.” The chapter recounts Rebatet’s relations with the anti-Semitic Germanophobic Maurras while he himself was coming to share more and more the views of Hitler. (Maurras wrote a scathing review of the book in 1943.) Charles Maurras was the major intellectual figure among the French fascists of this period and an extreme French chauvinist: he viewed the English as “barbarians” and the Germans as “candidates for civilization” (Les Décombres, p. 125). His condescendence toward the Germans was greatly facilitated by his inability to hear their music: he was deaf. But Maurras put aside his Germanophobia during the occupation and called it a “divine surprise” since he saw the Germans impose on France the kind of order that he himself had long desired. After the French defeat both Maurras and Rebatet, unlike Bardèche, supported the German cause and wanted France to fight aggressively alongside the Germans against the Allies. Both were condemned to death after the war; the death sentences of both were later commuted. Perusal of Rebatet’s book helps one realize how remarkably free in the above excerpts Bardèche is from the chauvinism and partisanship so prevalent among his colleagues of the period.

[1] Chilperic a sixth century King of the Franks, specifically, the King of Neustria from 561 to his death in 581.

[2] Vae Victis “Woe to the Conquered,” the words of Brennus, the King of the Gauls, who conquered Rome in 390 B.C. Cf. Livy, Ab Urbe Condita 5.34-49.

[3] Here and below “city” often means an independent city-state or state.

[4] A German archivist (and major general) has written the history of this war, and I have translated it. See Gerd Schultze-Rhonhof’s 1939: The War That Had Many Fathers: the Long Run-up to the Second World War, available at Lulu and Amazon.

[5] Unigenitus (“only begotten”) the first word of an anti-Jansenist papal bull of Pope Clement XI in 1713.

[6] Bardèche here is probably thinking, most of all, of his brother-in-law and fellow journalist, Robert Brassilach, who was executed after the war as a collaborator.