[EEUSG] Ordenstaat Lothringen
Dakar, located on the Senegambian coast, is far from the subject of this entry. The hot, polluted air is unpleasant but, as my contact informed me, here all men could breathe freely. The Senegambian Republic, one of the remnant states of the shattered French colonial state, has a small number of “Lothringians.”
“We do not call ourselves ‘Lothringians,’” my contact gently corrected me when she heard the term. “Not even the government uses the term. We are French, Belgians, Dutch, and Germans. Just as we were before the war.”
Larger populations of refugees from the Ordenstaat exist elsewhere in the world, particularly in France, but I did not feel safe speaking to them there, and they must have felt the same way. The existence of the Ordenstaat is a sensitive political issue in Europe, and if I were to interview refugees in France, Germany, or even Spanish Morocco, I would likely be deported. Worse would happen to anyone who would dare speak to me, even anonymously.
My contact confirmed my feelings. She was an elderly woman, and although her skin was deeply tanned by the Senegambian sun, she was still much lighter than anybody else on the streets. Her dress was obviously imported, likely from France or Italy; she explained that it would be pointless to try and blend in the city.
“The French and Germans deport refugees back to the Ordenstaat if they are arrested immediately. They are only safe when they acquire forged documents and bribed the right officials, and even then, only marginally. None of us are safe, even here in Dakar. If the Senegambian government wished, it could deport us all.”
I was speaking to Ms. Eva Klostermann, a woman who successfully made the journey out of the Ordenstaat. She changed her birth name, Heidi, upon making it to Dakar. She informed me that the SS assigned all names in the Ordenstaat, and that she knew over one hundred Heidis growing up. Eva was a name reserved for daughters of the elite, and while she understood the broader political implications of the name, she always felt the name was beautiful.
The Ordenstaat was created by the Schutzstaffel, or SS. The SS was founded as the personal bodyguards of Adolf Hitler, leader of the National Socialist German Workers’, or Nazi, Party and the first Fuhrer of Germany. The SS was formed from the earlier Sturmabteilung, or SA, which Hitler did not completely trust. The SS grew in power and influence, eventually even eclipsing the SA. When the Nazi Party took power in Germany and transformed it from a democratic republic into a totalitarian dictatorship, the power of the SS grew over German society. Nazi governance muddied the distinction between its own institutions and that of the German government, giving the SS state-like powers without abolishing German state institutions.
The leader of the SS, Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler, had grand ambitions for the organization. Under his direction, the SS grew parallel institutions to that of the German state, allowing the organization to operate more independently of the German government. This eventually led even to the creation of the Waffen-SS, a paramilitary organization which grew in size and strength to almost be considered a separate military in it own right. As a result, the SS frequently clashed with other institutions, and its own organs were in constant struggle. The SS was entrusted with enormous powers in Germany, particularly because, as a Nazi Party institution, it was made up exclusively of Nazi Party members. The state and military, on the other hand, were mostly made up of the apolitical.
The influence of the SS spread with Germany’s conquests in Europe, Africa, and eventually the Americas. Compared with German state or military institutions, the reach of the SS had an easier time reaching beyond borders. The Waffen-SS created entire divisions for foreign volunteers, including Turks, Americans, and even Indians. SS offices were established in the occupied territories, and many remained under SS control even as German occupations ended and local Nazi or fascist parties took control in their stead. The SS was essential to the operation of the new global empire the Germans possessed, establishing offices in conquered territories and puppet states. As it did during the war, the-SS established offices in the occupied territories.
I asked Ms. Klostermann how she made it out of the Ordenstaat.
“When I was born, I had the dubious ‘fortune’ of being inducted into the Waffen-SS as an ‘entertainer.’ I was trained in singing and dancing for my entire life. Naturally, we did more than sing and dance for the men. I made sure that I was deemed skilled and attractive enough to be stationed with the SS in Algiers. Very few women have the opportunity to be stationed outside of the Reich.”
I thought that the Ordenstaat was independent of the German Reich? Ms. Klosterman shook her head.
“Berlin has control over there now, but it is still officially part of the Reich. When I escaped, the SS in the Ordenstaat still cooperated with the SS in the Reich, if only to keep up appearances to the rest of Europe. That changed very quickly, of course.”
Himmler’s vision for the SS extended beyond the extraordinary powers it held over the German Reich. Himmler wanted to build a de facto state for the SS, one governed to emulate an idyllic medieval society that Himmler believed was closer to a true Aryan utopia than the modern, industrialized Reich could ever be. A portion of territory in Western France was given over to the SS to serve as this “state within a state,” and named after the French region of Lorraine.
Initially, the Ordenstaat was fully within the Reich, but from its inception, it answered to no institution but the SS. The only control the German government, or even the Nazi Party, had over the Ordenstaat was through the SS as an organization. Freedom of movement into the Ordenstaat for non-SS members was restricted and, shortly, forbidden. The SS established a de facto border with Germany to the east and France to the west.
The relationship between the Ordenstaat and Germany was amicable until the death of Hitler. Afterwards, the Ordenstaat was involved in the titanic power struggle between influential Nazis over who would inherit the throne. Himmler was killed during this struggle, and his replacement, Reinhard Heydrich, initially agreed to cooperate with the new German government. This lasted until 1968, when there was a failed assassination attempt against Heydrich, and he retreated into the Ordenstaat.
I asked Ms. Klostermann how she managed to escape from Algiers to Dakar.
“Practically, it was very easy. We were allowed, even encouraged, to mingle with Waffen SS troops in the city. We had no minders at night, although I hear this has changed after my escape. I was able to find my way to a French garrison and bribe my way out of Algeria. From there, I was passed from group to group until I made it to the Senegambia.”
I raised my eyebrows at that statement. The Ordenstaat is infamous for imposing control over every aspect of its citizens’ lives. This not only extended to the more common police state policies of curfews and internal passports, but even what clothes a citizen must wear or what food they may eat. But why was the SS so lack in their security in Algiers? Surely they could have imagined that someone would try to escape. Ms. Klostermann began to tear up at this question.
“The punishment for even an escape attempt is death. Not only for yourself, but also for your entire family. This is what keeps most from trying to escape. I escaped with full knowledge of the consequences because…I’m selfish. I couldn’t stand the life they were making me live! I wanted to be free, and I didn’t care about what that freedom cost or who would pay that price!”
Ms. Klostermann paused for a while to sob, and then compose herself. She continued.
“I…didn’t know my family very well. Because I was inducted into the Waffen-SS, I was effectively raised in SS facilities. In fact, my parents probably weren’t even my biological parents. Before my escape, I believed that this distance would help. But today, all I can think of is how they loved me, even if they didn’t have to. Even if they knew how dangerous it was to be attached to anything but the state. I remember how they comforted me when I was hurt by the men at the barracks, or even when I was just having a bad day. They didn’t need to do that. They just needed to feed me and keep me in line. And I made them pay the ultimate price because I wanted to be free. I couldn’t live under the SS anymore."
I asked Ms. Klostermann to elaborate on what life in the Ordenstaat was like.
“Because I was in the Waffen-SS, I cannot answer that question as well as others. I was lucky and afforded more freedom than most. The Ordenstaat is a strange place because it is the only nation where military life is less restrictive than civilian. In truth, there are no civilians in the Ordenstaat. Every citizen is inducted into the SS at birth, and they are required to follow its rules and directives for their entire lives. I was allocated to the Waffen-SS, but most are allocated to the Allgemeine SS. I was allowed generous free time, even weekends to myself. My parents and siblings were not, and I have spoken with other refugees who were similarly cursed. They received a strict schedule every month, with eight hours allocated to sleep and a few hours allocated to ‘relief time.’ Few dare to break from this schedule. Everyone has a superior officer who keeps tabs on them, and informants are everywhere.”
The Ordenstaat did not become the medieval fantasy that Himmler envisioned. Heydrich had a different plan: to create a garrison state that would be immune to dissent from within and invasion from without. Believing that the German Reich proper abandoned the principles of National Socialism, Heydrich sought to turn the Ordenstaat into the Aryan race’s last redoubt. This involved instilling strict military discipline, and then going further to create a society of living machines that would live and die for the SS.
I asked if the rumors of the Ordenstaat’s control were true. Ms. Klostermann nodded.
“Yes. Food, for example. The diet is strictly controlled, with only a few options available for each meal. This diet can change, depending on availability and the latest ‘science’ from the state. Rations are distributed and available for consumption, but most opt to cook their own food because it gives some measure of freedom. Either consuming more or less than the allotted amount each day is grounds for punishment. The state does this ostensibly to preserve the health of the nation, but the country is starving.”
I asked Ms. Klostermann for other examples, and she was more than happy to oblige.
“There is no hiring or firing workers. The SS assigns jobs at a young age, and we are trained to do this job for the rest of our lives. As every ‘business’ is ultimately part of the SS, they are allocated a set number of workers by higher offices. The state does issue a currency, but I don’t know why they bother with the charade. Very few goods can be purchased, and those that are can only be purchased at certain times and by certain people. Almost all property is assigned to families or individuals, and it can be requisitioned at any time.”
Under Heydrich, the Ordenstaat became a de facto independent state, and with its own nuclear arsenal, the Germans were reluctant to challenge it. While relations were tense, neither side wanted to publicize the break, and so select SS from the Ordenstaat continued to travel within the Reich as if nothing was wrong. Eventually, this changed, and the Ordenstaat retreated under its nuclear umbrella.
I asked Ms. Klostermann to elaborate just how she got stationed in Algiers.
“My saving grace is the fallibility of men. Although the SS tries to present the picture of perfect discipline, the watchmen can be bribed. As I said, the country is starving, and it has been for decades. For some smuggled ration packs, I was able to convince my commanding officer to station me in Algiers. The people in Dakar, they always complain about corruption. I love corruption, because it makes people possible.”
I asked her to elaborate.
“No totalitarianism is perfect, because it relies on people. People have their own interests and will, no matter how much the state tries to scrub it out. You cannot convince a guard that he is not hungry when he is, or to not take a bribe if he knows he will never be caught. It is ironic that what most see as the flaws of humanity are the best weapon against its worst creation. The SS is trying to build a perfect world, for them, but they will fail.”