Leigh Fermor’s walk across Europe in the early 1930s captures many things that would be swept away in the following decade by the high tide of Nazism. His journey took him through Germany and he chronicles the first menacing signals of what was to come, in the cocky, crude behaviour of Nazis enjoying their newfound power.
His reference to the Nazi salute appearing like a nervous tic reminds me of Peter Sellars imitation of a post-war Nazi in hiding, in which he can’t keep his arm from flying up into a straight-limbed salute unless he holds on to it with his other arm.
Worse is the unavoidable reflex of the passers-by – perhaps some out of conviction but perhaps many in the hope of fending off worse things by complying with the ‘unleavened pomp’.
God preserve us…
‘ … the unleavened pomp – everything struck chill to the heart … the Nazi salute flickered about the pavement like a tic douloureux … and the right arms of all passers-by shot up as though in reflex to an electric beam.’
Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (London: Penguin Books, 1977), p. 103
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