All those people who support Nazism- in language and action- should remember that the Nazis lasted only 12 years and destroyed their own country, including presiding over the deaths of more than 10 Million Germans.
The vile people who festoon their walls with swastikas, the kids who put up their stiff arms in Hitler salutes, the vandals who spray walls with Nazi images, and the rank morons who join the extant Nazi parties have one thing going for them- a complete lack of historical perspective.
Sure, they lack decency, empathy, and generosity of spirit, but there’s no benefit in resorting to tautology as political strategy. They also lack any coherence of vision, but, again, why bring an intellectual knife to a gun fight? Why indeed should we attempt to help their vision cohere? It’s best they remain incoherent and generally disliked by decent people.
Now, revulsion would be a better response, but we live in strange, Orwellian times. There is simply too much distance – not so much in time but in historical perspective – from the Nazi interlude for most people to care how frightening their invocation is.
We’ve become inured to it. Television programs like Seinfeld have characters like the “Soup Nazi” who on whim decides who gets soup and who doesn’t. Pop icons like Justin Bieber visit Anne Frank Huis in Amsterdam and foolishly tweet about Frank being “A Belieber.” One needn’t be a PC watchdog to be both offended and horrified by these invocations.
We’ve also become inured to the more malevolent forms of Nazi mimesis. We dismiss the swastika-garbed as fringe elements. We refer to “neo-Nazis” in the same way we refer to “criminals” and “gangs.” We bandy about the world “fascist” as a synonym for “overly bureaucratic.” Of late, Republicans quote Hitler to warn against Democrats, who they also call Socialists. A curious juxtaposition for anyone who understood the Nazis attitude towards Socialists!
Privately, many don’t feel comfortable with Nazi mimesis but they lack the ability – because of this normalization- to collect themselves, ally with others, and create havoc until this “Neo-Nazism” is stamped out.
With the exception of some noble activists, authors, and counter-protesters, people don’t care enough about the recrudescence of Nazism and Nazi imagery.
So, let’s take a different tack. Let realpolitik take over.
Let’s forget for a moment the fact that Nazis killed 27 Million Soviets. Let’s forget for a moment the Holocaust and the 6 million Jews, shot, starved, and gassed. Let’s forget for a moment the mass murder of Communists, Unionists, Homosexuals, mentally infirm, Gypsies and countless other groups. Let’s forget that the Nazis brought Europe its knees and caused death and destruction in far-flung places, thousands of miles from the front.
Let’s remember what happened to them instead. Let’s remember the fact that a country of 70M lost between 11 and 12 million of its people- soldiers and civilians alike. Let’s remember that the Thousand Year Reich lasted only twelve years, bombed to smithereens. Let’s remember that Germany was bisected and occupied. Let’s indeed remember that the Soviets (and Western Allies) broke the back of the Nazi regime in a few years. Let’s remember how the Germans all over Europe were forced into refugee status and underfed for years after the War was over.
To do so is not to glorify revenge or to revel in human suffering, even of the aggressor peoples. It’s to point out to the Nazi-lovers that the regime they adore was quickly crushed.
Sure they can do harm, but they won’t last.
Romi Mahajan is a political commentator