Nazis & The Victim Card


From a reader:

Dear Mr. Goldberg:

I just re-read the chapter on Nazism in _Liberal Fascism_ and this time, I noted
that in your discussion of identity politics, there is no discussion of their
use of playing the victim card.  The demands that led up to, and the invasions
that began, World War II were often justified on the grounds that Germans were
being persecuted in those regions.

I noticed because I am also reading Erwin Leiser’s _Nazi Cinema_ and noting how
often Nazi propoganda flicks played that card.

_Refugees_, the first film to win the state prize, revolves around Volga Germans
in Manchuria being persecuted by Bolsheviks (and rescued, naturally enough, by a
Fuhrer-like leader). 

_Frisians in Peril_ also revolves about Volga Germans suffering under Communist
rule.  Though open fighting is brought about when the Russian commander has a
romantic relationship with a half-German, half-Russian girl, and the other
Germans murder her for it.  Then, intermarriage is often viewed unfavorably by
identity politics — if seldom brought to such a pitch.

_Enemies_ has a prologue declaring that the post-war period was one of
unrelenting persecution for Germans in Poland, and the British guarantee to
Poland in 1939 triggered the deportation of tens of thousands of Germans, and
the massacre of sixty thousand.

_Homecoming_ depicts unrelenting persecution on the German minority in Poland,
including attacks that blind one character and leave another dead when the
hospital refuses treatment.  Finally, the Germans are caught listening to Adolf
Hitler on the radio and imprisoned, to be shot at dawn.  Fortunately, the German
invasion arrives just in time to free them.  But in the climatic scene, the main
characters, father and daughter, hold forth on the evils on sitting about
comfortably while people are waiting in cellars to be machine-gunned, or are
starving to death, and how in Germany, people are starting to act against these
things — with guns, to be sure, but that, however tragic, is necessary to
prevent people from ignoring human suffering.

And this just from the sample in the book.

Me: Golly, I’ll have to go back and read the Hitler chapter myself, because I could have sworn I raised this point more than once. Whether I did — or did insufficiently — it’s absolutely true that the Nazis exploited a widespread sense of unfairness stemming from the terms of the peace after World War One. The Italian Fascists did this too, claiming that they’d been ripped-off as one of the victors. Historically, fascism — or just plain hyper nationalism — needs to be understood as part of larger craving for international respect. Mussolini and Hitler alike often painted themselves as both anti-imperialists  and champions of their nations’ rightful imperialism. The established powers were keeping the Germans, the Italians and the Japanese down, and now it was their turn for a moment in the sun.

This is a major reason why so many Third World “national liberation” movements are quintessentially fascistic. Catro, Chavez, Mugabe, Pol Pot,  Mao and many others cast  themselves as both anti-imperialists (or, these days, anti-Americans) while at the same time claiming that their nation needs to flex its muscles. One of the amazing ironies is that pacifists and other anti-war types so often believe these Hitler and Mussolini knock-offs are really champions of peace and justice. 


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