Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What is a Nazi, anyways?

Michael L.

fancy swastika1That word, more than any other word that I can think of, is just laden with various miserable connotations and implications and political and psychological resonances.  The word is semiotically rich.  For reasons that could not be more obvious, it resonates deeply with almost everyone.

But, when we talk about Nazis, just who are we talking about?

Among academic historians the meaning of the term is limited to people who were members of the National Socialist German Workers Party between 1920 and 1945.  No one can be a "Nazi," i.e., a member of the Nazi Party, who was not a member of the party while it existed.

Nonetheless, words are slippery.  Would one hesitate to call a neo-Nazi with a bald head and a swastika tattooed onto the back of the neck a "Nazi"?  I would not hesitate for a moment.  And presumably neither would she.

Or, let's take the hypothetical case of a businessman in the United States who believes in a biological hierarchy of races, but who keeps that belief mainly to himself because he possesses something resembling normal intelligence.  And let's say that he considers black people and brown people and Jewish people and all non-white people to be basically inferior.  And let's say, in his imagination, he would very much like to see white people organize themselves politically around "whiteness."

Would it be fair to call such a person a "Nazi"?

He is not a member of the Nazi party, because the party is long gone.  As soon as Eva - who as it turns out may very well have been Jewish - gobbled down that cyanide in the F├╝hrerbunker, the party was over.  Yet I think that any reasonable person would agree that the attribution "Nazi" is appropriate for such a person.

Now, let's take things from a specifically Jewish perception for a moment.  Prior to the Holocaust what the Nazis did was demonize and defame the tiny Jewish minority in Germany.  We represented about 1 percent of that entire population.  And, just as in the Middle East today, the hostile majority population yammered at one another that Jews have too much power and that we have nefarious plans to take over the universe and that we are secretly and maliciously subverting the health and well-being of perfectly innocent children, nuns, and bunny-rabbits.

What I would suggest is that when anti-Semitic anti-Zionists and Israel Haters in places like Daily Kos or the UK Guardian or the Huffington Post or the New York Times or the European Union malign the tiny Jewish community in the Middle East then they are acting as "Nazis."  They are behaving essentially as the National Socialists behaved prior to the slaughter.  And just as the original Nazis honestly believed that what they were doing was right and good and just, so do the anti-Zionists, BDSers, and malicious Europeans.

And this is what slays me.

It is as an alleged matter of "social justice" that the western left kicks the Jewish people in the teeth.


  1. If you ask me, only the Nazis were Nazis. Our task is to rip the masks off the BDSers, the antisemitic anti-Zionists, etc, and make it so that whatever they call themselves becomes just as synonymous with those miserable connotations, implications and resonances as other hate groups have throughout history.

    1. BDSers aren't Nazis, but they don't have to be. They should eventually be viewed as precisely the ugly, violent, antisemitic, pro-war hate group that they are. Our job is to ensure we get to the point where society takes this fact as a given.

  2. The Nazis didn't invent themselves. They simply branded it.

    Max Blumenthal is a Nazi. Glenn Greenwald is a Nazi. Alice Walker is a Nazi. Greta Berlin is a Nazi. George Galloway is a Nazi. Richard Falk is a Nazi. Judith Butler is a Nazi. Phil Weiss is a Nazi. Anthony Lowenstein is a Nazi.

    1. Y'know, Trudy, that's a very interesting insight and one that gets to the core of a vital historical question around Nazi Germany.

      The question is this:

      Were the Nazis expressing something essential within German culture or did they represent an aberration?


    2. School,

      from my understanding most in the historical profession would agree with you that Germany in the 1930s and 1940s was an aberration. There is a general disinclination in the field to essentialize Germans as inherently anti-Semitic for obvious and very good reasons.

      I think, tho, that what the Nazis did in the 1920s and 1930s, in terms of the defamation of the Jewish people, is not so different from what we see on a daily basis throughout western-left media.

      The difference is in the effect. Every generation we are told just why we deserve a good beating and in every generation we get that beating, although in some generations it's not very bad, while in others it is absolutely horrific.

      In this generation we are also told why we deserve a good beating. Will it end up in another Holocaust? I wouldn't think, but I still do not appreciate the sentiment.

  3. The very term antisemitism was invented by a German journalist in the 1870's. Dozens of fervently right wing and left wing openly antisemitic 'clubs' sprung up. Of course this was before, just before the dawn of the racist eugenics movement. So antisemitism was framed not in terms of 'race' but in terms of culture, politics and religion. Just as it is now.

    Keep in mind that German nationalism was on the upswing in the 1870's, Germany was finally and for the first time unified as a nation. One had to be a 'good German in every way be it Catholic or Lutheran, politically right wing, staunchly German speaking, culturally German and all the rest. Jews were seen as a group apart who must be FORCED to assimilate and become entirely German. Any who resisted this force were suspect, dangerous.

    Walter Laquer covers this in some detail in "The Changing Face of Antisemitism".
    Phyllis Goldstein's "A Convenient Hatred" also touches on this a bit.