Comparing the Holocaust to Everything

In analyzing how we treat Europe’s refugee crisis, Dan Stone makes the argument that our actions and the lens we view such things through is heavily influence by World War II and the Holocaust specifically. Stone says that the world never properly came to terms with the Holocaust, and so now it colours the way we think about all kinds of different crises. For example, we might not pay attention to something as much as we should if we deem it ‘not as bad as the Holocaust.’ Stone invokes a 1945 quote from Alan Moorehead that warns that the “danger of indifference” will always be present, bringing up many tragedies that happened over the course of the war which Europeans didn’t care to hear about, unlike the Holocaust, which was huge news. There is a paradox here in how we treat crises or tragedies. For example, we have a tendency to analyze tragedies in regard to how they compare to the Holocaust, which either leads to an incorrect likening of some tragedy to the Holocaust, or if we do not liken some tragedy to the Holocaust, it is downplayed and minimized because it is ‘not as bad as the Holocaust.’ Stone says that it is correct that Europe’s current refugee crisis is not like the Holocaust, but once we begin to insist upon that idea, there is the danger that we don’t respond seriously enough to the problem. For Stone, this seems to stem from the idea that the Cold War was not comprised of the postwar period, and that the postwar period could not happen until the end of the Cold War, so we are only now grappling with the consequences of World War II and the Holocaust, as we try to compare them with every new crisis. However, Stone does not provide any solutions to this problem which he, in my opinion correctly, identifies. How can we properly analyze and take notice of tragedies that went unnoticed by Europeans in World War II and accurately and appropriately respond to the current refugee crisis?

The Nouvelle Droit and Online Discourse – Andrew Devenish

As a political movement and “cultural school of thought” formed in France in 1968, the Nouvelle Droit (or ND) gave a new paradigm for the right in Europe, allowing the right to take inspiration from CR thinkers who supported fascism. While Bor-an says the ND is not a fascist movement, it has connections and roots in fascism. When he was accused of covert racism and fascism by Roger Griffin, Alain de Benoist ardently denied these claims, instead calling himself an “anti-fascist” and “anti-racist”. Benoist does not believe that the way forward for Europe is in socialism or liberalism, and that electoral politics or violence is not the way to power. Instead, Benoist wants to implement a vision of a pan-European “Europe of a Hundred Flags” in which every regional ethnicity would have sovereignty, and the way to achieve this is through a cultural hegemony in which the ND comes to control the dominant values in society.

Bor-an argues that the ND and Benoist, with their “politically correct” language and the CR legacy of an “anti-fascist fascism” have influenced many movements on the right since the 1970s, and I would argue that these ideas continue to influence the right to this day, specifically prominently in online discourse. You can see much of the ND in political discourse online today, with many people using the “politically correct” language of the ND, with less innocuous political ideas hiding behind that language, just like with the ND itself. Specifically, the idea of the “Europe of a Hundred Flags”, is similar to the ideas that are featured prominently in right-wing political discussions online today. This is the idea that every ethnic group deserves its own sovereign identity and political organization, and that immigrants should be expelled so that each country in Europe can be its own homogenous society, with Europe as a continent being “regionally diverse”. However, there is one major difference between the ND and this online political discourse – Christianity. Since the ND is a pagan movement and much of the online right that espouses ND-esque language and views, this is one area where the two groups would have major disagreements, and as Bor-an notes, this pagan orientation is a major reason why the ND has struggled to find allies in the past. However, it hasn’t fully stopped the ND from making alliances in the past, and whether the ND and online right have any actual direct connections or not, they have many similarities in their tactics and strategies.

Shifting Attitudes Toward the Holocaust in the Postwar Period – Andrew Devenish

The postwar decades of the 20th century were a time of great change, both in how perpetrators and victims were viewed by the public. As Germany split into a capitalist side and a communist side, its approach to justice also fractured, changing further once the two halves were reunited in the 1990s. As Fulbrook points out, East and West Germany took very different approaches to prosecuting Nazis that remained in their borders as well as abroad. West Germany was more lenient – it considered “I was just following orders” a valid defense and it prided itself on the ability to show mercy to perpetrators and move on from the horrors of the Holocaust and the war. However, East Germany took a hardline stance against those who committed crimes for the Nazi party, with harsher sentences and no credibility given to the defense of following orders. However, in their own way East Germany also valued the ability to move on from what had happened in the past, as “due consideration” as given to Zimmerman’s change as he became a productive member of society, as well as the apparently real remorse he expressed in his confessions of guilt. Then, once Germany was reunified and a brand-new system had to contend with trials of Nazi perpetrators, there was a renewed desire to see them brought to justice, despite the fact that there were so few left to prosecute after so long.

We can also see shifts in the public perception of such trials over time from audience reactions to Stanley Kramer’s Judgement at Nuremberg as outlined by Moeller, in addition to the insights into the justice systems of Germany explained by Fulbrook. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was great public interest in Germany for things like Anne Frank’s diary and the Eichmann trial in Israel, and Kramer’s film also assisted in bringing these issues back to the forefront of the public consciousness in Germany. Many German critics focused on the lack of authentic details in the film while praising its bravery and important subject matter, whereas in the years immediately following the war, many Germans were too occupied with their own hardships to take a proper look at what hap happened with the Nuremberg Trials. As time went on, the issues of the Holocaust and Nazi perpetrators became more important in the minds of Germans.

Op/Ed 1: Turkey’s Authoritarian Leader – Andrew Devenish

As Turkey goes on the offensive in Syria against Kurdish-led fighters, international attention has been tightly focused on its issues. More and more people are being exposed to Turkey’s problems with corruption, censorship, oppression, and authoritarianism. The country was founded as a secular nation after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire but seems to be regressing back into a religious fundamentalist state and cracking down on any and all political dissidents. What lessons can Turkey learn from other authoritarian states in history?

Apparently, too many. Turkey’s current leader, President Erdogan, is an authoritarian. He’s the leader of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, a far-right party that continuously undermines the supposedly secular nature of Turkey’s government and likes to dip its toes into religious fundamentalism. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded Turkey as a secular republic in 1923 but has since struggled with controversy over whether or not it is holding true to its secular founding principles, and Erdogan’s AKP has been overseeing this controversy and in power in most years since 2002. Throughout that time, Erdogan, as the leader of the AKP, has given himself more and more powers through referendums and reforms. As Hitler rose to power, he dedicated more and more governmental powers to himself and eliminated political opponents, concentrating political power in his own office. Erdogan is doing the same thing. For 95 years Turkey was a parliamentary democracy, with the Prime Minister being the most powerful office. That remained true while Erdogan was Prime Minister. Then, when he was elected to the office of President in 2014, then a mostly symbolic position, he began granting himself more powers, becoming more powerful than the prime minister. Then, after a 2017 referendum and a 2018 election, the office of Prime Minister was eliminated entirely, and Turkey has since adopted a presidential system, increasing Erdogan’s own power and diminishing the power of parliament. Historically, it makes sense for an authoritarian to consolidate political power in his own office and eliminate positions that could challenge or check his power, as the Nazis did in the 1930s.

Another classic authoritarian tactic is censorship and media crackdown. The Nazis made use of all forms of media to further their goals. They eliminated dissenting newspapers and directly controlled the press, using propaganda to convince the German people of anything they wished, and keeping tight control to make sure no voices could be heard that didn’t echo what they were saying themselves. The Nazis arrested dissidents and suppressed free speech to keep control of what was allowed to be said in Germany. Erdogan has gone on the record to cite Hitler’s Germany as an example of the kind of state he wants to run, so it comes as no surprise that he would copy the tactics of Hitler when it comes to free speech. Turkey has a history of jailing journalists and dissidents, blocking social media sites and news websites that do not carry an explicitly pro-Turkey or pro-Erdogan message. Turkey also has its own genocide under its belt, with over a million Armenians killed under Ottoman rule in World War I, for which Turkey has never officially apologized, offering only some vague condolences in reference to Armenians that died in 1915.

A supposedly secular, free and fair society has been corrupted and controlled by Erdogan’s authoritarian tendencies and is slowly but surely turning into an authoritarian state modeled after many of Hitler’s own ideas. While it isn’t quite time to point to Turkey as a fascist state or a genocidal one, Erdogan’s many similarities to Hitler cannot and should not be ignored by anyone, as they launch a major military invasion of another country to wipe out the Kurds in Syria.

Works Cited

Dearden, Lizzie. “Turkey Quickly Sliding into Authoritarian Rule after Move to Increase Erdogan’s Powers.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 30 Dec. 2016, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/turkey-increase-executive-powers-president-recep-tayyip-erdogan-authoritarian-rule-government-a7501666.html.

“Erdogan Inaugurates a New Political Era in Turkey.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 28 June 2018, http://www.economist.com/europe/2018/06/28/erdogan-inaugurates-a-new-political-era-in-turkey.

Hubbard, Ben, and Carlotta Gall. “Turkey Launches Offensive Against U.S.-Backed Syrian Militia.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Oct. 2019, http://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/09/world/middleeast/turkey-attacks-syria.html.

“The Press in the Third Reich.” Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/the-press-in-the-third-reich.

Tures, John A. “It’s No Surprise That Turkey’s Erdogan Likes Adolf Hitler’s Government.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 7 Dec. 2017, http://www.huffpost.com/entry/its-no-surprise-that-turk_b_8903734.

Withnall, Adam. “Turkey’s President Erdogan Cites ‘Hitler’s Germany’ as an Example of Effective Government.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 1 Jan. 2016, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/turkey-president-recep-tayyip-erdogan-cites-hitler-germany-as-example-of-effective-government-a6792756.html.

Yildiz, Guney. “Turkey Offers Condolences to Armenia over WWI Killings.” BBC News, BBC, 23 Apr. 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-27131543.

The Passivity of Women in Fascist Society – Andrew Devenish

In Francoist Spain, as in Nazi Germany, there was a specific kind of woman that was socially acceptable and a specific role for women that was promoted by the state. Both societies encouraged women to focus their energy on keeping a household, nursing, and supporting the male soldiers, or male population in general. The proper, acceptable woman was the woman who did not venture outside of these defined gender roles. Nazi Germany banned women from practicing law and discouraged them from seeking out traditionally male professions, lauding women as heroes for having many children. According to Lopez and Sanchez, official Francoist propaganda stated during the Spanish Civil War that women were helping the war effort by “carrying out… nursing, charity and social services, sewing clothes, writing loving yet chaste letters to the soldiers, keeping the home warm and orderly for the moment that men should return victorious”. Although many women did take a more active role in supporting the Nationalist cause, and there were prominent women in Nazi Germany who did not strictly adhere to the state-supported gender roles, the official messaging of these fascist societies explicitly promoted traditional gender roles and minimized the more active parts women might have played in these societies.

But it wasn’t just the official propaganda that pushed this message. Many who look back on these societies, including historians, tend to do the same thing. Lower points out in her book that the history that she is writing has been barely touched on by other historians, and the number of women who actively participated in Nazi society and enabled genocide is most likely far higher than previous estimates. In the postwar period when Allied prosecutors investigated crimes committed in Nazi-controlled territories, women were scarcely prosecuted or investigated, and only a few were ever indicted. The same is true of Francoist Spain. Lopez and Sanchez say that many studies and books written about this time period in Spain also minimize the role that women took in supporting Nationalist causes, especially in regard to the Auxilio Azul Maria Paz. There is a widespread tendency, both by contemporaries and those looking back, to minimize and undermine the roles that women took in fascist societies. In these societies themselves, a passive role for women is officially promoted, and when looking back at them, what active roles they may have had are minimized or overlooked.

The Romanian Ideal Masculinity and the German Pragmatic Masculinity – Andrew Devenish

If we can take Nazi Germany and the fascist movement in Romania under Codreanu as representative of fascism in general, then gender, and more specifically masculinity, seems to be very important to fascism. While the Sandulescu reading focuses on the ideals of masculinity and the “new man” in Romanian fascism, the fascist ideal of masculinity, Kuhne touches on the practical implementation of those concepts of masculinity under the Nazi regime, especially among soldiers, and with the concept of comradeship, or Kameradschaft.

According to Sandulescu, Codreanu’s “new man” is the ideal in his fascist movement of the type of man that is going to save Romania. He is heroic and strong, and every mean in the Legion is supposed to try and become him, through education by the Legion. The goal of this education is to produce the right kind of masculinity for the fascist movement.

Kuhne talks about the ideal fascist version of masculine in a more practical sense in his article. Nazi Germany also had a proper masculinity that one was not supposed to stray from, and an important component of that masculinity was comradeship. Distinct from friendship, comradeship came about in the military and was emphasized as a collective sense of self for the German soldiers. AS Kuhne points out, this often resulted in more “feminine” displays and behaviours than one might have expected from a society that had very rigid views of masculinity, and explicit rules about what was acceptable for that masculinity. Therefore, what can be seen is the practical implementation of the German fascist masculinity juxtaposed with the ideal described by Codreanu for the Romanian Legionary fascist masculinity. While the German soldiers’ comradeship allowed for some flexibility and fluidity in what was considered acceptably masculine, and was a collective idea, Codreanu’s “new man” was a more individualistic masculinity, emphasizing how each man had to step up and be a hero, and did not allow for any flexibility or fluidity in its “ideal” form as written by Codreanu.

Fascism’s Approaches to Leisure and Tourism – Andrew Devenish

The fascist approach to building a national community seems to have been very important for Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany. Under these regimes, both nations mobilized tourism as a way to attain specific goals set by the regime for their populations. However, while these approaches are similar in concept, their goals and implementations were very different.

The theme that unifies these countries through their approaches to mass leisure and tourism is about building a unified national community. However, Mussolini and Hitler went about it in very different ways. Baranowski argues that the state-run organization Strength through Joy, or the KdF, had goals of giving Germans positive experiences of the Third Reich, improving standards of living and even expanding upon the idea of standards of living, and notably fostering an “egalitarian” racial community without class divides. The idea was that sending workers and low-income people on cruises and vacations with other classes of people would result in inter-class mingling and hopefully blur those class divides or get rid of them altogether, while fostering an identity more centred around race so that all “racially acceptable” Germans could think of themselves as equal subjects of the Third Reich, and therefore be more endeared to the Nazi regime.

De Grazia paints a different picture of Italy, however. Italy also wanted to use leisure and tourism to further the regime’s specific goals, but it was less about getting rid of class divides and sponsoring racial community. This tourism and leisure industry was also constructed, and the purpose of the Italian OND was similar to the German KdF, but the OND was focused more on linking rural communities more tightly to urban communities, and tying both to the state, and fostering ideas of national community rather than racial community.  The OND wanted to engage the Italian population – they wanted an active public rather than a passive audience, and they wanted to strengthen ideas of the Italian national community and cultural unity, in the same way that the KdF fostered racial community between “racially acceptable” Germans. Both of these fascist regimes employed tourism and mass leisure agencies to guide these industries toward specific, focused regime goals, in similar ways, but to different types of goals.

The Nazi Co-operation with Anticolonial Nationalists – Andrew Devenish

David Motadel argues in his article, The Global Authoritarian Moment and the Revolt Against Empire, that the co-operation between Nazi regime leadership and the significant anticolonial nationalist exile community in Berlin has been under-studied and under-acknowledges by historians. Motadel believes that such co-operation was more significant than most acknowledge, who believe the explicitly racist policies and racial supremacist nature of Nazi ideology left no room for such alliances between regime leadership and anticolonial leaders from the Global South. In 1941, it became official strategy in Berlin to provide assistance to anti-imperialist movements in India, North Africa, and the Middle East, yet Motadel focuses mostly on the interactions between the Nazi regime and the anticolonial community within Berlin. Motadel’s argument that these interactions are significant seems to be at odds with the military strategy of the Nazis. For example, Germany recruited heavily from their colonial prisoners of war using propaganda and came up with Asian, Indian, and Arab volunteer brigades to fight on the front lines, and it was official policy to support nationalist movements in nations under the colonial control of Germany’s enemies in order to destabilize these empires.

Motadel even writes that Hitler lamented that he had not done enough to support these colonial nations at the very end of the war. To me, these seemed like the most significant aspects of Nazi co-operation with anticolonial nationalist movements, yet the majority of Motadel’s article focuses on the political leaders of many of these movements in Berlin. The Syrian rebel leader Fawzi al-Qawuqji in Berlin is quoted by Motadel as saying, “With the German retreat on all fronts, our negotiations have been less active, and we have lost hope of achieving what we hoped for.” This suggests that the more significant aspect to the movement was the war effort. After all, if the Nazis couldn’t win the war, how could they provide aid to these nationalist movements afterward? Al-Qawuqjii needed Germany to win the war to advance his interests, so without the war effort the various organization and congresses, meetings and discussions between anticolonial leaders in Berlin, and between these leaders and the Nazi regime couldn’t amount to any success for their goals. I would like to see more from Motadel on the impacts of the anticolonial nationalist community in Berlin, and have him explain in more detail how they are more significant than they have historically been given credit for.

The Difficulties of Finding Fascism – Andrew Devenish

This week I found the reading by Allardyce to be the most interesting of the readings. Rather than attempting to define fascism as others such as Paxton, Allardyce sets out to strike down others’ attempts to define fascism. In his chapter, Allardyce runs through many different arguments about what fascism might be and shows how they are all flawed. The types of arguments he sets up in front of himself in order to then knock down all seem to be trying to place fascism within a box, and make it easily definable for use with contemporary and future occurrences of what one might call fascism, and at the same time attempting to reconcile the differences between the Italian and German formations of fascism as they arose in very different circumstances. There is a strong connection between the kind of argument that Allardyce is making and pieces such as the Vox article by Matthews. It is common in today’s discourse to call leaders like Trump a fascist, but when a journalist sets out to ask historians and fascism experts, the answer is not so simple. However, despite how effective Allardyce is at defeating attempts to create a mold of fascism into which we can place personalities and ideologies to test whether they really are fascist, I find an issue with his conclusion. Although it is clear that Allardyce does not set out to define fascism properly and instead explains why it cannot be defined so easily, I find his conclusion about the definition of fascism too weak. Allardyce says “there is no such thing as fascism. There are only the men and movements that we call by that name.” My issue with this statement on fascism is that it leaves us very little room to call fascistic entities or people fascist. Allardyce seems to agree that the Italian and Nazi systems of the 1930s and 40s were indeed fascist, but it seems harder for him to nail down any other movement in Europe before or after this decade as fascist. If there is no such “thing” as fascism, then how can we call anything fascism? He acknowledges there are “men and movements we call by that name” but seems hesitant to apply the label anywhere else. Allardyce is correct in that the term has been widely misused constantly, but unless fascism truly did die with Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, then Allardyce does not know where it went or where it came from.