The Existence of the LGBTQ+ Community Within Nazi Ideology

The Holocaust is perceived as indiscriminate in its systematic persecution against members of minority groups. Millions of fatalities of innocent civilians across Nazi conquest territory of WWII alludes to its unwavering hatred of those that did not fit social norms of that era. However, modern intersectionality has caused dissonance within the public and scholarly reaction to the LGBTQ+ population in relation to sociocultural values of the Nazi era. A German mural paying homage to the deaths of gay men has been criticized for its exclusion of lesbian women, who faced violence from the Nazi party. Academia is divided – many scholars suggest that Nazis had far stricter laws for gay men than lesbian women and therefore they should be excluded as their plight was far less brutal. Other academics find it absurd that they are excluded, for they faced persecuted as a full stop. These scholars choose to not look at persecution as a gradient or by levels, but by acknowledging that persecution is unsavoury regardless of the volume.

For this response, the language used is now observed to be obviously incorrect and offensive. With ease, this response denounces the derogatory connotations used, especially concerning “transvestite” and “masculine presenting women.”

The author focuses on one particular case study of Ilse Totzke, a German lesbian woman. Not only was she a more “masculine” presenting woman, but scrutinized for her fraternization with Jewish people. This one facet of her life is drawn upon immensely – the author suggests that because she was a “masculine” female, she was already under scrutiny but it was her willingness to interact with Jews that solidified suspicion. The position the author takes on this matter is that while lesbianism was illegal, it was not as rigorously enforced under the stipulation that the lesbian person in question was not deviating away from other norms. The dichotomy of what constituted a “proper” German during the Holocaust is rife with dissonance, especially towards members of the LGBTQ+ community. Being a gay man was unchallengedly illegal, however lesbian women and “transvestites (those who presented as male but were female)” had fewer systematic barriers and law. For this reason, the author suggests Totzke could have lived a quite existence during the Holocaust even though she was in the company of Jewish peoples assuming she did not present physically how she did. The author continued passed the Totzke case study to examine the flippant laws between countries under the same jurisdiction – Austria had specific anti-lesbian laws, however Germany did not; “moral endangerment” of a minor under 16 was illegal as well as being “asocial (however there is no rigorous definition of asocial that the author provides).” The Gestapo could put anyone under protective custody en route to a concentration camp for seemingly no proper reason. The Nazi regime operated, seemingly, under arbitrary law that suited particular cases instead of particular people.

The author makes compelling arguments, however, employs few statistics but opts more for anecdotes and witness testimony. While these insights are valuable in formulating a robust understanding of the moral hierarchy and dichotomy of the Nazi era, it does not provide an entire scope about lesbianism and perception of lesbian women of this time.

The Man and the State in the Fascist Dream

This week, the readings explore ideas of masculinity, femininity and sexuality under Fascist regimes. It is perhaps Thomas Kühne and Valentin Săndulescu works that gave most credence to my assertion that the ideology and physicality of men were used as symbols of Fascist regimes. The need to both see and identify the Fascist state is a tool of transmittance of the Fascist ideology that validates the legitimacy of the state and indoctrinates others under its guiding hand; a motivator for Mussolini among other leaders and a sentiment I have previously explored here: ).

The man and the state in the fascist dream are one, they are an inseparable unit where one gives living breathing life to the next. The idealist Fascist cause that George L. Moose argued satisfies “a deep need for activism combined with identification, it [Fascism] seemed to embody their vision of a classless society.” If we consider Fascism as a revolutionary form of systemic revolt there is no need to depart from the arguments of Gilbert Allardyce’s “What Fascism Is Not” and Federico Finchelstein, “Introduction: Thinking Fascism and Populism in terms of the Past”, which was read and discussed in week two. Both authors asserted a form of Fascism that is obsessed with newness, a breaking of the past and as Roger Griffin (quoted by Finchelstein) pointed out “a longing for a new order, a new nation, not just a reformed old nation”.  This week’s article by Săndulescu gives us an illustrative historical example in Codreanu’s Legion of Archangel Michael in Romania where a ‘new nation’ is constructed through a ‘new man’.

The ‘man’ of the Fascist cause was one already under the command of the regime – the solider. The favourability of Fascists regimes towards the militarization of the state positioned the solider to serve as an ambassador to its brand and transmit the very essence of the state within and outside its boarders, with the assurance of loyalty and service to the Fascist cause. “The ideal man” wrote Kühne,” embodied by the soldier, was tough and aggressive, in control of his body, mind, and psyche.” The soldiers of a militarized state had passed what Kühne referred to as “school of manliness that transformed ‘weak’ (i.e., feminine) boys into ‘hard,’ real men.” The trope of the hardened man gave the state a body that could interact with the world and demonstrate the strength of the nation. When Hitler’s Nazi’s marched, the state marched, when they were struck down the state was struck down, and when they ‘progressed’ towards an Aryan race the nation ‘progressed’ by virtue of their action.

It is here that the physicality of the solider meet the ideology of the state which served as a unifying force for the collective cause. Kühne explained that the “army served as the “school of the nation,” merging men of different civilian identities, classes, religions, and regions into a homogenous body of citizens able to replace or even dismiss their particularist civilian identities on behalf of a communal, soldierly one. ” Whichever difference may have emerged among men in Aryan Germany or the ‘new’ Romania would surely be connected by the Fascist dream.

Transmitting Fascism


In thinking about the culture of fascism either in Spain, Germany or Italy it is important to consider the political motivations of the state. In the case of these three fascist regimes it was in the interest of the state to engage the international community to gain a sense of legitimacy. The legitimizing power of international community is rooted in the 1933 Montevideo Convention that outlines the defining language for statehood. The ability for state to operate outside its borders was granted under the assumption the government was de jure and not simply de facto, the importance being that the latter simply governed the state, but the prior was expected to do so by the International community. For leaders like Franco Hitler, or Mussolini whose rise to power undermined the image of a new ‘more stable’ nation that they aimed to convey, it was crucial to receive support for the Fascist regimes. By recognizing the governments as legitimate governing bodies leaders like Franco were able to solidify the narrative that they were the best choice for constructing a new nation and that they had the political buy in to do so.

To appeal to the International community and demonstrate on a global stage that a fascist government was indeed the legitimate government of their respective states and that Fascism could be a legitimate governance model states opted to use tourism as a legitimizing tool for the Fascist state. In thinking about tourism, it was not uncommon in the early 20th century for other democratic states to use tourism as a form of cultural diplomacy. See more on the diplomacy in the interwar period here:

For Germany, the state-run tourism organization Strength through Joy (kdf) sent German’s into the what we now call the Global south in an effort to formulate a cultural exchange. German’s entering the region would transmit an image of Germany mush like Umbach has argued the photographs have done. Baranowski points out that German’s were sent to curated destinations in order to ensure that Nazi regime was seen as building a new and better life. The ‘cultural exchange’ of German’s to other places gave Germany two faces: one that faced out and was humanized by everyday German’s and one that faced inward towards the German’s of the ‘new Germany’.

Franco’s regime in Spain and Mussolini’s in Italy were not exempt from the use of touristic diplomacy. Spain brought the world to its doorstep once again showing the outward face of the Fascist state but this time it was interestingly done within Spanish boarders. Crumbaugh wrote that the development of Spain involved the “active participation of the entire Spanish population.” For Spain the culture of the ‘new nation’ was solidified against what it was and artificially created a sense of uniformity among Spaniards, particularly when juxtaposed against tourists. In Italy the OND, as De Grazia wrote, focused on the internal tourism of the ‘new Italy’. Connecting rural and urban communities across Italy to bring about a sense of collective comradeship.

Across borders and across times, what we have seen is the ability for Fascists state to enter the international community under the vail of tourism only deliver an image of the ‘new nation’ is and what the return what the ‘new nation’ ought to be to their home countries.


The Memory of Fascism

By: Nadiya Alexandra

In Selfhood, Place and Ideology in German Photo Albums, 1933-1945, Maiken Umbach discusses the relationship between amateur snapshots and propagandisctic and commercial photos. The discussion of mass photography having a transformative effect at the time is fascinating, however, I would like to refute one of Umbach’s arguments:

“Spectacle during fascism was not merely an ideological ploy used by a regime to manipulate a population. It was coproduced by countless actors, from above, from below, and, most typically, from in between”

It is conceivable that the spectacle of fascism was coproduced, however, I do not find the photographs from that era as evidence of this claim. Or, at the very least, I would argue that this “coproduction” in the form of photography was not as intentional as Umbach suggests. On the other hand, the production of propagandistic and commercial photos was intentional, and I think offers more insight and opportunity for analysis.

In studying civilian snapshots, there are a few problems. Firstly, as Umbach admits, it is often impossible to tell if an image from civilian life was taken in the 1920s, 30s or 40s, as many photos did not have captions. This makes linking civilian photographs to fascism difficult. Secondly, Umbach discusses the style of photos produced as “risk-averse”; this implies that German civilians knew there was danger to be aware of. However, in Strength through Joy – Consumerism and Mass Tourism, Shelley Baranowski points out that many Aryan Germans were blissfully unaware of the terror and tragedy faced by second-class people. Additionally, Baranowski points out that many Strength through Joy (KdF) tourists, “ignored or trivialized Nazi terror and the regime’s minacious foreign policy.” If we assume that Baranowski is correct here, why was there a need to produce risk-averse photos?

Umbach also describes German civilian photo stereotypes, such as “the natural German,” “good times,” and “on the road.” The argument concerning “good times” is that these photos show an alignment with the way the regime sought to “naturalize” political ambitions. However, could there be a more simple explanation for these kinds of photos? In my opinion, people generally try to take photos to capture and display happy memories (unless they are photographers). Even today, most people’s Facebook and Instagram profiles are carefully curated to show the best parts of one’s life. Even in times of turmoil, I think is a natural human reaction, or even coping mechanism, to capture and hold on to the “good times.”

Another one of Umbach’s arguments is that “on the road” photographs show a fetishization of roads and vehicles, and “a clear sense that roads…are seen as spaces of a peculiar charismatic power, as trajectories, literally and metaphorically for transporting smiling travelers into a brave new world.” Again, I question how intentional these actions were from the amateur photographers, or how unique the obsession with travel was to Nazi Germany? Perhaps an argument can be made here that such photos show Germany’s striving for modernity?           

Again, my main question to Umbach is how intentional was this alleged coproduction of ideology from below? Was there indeed an ideology at play here? My guess would be that many of the civilian photos were taken without much thought for political ideology or risk-aversion. I think that the quantity of “good times” photos and “on the road” photos cannot be argued as showing production of ideology from below. However, this does not mean that there was not coproduction of ideology from below at all. Going back to the idea of the pragmatism of fascism, focus on travel and leisure was a very pragmatic strategy to keep the support from German civilians. Fascism had to be responsive to be pragmatic.  

Fascism and the Photograph: Dimitrios Monette

Upon completing this weeks reading upon the correlation of fascism and photography with a specific focus on the Nazi regimes use of the technology, I found myself largely agreeing with the pieces content for the first time in mass with the addition of a small observation. That single observation is that while yes, Nazism and totalitarianism have made use of photography to further their own goals and workings, so has literally every other ideology imaginable. We have seen great pictures of Soviet Russian columns of men and tanks, of women snipers and pilots. We have viewed photos of men in DCU camouflage and American flags standing beneath Saddam’s crossed swords in Baghdad.  We have seen and will continue to see the world the way the photographer wished it to be seen, no matter who is right or wrong, who is totalistic or liberty driven, and who is good or bad. The author even points out that the small men on the ground are capable of changing the outlook a view has on the conflict by way of a personal camera and personal anecdote “The same soldier’s album then documents his service on the Eastern Front in 1941 and 1942, before he was killed in battle in the Soviet Union. The mood changes significantly: photos of German war dead and makeshift graves abound, with captions underscoring a sense of melancholy and mourning, including occasional expressions of doubt, such as “Why all this bloodshed?,” and farewell messages to fallen comrades. The way the landscape is captured changes accordingly. Germans are now depicted acting in a featureless, muddy desert…” (326).  The photographer manufactures the feeling we discover within the snapshot by way of posing angle or even descriptor on the bottom or back of a photo. We have little to go off of but what we have been given, not too much unlike a totalitarian mentality. Despite this though, the German Reich of the Nazi regime certainly has a knack for such work unlike all others,  yet to call it inclusively fascist is not exact. The writer points it out best “Images, the recent historiography on “spectacle” has argued, were central to the success of fascism. Yet, the same images also lent themselves to the fashioning of more individual identities, as well as to the telling of stories that deviated from official propaganda narratives” (365).

Exporting Fascism

Nation-states are in a constant competition to elevate their economy above that of every other economy to have a monopoly and hegemony on innovation. 20th century Spain followed these highly competitive attempts at innovation using tourism. Tourism did not act solely to render Spain as an economic beneficiary – Mediterranean scenery and culture speak to their own prowess –  but also acted as a soft power that included civilians and government. Crumbaugh focuses on the relationship between the business of tourism and fascism. Not only does it discuss the ability to maintain fascism through enterprise and the socioeconomic changes that ensue.

The changes of an economic landscape originated to solidify the Spanish dictatorship with this new impressive wave of revenue that was unparalleled by anything else observed in Europe at the time. The unrest of the 1960s on a global scale had Spain projecting its economic insecurities into a new format. A combination of leftist resistance movements, nationalist movements in Catalonia and the Basque regions, and student protests caused an uneasy government to embark on tourism. The introduction of tourism correlated with a massive economic increase and per capita income increase from $300 to $1500 in only a decade. Spanish civilians used this opportunity methodically – the new ability to accrue vast sums of wealth had a massive labour shift. Fishermen began to abandon their fishing rods and use their boats to ferry tourists around scenic coasts. The new economic freedoms under a once stringent regime simultaneously advanced Spain’s economy and removed previous barriers. Spaniards could now travel in and out of Spain, experience new cultures, and were subsequently exposed to new ideology through travel. The government had intended tourism to be methodical to export Spain’s brand of dictatorship. Similarly to not being able to avert one’s eyes from a car crash, being able to experience a totalitarian regime in real time has the same affect. Spain may be the propagator of dictator tourism, especially in its ability to expose on a civilian level political abilities, but this concept has transcended borders and boundaries. The Spanish model of economic advancements highlight a positive correlation between thriving industry and overall freedom. As Cumbaugh suggests, the acceleration of money and freedom of jobs translated into freedom of movement which gave civil society unpredicted access to overall advancements and led to the decline of the regime.

Contemporary Spain is no longer a dictatorship. Cumbagh accurately suggests that tourism simultaneously propelled Spanish freedoms while undermining the government that introduced them, however he fails to address the overall citizen opinion.

Do We Need Fascists?

In the early 20th century Mussolini became a master of narrative construction as he sought to reform Italy. However, Mussolini did not rise to power simply owed to factors outside his own control but, with the aid of narratives. Narratives that conjured fear the hearts and minds of the Italian people and painted an image that required their response. Fascism as a movement utilized the trope of a sick patient (as many veterans of war at the time once were) to argue that Italian nation had been taken by disease. As Ruth Ben-Ghiat wrote in her 2004 book Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945, Alfredo Rocco, and other nationalist thinkers such as Scipio Sighele and Enrico Corradini argued a need for “order and collective discipline at home” given the “ ‘congenital Italian illness’ of excessive individualism that had supposedly hindered Italy’s progress as an imperial force” (Ben-Ghiat 2004, 18). Mussolini continued these tropes calling Italy “unhealthy”, “sick”, “infected” and calling for “necessary hygienic action”.

Ultimately, Mussolini rose to power as the great healer that would bandage the Italian nation and pull the state from the brink of death. However, in the lead up to and the duration of Mussolini’s fascist administration there were great measures enacted to ensure that the Italian people would continue to choose the Mussolini regime as the surgical hand by which they would be rid of ‘infection’. The ‘infection’ of individualism and a troubled nation that Italians were told that they had.

This gave credence to policies enacted from 1925-1929, as Ben-Ghiat wrote, to effectively create a police state in Italy, autonomous organization such as the mafia were made to organize in line with the objectives of the nation-state. Fascist Italy made and re-made organizations and the histories that went along with them to ensure one collective narrative was shared among the Italian people. This narrative was indoctrinated by the national fascist organization known as Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro (OND), State controlled media, and intellectuals such as Luigi Pirandello whose careers benefited from the intervention of the Fascist regime. In the case of Pirandello, Ben-Ghiat pointed out that he was recommended to the Italian Academy for his support to the nation.

The very people those being intellectuals, thinkers and artists who work to critically analyze the business of those in positions of power accepted that the “world of ideas ran on a strictly parallel course with that of the dictatorship” (Ben-Ghiat 2004, 23) and not in opposition to it. The work of intellectuals within the system were Mussolini declared it “permissible to advance objective judgments on art, prose, poetry, and theater without the threat of a veto due to an irregular party card” (quoted in Ben-Ghiat 2004, 23) kept the surgical hand of Mussolini steady.

The Italian nation ultimately needed a fascist solely because the Italian people were told they needed one. The push for intellectuals and policy makers to speak with the same breath put Italy, in the eyes of the Fascist regime, in a “privileged position” over other states. But the limits of Fascism was tested from within as the old men and ideas were faced with modernity in a Fascist sphere.

Wrestling with a Myth

In the last week’s postings, readings and discussion, there was a strong focus on how elements of history can be used to justify certain actions. This week, in the book A Specter Haunting Europe, we instead get a chance to see how myths develop in real time, with the concept of overarching Judeo-Bolshevism during the early 20th century.

In brief, the article deals with how the concept of Judeo-Bolshevism evolved based on both real world events and the actions of individuals and groups to promote the concept. It addresses the tactics and approaches used, often by right-wing groups, to propagate the concept that the various left-wing revolutionary groups and governments at the time were being led by Jewish persons, both men and women. The main method described is by ‘unmasking’ revolutionaries’ personal histories and displaying their Jewish origins, though not always accurately.

At its heart, the author notes, there is a kernel of truth to the allegations, that there was a number of high-ranking revolutionaries that came from Jewish backgrounds. But the author also demonstrates that much of the overarching concerns for Judeo-Bolshevism stemmed from deep fears over Jewish religion and culture, and that Bolshevism was simply the latest iteration of Jewish influence.

It is particularly pertinent to view Judeo-Bolshevism’s deconstruction in terms of what some modern persons have coined as Islamofascism. The terminology is highly problematic, conflating Islam and Fascism in a way not dissimilar to Judeo-Bolshevism. As the far right in Europe continues to grow more bold in its attempts to paint Muslims and Arabs in general as anti-democratic and dangerous, the term is beginning to become more reminiscent of things seen before.

Also of note is trying to understand the various methods in which the Jewish populations of Europe tried to combat this myth, and which were effective. From trying to justify the actions of Jewish Bolsheviks , to suggesting that they are traitors to both Judaism and country, the Jewish communities of Europe often took a variety of approaches in trying to handles the mythologizing.

Towards the end of ensuring marginalized groups are not demonized further by the extreme actions a few, it is imperative to understand which strategies worked and which did not when trying to ensure the public that not all Jews were involved in a Bolshevik conspiracy. Applying these results to the Islamofascist scare tactics used by far right members in modernity, we can hope to better prevent unfounded hatred spreading across Europe.

Jewish Bolshevik? By Dimitrios Monette

While evaluating the Hannebrink reading I found myself struck by the intense and heavy amount of near comical ignorance and hypocritical nature of anti-Jewish speech and teachings. The Jews as a distinct religious people have found themselves constantly trod upon across the globe and of course in Europe as a whole. While we of course correlate the connection between antisemitism with the holocaust of the Nazi regime in the later 30’s and 40’s, it is intriguing to look just slightly farther back to view a world still so locked into what one might normally consider medieval beliefs of the Jewish peoples. Is it not hypocritical for a Christian like future Pope Pius to call the Bolshevik radicals leading the revolution that gripped the post war German city of Munich Jewish radicals? Are not they (and myself-included as a Greek orthodox believers) Jews of a different sect? It is interesting to note that while we might associate anti-Jewish sentiment with fascism of Nazism, which it should rightly be, it has also existed up right until before and likely after the rise of the Nazi regime during the second world war. The entire argument that the radical revolutionaries of the soviet ideology are inherently Jewish is a flawed one from the outset due to more traditional Jewish hatred propaganda and assumptions of the past, that being specifically the stereotype that Jews covet and crave large sums of money. While this might actually have some merit in the fact that Jews found themselves forced into the positions of bankers and lenders of money due to established Christian laws banning them from all other trades and work in Europe, this in itself destroys and notion that the Jews as a whole might be driven to lead a Bolshevik revolution. Why would the upper middle class wish to abolish their rights to individual property for the masses?  It is notable that some Jews did indeed embrace bolshevism, the key word being some “Some Jews embraced bolshevism in particular places at particular times… Poland, for example, 20-40 percent of the… Communist party in the 1920’s were individuals of Jewish origin. But only about 7 percent of Polish Jews voted for the Communist Party…”(21). I would argue this is due to the Jews being constantly viewed as an outside group, unwanted people and marginal. As a result, some Jews of course would pursue the embrace of am ideology so all encompassing as Communism, but so did many Catholics and Protestants alike. Ultimately the hatred and distrust of communism and its inherent ability to snake under the underbelly of great empires like that of Tsarist Russia and the city of Munich drove fear into the average people of europe, and looking to put a face to their attacker chose one they already disliked and found distaste in, the european jew. It is noted that “For centuries the paranoid belief that Jews performed bizarre religious rituals with fanatical and inhuman zeal resurfaced periodically…. Reinforcing religiously inspired connections to the idea that Jews were evil…”(30). It is simply easier to blame the bad guy you know, then to search for the true face of a supposed evil. 

The Far Right, Fascism, and Internationalism

By Alex Wittmann

A common conception is centered around the belief that the far right are anti internationalists. They espouse these beliefs when they claim that international institutions are, for lack of a better word “screwing” their countries and that multilateral cooperation erodes state sovereignty. As we have seen in Fascist  Modernities and in the New York Times opinion piece in particular, right wing and fascist governments cannot totally avoid internationalism, in fact they embrace an alternative one. Even if an alliance consists of just three or four nations, no matter where a movement rests on the political spectrum every side will recognize that when working together the movement is stronger. This is true for the right wing and facsist movements in the past and it is true in the present. As mentioned in the New York Times opinion piece a new European alliance of far right leaders in France, Germany, and Italy has been formed. This is done in a way to unite the movement and make it stronger. Otherwise, a right wing populist movement is likely to be written off as insignificant and specific to the domestic problems of a nation in which it is occurring, therefore it cannot grow. Multilateral alliances serve to add legitimacy and strength to right wing populist movements. Far right leaders therefore recognize the value of multilateralism in this way, as long as they cooperate with those of the same ideology. Therefore when they say that they are anti internationalists, it is not entirely true. Far right leaders will be internationalists if it serves their interest. A more extreme example is highlighted in the chapter of Conquest and Collaboration in Fascist Modernities. In 1935, when Fascist Italy invaded Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) Italy soon faced sanctions from the League of Nations and soon left altogether. As a result the policy of openness that had exposed Italy to culture trends from throughout the world through multilateralism was ended. Italy and Nazi Germany formed a close partnership to make fascsim stronger throughout the world. This included the The 1934 Montreux Fascist Parties Conference, the multilateral 1936 Anti Comintern Pact, and the cultural exchange networks between Germany, Italy, Japan and Spain as a backlash to the League of Nation’s “cultural internationalism.” One has to be mindful of listening to a far right leader indulging in the rhetoric of anti internationalism. They tend to be referring to liberal demococratic internationalism and liberal democratic institutions. One might argue that they not only want to create a “new nationalism” for their own country, but maybe a “new internationalism” composed of a united front of right wing ideologies from multiple nations.

Works Cited:

Ben-Ghiat, Ruth. “Conquest and  Collaboration” in Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945, (University of California Press, 2004). 
Motadel, David. “The Far Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier Than Internationalism but they Depend on it,” The New York The New York Times, July 3, 2019.