Broken system

Wendy Lower’s book, Hitler’s Furies, is a chilling ascending tale, from, as she puts it, witnesses, to accomplices, to perpetrators, culminating with the last sentence: they got away with murder. Sadly, I think that the trials and investigations of the 1950s and the 1960s and the results, especially where charges are dropped because of a lack of convincing elements, are not specific to this time period, nor accused women. The Nuremberg and Lemberg trials mentioned in the last chapters, regarding the motivations and fate of the women, reminded me of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia trial held in La Hague. The process, accusations and testimonies are described in the novel They Would Never Hurt a Fly by Croatian author Slavenka Drakulić. Although she does not, like Lower, focuses exclusively on the crimes committed by women, the atrocities reported and the outcome of the trials unfortunately point to the same conclusion. People that had murdered, planned and conducted genocide, would try to turn the system to their advantage, by lying, denying, using false alibis, pretending to have forgotten, accusing others (even accusing the presumed victims!..), up to the point where even a good amount of testimonies was not considered a sufficient proof. The particular case of Johanna Altvater, who murdered children, really struck me. The fact that she was acquitted because of insufficient evidence, even though there were witnesses, is plainly frustrating and discouraging, and makes me question what more proof would be needed. I think this is taking the “innocent until proven guilty” a little too far, and that it translates into modern day trials. We probably all have heard or followed a case where the accused was found not guilty because of a reasonable doubt. Even though evidence point to him, and the judge and prosecutor know so, the law is made so that the accused are more protected than the victims. And in cases where victims have been dead for years, well, of course, proof like a body is not available, which is to the advantage of the accused. And this was my moment of anger against the legal system that is not getting better.

Another point that I found interesting in the book and that happens to be a recurrent aspect of war is the feeling of helplessness. It is most apparent in the narrative of watching through the window Jews being rounded up to presumably be shot. Although it does trigger an inner indignation, the witness rightfully thinks, but what can I do? And that can probably apply to every horrifying event where witnesses, made accomplices against their will, simply had no option but to let it happen, because of the fear (which was proven justified) of being punished if they spoke up and tried to stop things or help out. And I think that this helplessness, enhanced by the Nazi propaganda, plagued a lot of people, witnesses, accomplices and perpetrators, and victims, prisoners of a system that, once started, can’t be stopped, at least not from the inside where the helplessness prevails.

Gender Identities in Europe: What makes an Ideal Citizen?

By Jackie Howell

Fascism goes beyond its political characteristics of authoritarian power and nationalist movements. Exploring the intricacies of gender, sexuality, and identity provides further insight into how fascist ideology resonates at the individual level. Gender and sexual policies of fascist regimes are a tool of policing and defining society to reflect certain ideals (such as strength, prestige, and superiority). While gendered and sexual policies are not unique to fascism, exploring how fascists manipulate identity (whether individual or collective) provides a unique view into the psyche of fascist regimes.

The cultural movement of fascist regimes often focuses on defining the roles of men and women in society. From the depiction of hegemonic masculinity in Nazi Germany to the Romanian Legionary Movement’s “New Man” quest, defining gendered and sexual relations is key to shaping and controlling the collective identity. The gendered and sexual politics of fascist regimes were depicted in the various forms of cultural propaganda, from fascist Italy’s films to Germany’s posters of strong men (as soldiers, workers, and farmers). Targeting the individual and collective identity of heterosexual men and women allows fascist and communist regimes to further control society by deeming what is “right” and “wrong,” as illustrated by the attitudes toward homosexuality in Russia and attitudes toward masculinity in Nazi Germany.

Gender norms are not unique to Nazi Germany, as gender norms can be applied internationally with the spread of values, ideas, and beliefs. Kühne’s depiction of masculine identity in Nazi Germany can be compared to examples of masculinity in modern Western societies. Nazi and military propaganda depicted men in the Wehrmacht to be stoic, emphasizing an image of invincible and immortal warrior men. Comradeship was another defining feature of the Wehrmacht. This social bond provided men with friendship and reinforced the notion that one must suppress the individual identity on behalf of the community. Similarly, in the West, sports are a modern example of an opportunity to educate or influence men on their masculine identity. For example, strength, endurance, and invincibility (“no pain, no gain”) are defining features of the individual identity in the sports industry. However, the collective identity (i.e., the team) is prioritized above the individual. This creates a social bond merging men (and women) of different civilian identities, religions, and regions into a homogenous communal body. It would be interesting to see the historical impact of comradeship in the military on social bonds between men (and women) today.

Policing gendered and sexual relations is key to controlling the collective identity.  “Othering” homosexuals and the Jewish identity (whether by Nazi Germany or Romania’s Legionary Movement) created a dichotomy of “us-versus-them” or even “pure-versus-impure.” While the readings cover different periods, movements/regimes, and identity issues, the intertwined theme focuses on the use of gendered and sexual policies to police the cultural dimensions of a state.

References

Healey, D. (2017). Forging Gulag sexualities: Penal homosexuality and the reform of the Gulag after Stalin. In Russian homophobia from Stalin to Sochi (pp. 27-50). Bloomsbury Press.

Kühne, T. (2018). Protean masculinity, hegemonic masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich. Central European History, 51, 390-418. doi: 10.1017/S0008938918000596

Sandulescu, V. (2004). Fascism and its quest for the ‘New Man’: The case of the Romanian Legionary Movement. Studia Hebracia, 4, 349-61.

A tale of two reasons: Ideology & its Role in Suppression

In this weeks readings, their are many themes bundled together that can provide someone with great insight into the way society treats, accepts and punishes the individual. In David Paternotte’s article, the topic of creating an anti-gendered campaign to combat right wing European populism through “challenging the thinking and stimulate debate around the rise of populism, with its impact on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights issues and how to respond to this changing context” which stems from an alarming rise of control over women’s rights and issues in an increasingly new hostile environment projected by the democratic backsliding in some EU member states. This comes from an overwhelming opposition to gender, sexual, reproductive and LGBT rights in Europe that have converged into a phenomena undertaken by far right parties, religious fundamentalism, nationalism, racism, neo-liberalism or austerity politics. Its easy to feel that the right is on the rise everywhere with the recent political climates being experienced but as this is more and more on the rise, it is important as the author states to look at this empirically and theoretically to understand these complex, contextual issues. The conservative opposition, like most issues, have deep historical roots (with heavy ties to the roman catholic church) and all mobilization efforts to denounce equality share a common denominator: they share a critique of gender, labeled as “gender ideology”, “gender theory” or “(anti)genderism”. They all claim to combat “gender”, which is seen as the root of their worries and the matrix of the reforms they want to oppose.

To continue with the theme, we can also take a took at Dan Healey’s article “Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi” which also explores the root cause to these issues as well as the historical context to them, and the over all objective and goal from those perpetrating the right wing rhetoric. The article provides a framework of better understanding homosexuality in the Soviet Union and Russia by using the Gulag prison systems as a historical lens. Male and female homosexual relations were not only ubiquitous but highly visible (either consensual or coerced), and registered in a rich code of symbols: nicknames, subcultural terms, and visual signs. Yet, queer visibility was considered as a symptoms of defective Stalinism and the renewal and modernization of the means of repression of homosexuality was a necessary feature of de-Stalinization. Yet, despite this fact, it was not initially actively repressed as “Cost controls from the Gulag’s economic model must have been a key driver of the rationale to suppress heterosexual sex” which I found quite interesting and alarming.

Linking the relationship between Paternotte’s article and this one comes from the idea of the discussion of homosexuality as a very taboo issue, especially in Stalinist Russia. The world view that shaped the ‘sexual morality’ as well the passage of time that saw the discussion of it evolve from the death of Stalin to the modernization of the Gulag penal system revolves around heteronorrnative values underpinned the regime’s official rhetoric of “reforging” the Gulag prisoner. The use of ‘heteronormative’ as a tool is a good link between the two as the historical notion of  heterosexuality as the default, preferred, or normal mode of sexual orientation and the assumption of gender binary causes great outrage when these norms are deviated from. Just as the catholic church was a foundation for the far right to uphold these notions as well as the church itself upholding the values that go against pro-choice motives with heavy influence in countries that have experienced these movements, in the Healey article the stand in for this is ‘Stalinist Ideology’ where it was seen as a flaw in the implemented grand plan for the Soviet people.

References

Dan Healey, “Forging Gulag Sexualities: Penal Homosexuality and the Reform of the
Gulag after Stalin” Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi (London: Bloomsbury Press,
2017).

Thomas Kühne, “Protean masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third
Reich” Central European History Vol 51, Issue 3 (September 2018): 390-418.

Fascism Vacation

In this weeks readings it was interesting to look at the relationship between fascist ideology, the Reich and how it effected leisure activity of everyday people. This tool of propaganda, one of many tools utilize to lull the population into a false sense of security, showcased the ability of the right to manipulate the population into taking part in a German exclusive way of leisure activity as well as those who did not have such opportunities for a vacation or leisure no had the ability under the KDF where Baranowski discusses this was a way to improve the German standard of living.

The illusion of the Reich being well off also manifested itself by the high standards of German living through the war as a way to showcase Aryan superiority to its allies as well as the rest of the world by means of staged photo ops. I found it particularly interesting that the “the SS competed for the responsibility of monitoring opposition, proved at least as willing to convey the satisfaction, or lack of it, of tourists.” (pg. 162) Through this agents had access to the most intimate and mundane thoughts f travelers which would prove useful as these travelers were in a seemingly secure scenario to which they did not have to worry about guarding their thoughts.

Soft Power and the Culture of Fascism

By Jackie Howell

Tools of soft power can be useful in expanding a state’s sphere of influence. Soft power is the ability to attract rather than coerce and typically involves exerting cultural, social, or economic influence. Great powers, such as the United States, use soft power as an extension of their hard power (i.e., their physical military strength) through the arts, science, and culture to further their goals. Soft power, a concept coined by Joseph Nye, mostly defines the post-Cold War era. However, promoting a distinct national culture helped achieve Nazi Germany’s goal of dominance and legitimacy. This week’s readings highlight the soft power of Nazi Germany through their cultural influence, most notably through mass consumerism and photography. Similarly, Franco’s Spain framed consumer tourism as part of Spain’s cultural identity, which helped Spain overcome its international isolation post-war and reinforce the idea of Spanish cultural exceptionality.  

Notably, this week’s readings highlight the social and economic benefits that reinforce a regime’s legitimacy. For example, German workers who previously did not have access or the means to embark on luxurious trips received the chance to witness life outside Germany by Kraft durch Freude (KdF). KdF used tourism to showcase the benefits of National Socialism. The opportunity to see different workers in other countries gave German workers the impression that Germany’s standard of living was higher than in other countries governed by Social Democrats or Communists. KdF linked leisure to politics by capitalizing on the opportunity to unite class lines to showcase Germany’s economic successes and redefine the German racial community. Tourism development in 1960’s Spain also linked economic development and politics with leisure activities, as the regime restyled its image of government to promote a higher standard of living and modernity through tourism.

It is easy to question why Europeans accepted or supported Nazism or fascism in retrospect of the horrific acts committed by these regimes. However, Nazi Germany and Franco’s Spain framed economic and social benefits in a manner that appealed to the masses. These benefits allowed Europeans to dismiss the known horrors of the regime in favour of the benefits they gained. Similarly, the perceived economic benefits under the “America First” argument allowed Trump supporters to dismiss the political horrors of the Trump administration. Those that remain silent during these periods – ignoring the political chaos around them to live in their alternate, blissful reality – must be questioned for their complacency. Shelley Baranowski highlights this issue by briefly examining middle-class tourists who avoided discussing the political situation if the consequences of Nazi Germany’s policies did not concern them. The lack of engagement indicates a high degree of privilege of those that experienced the social and cultural benefits of Nazi Germany. Overall, this week’s readings highlight the unique role that culture can play when expanding a state’s power and legitimacy.

References

Baranowski, S. (2004a). Introduction. In Strength through Joy: Consumerism and mass tourism in the Third Reich (pp. 1-10). Cambridge.

Baranowski, S. (2004b). Racial community and individual desires: Tourism, the standard of living, and popular consent. In Strength through Joy: Consumerism and mass tourism in the Third Reich (pp. 162-98). Cambridge.

Crumbaugh, J. (2009). Prosperity and freedom under Franco: The grand invention of tourism. In Destination dictatorship: The spectacle of Spain’s tourist boom and the reinvention of difference (pp. 15-41). Suny Press.

Umbach, M. (2015). Selfhood, place, and ideology in German photo albums, 1933-1945. Central European History, 48(3): 335-365. jstor.org/stable/43965175

The Third Path?

Lucas Lang

Nationalism was born out of the failures of Imperialism and liberal democracy. Imperialism involved multiple nationalities coexisting under a single banner which often involved oppression and hierarchy based on nationality and race. This was understood through the examples of France and Great Britain. The Soviet Union, and thus Communism was seen by minorities in a similar light as it also enforced its political policies upon other nationalities within its borders.  Nationalism was seen as a third way which instead advocated for the independent nation’s ability and right to self-determinism. Nationalists do tend to focus primarily on national interests rather than international issues. They tend to see internationalism as an extension of communism. Rather than spreading out resources and having all suffer (or benefit) equally, nationalists prefer to ensure that their nation benefits first before resources can be spared to assist other states. This week’s readings ultimately show the oxymoronic and inconsistent effects produced by the realities of nationalism. On the one hand, nationalism can lead to rejection and discrimination against foreigners, as can be seen in Italy’s colonial expeditions in Africa. On the other hand, it also can lead to cooperation with foreign nationalists as can be seen in the example of Nazi Germany. While to some, nationalists working with foreign nationalists might seem ironic or non-sensible, it is more practical than might first be construed. If the goal of the Nationalist is to seek the independence and prosperity of his nation, it is to the nations benefit if others are not interfering because they are seeking the same goal. The real irony is that in expanding their borders for their nation’s benefit, they oppress other nation’s nationalism.

Fascism & The New Italian

By: Vincent Larocque


In this weeks reading and Youtube video had the idea of remaking and reworking the perceptions of the image of the average Italian as well as the Italian state itself.

In “Conquest and Collaboration” in Fascist Modernities: Italy by Ruth Ben-Ghiat observed the attempted creation of the new Italian “no longer becoming, but IS a soldier” amongst other ideals set forth by Mussolini and the Italian Fascist government. The theme of of renewal or change is present in the article as Italy was undergoing a type of identity crises all the while seemingly copying and trying hard to relate to the Nazi regime in Berlin. Mussolini and other Italian Fascist were off put by the Nazi’s bid to become the undisputed rulers of the “new Europe” and Italian fascists grew alarmed at the unequal relationship between Berlin and Rome since they considered themselves to be equal. As such, this accelerated the idea of Italians to become “a race of hard edged conquers” and even more alarming were the 1938 racial laws that sought to define Italians as Aryans by instituting a campaign of cultural reclamation (bonifica della cultura) and copying anti-Jewish measures for Mussolini’s plan of Italian “Aryanization” to overcome the national inferiority complex.

The idea of the “New Italian” is also present in the video presented of the week “Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema” where Italian cinema at this time reinforced Fascist racial and labour policies. The Italian style cinema, which has been compared to 1930’s Soviet realism, focuses on the “new man’ archetype where it is centered around the Italian male and has heavy connotations to Italian colonialism. Through film and because Italian colonial holding are not as historical and mostly new reflected a way to disengage audiences with domestic troubles, “don’t worry about what is going on at home when we are trying to re-create the Roman Empire” and through the cinematic experience of idealizing the Italian male, it could create a colonial history and behavior that reflects all the ideals of Fascist Italy.

Sources

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, “Conquest and Collaboration” in Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945
(University of California Press, 2004), pp. 123-130.

Ben-Ghiat, R. (2015, April 9). Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema. New York University. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch v=ZbFFLXVvtXc&ab_channel=CasaItalianaNYU

Introduction – Étienne Plourde

Hi all!

My name is Étienne; and as my name suggests, I’m from the Quebec side of the river. I used to live in Montreal before moving here for my undergrad. Before that, though, I lived in the United States – I’m a dual citizen, which gives me something of a special interest in the whole ‘Trump/inauguration’ drama we’re covering this week.

I’ve also spent some time working on U.S. affairs with Global Affairs, but that’s more of a coincidence; I’m not planning to focus on American issues in studies or work. Instead, I’m doing my master’s in the EURUS program, where I’m studying Turkish settlers in Cyprus and what that means for Turkey’s relationship with the European Union. Turkey, in a sense, fits particularly well in this course, both undergoing something of a populist movement and being targeted by movements in Europe. I’ve spent some time in Turkey, and have some basics of the language, but improving that has been one of my COVID projects.

Otherwise, I’ve been trying to find good slow-cooker recipes; running an online board game club; co-opting a book club to finally get through all the books I’ve snagged at garage sales; and critiquing the 3D ‘open house’ tours on a real estate site (a bit odd-sounding, perhaps, but excellent fun with the right company; I’ve gotten creative to keep up with Ottawa folks since I’ve returned home).

My apologies for the delay – after a bit of a struggle, I thought I’d take the ‘wait for class’ option written in the initial post, but eventually figured it out.

Historical Analogies

By: Vincent Larocque

This weeks readings focus on drawing comparison and similarities between the past and utilizing them in a modern context that can either highlight similarities in an argument or be utilized in a manner that can be deemed as unfit or a ‘stretch’ and only used as buzzwords to incite a visceral reaction.

In Samuel Moyn’s “Trouble with Comparisons” he discusses that comparisons can be a useful tool in discussions about events that draw upon similarities but can also be dangerous in reducing the seriousness of the events being used in such comparisons. Not only this but using comparisons with only vaguely similar contexts is seen as banal as he states in when the Nazi regime is used in comparing political activities “So what? Of course, Nazi Germany was similar in some respects to other examples, but that is true of everything in the world” (Moyan, 2020) and does not in the long run help victims and offers no productive difference in reducing the power that they can hold. Similarly, Peter Gordon in “Why Historical Analogy Matters” looks at the fallout that occurs when using analogies, specifically in this case the holocaust, with other events that draw upon some similarities and that evoking comparisons reduces the severity of the event itself and are ‘sloppy analogies’ that are ‘grossly simplified’. Interestingly, terms such as ‘fascist’ and others like ‘concentration camps’ that have been wholly synonymous with the Nazi regime has historical connotations with other events predating Nazi Germany and as such. These terms can be hijacked and used politically to further an agenda and may not always have true moral objectives this making it a dangerous territory to venture into without proper context or thought on the matter. Likewise, in Victoria de Grazia’s piece “What we don’t understand about Fascism” discusses the over use of the term “Fascism’ which can further denote the true intensity that National Socialism brought upon those subjected to it, “Americans may think we know this history, but we have oversimplified its complexity” (de Grazia, 2020)

With these texts in mind I find that using terms in historical comparisons important but all depending on the situation and should not be used lightly. While certain current events can mimic historical events, all instances in politics can be comparable in some way or another to less than pleasant historic events. Using terms can diminish the actual meaning and further water down the original occurrence to which the term originates from. However, when used correctly in the right as it can help and bring to light important factors that could possibly redirect the trajectory of actions being perpetrated in some instances by drawing on the public eye to the causes these comparisons are used for.

Works Cited/ Bibliography

de Grazia, Victoria. “What We Don’t Understand about Fascism.” Zocalo Public Square, 13 Aug. 2020, zocalopublicsquare.org/2020/08/13/understand-fascism-american-history-mussolini-hitler-20th-century/ideas/essay

Gordon, Peter E. “Why Historical Analogy Matters.” The New York Review, 7 Jan. 2020, nybooks.com/daily/2020/01/07/why-historical-analogy-matters/

Moyn, Samuel. “The Trouble with Comparisons.” The New York Review, 19 May 2020, nybooks.com/daily/2020/05/19/the-trouble-with-comparisons/

Introduction

Hello everyone, my name is Vincent Larocque and I am in my first year of the EURUS masters program. I did my undergrad in Political Science with a concentration in International relations at Carleton and I have allot research interests that go back and forth but I am very interested currently in security and defense issues pertaining to the EU and NATO and its relationship with Russia, and how they deal with the different situations that have risen out of conflicting interests. Specifically, I find the on going conflict in eastern Ukraine something that should be continued to watch closely.

I have lived in Ottawa all my life and have only had the opportunity to travel in southern Ontario, BC and the American east and southern coasts. I was hoping to get an opportunity to travel abroad to Europe but that’s not in the cards as of now but fingers crossed for the future! With all the extra time staying put at home during COVID, I have been trying to read more novels, draw, and made attempts to bake and cook more which I find relaxing.

I’m looking forward to gaining more insight in this class to the causes of the rise in authoritarian power and the movements that help them seeing as we can draw on comparisons to occurrences happening in todays political happenings.