Nazi References: Please Recall What Happened to the Nazis and Their Country!
I still remember reading about comments that pop-star Justin Bieber made when visiting Anne Frank House in Amsterdam- he said he hoped she would “have been a Belieber,” referring to the set of groupies and fans who adored him. I recall being floored by the comment- so callous and so detached from history, so devoid of empathy, so reflective of a modern inability to understand the pain of others. To have anything so stupid and frivolous to say about that remarkable young diarist who perished in Bergen-Belsen is an insult to all of humanity.
That was eight years ago- and seems laughable, even innocent now. In the ensuing eight years, a sinister miasma has covered the United States and other parts of the world. Nazi references are back in vogue- some evil, some frivolous, all frightening. Anti-vaccine brigades are putting up swastikas. Antisemites are flashing Nazi insignia and defacing synagogues and Jewish community centers. Even clueless and idiotic high-school students are doing “Sieg Heils” and raising their arms in Hitleresque poses. Legions of revanchists and racists are proudly bringing Nazi flags — even to the US Capitol. The sentiments contained in these actions are foul and scary. Scarier yet is the complete insouciance with which they are performed, the utter detachment from knowledge and history, the apocalyptic potential of people who are unmoored from anything and everything other than ignorance and hate. All people need civilizing constraints and all people need enunciation of “lines you do not cross.” Those, unfortunately, are gone.
It is worth remembering a few things, however. The Nazis were in power for only twelve years. They presided over much death, even their own. Under their watch and due to their malignance, more than 10 million of their own people were killed and their country was dismembered. The dying and killing didn’t end with the cessation of hostilities. Millions of Germans died after the war, from starvation, revenge killings, and other causes. Their country was occupied by their enemies, including their archenemy- the Soviets. Their own leaders were in large part dead by the end of the war or shortly thereafter.
Yes, they took more lives than they gave. Yes, the numbers are staggering. 27 million Soviet citizens, 6 million Jewish people, millions of others. But they destroyed themselves too and they lost. They fell 988 years short of their 1,000 year Reich.
So, yes, you can cross the line and invoke Nazis and Nazism. You can glorify it all you want. But if you knew a shred about anything, you’d know that doing so is signing your own warrant.