A lesson from history

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hey say that those who forget History are doomed to repeat it. I’m firmly convinced that this is so, which is why I don’t accept the stance of people who wish to dismiss arguments based on how ‘wacky’ they sound. In my estimation, people like that aren’t worth the time it takes to respond.

But there comes a point where merely mentioning certain things becomes laughable, any approach to certain subject matter automatically rendered crazy and completely unacceptable. Usually, those arguments are the most uncomfortable ones. And we all know what that usually means.

I have made the argument in the past that Nazism and Feminism share more than a passing resemblance, but it really goes far deeper than that. Our society resembles the pre-war conditions quite a bit too. To get where I’m coming from, I intend to bore the hell out of you with a history lesson. Ain’t that grand?

[quote style=”boxed” float=”left”]Hitler was a big believer in Natural Selection, and would deliberately set up conflicting departments, and have them fight things out. [/quote] The end of the First World War baffled the German soldiers, who were on enemy territory literally everywhere along the front (ie, they were winning), and rather than accept the death of millions of those back home via flu and starvation as the cause of their loss, they blamed Jews and Marxists.

The widespread hunger and disease that immediately followed WW1 led to a polarization of politics, and all sides became radical in the face of crisis. A Marxist revolt in Munich led to the death of more than 500, with the brutal suppression of Marxists by Right-Wing extremists.

Nearly all of the leaders of this Marxist uprising were Jewish, and Jews were considered synonymous with Marxist. They were held up as scapegoats for all of the ills facing post-war Germany; the starvation, the unemployment, the economic collapse.

In 1921, the Nazi party is established, with member 55 (55th member), a certain Adolf Hitler at the helm. Many famous Germans join the Nazi Party, more for the rush of the Revolutionary spirit than for ideological reasons. The Nazi party line, that there was an International Jewish Conspiracy to dominate the world, was firmly established and openly preached.

Meanwhile, French troops alienated Germans in occupied territories, with oppressive laws and often brutal treatment. The collection of reparations monies sparked a political march by many of the right wing parties in Germany, at Hitlers urging. This became known as The Putsch, and led to Hitler’s imprisonment for one month, where he wrote Mein Kampf.

In the mid 1920’s, the Weimar Republic (Democratic Germany) began to finance their reparations payments by borrowing from the USA, rather than economy-destroying levels of taxation on its struggling citizens. In short, Germany deficit-financed its way to economic health in what the Nazis referred to as the Weimar Decadence. Berlin is considered the cultural center of Europe during this time, a hotbed of Art, Music, Design and Architecture

Paramilitary groups were in vogue as well, and political parties routinely had a security wing. The Nazis formed theirs, and called them the SA, or Brownshirts, in and around this time.

1928 election, the Nazis get 2.6% of the popular vote.

Then, agricultural prices drop through the floor, causing widespread poverty in the countryside, and the beginnings of more mass starvation. The Stock Market Crash of 1929 has the USA call in their loans to Germany, and unemployment and inflation skyrocket. The suffering spreads to the middle class, and tent cities and soup kitchens abound.

1930 election, the Nazi party, still saying the same things, gets 26% of the vote. More and more people were willing to listen to them, as a result of a more extremist public. Hitler positioned himself as economic savior, at the head of a dynamic party that would destroy Germany’s internal enemies and rebuild the country around National unity. And people liked his message.

The Nazi Party campaign platform was more or less as follows:

[unordered_list style=”green-dot”]

  • National Unity.
  • Equal Rights for citizens.
  • The powers of citizenship should only be for those of German blood.
  • The expulsion of foreign nationals in the case of the existence of unemployment for German citizens.
  • The abolition of all income obtained without labor or effort.
  • Profit-sharing in large enterprises, the large-scale development of old-age pension, and the creation and maintenance of a sound middle class.
  • Land reform in accordance with national needs and a law for expropriation without compensation of land for public purposes. Abolition of ground rent and prevention of all speculation in land.
  • Ruthless battle against those who harm the common good by their activities.
  • The courses of study at all educational institutions to be adjusted to meet the requirements of practical life. Understanding of the concept of the State must be achieved through the schools (teaching of civics) at the earliest age at which it can be grasped. We demand the education at the public expense of specially gifted children of poor parents, without regard to the latter’s position or occupation.
  • The State must raise the level of national health by means of mother-and-child care, the banning of juvenile labor, achievement of physical fitness through legislation for compulsory gymnastics and sports, and maximum support for all organizations providing physical training for young people.
  • Laws to fight against deliberate political lies and their dissemination by the press.
  • To carry out all the above we demand: the creation of a strong central autority in the Reich. Unquestioned authority by the political central Parliament over the entire Reich and over its organizations in general. The establishment of trade and professional organizations to enforce the Reich basic laws in the individual states.

[/unordered_list]

The Party leadership promises to take an uncompromising stand, at the cost of their own lives if need be, on the enforcement of the above points. Oh yeah, and everything bad is The Jews’ fault.

[box icon=”none”]Munich, February 24, 1920.[/box]

The 1932 elections did not gain Hitler power, but he established himself as a credible statesman in the eyes of the glitterati. In fact, it was backroom dealings by the ultra rich and powerful that got Hitler the Chancellorship, not an open election. That said, the Nazi party was clearly a frontrunner for the next election. They certainly had rich and powerful (and American) friends.

By 1933, political opponents were being incarcerated in ‘concentration camps’ like Dachau, though most served a year long sentence then were released. There were widespread accusations, and threats of ‘protective custody’ abounded. Fear of the Gestapo, or more likely being reported to the Gestapo by their neighbor, kept political dissent from formalizing, and kept the population paralyzed with fear…of each other. The Gestapo itself did not have the manpower to do much other than process the paperwork.

Jews were openly harassed and attacked, blamed for societies ills. Nazi propaganda highlighted Jewish participation in certain occupations as “privileged” and suspicious without ever mentioning that Jews were actually restricted to these occupations by law.

The Nazi Party ended unemployment via public spending, and Public Works projects like the Autobahn. These improvements were restricted to True Germans however, and Jews were excluded more and more from public life. The Government instituted retaliatory discrimination against Jews.

The Nazi party itself, and the Government it formed, was a wildly disorganized mess. Hitler was a big believer in Natural Selection, and would deliberately set up conflicting departments, and have them fight things out. Nazi party chapters were led by those who took power, not those who asked for it. Government departments spent most of their time fighting each other.

Hitler was surrounded by “yes men,” who he would ramble on to about his vision. These men would then attempt to outdo their rivals in pleasing Der Fuhrer. This led to a quick escalation in brutality. Public beatings, book burnings, robberies and home invasions were commonly carried out against the Jews to no public outcry. The most famous of these incidents is known as Krystalnacht from all the broken glass on the sidewalks.

In order to ‘prevent suffering’, the Nazis began a program of Euthanasia:

The so-called “Euthanasia” program was National Socialist Germany’s first program of mass murder, predating the genocide of European Jewry which we call the Holocaust by approximately two years. The effort represented one of many radical eugenic measures which aimed to restore the racial “integrity” of the German nation. It endeavored to eliminate what eugenicists and their supporters considered life unworthy of life. Those individuals who they believed, because of severe psychiatric, neurological, or physical disabilities represented at once a genetic and a financial burden upon German society and the state.

CHILD EUTHANASIA PROGRAM

In the spring and summer months of 1939, a number of planners–led by Philipp Bouhler, the director of Hitler’s private chancellery, and Karl Brandt, Hitler’s attending physician–began to organize a secret killing operation targeting disabled children. On August 18, 1939, the Reich Ministry of the Interior circulated a decree compelling all physicians, nurses, and midwives to report newborn infants and children under the age of three who showed signs of severe mental or physical disability.

Beginning in October 1939, public health authorities began to encourage parents of children with disabilities to admit their young children to one of a number of specially designated pediatric clinics throughout Germany and Austria. The clinics were in reality children’s killing wards where specially recruited medical staff murdered their young charges by lethal overdoses of medication or by starvation.

At first, medical professionals and clinic administrators incorporated only infants and toddlers in the operation, but as the scope of the measure widened, they included juveniles up to 17 years of age. Conservative estimates suggest that at least 5,000 physically and mentally disabled German children perished as a result of the child euthanasia program during the war years.

[box type=”note” icon=”none”]The end result of this program is a mystery to no one.[/box]

Many have questioned just what role women played in the rise and brutality of Nazi Germany. In researching the details I stumbled upon a fantastic summary of this subject, which I will share with you now:

“Although Germany had been one of the most progressive feminist societies during the early twentieth century, women generally acquiesced to Hitler’s desires. Many women experienced the implementation of Nazi gender policies not as aggression against women but as a welcome return to traditional values (Gellately 2001, 10-11). The elevation and reverence of motherhood showed the regime’s antifeminism was not inherently antiwoman. Some Nazi party officials did not hide their hostility toward women. Their insulting rhetoric was often discounted, however, either as exceptional in an otherwise agreeable party platform or because the impassioned speeches of the true leader of the Nazi Party, Adolf Hitler, made clear his sympathy for the plight of women (Koonz 1987, 58-61). Many women found comfort in the ideals of the Nazi Party that relegated women’s lives to the private sphere of Kinder, Kirche, Kuche (children, church, kitchen).

Although the Nazi ideal was for women to get married and create large families, many women were unable to do so. The overall surplus of women in Germany and the lack of available men on the home front meant that many German women were single during the war. Most of these women, especially those from the lower classes, were employed before and during the war. The state targeted those who had escaped employment for recruiting drives, with limited success.

Prior to the war, married women were encouraged to leave the workforce to start or expand families. The government gave financial support based on family size. To women in low-paying jobs, with working husbands, significant government assistance in exchange for unemployment was a good deal. The success of the program has often been debated. Although many married women left the labor force, the overall percentage of women employed in Germany was far higher than in Great Britain or the United States (Gellately 2001, 151).

During the war, unemployed married women who did not have children often created a great deal of resentment among those who were forcibly employed. Women of the lower class, even those with young children, could not afford to live off government benefits.

Following long hours of work, working women had to stand in long lines for their rations, while unemployed women were able to get the choicest provisions.

Most of those unemployed, childless women had the financial means not to work, giving the resentment clear class undertones. Attempts to recruit those women were largely unsuccessful, in part because the Nazi leadership refused to make employment compulsory (Noakes and Pridham 2000, 316-325).

Rather than force married women and mothers into employment, the Nazi regime imported millions of prisoners of war and slave laborers from conquered and satellite nations. Extensive efforts were made to prevent foreign workers from defiling the German women who shared common workspace. The vast majority of the Gestapo’s manpower was directed at controlling foreign workers and preventing relationships with German women (Gellately 2001, 152). As the war dragged on and times became more desperate, some women did form sexual relationships with non-German men. Many of the denunciations made against women to the Gestapo involved charges of sexual relations with foreigners (Gellately 2001, 197).

Many women found an outlet for their creativity and leadership through work in Nazi social organizations. The umbrella organization for women was the National Socialist Frauen-schaft/Deutsches Frauenwerk (Women’s Organization/Women’s Work, NSF/DFW). Led by Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, the NSF/DFW acted as a policing organization for women, its main task to indoctrinate, train, control, and organize German women for the needs of the state. Although part of the Nazi Party apparatus, the NSF/DFW did not provide women with avenues to influence political decisions. The leaders within the organizations were given power to operate within the sphere of women but were always subordinate to the command of the male-dominated party. Despite the lack of real power, women participated in the programs of the antifeminist Nazi state in far greater numbers than in the Weimar Republic, which had first enfranchised them (Grunberger 1995, 258). For the most part, women found that the organizations served as support networks, gave them activities to feel useful in the war effort, and provided social benefits for the community.

I’m not going to wax all poetic on the similarities and differences between then and now. I leave the reader to draw their own conclusions. What i will do, however, is say with unmitigated conviction that this sort of thing most definitely CAN happen again…and now, and here. It happened again in Europe barely 50 years after WW2 in Bosnia (see Adam Jones’ “Effacing the Male”), it happened in Somalia, and it happens on a smaller scale all the time all over the world.

This is History staring us in the face. It’s trying to tell us something. Is the fear of ridicule really all it takes for this to happen again?

They say that those who forget History are doomed to repeat it. I’m firmly convinced that this is so, which is why I don’t accept the stance of people who wish to dismiss arguments based on how wacky they sound. In my estimation, people like that aren’t worth the time it takes to respond.

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