Nazism is back, baby! Not since the days of the Third Reich probably, has Nazism been so prominent in the news and media. Even before the Charlottesville riots and the ever increasing clashes between Nazis and Antifa that make it on the news, the Nazis were one of the most vocal groups out there, especially on (anti) social media. So one can say that the boiling over of the Nazi cauldron has been a long time in the making. It has taken a failing global economic system, the appearance of new (brown/black) faces and the erosion of Western dominance to reach that tipping point but it has finally been achieved. We now have a nice, intoxicating faux Aryan brew.
Of course many people use the word “Nazi” too generously these days. There is now a glut of Nazis. Not everyone who happens to disagree with you is a Nazi. However if you find yourself starting sentences with the line “The Nazis weren’t all bad …” then chances are, you are probably one yourself. Somewhere inside your head is an SS officer and he is not interested in Progressive ideas.
It is not too surprising to study how certain young Caucasian/White men gravitate towards Nazism. It is after all sadly and regrettably part of the cultural history of Europe and to an extent America. On that note, it is quite funny how many Americans who go on Nazi rallies these days seem to forget that it was their own grandfathers who fought the Nazis. But Americans are weird so one can’t expect too much from them. Even today a lot of films, games, media produced in the West have Nazis playing a significant plot role in them. What is surprising about Nazism is not only its continuing appeal in the West but the pervasiveness of that appeal. It finds its way everywhere and touches all corners of the earth.
In India for instance Mein Kampf is readily available in any roadside bookseller’s inventory. Nazi-style motorbike helmets are a dime-a-dozen and so too are car stickers which feature Nazi standards and swatikas. You can also get t-shirts with Nazi symbols on them, usually in black. I have even bought and used (regrettably) a Hitler toothbrush, its bristles were as stiff as Hitler’s moustache and it left my gums bleeding. To most people these are nothing more than ubiquitous powerless designs. However there are also a large number of people who draw pride from these images. The baffling question, though, is why? By Nazi racial policy most of these Indian “Aryans” would have been either gassed or enslaved if the Third Reich had succeeded in its bid for global conquest. The fact that they would have been classed as inferior or impure sub-groups doesn’t seem to bother our Nazi enthusiasts. No, the enduring idea is that of a global Aryan Brotherhood standing triumphant over the rest of the world. Somehow skin colour and cultural evolution would all melt away and only one’s enduring love for Aryana would matter. The passage of time and its accompanying distortions have surely been the greatest weapons of the Nazis.
Indian interests with Nazis may be understood, if not condoned, in the light of the actual links and commonalities shared by most Europeans and much of the cultures of India especially those in the Indo-Gangetic Plains. Linguistically and even culturally as well this racial family have many ancient common features. A veneration of the horse, a celebration of cattle and cattle products are just some of the indicators. In a sad way, exploration of Nazism has become intertwined with an exploration of the (proto) Indo-European. Characters from the past century like Savarkar and Savitri Devi offer fascinating insights into this convolution.
There is a particularly strange case, from 2007, of Nazis cropping up in Israel! A group of young disillusioned Israelis actually formed a neo-Nazi organization called Patrol 36 which defiled synagogues and vandalized property. They were quickly arrested and sentenced but the irony is palpable. Members of the group claimed that it was the discrimination they experienced as Russian immigrants that drove them towards violence even though they were of Jewish descent. There goes that nice postcard image of Israel out the window!
However, even beyond the Indo-European world, Nazism still manages to pull in the crowds. In the past year, odd pieces of news were seen circulating the social sphere about schools in Thailand and Taiwan which had organized school parades where the students dressed up like Nazis, ‘Heil Hitlering’ all the way! They were, in effect, miniature Nurembergs. But with Asian faces. When global indignation erupted the school authorities were forced to resign or issued lengthy apologies regarding these antics. The students were given a quick lesson on why Nazi cos-play is a big no no.
But non-European people cannot be blamed entirely for this terrible faux pas. To them, the SS uniforms and the Nazi regalia are just fashion statements. In a superficial world, one must look high and low for new styles even if it involves imitating mass-murdering morons. Many don’t seem to get what the big fuss is about and neither, one assumes, do the manufacturers of Nazi inspired items. Nazis as far as they are concerned look cool. That is all that matters.
The last point is a personal reflection. And it may go a little way towards explaining Nazism’s allure to non-enthusiasts and aficionados alike. When I was in my teenage years (standard 8 through to 10) I found myself infatuated with the Nazis and Nazi imagery in particular. This was in spite of the fact that I was well-aware of their terrible crimes and their unspeakable violence. Somehow I found within their closely manicured and clean-cut profiles a kindred longing for order in a chaotic world. This is probably not true for people in most cases. People like Anders Brevik look up to the Nazis because they supposedly stood for White supremacy and European dominance, however I was not born European nor did I consider myself Aryan and so that argument held no water for me. What enticed me in those years was the precision and the control that the Nazis seemed to espouse. Everything they had and did seemed ‘clean’ (for lack of a better word) – the uniforms, the weapons, even the killing.
Because I had lost my father at an early age, I looked for direction and purpose in other places. As a confused, terribly sensitive teenager, the marshalling, rallying and marching were like an outward herding of my own internal confusion. I wanted the world to be as simple as the Nazis portrayed it to be. There was an aesthetic appeal in all the well-laid out parades which I found beautiful (Well done, Leni Riefenstahl). Later on after my Nazi fetishism had disappeared, I came across a wonderful film by Swedish director, Peter Cohen, called the Architecture of Doom (available on Youtube). It drew out again the old feelings I had forgotten regarding the Nazis. The film tries to explain the Nazi Party’s popularity through the lens of aesthetics and performance and it reminded me again of the terrible resonances I had felt for them and their regulated vision of the world. For my younger self, the identification was never about Race but about “elegance”. Or so I thought at the time.
I was never drawn to any one Nazi character but the camaraderie and discipline they displayed appealed to my Catholic school-boy conservatism. There was something attractive about the collective, the human bodies acting, thinking and performing as one entity: a calm amidst the surrounding storms. I think these reasons are important rationalizing factors for many young men who end up in military or para-military outfits anywhere. Poverty and necessity will doubtless be the main reasons for military service but there are these reasons as well: a longing for simplicity, a desire for fastidiousness.
We cannot pretend to be shocked when people especially the young gravitate towards Nazism. We have a hard-on for the armed forces and violence in general. Our veneration for military men is uncalled for. They can be respected at best, not worshipped and idealized. I am not surprised by the reports in the news channels regarding the emergence of neo-Nazism. Violence begets violence. Who draws the line between ‘good violence’ and ‘bad violence’ anyway? Only the victors can make such easy demarcations. This is what we must examine within ourselves and our society before we raise eyebrows and twitter-fingers. We must condemn the violence inherent in ourselves daily and not only when it offends us.
For further reading:-
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvz2HDTvJ4A – Architecture of Doom