Confronting the past

After the “alt-right” meeting in the Reagan building a few days ago that ended with the audience giving the Nazi salute, many were shocked at such a public display of Hitlerian values, blaming Trump’s campaign for giving these views a legitimate platform.

While Trump definitely contributed to Nazism’s revival in America, the underlying issue is that unlike West Germany, the US never confronted its Nazi-related past.

After all, this is the country where negative eugenics, one of the cornerstones of Nazi theory, was started… not by fringe groups, but by well-respected (pseudo)scientists whose research was financed by the Rockefeller Foundation, Carnegie-Mellon and other prestigious institutes of higher learning.

American eugenicists created lists of people they deemed unworthy of having offspring and sterilized tens of thousands of American citizens between the two world wars. Some of them even went as far as to practice euthanasia on people they classified as undeserving of life. It was after seeing this in America that Hitler realized he could do the same in Germany with their “rejects”, the first rounds of selection based on illnesses and hereditary defects, later expanded to select whole ethnicities for extermination.

An important factor in allowing these selections to work at the high efficiency levels necessary to be able to exterminate millions within a few years was the specific software developed and distributed by IBM, originally written for American eugenicists to aid in their quest of racial cleansing, later actively marketed to the Nazi government of Germany.

Even seeing the horrors of the Nazi regime didn’t change much in circles of power. While highly publicizing liberated concentration camps, after the end of the war in Europe many inmates were to remain behind the barbed wire for months to come, their German guards being replaced by British and American soldiers. A number of Jews who survived the Holocaust died in the camps after they were liberated.

And while the Nazis’ victims were still “being processed” in the repurposed concentration camps, their tormentors were already on American soil, employed by US government agencies for their knowledge in medicine, rocketry and other branches of physics and chemistry. High-level Nazis who oversaw projects costing thousands of lives were welcomed at laboratories and agencies all over America, some of them being so instrumental in areas like rocketry, space exploration and space medicine that even to this day some institutes of higher learning publicly display plaques honoring these “heroes”.

And if that wasn’t dark enough, thousands of ruthless Nazi mass murderes received refuge in America after the war as clandestine agents in the struggle against communism. Their horrible deeds of massacring innocents in the Soviet Union actually worked in their favor in the Cold War climate.

Some of these Nazis are still alive and living comfortably in the United States, protected by a government that even after seven decades doesn’t want to admit what they really did. And without admitting to past mistakes, one is doomed to repeat them.

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