Nazi propaganda came full circle

Today’s Switzerland shows ever more disquieting parallels with the Germany of eight decades ago. Not only does the SVP (Swiss People’s Party), the rightmost major party, commandeer about the same percentage of voters than the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers’ Party) did in Germany on the eve of Hitler’s chancellery, their very language and imagery is eerily similar.

In fact, the only major artistic difference (full color realism vs few colors) on the following propaganda samples is mostly due to the current mainstream of visualization, whereas the basic element (spreading fear by invoking the bogeyman) is the exact same.

 

“The Jew”

The bogeyman of Germany’s NSDAP was the Jew, depicted as a hook-nosed bankier, blamed for everything bad happening to Germany by manipulating Germany’s enemies. Central to these posters is the easily recognizable figure, dressed in black to evoke feelings of darkness, death and fear. In the first image, it is half-hidden behind the flags of the nations threatening Germany (never mind the fact that Great Britain actually put Jewish refugees from Germany behind barbed wire for the duration of the war and stopped refugee ships before they reached the shores of Palestine, whereas the US had strict immigrant quotas, refusing all Jewish refugees above those limits).

“Behind the hostile powers: the Jew”
“He is to blame for the war!”

 

“The Muslim”

The bogeyman of Switzerland’s SVP is the muslim, blamed for just about everything from destroying our culture to destroying our lives (despite the fact that there has never been an islamic terrorist act on Swiss soil, whereas Swiss weapons sold to questionable buyers regularly surface in killings of muslim civilians all around the globe). Central to these posters is the easily recognizable figure, dressed in black to evoke feelings of darkness, death and fear. In the first image, it is complemented by “minarets” that look more like ICBMs with nuclear warheads, casting shadows over the Swiss flag.

“Stop – Yes to the ban on minarets”
“Naturalize unchecked? No to easier naturalization”

 

The Deceit

Just like being a bankier isn’t part of Judaism, so is repressing women by making them wear a full body veil isn’t part of Islam – it’s a perverted, misogynistic tradition hiding behind willfully misinterpreted scripture – much like the classic Christian patriarchal worldview in Switzerland (and Germany), where “Kinder Küche Kirche” (children, kitchen, church) are the only things a woman should be concerned with. But because the getup of an actual terrorist isn’t as scary an image as that of a hidden person, they picked a blatantly wrong and misleading image that in the process not only hurts muslims who as a religious community are at least as peaceful as Christians (especially concerning Europe, where in the last half century Catholic organizations like the IRA and ETA were responsible for the majority of terrorist attacks), but also women, especially repressed and mistreated women towards whom every decent person should only feel empathy and concern, not fear and hatred. But then again, the role model of today’s Nazi propagandists are yesterday’s Nazi propagandists and Hitler’s regime was famous for regarding women as nothing more than “birthing machines” to produce more soldiers for the cause.

While the situation here in today’s Switzerland is not (yet) as dire as in Hitler’s Germany, it’s not for want of trying by the right wing of the SVP. They intentionally whip up emotions and muddy waters around the elections, to cause the very disillusionment with politicians, government and public institutions that led to people voting against their own interests in the US and the UK in 2016. The original issues in question were completely blown out of proportion (see appendix), up to the point where a level-headed and factual discussion about the issues up for popular vote wasn’t possible any more.

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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.

1935 or 1957?

Drawing parallels between the current situation in the Crimea and the reincorporation of the Saarland into Germany is unavoidable: in both cases a plebiscite with overwhelming support for reincorporation was followed by the actual moving of borders.

The question is, however, are we looking today at a situation like the first reincorporation of the Saarland in 1935 (followed by the occupation of the Rheinland in 1936 and the annexation of further ethnic German territories in 1938/39, all part of a design aimed at further conquests) or will it be more like the second reincorporation in 1957 (with the result that France and Germany started to peacefully coexist again)?

12 years after the second Pearl Harbor

9/11 has often been called “the second Pearl Harbor” and while the term was coined to evoke patriotic emotions, it also evokes the question how much of the behind-the-scenes part of the two events are similar?

Thanks to democratic societies’ insistence on unsealing classified documents after a certain number of years, today it’s publicly available information that the US government not only knew about the planned Japanese attack in advance, they were actually planning a response ahead of time.

Just a few direct quotes:

Ernest Johnson, late October 1941: “the Jap fleet has moved eastward, presumably to attack our fleet at Pearl Harbor”.

November 3, 1941, telegram from Tokyo ambassador Joseph Grew to Washington: “an armed conflict with the United States may come with dangerous and dramatic suddenness.”

George Marshall, Chief of Staff, November 15, 1941, at a secret meeting with reporters: “We are preparing an offensive war against Japan”.

November 25, 1941, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, regarding the Japanese attack expected in the near future, perhaps as soon as the following week: “The question is how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves”.