Editorials

Jewish Author Worried About Losing Control of the “Nazi Narrative”

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In ‘Hi Hitler,’ historian Gavriel Rosenfeld argues that a variety of forces—some historical, some social—have dulled our awareness of the evils unique to Nazism.

THE GRATEFUL DEAD, Sarah Palin, Obamacare, Game of Thrones, the Facebook IPO, the iPad—these are just a few of the endless list of topics about which Hitler has ranted in the famous parodies of the film Downfall.

Images of Hitler have also become used as popular memes, with text like “Wehrmacht bitches at?” and “Jew mad? Get Führerious!” imposed over photographs of the former dictator. The use of one of history’s most notorious villains in such a lighthearted manner is one of a plethora of issues that set off alarms for the historian Gavriel D. Rosenfeld in his new book, Hi Hitler: How the Nazi Past is Being Normalized in Contemporary Culture.

Rosenfeld argues that in three major areas—academia, politics, and popular culture—the Nazis, Hitler, and the Holocaust have undergone a major process of normalization. This means that in our collective memory, that event and its perpetrators are less different, less of an abnormality in history, than previously agreed upon.

At first, Rosenfeld’s thesis seems to a merit a high dose of skepticism. While memes used by teens may treat the image of Hitler lightheartedly and while anti-Semitism has reared its head again in Europe, to the average person the Holocaust is still synonymous with the nadir of human depravity in the 20th century and its denial more associated with loons like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

And yet, on page after page, referencing books, speeches, movies, and essays, Rosenfeld inexorably builds a thoroughly convincing case that something has shifted in both academia and in politics—that the Holocaust’s heretofore unquestioned status as the great sin of the 20th century (and by association, the Nazis’ status as the century’s greatest villains) is now far from a consensus.

In the scholarly world and in the global sphere of politics, the views of the Holocaust and the Nazis have changed as people have modified their views on World War II, genocide, and the demise of the Soviet Union.

For a variety of reasons, the last two decades have witnessed a dramatic shift in how World War II is perceived and portrayed. Once unironically depicted as “the good war” in which the Allied powers triumphed over the evil Axis powers, the war now has a far murkier reputation.

Part of that shift occurred in the scholarly world. Niall Ferguson’s The War of the World, Giles MacDonogh’s After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation, Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, Max Hasting’s All Hell Let Loose, Michael Bess’s Choices Under Fire: Moral Dimensions of World War II, Jacques Pauwel’s The Myth of the Good War: America in the Second World War, Patrick Buchanan’s Churchill, Hitler, and ‘The Unnecessary War,’ and Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke—these are just some of the major books, some better received than others, that have challenged the notion of the “good war.”

For some of these authors, the decision by the U.S. and Great Britain to team up with the Soviet Union posed a far greater disaster for humanity than did the Nazis. For others, like Buchanan, writing in the shadow of the Iraq War, World War II’s legacy was one of intervention and a cult of Churchill. Others sought to show how the Allies’ methods of war were similar in brutality to the Axis. And they have sought to undermine Allied moral standing by pointing out that in the U.S. there were also serious racial issues of segregation, Jim Crow, Native American reservations, Japanese internment camps, and in the USSR, the starving of kulaks by Stalin.

Whatever the reason, efforts to chip away at “the good war’s” reputation also, in Rosenfeld’s eye, had the effect of somewhat normalizing the Nazis. If the Allies were not much better, the reasoning goes, then how bad really were the Nazis?

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Read the full article at the Daily Beast

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3 Comments

  1. aa
    March 25, 2015 at 9:27 pm — Reply

    Jewish hatred of Hitler reminds me of a Shakespeare quote.

    O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
    It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock
    The meat it feeds on.

  2. Heinemann
    March 26, 2015 at 1:48 am — Reply

    Many books are written about the war by those who should know and in looking back by those, who want to know. imprisonment for both may influence their testimony about the war or will always condemn or justify them .

    National Socialism divided people not as much by race but ideals. It could be the race of German is a myth. ANd without those spiritual ideals it is.

    Adolf Hitler is a myth today. But when he really lived he inspired greatness in hopeful idealistic people and provoked the dread and fear of the carnal, complacent world . Perhaps were it not so forbidden to know the whole story it would inspire a great tragedy.

    What is most interesting today is that he still provokes the same fear. He and his personification have become a metaphor
    of condemnation for the shallow and ignorant as also testimony against

    rulers of the present world . Ultimately, he causes the obsessive fear of discovery and endure as a just witness to the real identity of the unique and inscrutable Jew.

  3. Heinemann
    March 26, 2015 at 11:28 am — Reply

    History of testimony about the war by German soldiers were always written under duress. Many were released from their prisons and had to elude censoring and prosecution and not violate what had been documented by the occupational government. The aphorism resonates , “In war truth is the first casualty.” And “history is written by the victor.”

    Films appeared in Germany as early as the 50’s like Nacht Fiel Ueber Gotenhafen , a propaganda piece about the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff of Jan. 1945, when nearly 10,ooo civilians died.

    Then Irving’s books later made him famous for his condemnation of the bombing of Dresden on Feb. and April of the same year when it was clear Germany was already defeated.

    But above all it was Hollywood with their post war propaganda and hagiological fantasies , that would not let people forget and drag Americans back to their holy war.

    It is in their subconscious as an most important theme rivaled incidentally by the continuous remaking of life and death of Jesus of Nazareth although the war ended 70 years
    ago and the Christian churches have disavowed Jesus of Nazareth for the Holy War and the holocaust.

    “Collective memory” is an interesting thought. When do two people have the same recollection or impressions of experiences.?!

    World War II is still controversial and certainly divisive. The International Jude such as Herr Rosenfeld, have arrogated to themselves the privilege of the custodians of history. This war was the climax perhaps the end of the domination for the Western Civilization as described above as the “nadir for depravity”.

    This is a provocative insult or calumny which should evince evidence.

    When I was young in post war era the legend was taught 8 million Jews killed in concentration camps in Europe. It is obvious this exaggeration was alleged by the same who modestly reduced it to 6 million to establish their veracity. Most swallowed this lie and died. Others are now beginning to spit it out.

    I do not know. I do know at the time Germany was fighting a war on six fronts: west , east, south, north , above and the insidious espionage , which proved in the end the
    decisive weapon. And another the holocaust.

    “The truth shall find you out” is for those who benefit from lies. Undeniably today values have been so manipulated and manufactured or perverted that there is no truth or reality.

    Except what this “collective mind” agrees upon.
    What was the war ; who was Hitler? Seek and ye shall find.

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