This is a post that begins with Godwin’s Law already fulfilled. Hitler is already in the picture and can’t be wished out of it.
But first, a word on how Hitler got here. As regular readers know, I’ve been teaching women’s and gender studies for nearly a decade, and I love doing it. As you know if you regularly follows feminist issues, you don’t have to surf very far through the intertubes before you run into sad, traumatic, or just plain disturbing shit. Whether it’s the seemingly infinite variations on the theme sexual violence or the occasional anti-feminist troll who’s moved to call you a cunt just because he can, there are constant reminders of the need for educating people on how gender is still all messed up with abuse of power and racism and heterosexism and cissexism and classism and ableism. More upsetting for me are my students’ own stories of violence and other trauma. So I’ve become accustomed but never inured to confronting some pretty sick stuff in my work.
This spring, I’m teaching a class on Nazi Germany. As only a few of you know, my grad work was primarily in modern German history, with only a minor field in women’s studies. In theory, I’m returning to my intellectual roots. In fact, I’m a bundle of nerves, because I haven’t taught a history class in ages, and never have I taught a whole class on the Nazis. And yes, I’m aware that disturbing stuff will be on that syllabus, too.
But here’s what I didn’t anticipate. The other day I’m googling for historical maps, and I swear I hadn’t entered “Nazi” or “National Socialism” or “Hitler” or “World War II”; I’m just searching on Germany historical maps. Within seconds, I arrive at a place I refuse to link to, whose name is St*rmfront dot org. (Sorry for messing with the spelling, but I don’t want any visits from these horrid people.) Their slogan: “Wh*te Pride World Wide.” Naturally, they’ve got a forum. One category is titled “Ideology and Philosophy Foundations for Wh*te Nationalism.” Just as a sample, behold the start of a thread with the charming title, “Why Deny the Holocaust?”
Nationalist hatewad #1:
Hey, I’m somewhat new here, not looking to start an argument. But if we really HATE the jews that bad, why wouldn’t we embrace the holocaust as a grand slam for our team?
Nationalist hatewad #2:
There is truth and there is fiction. Some people question the official history.
If the truth is that Hilter’s regime intentionally killed 6 million Jews then there isn’t any great noblility in it, and there is no reason to embrace it.
If the truth is that Hilter’s regime didn’t intentionally kill 6 million Jews the question is why are we told that he did.
Either way, the “Holocaust” is used to distract people from the Jews historic crime, most importantly the Bolshevik Revolution, Purges, Famines and Communist Slave States. Even if we give the Jews 6 million dead to Hitler, thats a drop in the bucket compared to the dead in Ukraine, China, South East Asia, etc. And yet, how many documentaries do you see about it, how many memorials.
Lots more where that came from! (And since I’m wearing my historian hat, I’ll just add that no serious, respected historian denies that the Holocaust happened. They may quibble about numbers, argue about its motivations, and disagree on whether it’s useful to compare one genocide to another. But the deniers are regarded like real biologists view new-earth creationists.)
Of course we all know people like this exist, but it’s jarring to stray into their charming little white supremacist neighboorhood. That’s one of the deeply disconcerting aspects of the internet: rabid anti-semites can slip into your living room while you sip your Almond Sunset tea. And you can’t just send them back to their well-armed cabin hideout in the remote Idaho woods.
I’m starting to wonder why I didn’t study botany. Or music. ‘Course, even there, Godwin’s Law kicks in as soon as Wagner is the topic …