Posts Tagged ‘Resettlement’

The Nazis and the Contemporary Far Right in Eastern Europe

March 6, 2016

This is another topic on which I could say much, much more. It isn’t just in America that Fascism appears to be rearing its ugly head. It’s also on the rise in eastern Europe. A few weeks ago Hope Not Hate covered mass demonstrations against Islam which were expected to be held one weekend in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. They also reported that Nick Griffin, having received the heave-ho from British voters and his own party, the BNP, has gone to dine out at other’s expense in Poland.

It’s chilling. A friend of mine, who very definitely isn’t anti-Polish – he’s British, but also goes to get some of the delicacies on sale at his local Polish shop – caught sight of the Polish Far Right hold a demonstration in the street a few months ago when he visited the country of Copernicus and Chopin’s father. As well as many of the Free Polish pilots, who did so much to keep this country free of the Nazi threat during the Battle of Britain in World War II.

He can’t speak Polish, but there was a group standing in the street, making speeches to a watching crowd. They seemed to be ranting about Communists and inevitably, the Jews. When he got back, he asked one of the Polish people at work if they were the extreme Right. His co-worker confirmed it. He noticed that the people in the crowd weren’t what you’d expect. They were well-dressed, young, with families. Not the same type as the grizzled skinhead hard men you tend to get over this side of the Baltic.

And you can find similar scenes right across eastern Europe. The current nationalist government in the Ukraine includes neo-Nazi storm troopers, and neo-Nazis have also resurfaced in Russia since the 1980s.

The anti-Communist resentment is understandable. This was a dictatorship imposed on the Poles and other peoples by Stalin, and backed by military force from the Soviet Union. In Russia, the Bolsheviks took power through a coup, rather than popular revolution. Under Stalin, they killed millions. As for the hatred of the Jews, some of this comes from traditional eastern European anti-Semitism, the same anti-Semitism that saw vicious pogroms in the 1890s, and which led members of the conquered eastern European nations to collaborate with the Nazis in the Holocaust. In Poland, some of it also might come from the way Stalin, himself a vicious anti-Semite, used Jews in his secret police as he felt that they would have little sympathy for the gentile population.

The anti-Semitism is vile enough, but the outright support for the Nazis shows a profound ignorance of the nature of the Third Reich and their racism. They weren’t just anti-Semitic. They also considered the speakers of Slavonic languages, such as Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Belorussians, Russians and Ukrainians, to be racially inferior. After these areas were conquered and the Jews exterminated, the indigenous inhabitants of these areas were to be worked to death as slaves. In Poland, the Nazis compounded the horrors through a deliberate programme of resettlement and ethnic cleansing similar to that inflicted on the Jews. They also scoured its people looking for ‘Aryan’ bloodlines. Blonde Polish children and babies were held to have ‘Germany’ ‘Aryan’ ancestry, and so were taken from their parents to be raised in German families.

Hitler made no secret of these policies. His intention to conquer eastern Europe is laid out in Mein Kampf:

And so we National Socialists consciously draw a line beneath the foreign policy tendency of our pre-War period. We take up where we broke off six hundred years ago. We stop the endless German movement to the south and west, and turn our gaze towards the land in the east. At long last we break off the colonial and commercial policy of the pre-War period and shift to the soil policy of the future. If we speak of soil in Europe, we can primarily have in mind only Russia and her vassal border states.

– cited in D.G. Williamson, The Third Reich (Harlow: Longman 1982) 88.

Between 1941 and 1942 two million Russian prisoners of war died of starvation and maltreatment in Nazi concentration camps. Here is a description of such atrocities at the POW camp at Blizin in Poland, by an eye witness.

The camp consists of four huts, situated in the fields near the village, so that everything that happens there can be observed by the neighbours. Train-Loads of prisoners which arrived here had taken over a fortnight to reach the new camp and were without food or water. Each wagon when opened contained scores of dead bodies. The sick who could not move were thrown out. They were ordered to sit down on the ground near the camp and were shot by the S.S.-men before the eyes of the rest. the cam contains about 2,500 prisoners. The average daily death rate is about 50. The dead bodies are thrown out onto the fields and sprinkled with lime, often lying some days after that unburied … The prisoners received 1/4 kg of bread made of horse-chestnut flour and potato-skins, and soup made of rotten cabbage.

in Williamson, above, p. 92.

Williamson also includes the entry from Goebbels’ diary on resettlement policies in Poland.

Zoerner has resigned as governor of Lublin. He called on me to give the reasons for his resignation. He had succeeded on the whole in squeezing an unusual amount of food out of the Lublin district. Understandably so, for this district is the most fertile in the entire General Government. Suddenly, however, he received orders for resettlement that had a very bad effect upon morale. Some 50,000 Pole were to be evacuated to begin with. Our police were able to grab only 25,000, the other 25,000 joined the partisans. It isn’t hard to imagine what consequences that had for the whole area. Now he was to evacuate about 190,000 more Poles. This he refused to do, and in my opinion he was right. His district will now be governed from Warsaw by Governor Dr Fischer. Although Dr Frank, the Governor General, agreed with Zoerner’s views he hasn’t the authority to put his foot down on the encroachments of the police and the S.S. it makes you want to tear out your hair when you encounter such appalling political ineptitude. At home we are waging total war with all its consequences and are subordinating all philosophical and ideological aims to the supreme aim of final victory: in the occupied areas, however, things are done as though we were living in profound peace….

Williamson, p. 93.

No self-respecting person from eastern Europe should ever join one of these Nazi parties. Ever.

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Secular Talk on the Appeal of Donald Trump

February 14, 2016

This is a very interesting piece of analysis by Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski, of the replies given by a Trump supporter interviewed at the caucus by David Pakman. The man said he voted for Trump, because he wanted a national health care system in America, like that in Britain and Canada. Trump had said he supported this. Pakman pointed out that Bernie Sanders also said that he supported an NHS for America. The man also stated that he liked Trump because he was anti-establishment and showed leadership. He would make America great.

Kulinski shows how much the man’s views reflects the carefully constructed rhetoric of Trump, and his campaign strategy. Trump is winning the Republican electoral race, because he talks at a fourth grade level. While others have seen this as a handicap, showing how stupid Trump is, Kulinski states that it’s actually very clever. It boils everything down to punchy statement with a real emotional clout.

Trump is also winning because he’s extremely confident, much more so than his rivals. Few commentators on the electoral contests have recognised just how convincing and persuasive this is to voters. Trump tells people he’s winning, even when he isn’t, and so they believe him. When he says he’s got leadership, they swallow the line that he will be a great leader.

Then there’s the issue of Trump’s alleged support for socialised medicine. This, Kulinski points out, is a case of people hearing what they want to hear. Trump has at various times made noises that he supports the creation of a single-payer healthcare system in the Land of the Free. At other times he’s said the exact opposite, and stated he’s in favour of more private healthcare, more competition. This is frequently in the same speech. Kulinski remarks that Trump throws everything in his speeches, whatever will appeal to the voters. One person will support an NHS for America, while another person will take away and vote for him because he’s said the exact opposite. The only person who is unequivocally for an NHS is Bernie Sanders, as the man interviewed by Pakman himself recognised.

Trumps stance on the Middle East is similarly muddled. On some occasions Trump says he’ll stand back and let Putin attack ISIS. And then on others he’ll state that America shouldn’t let Putin take the lead in Syria, and that America should make greater efforts to eradicate Islamist terrorism in those nations.

And then there’s the issue of his independent, anti-establishment stance. This is pretty much a case of necessity becoming a virtue. Trump initially approached the same donors as the rest of the Republican candidates. It was only after they turned him down that he decided to fund his own campaign. But he’s massively popular because, as the man interviewed by David Pakman said, he is independent and not beholden to the Republican donors.

Americans are heartily sick of a congress dominated by corporate interests. A study by Princeton concluded that America was no longer a democracy, but an oligarchy. And this is reflected in Congress’ approval ratings. They’re as low as 15%. At one point, they even dipped to 9%. Trump’s supposed anti-establishment stance matches the overwhelming mood of the country. Kulinski points out that in New Hampshire caucus, Trump polled twice as much as the man who came second. He concludes that the game is Trump’s to lose.

Okay, I’ve already followed Godwin’s Law this morning in comparing the Tories to the Italian Fascists with their gerrymandering to stay in power forever. Now I’m going to do the same, and compare Trump with Hitler. But the parallels are there, and real.

Firstly, Trump is venomously racist, like Hitler, although mercifully he’s just calling for the expulsion of immigrants and the registration of Muslims, not their extermination. Yet. Mind you, neither did Hitler. The Nazis took great pains to make sure that the ‘Final Solution’ was hidden from the German people. They disguised the incarceration in the concentration and extermination camps as ‘resettlement in the east’. To make this convincing, they shot propaganda films supposedly showing the Jewish settlers in Poland well-fed and happily tending their farm plots. This idyll lasted about as long as the movie took to be shot. After it ended, the Jews featured in this horrendous lie were back to being brutalised, and carted away for extermination. This is why Jews came out and demonstrated against Trump’s comments about Muslims in 17 US cities a few weeks ago.

Hitler also, like Trump, was loudly anti-establishment. Indeed, he loudly condemned the ‘November criminals’ in the four existing German parties, the Social Democrats, Catholic Centre Party and the two German Liberal parties, for their betrayal of Germany. He attacked the middle-aged character of the established German politicos, shouting, ‘Mach Platz, ihr alter!’ – ‘Make space, you old one!’ The Nazi party anthem, the Horst Vessel Song, as well as attacking ‘comrades of the left’ also has the Nazis ranged against the ‘Braune Reaktionesn’ – ‘Brown Reactionaries’ – the forces of traditional liberal Germany.

And like Trump, Hitler carefully crafted his speeches to the areas in which he was speaking. In rural areas with a hatred of Jews, he played up the anti-Semitism. In urban areas with a strong left-wing tradition, he stressed the anti-capitalist sections of the Nazi programme. And the Nazi programme itself was deliberately vague and contradictory, like that of the Italian Fascists, to appeal both to the traditional extreme Right and the extreme Left. You could read into it whatever you wanted. And tragically, all too many did. In Italy a decade before the Nazis took power, some intellectuals did support the Fascists, because they thought their lack of ideology gave them a greater freedom to do what was necessary to solve the country’s grave social and economic problems, breaking the paralysis that affected the existing parties and which kept them from working together to solve them.

The Young Turks have said what Trump is: the beginning of Fascism. He has all the electoral and rhetorical strategies, the populist appeal and the venomous racial hatred. And there’s broader issue here. Trump is popular because Congress is held in such low esteem, because it reflects the wishes of the rich donors, like the Koch brothers, rather than the desires of Mr and Mrs Average America. For Americans genuinely to have their country back, they need to curtail the corruption and political funding through those same rich sponsors.