Fascism in the ranks of adults who dress up like animals. Is nothing sacred?
The war began when a fascist party and its armband-clad leader led a putsch. Antifascists mobilized in response. Threats of violence ensued.
Then the Rocky Mountain Fur Con canceled all future events.
The Fur Con is an annual summit in Denver, Colorado, for “furries,” people who present themselves as animals, from donning full-body fur suits to adopting “fursonas” for their character. And just as in the rest of America, a lot of furries resemble Nazis lately....
Fascist furries are nothing new, but until recently, “they were rare individuals who were more interested in uniform fetish than espousing Nazi ideology,” Deo, another furry told The Daily Beast.
But the rise of the alt-right has ushered in the #AltFurry, a hashtag under which right-leaning furries can organize, and the uninitiated can encounter more cartoon rabbits in Nazi uniform than they possibly expected to see in their lifetimes.
The English historian Richard Evans is one of the foremost experts on Germany history writing in English. In fact, he wrote by far the most thorough and important book on the death penalty in Germany. In English. It had to be translated into German. You would think a German might have been interested enough in the subject, but no, an Englishman had to step in.
Evans is also an expert on the Third Reich, having written many readable books on the subject. Isaac Chotiner of Slate interviews him about Trump. Chotiner starts out with the important note that "America is not Germany, and this is not 1938, let alone 1933." He then asks Evans for his observations about the commonalities between Trump and authoritarian leaders:
Isaac Chotiner: What do you make of Trump as a leader in these early days, and how would you compare it to the way other authoritarians have started their time in power?
Richard Evans: When you look at President Trump’s statements, I’m afraid you do see echoes, and they are very alarming. For example, the stigmatization of minorities. First of all, the Trump White House failed to mention the Jews in its statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day. And that is very worrying because the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews was not just a genocide; it had a special quality, because Hitler and the Nazis regarded the Jews as an existential threat to Germany. They used hyperbolic and exaggerated language about Jews. If the Jews were not killed, the Nazis said, they would destroy Germany completely, whereas other groups that the Nazis stigmatized, discriminated against, and indeed murdered, like the handicapped, were only to be gotten out of the way. If you look at the language the Trump team has been using about Islamic extremist jihadis, it is exactly the same: They are an existential threat to America. They will defeat, dominate, and destroy America. That is a very extreme kind of language and a very disturbing echo.
Trump has also been attacking the judiciary. What is the importance of that, and what echoes do you see there?
I think if you look at Hitler’s seizure of power, which happened between his appointment in January 1933 and the summer of 1933, it was achieved by two means. One is by legal, or pseudolegal, means, and there he had to rush legislation past the national parliament in order to give him supreme power to make laws. These laws included, in the end, setting up a one-party state, and also closing down oppositional newspapers, and so on. And of course Hitler’s propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, was an inveterate and incorrigible liar. He was an inventor of news. And he also was very strongly attacked in the liberal and left-wing press and threatened to shut it down, and in the end he actually did. Or he took it over.
The other one is violence on the streets. That is a particular characteristic of fascism and Nazism, after World War I had really got people used to violence and military bands roaming the street beating up their opponents. That is obviously not happening in America today. I think anyone who wanted to destroy America, American democracy, and American institutions is going to use the power of the state to do so. They won’t have their own private armies. That, I think, is a difference.
Again, if you look at the courts, that’s one of the most interesting aspects of what Trump has been doing. He clearly has a contempt for the courts and the law, which echoes that of the Nazis very, very clearly. The courts and the law enforcement agencies did stand up to Hitler. A very famous example is, later in 1933, the trial of the people who Hitler had alleged had burned down the Reichstag earlier in the year. The courts acquitted all but one of them, thus completely undermining Hitler’s claim that the communists started the fire. Hitler then bypassed the courts. He set up a parallel system of justice, the so-called special courts and the people’s courts. In the end, the courts knuckled under, but it was quite a fight.
Although I was surprised, reading your books, at how some courts kept independence longer than I would have thought.
Yes, some in the judiciary were conservative, but they did have respect for the law and institutions of the law, and for the constitution as well.
There has been a debate in the press and among progressives about whether, crudely speaking, the guy is a buffoon and crazy and has no plan, or whether he is canny and smart and has a real plan for authoritarianism. Was this debate similar to ones about Hitler, once he came to power?
Absolutely, yes. Many people thought that Hitler was a buffoon. He was a joke. He wasn’t taken seriously. Alternatively, they thought that he could calm down when he assumed the responsibilities of office. That was a very common belief about Hitler. There is a major difference in the sense that Trump speaks off the cuff in a very unguarded, spontaneous way. I think that’s true with his tweets. Hitler very carefully prepared all his speeches. They might seem spontaneous, but they were carefully prepared....
Was Hitler capable of talking about something other than himself for an extended period of time?
Yeah, he went on about the Jews.
I know you are being slightly sarcastic, but I do think that is an interesting difference.
You drew a comparison between Islam now and the Jews. Trump himself could not sit and talk about Islam for more than 30 seconds. He can bring it up in a speech, and then he will start talking about himself.
Yeah. But Hitler did bring everything back to himself. His standard speech begins with his own partly fabricated life story, where he basically was poor, and he was different. He got his identity in the war fighting for Germany. Germany instead collapsed. He rebuilt Germany and so on. It does go back to himself. When you look at his rambling and incoherent table talk, which was recorded during the war at lunchtime and dinner times by his entourage or written down, there again it’s quite narcissistic. He’s constantly talking about himself, or he’s laying down the law about all kinds of subjects of one sort or another. He’s got quite an obsessive personality, as I say. He talked in his public utterances a lot about the Jews and how he thought they’d destroyed Germany and they were going to destroy the world unless he organized Germany against it. But I would say he did have quite a lengthy attention span. He could concentrate and focus on things.
Yeah, OK. That’s one difference. That’s good.
He could certainly concentrate.
Or, to put it another way: Trump is no Hitler. He's much dumber.
I think Evans has it about right. As I've written before, America's political institutions are quite strong enough to resist any attempts to undermine them, even if Trump were to attempt this. And despite much hyperventilating commentary, he's not. Every President has blasted the press and uncooperative judges at one time or another -- the only difference is that Trump does so publicly, in crude and childish terms. I am fairly confident Trump will crash and burn before his first four years are up, and the consequences might be sobering indeed. But he's not going to turn America into a police state.
A huge conglomeration of public and private foundations put together a three-part series on the early 2000s murder spree of the National Socialist Underground called Mitten in Deutschland (In the Middle of Germany) in Germany and German History X when it was released by Netflix with English subtitles.
It's basically a trilogy of feature-length movies. I found it surprisingly good. German television and movies punch below their weight in general, but have shown some intermittent signs of improvement in recent years. Deutschland '83 is much more than watchable, and so is German History X.
The first movie, about the formation of the 2-man one-woman 'trio' which formed the core of the NSU, shows the protagonists coming together in the 1990s neo-Nazi scene in Jena. The three core performers are stellar. The film also does a fine job of demonstrating how young people in the damaged, demoralized East often sought fellowship and a sense of purpose in violent Nazi groups. The second movie focuses on the victims, and is held together by a strong performance by Almila Bagriacik, who emerges from adolescence under the shadow of the murder of her father. The police immediately seek the killer in the 'milieu' of foreign small businessmen, without considering the possibility of a terrorist motive even after numerous other foreign shopkeepers are killed with the same weapon used to kill the first victim.
The final movie, which focuses on the investigation, is the slackest of the bunch. This is hard to avoid, since the subject is, by definition, an investigation that went nowhere. The early-2000s murder spree of the three NSU members was discovered only posthumously, when two of them committed suicide after a botched 2011 bank robbery, and the murder weapon was found in their accomplice's apartment. The third movie paints a picture of detectives who develop solid leads, only to be frustrated by the machinations of the Thuringia state Verfassungsschutz. The Verfassungsschutz claimed to have deeply infiltrated the groups supporting the NSU trio, and fought against any arrests, questioning, or surveillance which could theoretically blow their agents' cover. Which meant, in the end, that they provided an enormous amount of cover, and even financing, to out-and-out Nazis who were committing sundry violent crimes. The movies' clear implication is that the Verfassungsschutz was operating at least in part out of sympathy for the right-wingers' goals.
The English translation of Verfassungsschutz in the movies was "secret service", which obviously doesn't do justice to this peculiar organization. English-language viewers certainly missed many of the implications of what was shown in the third film. Basically, the "Agency for the Protection of the Constitution", as the title means in English, is an originally West German domestic spying and intelligence agency. As its name implies, it is theoretically supposed to monitor, document, report on, and suppress any nascent threats to the German constitutional order. This includes right-wing and left-wing extremists, religious organizations, and cults. Each German state has one of these agencies, and there is a federal one as well. To call them controversial is an understatement -- they are often accused of putting far more energy into surveillance of left-wing militants than right-wing groups, and are also accused of chilling free speech by singling out politically-charged organizations and publications for scrutiny in their public reports. In fact, the right-wing weekly newspaper Junge Freiheit -- successfully sued to prohibit the Verfassungsschutz from mentioning them in its reports.
The agency has also been involved in innumerable scandals involving -- at the very minimum -- incompetence. The most recent in a very long list is the hiring of Roque M. (g) -- a German citizen of Spanish descent who was hired as a Verfassungsschutz spy in the State of Northern Rhine Westphalia despite a history of mental instability and bizarre behavior, such as acting in gay porn films even though he was a married father of 4, running his own gay porn publishing house, running a website selling "German Military Underwear. Strong. Manly. Sexy.", and converting to radical Islam. The Verfassungschutz -- apparently unaware of the possibility of running a Google search -- only found out about him when he bragged about being a mole in the agency and working on plans to destroy it in an online forum which was being monitored by his co-workers.
In fact, the picture of the German law enforcement authorities in all of the films is devastating. The Keystone Kops of East Germany let the three neo-Nazis go underground even after finding bombs and weapons in one of their hideouts. Cops invent a hare-brained drug-smuggling conspiracy theory to explain the totally unrelated murder of ethnic-minority shopkeepers all over Germany with the exact same weapon. (Although this isn't mentioned in the film, they also chased a phantom serial killer whose existence was based on botched DNA testing). Their attitude toward murder victims' surviving relatives is callous in the extreme; Germany still has only a vestigial state infrastructure for providing counseling and care to surviving family members of murder victims. And in the third movie, the police actively allow and sometimes even assist neo-Nazis to commit violent crimes and spread propaganda, either out of incompetence or covert sympathy for their goals.
The general portrayal of police agencies is counterbalanced by sympathetic portrayals of individual cops, but they are seen as constantly having to fight against institutional blindness, rivalry, and silo-mentality thinking. When they're not fighting against moles in their own and other agencies who actually intentionally assist the neo-Nazis. The picture of police is probably a bit exaggerated, but there is no doubt much of it was justified -- there are still dozens of very strange unanswered questions surrounding the fruitless investigation of the NSU murders. And, given the authorities' mania for secrecy and the lack of a culture of vigorous investigative journalism fed by leaks from inside the government, they'll probably remain unanswered forever.
From a review of a book about the mental state of the Nuremberg defendants:
Dimsdale cherry-picks his examples to cater to our idea that human evil must have something to do with psychopathology. But the verdict goes in the other direction: The overwhelming majority of the Nuremberg defendants did not possess the traits of the mentally diseased. Their Rorschach tests were normal. Yet one of their examiners, the psychologist Gustave Gilbert, still labeled them insane. Gilbert, the Jewish son of emigrés from Austria, described the Nazi defendants as “narcissistic psychopaths whose lives were deformed by a diseased German culture.” This made them more rather than less culpable in Gilbert’s view: “to him [they were] the devil incarnate,” Dimsdale writes.
The other examiner, Douglas Kelley, disagreed with Gilbert. He thought that the Nazis displayed “profound moral failing” rather than mental illness. In spite of his disapproval, Kelley seems to have bonded with Göring and a few of the others. Bizarrely, the emotionally troubled Kelley, who was a professional magician as well as a psychiatrist, committed suicide 12 years after Nuremberg. In his living room, in front of his wife, parents, and children, he swallowed a cyanide pill, the same method that Göring had used.
A Syrian refugee in Bingen, Germany set fire to the migrant shelter where he lived, and spray-painted a few swastikas to mislead the police:
You call that a swastika? Pathetic.
Take it from me: The secret to spray-painting swastikas is to spray the central cross first. If you're aiming for authenticity, tilt it 45 degrees to make an 'X' -- that's now the Nazis did it. Then you simply add some hooks at 90-degree angles. Bingo! It's not called a 'hook-cross' (Hakenkreuz) in German for nothing.
I'll be expecting much better work from now on, Kameraden.
Ask any German who's lived in the Arab world for a while and interacted with normal people, and you will almost always hear of Arabs who admire, even love Adolf Hitler. Some of the ones I know even stopped identifying themselves as Germans in conversation, to avoid that blood-chilling moment when their conversation partner would say: 'Adolf Hitler very good man! Hero!' It has happened to me -- and not just in Arab countries -- when I identified myself as German to avoid getting into long conversations about American foreign policy.
But of course it's not just an Arab problem by any stretch. It happened to me most recently on a park bench in downtown Sofia, Bulgaria, where a man who borrowed a cigarette from me started chatting and revealed that he had once lived and worked in Germany but his work permit had been revoked because 'the Jews up there' didn't want more 'Christian Bulgarians' in the country. I was tempted to try to enlighten him, but really, where do you even begin with a comment like that?
Remember, we are not talking about the 15-20% of the educated elite of these societies, who either understand the evil of Hitler or know enough not to discuss the issue with foreigners. We are talking about ignorant or illiterate people. Their views are shaped by attitudes passed down through generations (and either tolerated or encouraged by their governments) and never challenged by an educated person.
But that doesn't mean we have to let these backward prejudices into Germany. Commenter KS brings a report from the front lines of migrant education in Germany right now which I thought worthy of hoisting to the main page:
When I finished school in 2005, I travelled around some time in Egypt and Jordan and I was astonished by the fact, that the old-fashioned anti-semitism, that I only knew from history books, creepy internet-pages and grandma's honest moments, was pretty much political mainstream in these countries. Including the admiration of Hitler. (I mean, I expected some hatred towards Israel - but the arguments about filthy, conspiring jews were an exact copy of European anti-semitism.) Today I work as a teacher in a class in which pupils, who just came to Germany, learn the German language, before they can attend the regular classes.
Last week I taught about German history. Now my pupils were astonished by the fact, that Germany doesn't admire Hitler anymore. "Aber alle lieben Hitler!" ("But everyone loves Hitler!") was one of the reactions, by a Macedonian boy with a christian-orthodox background by the way. Two boys from Syria applauded him. So I asked politely (to get an honest reaction): "Wer von euch liebt Hitler?" ("Who of you loves Hitler?") Five out of eleven children raised their hands: the two guys from Syria (Kurdish Muslims), two Macedonians (Christian-Orthodox) and one guy from Somalia (Muslim). The children who didn't raise their hands were Roma and two boys from Portugal.
It's hard to imagine anything more depressing than young children taught to admire Hitler, isn't it? Now you could look at this as a glass-half-full optimist: at least these kids will be able to escape the miasma of ignorance and prejudice that poisons their countries of origin (and helps explain why their countries of origin have so many problems). At least they'll escape it while they're in school. Certain schools, that is. At home is a different story.
And I would agree with you, to a point. But an intensive re-education program requires significant resources. It might well work with 10,000, 20,000 or even 50,000 fresh migrants. But with 800,000+? And the millions who will follow thanks to family reunification? Not a chance. If policies don't change quickly, Germany may end up importing millions of new residents -- 3-4% of its entire population -- who despise Jews and admire Hitler.
I think that's a serious public-policy issue that should be openly and frankly debated right now, don't you?
Last year, during the latest military flare-up of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, hundreds of people took to the streets in German cities chanting pro-Hamas slogans and calling for Jews to be gassed. Here's a video taken during one of these demos:
If you were expecting white German skinheads, you were disappointed. This was a demonstration from the far-left 'Solid' group, and as you can see, the majority of the demonstrators were not ethnically German. At about the 1:30 point, a man speaks into the camera in German, with a strong foreign accent. The anti-Israel demonstration is running toward a pro-Israel demonstration looking for confrontation. The man notes this 'isn't good', but has to happen since 'the Jews are insulting us'. 49 people were charged with inciting racial hatred for chanting anti-Semitic slogans during this demonstration, but charges were later dropped (g) against 45 of them.
There is, of course, anti-Semitism among native Germans. But I can tell you from first-hand experience, there is a whole lot more, and more virulent, anti-Semitism among residents of Germany who immigrated from Muslim countries. I have had dozens of conversations with recent immigrants from Muslim countries (often during German as a foreign language courses) that made my hair stand on end. Of course anti-Semitic attitudes are not confined to Muslim nations, but they are particularly common there. This should come as no surprise, since high-ranking leaders of the Arab world, especially, are notorious for embracing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as truth:
School textbooks and government statements incorporate vile anti-Semitic tropes, both at home and in European schools. In 2010, the BBC program Panorama revealed that:
[A]bout 40 Muslim weekend clubs and schools in the UK [are] using Saudi textbooks that, among other niceties, describe Jews as descended from "monkeys" and "pigs", denigrate nonbelievers, advocate killing homosexuals and refer to the "reprehensible qualities of Jews".
And Syria is one of the very worst offenders. Syria's current leader, Bashar al-Assad, has said:
'We must therefore speak about the street and not get bogged down in analyzing people. We say the [Israeli] Prime Minister is racist, the government is racist and the army is racist, but when we come to Israeli society, we are speechless. What is the sense of this? Everything that has already transpired is a result of Israeli society. It is a society more racist than the Nazis. Everyone says this in closed meetings. Every Arab citizen says these things. We represent the Arab world and it is therefore natural that we say what they want us to say and in a manner that will express the conscience of the Arab citizen'.
During the Pope's  visit to Syria, the President delivered a speech in which he referred to Israel thus: 'We hear them destroy the principle of equality while they speak of Allah who singled out their nation from other nations and we see them damaging the holy places to Islam and Christianity in Palestine … They are trying to destroy all the religions' monotheistic principles, according to the same mentality with which they betrayed Jesus and tortured him, and according to the same mentality with which they tried to kill the prophet Muhammad'. (emphasis added)
In mid-2014, a UN school for Palestinian refugee children in a refugee camp outside Damascus posted these cartoons to Facebook, celebrating a recent trend of Palestinians killing Israelis by running them over with automobiles.
There are thousands of examples of anti-Semitic indoctrination like this from all over the Muslim world (although not only the Muslim world, of course), and Syria is always near the top of the list.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Syria's once-thriving Jewish community has scattered, and that there are only 22 Jews left in Syria. So, as we welcome hundreds of thousands of random Syrians who happened to make it to German soil, we should keep in mind almost all of them were raised in a virulently anti-Semitic and anti-Israel political climate and educational system. And, as we saw in 2014, the mere fact of relocation to Germany does not automatically render every immigrant into a benevolent, tolerant person. I wonder if anyone is giving any thought to this?
One of the advantages of controlled immigration is that you have a better chance of weeding out people who are going to cause trouble in your country, for instance by chanting openly for your fellow citizens to be gassed to death. First thing we need is a border fence to stop the spectacle of masses of humans hiking across Southeastern Europe. Refugees should be screened where they now are, and if accepted, flown humanely direct to the country that has accepted them. There should be refugee-relocation centers in Syrian camps right now to screen potential refugees for relocation in Germany. They should have fluent Arabic speakers on staff. Preferably fellow Arabs, to increase the likelihood of honest answers. I would ask prospective Syrian refugees the following questions:
1. Are you aware that Germany has a large and growing Jewish population?
2. Are you aware that the Government of Germany has a close relationship with the State of Israel?
3. Do you believe that the Nazis murdered 6 million Jews during the Holocaust?
4. What is your personal opinion of the Jewish faith?
5. What is your opinion of the State of Israel?
6. Do you believe that Jews drink the blood of Christian children?
7. Do you believe that Jews have a secret plan for world domination?
8. How would you react if a neighbor moved in next door who was Jewish?
If the prospective Syrian refugee gives the 'wrong' answer to 2 or 3 of these questions, their application will be denied. They can apply to another country for asylum, one that is more in tune with their ideas. Germany is not obliged to take in all of the world's refugees, and doesn't need to import any more anti-Semites than it already has.