On Bigoted Use of the Word Nazi.

A few weeks ago I had a visitor at my lab from our other plant in Germany. We did not have too much work to do at that time so after i have shown him around we had some time to chat about this and that.

One of the things that transpired was that he is married to a woman who is of US American / German descend.  He said her Texan grandfather took it rather badly and commented it along the lines “I was fighting against Nazis in war, and my daughter and granddaughter both married one.”.

I looked at him after this and asked the first question that popped in my mind: “Is your grandfather in law per chance a Republican and did he vote for Trump?” To which his answer was yes on both accounts.

I was astounded at this blatant display of a lack of self-awareness.

I mean, it is not uncommon to hear something similar in CZ. Even some of my close friends sometimes ask me – and only half-jokingly – if I still work “for Nazis” or in “Naziland”. Even I said such things.  The German nation will in minds of many Czechs never ever get rid of the black stain the horrors of the WW2 have made on its reputation, not to mention previous thousands of years of mutual enmity between Slavic and Germanic nations and the two hundreds years long attempts at Germanization of Czechs. History cannot be denied or ignored, and its consequences do and will reach far into the future.

There is still also a lot of anti-slavic prejudice (not only) in Germany to this day. When Czech Republic entered in the EU, there was a lot of people near the borders who feared the influx of uncouth Czechs that would lead to a massive rise in crime-rate and stealing of jobs from proper Germans. Which of course did not happen.

It is therefore understandable that some Czechs view Germans as a whole with distrust and dislike, even though not justifying the over broad use of the term “Nazi” for anyone from Germany.

The current rise in nationalism spurred by anti-muslim sentiments, both in EU and in USA, seems to have led to a peculiar situation demonstrated by the Texan grandfather in law of my colleague’s. A lot of people seem to be putting an unqualified equal sign between the words “Nazi” (or “fascist”) and “German” in their minds whilst completely forgetting – or perhaps never even knowing – what this originally was about. And so subsequently they are voting for de-facto Nazis, who spout nazi rhetoric and try to propagate nazi policies, the whole package – unbridled racism and white supremacy, yearning for a golden age that never was, scapegoating and dehumanizing whole ethnic groups, wishing for concentration camps, firing squads and wars to beat opponents into submission (even the “traditional family values” and homophobia are in that package). All the while saying that “Nazis are bad” and thinking themselves opposing Nazis and nazism.

Yes, I know, one could quibble about whether the term Nazi really does fit Trump and the Republican party. One could discuss the minutiae endlessly and talk over differences in definitions and perspectives. There are differences. However I would argue that the term does indeed fit Republicans in general and Trump in particular much, much better than it does a typical German in these days, who most likely would feel ashamed and sorry for what Nazis have done and would despise them.

Lets not forget that not all (not even most) Germans are Nazis and not all Nazis are German. Lets not forget that first victims of first Nazis were Germans – German Jews, German communists, German mentally ill and handicapped and many just ordinary decent Germans. Using the term Nazi as a generic sneer against Germans is morphing into a form of bigotry of its own, an a dangerous one at that. Because as it usually is with such things, it shifts the focus from bad things people do on people who are perceived as bad whatever they do*.

  • I have not heard this yet, but I wonder if there is someone somewhere who dislikes Angela Merkel and accuses her of being a Nazi for accepting refugees? I know for sure there are people who accuse her of giving power to Nazis by doing it.


  1. DonDueed says

    Great post, Charly. I’ve noticed this too, and even in myself somewhat (in a slightly different context).

    In my case, I’ve lately been reading about the naval war in the Pacific, in which the Japanese (of that era) did some truly despicable things. I then find myself thinking about the current popularity of anime, manga, samurai movies and other things Japanese, and wondering how anyone could enjoy anything produced by those people.

    There definitely seems to be some cognitive dissonance going on in your friend’s grandfather. But depending on his age at the time, he may have absorbed the anti-German propaganda of the war years without really understanding the policies that his country was fighting against. I wonder if he has the same feelings about the “Japs”, while (perhaps) owning a Toyota?

  2. Nightjar says

    I have not heard this yet, but I wonder if there is someone somewhere who dislikes Angela Merkel and accuses her of being a Nazi

    *ashamedly begins to raise hand*

    for accepting refugees?

    Oh no, not for that!

    Now seriously, I have heard Angela Merkel being called a Nazi plenty of times, and I may have jokingly implied it myself at some point. This was during the worst of the debt crisis and as EU policies were visibly beginning to destruct our basic social security networks, though it never got as bad as in Greece, it got pretty bad nonetheless. There was certainly some anti-German prejudice at play in the choice of insult, other prominent EU politicians and our own politicians were just “fascists” she was “the Nazi”. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that she became much less hated here recently, partly because of her stance on refugees. That, together with Brexit and Trump, seems to have gained her some sympathy among the general public. I guess it was a collective “oh shit, we’ll still be needing the words nazism and fascism, probably not a good idea to lightly misuse them just yet”. Ah, the good old days, when we thought Merkel was bad and it couldn’t get any worse…

  3. says

    Lets not forget that first victims of first Nazis were Germans – German Jews, German communists, German mentally ill and handicapped and many just ordinary decent Germans

    *raises hand*
    That would be my family.
    So if you call me a Nazi, we will not be friends.
    But on a general lwvel, there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that this person will be in a position of power above me, so I’ll mostly be annoyed that people thereby minimize the crimes of the Nazis.

  4. Kreator says

    Meanwhile, in Argentina, there’s been quite the scandal: a high school teacher (of History and Civics!) was recently caught telling her students that Hitler had been demonized because history was written by the winners: that he had gotten Germany ahead (she listed “the good things that Hitler had done, because on the Internet you’ll only find the bad ones”), that he wasn’t a dictator because he had been democratically elected and that the Jews earned the hate they received throughout Europe by being secretive, greedy and unwilling to share their wealth with their home countries. She justified concentration camps by saying that, while they had been terrible, others like Stalin and Mao Zedong had used them as well so it wasn’t fair to single out Germany.
    Fortunately the students didn’t seem to be buying it, goading her to dig deeper while one of them recorded the whole “lesson” with their smartphone; the video was then disseminated online by a local Antifa organisation. The woman was promptly fired from the two private schools she worked at, while showing no regrets and justifying her position on a historical basis. The latest news is that the woman, who used a pseudonym online, acts in an erotic show called “Bloody Burlesque” where she dons Nazi regalia (nothing wrong with the job by itself of course, it’s the context that’s fucked up.)
    The woman in question
    A picture from her show (NSFW!)

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