Sunday 28 July 2019

The Seduction of Fascism and Responses to it

“So what is fascism, and how is it different from nationalism? Well, nationalism tells me that my nation is unique, and that I have special obligations towards my nation. Fascism, in contrast, tells me that my nation is supreme, and that I have exclusive obligations towards it. I don't need to care about anybody or anything other than my nation. But, well, who ever told you that life was easy? Life is complicated. Deal with it. Fascism is what happens when people try to ignore the complications and to make life too easy for themselves. Fascism denies all identities except the national identity and insists that I have obligations only towards my nation.”
― Yuval Harari, “Why Fascism is so Tempting” a Ted talk 

“The mechanisms of fascist politics all build upon and support one another. They weave a myth of distinction between “us” and “them,” based in a romanticized fictional past featuring “us” and no “them.” and supported by a resentment for a corrupt liberal elite who take our hard-earned money and threaten our traditions.”

― Jason Stanley, How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them

"We Americans must realize that the altruistic ideals which have controlled our social development during the past century and the maudlin sentimentalism that has made America 'an asylum for the oppressed,' are sweeping the nation toward a racial abyss."
― Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race, 1915

“Judged by accepted canons of statecraft, the white man towered the indisputable master of the planet.”
“The negro, on the contrary, has contributed virtually nothing. Left to himself, he remained a savage…”
― T. Lothrop Stoddard, The Rising Tide of Color Against White-Supremacy 1920
"Have you read 'The Rise of the Colored Empires’ by this man Goddard?...  The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be—will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved…It’s up to us, who are the dominant race to watch out or these other races will have control of things… We’re Nordics. I am, and you are, and you are…and we’ve produced all the things that go to make civilization—oh, science and art, and all that.”
F  Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby must realize that the altruistic ideals 

Isadore Greenbaum 
"His name is Isadore Greenbaum. He’s a Jew, a plumber’s helper from Brooklyn. He rushes onto the stage, beneath a portrait of George Washington flanked by swastikas. He tries to accost the Nazi who is denouncing the 'Jewish-controlled press' and calling for a 'white gentile-ruled' United States. Uniformed storm troopers beat him. Police officers drag him from the stage, pants ripped, arms raised in desperate entreaty. The mob howls in delight.

It’s Feb. 20, 1939. More than 20,000 Nazi sympathizers are packed into Madison Square Garden as Greenbaum attempts to silence Fritz Kuhn, Bundesführer (so-called) of the German American Bund. Greenbaum has been enraged by Kuhn’s demand that the country be delivered from Jewish clutches and “returned to the American people who founded it.” A selection from a powerful column by Roger Cohen in The New York Times  

Cabaret … takes place largely in a specific Berlin cabaret, circa 1930, in which decadence and sexual ambiguity were just part of the ambience (like the women mud-wrestlers who appeared between acts). This is no ordinary musical. Part of its success comes because it doesn't fall for the old cliché that musicals have to make you happy. Instead of cheapening the movie version by lightening its load of despair, director Bob Fosse has gone right to the bleak heart of the material and stayed there well enough to win an Academy Award for Best Director."
— Roger Ebert, 1972

For a review of the 2014 New York production of Cabaret

"Though most Gestapo files were destroyed before war's end, one revealing discovery from intact archives in the town of Wurzburg indicates that the secret police -far from randomly unleashing terror - spent much of its time responding to denunciations by ordinary citizens against their neighbors."
 —  Excerpt from a review The Nazis: A Warning from History  by Laurence Rees 

The character-driven award-winning series, Village Français, explores to what extent its' citizens corroborated with the Germans. With its wonderful ensemble cast, it takes several episodes for their roles to begin to evolve in response to the Occupation. Our early perceptions about who might represent the moral compass of the villagers often turn out to be wrong. Apart from one German Commandant who is a member of the dreaded SD (the intelligence division of the Gestapo), there are no egregious villains, even among the Germans. Instead, it depicts a kaleidoscopic adjustment as relations between people, both French and Germans, are constantly shifting.

Labyrinth of Lies, which opens in 1958, resurrects a later chapter (after the 1940s Nuremberg trials) in the aftermath of the Holocaust that has largely faded from view, at least for many Americans: the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials of the 1960s, in which 22 former mid- and lower-level functionaries at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp were tried for murder.
The trials ended a period of relative calm during the reconstruction of a divided Germany, when the prevailing attitude toward the Nazi past was a state of willful amnesia. Ordinary Germans who had joined the Nazi Party and committed atrocities returned to civilian life. A statute of limitations prevented prosecutions for war crimes, excepting murder.
  The central character, Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling), a fictitious composite      of three lawyers, is an idealistic new employee in the public prosecutor’s office in          Frankfurt, frustrated by his banal work in a traffic court. Through Thomas Gnielka       (André Szymanski), a journalistic acquaintance, he learns of Simon Kirsch (Johannes   Krisch), an Auschwitz survivor who has accidentally crossed paths with one of his   wartime persecutors, who is now a schoolteacher. Radmann has never heard of            Auschwitz, which the screenplay (by Mr. Ricciarelli and Elisabeth Bartel) pointedly        reminds us, was not in Germany but in Poland.
When he sets out to prosecute the teacher, Radmann faces stern resistance. Voicing his frustration that thousands of former Nazis went unpunished and simply returned to ordinary life after the war, he encounters stony-faced indifference and hostility, although the only outright threat is a rock imprinted with a swastika thrown through a window.
Studying the voluminous files stored at the United States Army Document Center, Radmann finds his worst fears substantiated. He is encouraged in his investigations by Fritz Bauer, a real-life prosecutor wonderfully played by Gert Voss, who died in 2014 and to whom the film is dedicated. Bauer wears an expression of wide-eyed, infinitely sad knowledge of evil.
  It is difficult to believe that in the 1950s so many Germans born after 1930, like     Radmann, knew little if anything about Auschwitz, even though many older family   members belonged to the Nazi Party and some even worked at the camp. Those   confronted with committing atrocities in the past smugly trot out the familiar defense   that they had no choice and were just following orders.
  — Stephen Holden, The New York Times September 29, 2015

One of the best books I read in preparing this course. Neiman employs both a scholarly and personal lens. Her book is highly engaging.

"Neiman believes that people who live in a society built on injustice, even though they may not have created the injustice, are responsible for correcting it. The moral precedent for American reparations to its black citizens is rooted in Germany’s post-World War II compensation for its past crimes. If one believes German reparations were justified, how can one oppose them in America?....
Despite her having insisted that her project was not about comparative evil but how evil is remembered, Germans almost uniformly rejected any suggestion of a comparison. They considered what they did far worse than slavery. Americans also uniformly rejected the comparison, but for different reasons. Convinced that slavery was not nearly as serious a blot on their country’s history as the Holocaust was on Germany’s, Americans use that fact as a means of blinding themselves to its horrors. In that contrast there is, Neiman suggests, a lesson about confronting the past."

— Deborah E. Lipstadt, The New York Times

A German classroom in Where to Invade Next

Screenshots from Look Who's Back

"Once, the idea that a Hitler could rise to power in the 21st century seemed like the fantasy of conspiracy theorists. Today, a better question isn’t if Hitler is coming back, but if we’ll recognize him when he does. Maybe, as in the episode of “Andy Richter Controls the Universe,” he’ll come back as the coffee cart guy at a corporate office in Chicago. Maybe, as some have cast Donald Trump, he’ll come back as a bullying businessman who would tear the world to pieces just to secure the power that money can’t buy. But, as a horrifyingly perceptive new German comedy reminds us, one thing’s for sure: Hitler won’t come back as himself."

— David Ehrich,  Indie Wire

Rosenstrasse monument
The power of civil disobedience and the power of love
Overcame the violence of the dictatorship
Women stood here
Defying death
Gave us our men back

Jewish men were free

"The past and present are a terrifying blur in Transit, a brilliant allegory set in France that opens amid wailing police sirens. The solitary man in a cafe sipping espresso doesn’t flinch. He is soon joined by a second man who gives him a name: Georg. “Why are you still here,” the second man asks, “Paris is being sealed off.” In urgent tones, they discuss visas, danger, money. Georg agrees to deliver two letters and then steps into streets filled with jackboots and terror, a world in which time seems to have folded in on itself."

                  Manohia Dargis, The New York Times, February 8, 2019 

A provocative opinion piece about how fascism is alive and well in America is worth reading


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