Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
There are many people in the United States who feel that the political left is waging a war on the White male. Just as people of color cannot control to whom they are born, neither can a White male in the United States which may lead to this erroneous assertion. There are those who even feel that Whites are being disenfranchised and need to fight for their rights. There are clearly racial, gender, and class disparities within the United States but it can be argued that those who are trying to erase those disparities are in fact overcompensating and perpetuating race discrimination. Regardless of how you feel about these issues, Nazis are assholes.
The images from Charlottesville were disturbing to many. We live in a great country that allows the freedom of speech but that doesn’t change the fact that protestors with Nazi flags are distasteful to most of us. The swastika is not just isolated to the South because the White separatist movement is pervasive throughout the United States. Over the years, I have taken care of at least thirty patients in California with swastika tattoos, and those are just the ones that I could see.
For all of you aspiring neo-Nazis out there, I think that a history lesson is in order to see if this is really the group with whom you identify. Before carrying a banner with a swastika or getting a lovely tramp stamp with Adolf’s favorite symbol, you should know what this really stands for.
According to Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer, the Holocast was “rooted in an illusionary world of Nazi imagination, where an international Jewish conspiracy to control the world was opposed to a parallel Aryan quest.” The National Socialist German Workers’ Party (or Nazi party) originated in 1920 with the widespread belief that some races were superior to others. In the 1930’s, the rights of Jews were steadily restricted. There was a boycott on Jewish businesses, Jews were excluded from civil service, all Jewish lawyers were disbarred, and Jewish students were restricted from schools and universities. Many Jewish businesses were forced to close or sell to Germans. Jewish authors, artists and composers were excluded from publications and performances.
In 1935, Hitler prohibited Germans from having sexual relations with or marrying Jews. The Nuremberg Laws also stripped German Jews of their citizenship and deprived them of all civil rights. Nazi policy was aimed at forcing Jews to emigrate. When Germany annexed Austria in 1938, the same hilarity ensued. In November 1938, a Polish Jew and illegal immigrant, Herschel Grynszpan, shot a German diplomat in the German Embassy in Paris. In retaliation, the SS and German citizens destroyed over 7500 Jewish shops, damaged or destroyed 1000 synagogues, and 30,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps (although most were released within a couple of weeks).
After Germany occupied Poland in WWII, they gained control of about 2 million Jews. They were placed in ghettos with restricted food supply and poor public hygiene or in labor camps. As Germany annexed other territories, they sent the Jews into central Poland in the ghettos and labor camps. Although about half a million Jews died from starvation and disease, they were not initially part of the extermination of the Jews. As time went on, the guards at the labor camps became more brutal and the death rate increased as the guards beat and starved prisoners as well as outright killing them. Extermination through labor became a policy and Germans estimated the average prisoner’s life span in a concentration camp was three months.
After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, they encouraged the occupied Soviet territories to murder Jews. Although some were sent to Poland, many were killed by local police with the assistance of the SS. One massacre in the Ukraine resulted in the death of thirty two thousand Jews in two days. Shooting this many Jews proved inefficient and Himmler was concerned that the mass shootings were causing psychological problems in the SS. Germany looked for more efficient methods for killing the Jews. They experimented with gas vans that killed people in a sealed compartment in the vans but this also proved inefficient.
In January of 1942, the leaders of the Nazi party met and developed the “final solution to the Jewish question in Europe.” This plan involved forced labor where most were expected to succumb to the poor conditions and being worked to death. The rest of the 11 million Jews in Europe and adjacent territories would be killed.
The Germans built six extermination camps for mass murder with gas chambers. Jews were packed into trains beyond capacity and were not given any food nor water. As an added bonus, they were forced to pay the fee for a standard-fare ticket. Mercifully, children under four were free. Upon arrival to these camps most were told to undress and herded naked into gas chambers being told that they were showers or delousing chambers. Gold teeth and fillings were then removed by prisoners of the camp who were then tasked with disposing of the bodies. Germans made soap out of the fat from exterminated Jews. Some inmates were placed into rooms without food or water until they died. Initially bodies were buried but later they were dug up and burned. Auschwitz is estimated to have killed over a million people.
If killing 6 million Jews wasn’t bad enough, torture and human experimentation were rampant within the camps and encouraged by Nazi high command.
Janowska was one of the camps where Nazi sociopaths thrived. Jews there were forced to work 12 hours per day and when they showed signs of fatigue, they were placed between rows of wire and left there to die. The prisoners were inspected daily and if an SS officer didn’t like their appearance, they weren’t paying attention, or often for no reason at all they were shot in the head.
Each executioner had a favorite way of killing Jews in the camp. Some were shot, flogged to death, choked, hung, fixed to a cross, or cut to pieces with knives or axes. Women were mostly flogged to death or killed by stabbing. Janowska developed its own death waltz that was played during the murder of many Jews.
Fritz Gebauer was a particularly sadistic commander. He was known for strangling women and children with his own hands. In the depth of winter he would have people tied up, placed in a barrel, then the barrels were filled with water. They remained there until they froze to death.
One of his deputies, Gustav Wilhaus, would regularly fire a machine gun from the balcony of the camp office at the prisoners to amuse his wife and daughter. He would then pass the gun to his wife who would do the same. Reportedly on one occasion Wilhaus ordered someone to toss two four year olds into the air while he fired at them. His 9-year-old daughter applauded and cried, “Papa, do it again, papa do it again!” So he did.
Obersturmbannfuehrer Rokita’s hobbies included ripping prisoners’ bodies apart. Heinen, a true environmentalist, would try to see how many Jews he could kill with one bullet.
Medical experiments were rampant in concentration camps. Nazi high command ordered experiments on freezing. Young, health Jews or Russians were either placed in a vat of icy water until they froze to death or strapped to a stretcher and placed outside naked until they froze to death. They also experimented with various rewarming methods including sun lamps so hot they would burn the skin.
At the Ravensbrück concentration camp, they performed experiments on bone, muscle, and nerve regeneration as well as bone transplantation from one person to another. Sections of bones, muscles, and nerves were removed without anesthesia and many victims suffered intense agony and those who survived were deformed and crippled.
In one camp, they wanted to study head injury. A young boy around 12 years old was strapped into a chair where a mechanized hammer hit his head every few seconds. Eventually he was “driven insane” from this torture.
There were many experiments where those in the concentration camps were given disease, such as tuberculosis and bacterial infections then tested with various drugs, most of whom died from that disease. In one camp they exposed subjects to mustard gas to inflict severe chemical burns. Different treatments were then tested. This was of course without anesthesia.
In one camp, about 90 Roma (an ethnic group also referred to as gypsies) were deprived of food and water and were just given sea water. They were so dehydrated that they would lick the freshly mopped floors.
There were numerous other experiments. Subjects were given poison, burns, gunshots or amputations, all without anesthesia, and different treatments were studied.
This is just the tip of the iceberg describing the atrocities that the Nazis performed. Not only did they ignore human suffering, they delighted in it. They treated Jews, Roma, homosexuals, mentally ill, and mentally disabled as subhuman and subjected them to abhorrent conditions. The lucky ones were killed quickly while millions were worked to death, starved to death, or died from inhumane conditions.
Think of this when our President said that there are “some very fine people on both sides” in reference to Charleston. If you are a Nazi, you are an asshole. If you have a swastika tattooed on you, you are an asshole. Those who choose to demonstrate with Nazi flags have a right to free speech. However, as a country, we need to condemn them unequivocally because you have a right to free speech but you are still an asshole. This should not be a politically divisive issue. During WWII, our country was united in the opinion that Nazis were bad and needed to be stopped. When you proudly display a swastika, you are endorsing an ideology that led to inhumane atrocities that are beyond comprehension.