Thesis: To be for or against Hitler in 2016 is anachronistic. Our taste must compel us to evaluate ideas and actions, independent of the vanities and predilection for snoring of the individual. This is not precisely a new idea —
l’homme ne rien, l’œuvre tout, thus Gustav Flaubert wrote to Lucile Dupin in 1875, impressing both Nietzsche and the author of Sherlock Holmes [the man is of no account, his work is everything].
Yet, one frequently sees the principle abused. Two such examples of intellectual dishonesty are shown here.
The first exhibit is from India, with an enumeration of factoids about Hitler, written mostly in Hindi. The author is evidently a critic of Hitler. Even though the assertions presented are largely accurate, the reader unfamiliar with India would be astonished by a couple of things.
One, no reference is made to the robbery, the humiliation, the ostracizing, to the machinery of death of the Nazis. Perhaps because the Holocaust is a bare blip in the Indian consciousness, with quite possibly the majority utterly ignorant of it. Thus, we have a situation where Hitler is brought to our attention, and chastised, but the ignorance of a major crime against humanity is perpetuated.
Secondly, the author claims that Hitler used to believe ‘those of a certain religion’ to be enemies of the country. The author does not use the word Jew — and as the Hindi word ‘dharma’ is the closest in the language to English ‘religion’, one loses the aspect that it was more than a religion that was under attack in the declining years of the Weimar Republic: getting oneself baptized as a Christian did not make a Jew immune to secret policemen, for instance. Again, the upshot is that, although no falsehood has been uttered, the wholesale persecution of large chunks of the European population is made a little less deadly.
To what end is all this, asks the foreign reader? It is made clear by the first, the very first remark: that Hitler did not marry. Why should this matter, one might ask, but then one recalls that the present Indian Prime Minister has not ever married either. Each one of the statements made about Hitler could be applied to Mr Modi, and the author of this adolescent exercise writes at the end, ‘should the reader find the above statements to apply to anyone apart from Hitler, then credit is due to the reader’s imagination’.
Now, the list does not contain the fact that Hitler was a vegetarian, or that he kept away from alcohol. This is probably because millions of Indians, especially Hindus, avoid meat, and for many the consumption of alcohol has negative connotations.
There are some other inanities: Hitler really liked getting dressed up. So, quite possibly, does the girl who played in the Harry Potter movies.
Hitler lied to gain control of the government, reveals the author. This might even be true of all politicians, so we wonder why Hitler is singled out. The street fights instigated and fought by his band of thugs do not here find mention.
This puerile product, alas, distracts from the real allegations of fascism in India.
For example, the insistence upon blood as a critical aspect of national identity finds resonance with both Hitler and Modi, as the following resource suggests:
The atmosphere of intolerance and rabid hatred in pre-war Nazi Germany is comparable to contemporary India, as also depicted in these two resources; one is about how rumor of cow slaughter led to a lynching, while the other is about how the same rumor led to a public whipping (there is even a video):
The refusal to be a narrow-minded nationalist is met with violence, in the worst case, and ostracizing, in the best case, then and now, as suggested by:
There are other similarities too: homosexuality is a crime, in democratic India as in Nazi Germany, but our author does not think it necessary to bring that up. Perhaps because he or she finds homosexuality disturbing, or does not believe that sexual freedom is an important thing.
Both had / have capital punishment — the author does not seem to mind. One cannot allow oneself to be soft-hearted when dealing with evil-doers, no?
Both had people openly writing ‘I love Hitler’ on Facebook, as the following image shows (the screenshot is from India; a similar picture from Nazi Germany could not be found in time for publication, but the essential proposition is not seriously contested):
In both places, ‘Mein Kampf’, is a bestseller. The difference is that, in India, it is sold in translation.
Germany’s ‘Lügenpresse’ (lying media) is echoed in India’s ‘presstitute’ (evidently a portmanteau from ‘press’ and ‘prostitute’, with the prudish idea that being a prostitute is somehow dishonorable). Both mean the same thing: media which continually disagrees with my point of view.
There are differences, of course: racism is not endorsed in the statute book in India. However, anyone who imagines this to imply that racism is not a fundamental part of Indian society is, alas, mistaken.
This schoolboy Hitler critique is a disservice to the cause of human dignity and individual freedom, even though it purports to be in their name. It is dedicated to ‘the struggle carried out by all anti-Hitler forces’.
Another example of such intellectual dishonesty is from the other side of the world, one where few can claim to not have heard about the Holocaust, or about using fallacies to sneakily led the reader to a false conclusion.
The difference is that the target is not Mr Modi, but the American presidential candidate, Mr Trump.
The headline suggests that the ‘Nazi who originated Donald Trump Jr.’ Skittles analogy was hanged at Nuremberg’.
The assertion that the idea of certain elements being deadly for society was originated by this specific person in the twentieth century, prima facie, sounds incredible, given that demagogues throughout history have militated against the Other.
However, even the internal evidence does not support the headline, for the text goes on to say, ‘The concept dates back to at least 1938 and a children’s book called…..’.
Suddenly, the claim in the headline of ‘origination’ has been watered down to ‘at least 1938’, i.e. the Nazi author of the book at least had the same idea, even if he did not originate it.
Indeed, it appears to be an inept attempt to justify using a sensationalist headline with emotional terms: “Nazi”, “Nuremberg”, “hanged”. The parallel is tenuous, and we are forced to conclude that the author’s claim of definitely establishing the origin of a certain xenophobic idea to a person and a publication is made only to be able to publish a picture of three influential Nazis, and capitalize on the shock value of that connection. This kind of illegitimate reasoning is, ironically, what the Nazis, and even in the quoted example of the toadstools, were reasonably good at.
This sort of shoddy argument in a war against those who offend taste or human dignity is a disservice to the cause.
One can well imagine that those who do not appreciate being assaulted by such infantile tricks might vote for Mr Trump out of sheer bloody-mindedness. Even if that does not happen, the notion that the end justifies the means is deserving of critical debate.
As we know, one ‘Bohemian private’ used it to deadly effect.