A Historical Parallel
Updated November 16, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
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While the following observations from Claudia Koonz’s book The Nazi Conscience are overall very important and highly relevant to the current situation in the U.S., Koonz’s statement that the Nazis replaced traditional religious ideology with their own “secular” ideology is not entirely accurate. In fact, the NAZIs made use of and promoted reactionary traditional religion. And, in the fascist movement in U.S. society today, and specifically the Trump phenomenon and the impending Trump regime, reactionary fundamentalist Christianity—Christian Fascism—has all along been, and is now, a major factor.
“Hitler, always an astute reader of his audiences’ desires, heard Germans’ hunger for a government they could trust and a national purpose they could believe in. From his earliest days as a political orator, he addressed that longing. In phrases his opponents ridiculed as empty and followers heard as inspirational, Hitler promised to rescue old-fashioned values of honor and dignity from the materialism, degeneracy, and cosmopolitanism of modern life. His supporters’ lists of grievances were long, and their anxieties ran deep. Bolsheviks threatened revolution; emancipated women abandoned their family responsibilities; capitalists amassed immense fortunes; and foreign states robbed Germany of its rightful status as a European power. Hitler transformed his followers’ anger at cultural and political disorder into moral outrage. In place of the Weimar Republic, which he ridiculed as weak and feminine, Hitler promised the dawn of a resolute masculine order. Where once religion had provided a steady moral purpose, Nazi culture offered an absolutist secular faith.
“Unlike liberal regimes, in which the moral calculus turns on the concept of universal human rights, the Third Reich extolled the well-being of the ethnic German community as the benchmark for moral reasoning. Nazi morality explicitly promoted racist and sexist assumptions at a time when ideals of equality had begun to make themselves felt throughout the Western world. German racial theorists, eager to be seen as modern and progressive, dignified age-old prejudices with the claims of science. They appealed not so much to malevolence as to ideas of health, hygiene, and progress in their campaign to elicit compliance with policies that might otherwise have been seen as cruel and violent. Mobilizing citizens in a modern and enlightened nation, Nazi rule relied not only on repression but also on an appeal to communal ideals of civic improvement. In a vibrant public culture founded on self-denial and collective revival, ethnic Germans were exhorted to expunge citizens deemed alien and to ally themselves only with people sanctioned as racially valuable. The road to Auschwitz was paved with righteousness.”
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