Führer Furor

3 06 2008

There was once a time in Germany where its leaders forbade the mere act of thinking certain things, where censorship reigned for fear of the influence of new ideas. No I don’t mean 1938, it is happening now, in 2008. More than sixty years since the fall of Third Reich, Germany appears to be wrestling with its Nazi guilt as Madame Tussauds announced its new wax museum will showcase a figurine of Adolf Hitler.

Hitler waxing poetic?

Many in Germany are outraged that Tussauds would dare include Hitler in an exhibit of world leaders in the Berlin Wax Museum set to open in July. Johannes Tuchel, editor of Gedenkstaette Deutscher Widerstand, a memorial for opponents of the Nazi regime stated the sentiment clearly, “It’s tasteless…A waxworks museum is meant to entertain and to amuse. It’s not appropriate to have a Hitler figure there.” He further elaborated his feelings, ““It’s embarassing that this part of German history should be exhibited like this. There’s also the danger that young people could try to take pictures with Hitler.”

Upon reading this morsel I was shocked. I had heard that Germans share a guilt over the Nazi era. I figured most felt no such feelings. I harbor no feelings of the so-called “White” guilt for sins of my great, great, great, great grandfathers. Should African descendants feel guilty for the sins of some tribes who sold other tribes into slavery? Its hard to say yes, isn’t it? The Nazi-guilt has made it illegal to use swastikas for any use unless explicitly shown in an attempt to satirize or distance one’s self from the National socialism movement of the 1930s and 40s. This is the case despite the fact the Nazi’s hold no rights over the image. They co-opted the symbol, just as Rome did with pagan imagery in their rise to power, in order to acquire authenticity through the use of historical symbolism. You can find references to it use many uses here. Buddhism, a philosophical religious tradition that focuses on self improvement through meditation, embraced the inherited symbol. Depending on its orientation, it means either universal harmony, the balance of opposites, or love and mercy. For the Hindus, the symbol can mean anything from the universe to a compass or even represents the god Surya.

How many young students in Germany will ever know this? As embarrassed generations take the paint brush to the mural of history, other important historical elements are white washed along with Nazism. History must be retold to avoid the mistakes of our fore bearers. Madame Tussauds will depictv Hitler in a diminutive manner where he “will be hunched over a desk in a dimly lit bunker,” according to a museum spokesman. Perhaps this is a concession to the German people, an attempt to avoid hostilities. It didn’t work.

In fairness, Berlin’s Mayor Klaus Wowereit did request via letter that the display include historical facts abouts the crimes Hitler committed. The JTA said, “An unscientific, interactive survey in the Berlin Tagesspiegel daily newspaper showed that 57 percent of about 1,400 readers agree that ‘Hitler is an historical figure, thus belongs in the show,’ while 43 percent said ‘Hitler should stay where he belongs – in history books.'” There are indeed signs of a loosening on anti-Hitler policies and opinions across Deutschland, although it is still illegal to show artwork glorifying him.

Madame Tussauds’ forthcoming exhibit will do a great service to Germany and humanity at large. Forcing later generations to confront the sins of their fathers for education’s sake will hopefully insure us from ourselves later. This is not the case yet, ahem, for Darfur. Stephan Kramer, general secretary of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, said, “Trying to erase Hitler from history doesn’t work and is counterproductive,” and he went on to point out seeing Hitler hunched over may help “demystify” Hitler. Finally, the Madame Tussauds in a statement provided the most obvious point:

[Hitler’s rule] stands for an important, though also appalling, turning point in the development of modern Europe…To ignore Hitler’s role in this era would allow a strange gap to develop in the German and Berlin history that we show from [19th century chancellor Otto von] Bismarck to the present day.

Politicians, historians, radicals, moderates and ignorant citizens please put down the white out and embrace the past we may better our future.


Nazi Appeasement

16 05 2008

Yesterday, amid the 60th anniversary of Israel’s proclamation of statehood, President Bush reminded us of his willingness to isolate US diplomatic efforts from our enemies.  What may be the first attack by an American against a domestic political rival from foreign lands, Mr. Bush compared Barack Obama to Nazi appeasers leading up to World War II.  Bush stuttered, “As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.'”  It is probably worth noting the quote was originally said by a Republican, William Edgar Borah (a Republican who believed in small government, open market economies and frequently shed the yoke of party loyalty opting to remain loyal to his own principles).   Many leftist bloggers will write pages and pages on Bush’s “malarkey,” as Senator Biden put it, but I want to focus on what strikes me as the more dangerous issue: this administration’s unwillingness to communicate with our country’s enemies. 

The President consistently refuses to speak to those that are not our friends and allies.  He said in Israel Wednesday (paraphrasing) that he can’t understand why one would negotiate with an entity that has promised to kill you, a la Iran’s expressed wish to annihilate Israel.  This is something those on the Right (and Hillary for that matter) insist on lambasting Obama on as he has said he would be willing to meet with Iran without preconditions.  Obama said he would “”I think it is important for us to send a signal that we are not hellbent on regime change, just for the sake of regime change, but expect changes in behavior. And there are both carrots and there are sticks available to them for those changes in behavior.”  Obama suggested he would sit down with North Korea and Syria without preconditions as well.

Ironically Obama’s attempts at peace are limited to what he deems as states.  In mid-April as people from all sides of the political spectrum condemned President Carter for meeting with Hamas, Senator Obama reminded us that even his ideas of “change” stray into hypocritical territory.  “We must not negotiate with a terrorist group intent on Israel’s destruction.  We should only sit down with Hamas if they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel’s right to exist and abide by past agreements,” Obama said.  Was Hamas not elected by the people?  Are we not seeking democratic revolution across the Mideast?  Democracy is ok so long as we like and/or can pick the winners.

The point is if a mugger came up to you and pointed a gun at your face, would you not plead and offer your wallet in hopes of sparing your life?  Would you not negotiate?  Why are Israel’s and the United States’ foreign policies so hellbent on refusing diplomatic relations?  Of course Iran is beligerent.   Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be insane for wishing for the nuclear obliteration of Israel, but calling him crazy does little for the cause of negotiating peace.   It is worth noting that Mussolini’s son-in-law, Galeazzo Ciano, had many conversations with Manfred Jonas, 1940’s US ambassador to Italy leading up to World War II, and yet nobody called him a fascist appeaser.  Let’s talk about our disagreements rather than let them fester, which will only lead to increased animosity between all parties involved.  Let’s pull our collective heads out of the sand (and our asses)!  Some might call that appeasement, The BBD calls it a chance at peace.


UPDATE: Found this bit on Slate after the post.  McCain asked, “What does [Obama] want to talk about with Ahmadinejad, who said that Israel is a stinking corpse? Who said that he wants to wipe Israel off the map, who is sending the most explosive devices into Iraq killing Americans? What does he want to talk about?”  I don’t know Senator McCain, maybe he wants to talk to Ahmadinejad about his alienating rhetoric. Maybe Obama wants to encourage the Iranian President to pursue a productive path toward global participation.  Maybe they will have a laugh about how Obama’s middle name is the same as the former Iraqi dictator.  Nice one John, way to keep it classy.

-Z- (again)