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The Nazi Legacy
The Nazi Party’s defeat at the end of World War II meant the demolition of the Nazism ideology and a stop to their horrific practices. Their defeat led to the liberty of Jews and other minorities and ended a violent and dark period. However, the Nazi Party left various legacies after the war that have impacts on today’s society. Many victims still remember their horrific experiences while some modern individuals rediscover and reestablish the Nazi ideology. The Nazis’ legacies included the remains of their horrific actions, the original Nazi members, and the emergence of neo-Nazism in society.
Archeological Nazi-Related Discoveries
One of the most well-known Nazi practices was the establishment of concentration camps. The Nazis used these sites to conduct experiments, detain prisoners, segregate minorities, and do other activities. After the Nazi Party’s defeat, authorities shut down concentration camps and freed the prisoners. However, the Nazi Party’s utilization of the camps encompassed more than detention, human experimentation, and execution. These places also became the burying grounds for thousands of Nazi victims.
While authorities estimate that the Nazi victims were around 15 to 16 million individuals , Nazi-related research continues to discover sites that imply more victims and atrocious actions. Recently, researchers uncovered a site near the former Soldau concentration camp where the Nazis buried at least 8,000 victims (Kirby, 2022). The site had 17.5 tonnes of human ashes, including remains of clothing. There was also another discovery in the Sobibor extermination camp where researchers found I.D. tags of four Jewish children (Gershon, 2021). These discoveries tell stories of Nazi victims, as well as how the Nazis implemented their ideologies. They act as some of the Nazi Party’s legacies as they testify to the inhumane methods of the Nazis and could bring back the trauma and memories of the victims.
Remaining Original Nazi Members
Aside from the archeological legacies, there is also the human aspect of the Nazi legacy. The defeat of the Nazi Party led to the imprisonment of its members and the deaths of many officers. However, some Nazi members escaped Germany and fled to other countries. One example of this is the case of Jakiw Palij, a former Nazi concentration camp guard. Palij immigrated to the U.S. in 1949 and claimed that he was a worker on their family farm. Investigations later revealed that he was a guard in the Trawniki camp. During Trump’s presidency, the U.S. successfully deported Palij back to Germany (Schwartz, 2019). Palij later died in Germany, which many perceived as a good thing. He is also the last known living Nazi member, meaning that his death implies that all the original Nazi members have died.
Palij’s case showcased that the Nazis’ actions decades ago still have relevance. The U.S. struggled to deport Palij because no other country, including Germany, wanted to accept him. For individuals learning about his death, they see it as a positive thing, citing that he was an evil man (Friedman, n.d., cited in Schwartz, 2019). Additionally, while Palij is the last known living Nazi, there are still Nazi hunters looking for Nazi members who might still be alive (Schwartz, 2019). This fact has many implications, such as that some of the remaining Nazi members could continue the Nazi Party’s legacy and teach the Nazism ideology. With their association with the Third Reich and first-hand knowledge of Nazism, they can pass on the legacy of Nazism, such as the emerging neo-Nazism ideology.
Neo-Nazism is perhaps the most prominent and alarming legacy of the Nazi Party. Neo-Nazism adopts the idea that the Aryan race is the superior race. They also promote the rejection of democracy, rejection of liberalism, holocaust denials , and other Nazi ideologies. However, neo-Nazis tend to utilize non-violent activism instead of the explicit and aggressive tactics of the Nazi Party. This limits their capacity to publicly promote neo-Nazism, leading them to utilize online communities and establish training camps for other activists (Jackson, 2020). Despite the non-violent approach of neo-Nazis, they pose a potential threat to democracy and individual liberty since their fundamental ideology opposes these concepts.
Still, neo-Nazis tend to struggle in promoting their ideologies in modern society. The most obvious contributing factor to this struggle is the negative public perception of Nazism. The public see the Nazi Party as an evil group and Nazism as a misguided ideological movement. Many countries, such as Germany, have laws against the promotion of Nazi ideologies, further contributing to the struggle (Glaun, 2021). Additionally, as mentioned earlier, individuals took the death of a former Nazi guard as a blessing rather than a sorrowful event. As such, neo-Nazis cannot establish a large organization that would promote their ideologies. They become reliant on decentralized groups and online networks, which are ineffective in forming a strong political party.
Neo-Nazism in the U.S.
Since Nazi ideologies are banned in many countries, especially in Europe, neo-Nazism is emerging in the U.S. This U.S.-based emergence is due to the protection of the First Amendment, allowing the neo-Nazis to create promotional materials without the fear of arrest. Even European neo-Nazis utilize American servers to legally publish Nazi-related content and avoid legal prosecution in their country (Neo-Nazi, n.d.). This makes the U.S. the ideal place for neo-Nazis to establish groups, leading to the dozens of neo-Nazi groups based in U.S. states. Furthermore, neo-Nazis are also using the idea of white supremacy to promote their ideologies and incite a race war in the U.S. (Byman, 2020). They are attempting to create civil disorder, potentially imitating the social and political crises that aided the Nazi Party’s rise to power. This ideological legacy aims to replicate the conditions of Nazi Germany and continue with the goals of the Nazi Party.
The Nazi legacies continue to promote the Nazi ideology and remind society of the inhumane actions of the Nazi Party. The new archeological Nazi-related discoveries show that there are still unknown quantities regarding the Nazis. The continuous hunt for living Nazi members implies that the world has not forgotten its crimes and is still seeking reparations. Finally, the emergence of neo-Nazism illustrates the persistence of the Nazi ideology, transcending the original Nazi Party and their defeat. These legacies, especially neo-Nazism, are testaments to the historical scars that the Nazis caused that still haunt modern society.
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Byman, D. (2020). Riots, White Supremacy, and Accelerationism. Brookings. Available at https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/06/02/riots-white-supremacy-and-accelerationism/. Accessed: October 3, 2022.
Glaun, D. (2021). Germany’s Laws on Hate Speech, Nazi Propaganda & Holocaust Denial: An Explainer. PBS. Available at https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/germanys-laws-antisemitic-hate-speech-nazi-propaganda-holocaust-denial/. Accessed: October 4, 2022.
Gershon, L. (2021). Newly Unearthed I.D. Tags Tell the Stories of Four Young Holocaust Victims. Smithsonian Magazine. Available at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/childrens-id-tags-unearthed-nazi-death-camp-180976935/. Accessed: October 4, 2022.
Jackson, P. (2020). Transnational Neo-Nazism in the USA, United Kingdom, and Australia. The George Washington University. Available at https://extremism.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/zaxdzs2191/f/Jackson%20-%20Transnational%20neo%20Nazism%20in%20the%20USA%2C%20United%20Kingdom%20and%20Australia.pdf. Accessed: October 3, 2022.
Neo-Nazi. (n.d.). Southern Poverty Law Center. Available at https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/neo-nazi. Accessed: October 3, 2022.
Kirby, P. (2022). Nazi Soldau: Ashes of 8,000 Victims Found in Mass Grave in Poland. BBC News. Available at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-62161018. Accessed: October 3, 2022.
Schwartz, M. (2019). Last Known WWII Nazi Living In U.S., Deported To Germany Last Year, Is Dead at 95. NPR. Available at https://www.npr.org/2019/01/11/684324935/last-wwii-nazi-living-in-us-deported-to-germany-last-year-is-dead-at-95. Accessed: October 3, 2022.