The Nazi Legacy

Jan 1, 2007

More than 80 years after Hitler’s descent to power and two decades after the fall of Berlin wall, right-wing extremism poses as a significant problem in Germany once again. According to survey falls, roughly a third of the youth in Germany agree with neo-Nazi ideologies, and almost twice as many show attitudes of racism and anti-Semitism. The very existence of neo-Nazi groups and their growing numbers only goes to show that Hitler may have rotted not only the tree’s roots, but the soil. 

Germany is one of the most notable industrialized nations now, equipped with a stable democracy. The country is admired internationally rather than feared, and for a land with a sinister past of the Holocaust, they have turned to a peaceful democracy. The past, however, continue to have an impact on the present. Nazism, antisemitism, and racism still run free, as these simply did not disappear after the Nazis fell. Although thriving as a powerful nation, in the place of Nazism, the German people take on an everyday culture of nationalism. In most cases, most Germans deny a connection between the past’s National Socialism and modern right-wing extremism. In 1945, when the Allied Powers powered through the Nazi regime, they knew that while the defeat of the Nazis was apparent, the views that empowered them will continue to persist. Bringing about a change of attitude would be a long process, which is ongoing to this day. The confrontation of one’s past, especially one connected to burdens of shame and guilt, requires equanimity. The struggles of the opposite sides continue to ensue, but the events that continue to transpire blur the lines even further. 

The division of Germany had such an impact to its history, but questions about the notion of nation and national belonging began to increase in importance after their merging in 1990. Here, slogans such as “ Germans first ”  became quite common, and the underlying implications of such statements mirror Hitler’s ideologies. These statements have only grown stronger; polls conducted over the last few years show that over 80% of Germans are proud of their nations. In 2010, 13% declared that Germans were “naturally” superior to other races, and 22% agreed with the perspective. Studies show that this kind if heightened sense of national pride creates a unsubstantiated commitment to their supposed democratic values. The problem of racism and bigotry right at the center of German society became clear during the 1992 Rostock riots, where ordinary citizens participated and supported in racist pogroms. Almost half of the German society believe that there are too many foreigners living in their lands, and in surveys, they agree that immigrants have come to Germany to abuse the welfare state. Since the end of the 1990s, public debates about immigration has increased. When the possibility of allowing double-citizenship was proposed, there came a public protest, with anger and racism undertones. In mainstream society, there is a growing fear of being “overrun” by these so-called foreigners, which data shows, does not correspond to the actual number of immigrants residing in Germany. In connection to that fear come the “German core culture”,  a part of a series of campaigns that postulate a single and inherent German culture, and one that these foreigners should adapt to. To complicate things further, there also exists the notion that the German culture should only be accessed by ethnic Germans. They believe that the non-Germans are incapable of sharing in this culture, no matter how long they have lived in Germany, even if it has been generations of your family. To sum up this attitude, those researching on racism has summed up the paradox in a single sentence:

We don‘t want you to become like us, but you must not be any different.

To cite this phenomena, we look at the Muslims living in Germany. Since the tragic 9/11, Muslims have been increasingly portrayed as dangerous.  In 2006, ¾ of respondents have expressed the idea that the Muslim culture “does not fit” with “our Western culture”. A political non-fiction book entitled “Germany Is Abolishing Itself” garnered massive attention. The author Thilo Sarrazin argues that Muslims are less intelligent than non-Muslims, and that this fact is genetically determined. He further postulates that the higher fertility rates among Muslims are leading to the “dumbing down” of Germany. With over a million copies sold, it created an impression of discrimination for the Muslims.

Thus is the kernel of the Germany’s problem: the denial of connection between Hitler’s National Socialism and today’s extremism. The horrors of the Holocaust are quite apparent, but its foundations remain intact, ignored, and tabooed. Thus, the Nazi legacy continues, going by different names, but today the concept of neo-Nazism is taking Germany and the world by storm. 

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