Talk of the Super Bowl and Ariana Grande’s barbeque tattoo succeeded last week in displacing for a moment the news that there are American concentration camps full of thousands of children forcibly separated from their parents, some of whom are known to have literally sickened and died in the tender care of the United States government.
News like that can’t be displaced for long. The truth invariably turns out to be substantially worse than the public is at first led to believe, because evildoers have good reason to hide what is going on. But it is all going to come out eventually, and the shame of what is happening will have to be reckoned with, detail after detail, year after year. The shame of it will grow as the truth emerges and it will last for as long as the country’s conscience does.
If they believe they will somehow get away with not being utterly reviled in whatever future comes to pass, the architects of the baby jails, people like Steve King, a congressman, and Stephen Miller, senior White House advisor (white supremacists who are degrading and soiling, as we speak, the “Western civilization” they are always blathering on about as if they had the vaguest clue what that was) would do well to have a look at how things went for those earlier white supremacists, the German Nazis, in the first go-round.
(Which is not to suggest that Western Civilization is without its own separate deficiencies, but only that these Nazi ones are immediately worse, and will have to be attended to first.)
Germany took many decades to heal after the second world war, and then only after they had thoroughly, completely assimilated and internalized the message: “WHOA that Nazi thing was the worst.” If you want to read about how badly they have felt about the mess they got themselves in there there are obviously a lot of books about that, but I can strongly recommend two: firstly A Woman in Berlin, a cold, clearheaded memoir anonymously published in the fifties by a German journalist who endured starvation and was raped multiple times during the aftermath of the war. The author explained that she wrote the book in order to expiate her personal, if passive, complicity in the Nazi atrocities. “None of the victims will be able to wear their suffering like a crown of thorns,” she said. “I for one am convinced that what happened to me balanced an account.”
Another way the Germans managed to learn to live with the shame of their crimes was through reparations. Which brings me to my second recommendation, Sybille Bedford’s The Faces of Justice. Bedford attended dozens of court proceedings in order to learn what the justice system had to say about the conduct of human affairs in England, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and France.
In Germany she visited the Rückerstattungskammern, The Courts of Restitution that had been set up to deal with claims for possessions torn from the Jews between the years of 1933 and 1944.
A Turkey carpet driven off by the SS; a brooch and two gold rings confiscated in a precious-metals drive; a Bechstein grand; a wireless set… A boy’s motor bicycle…. A fur coat taken away by the Gestapo after a morning raid… Anyone who cares to may walk in and hear; this is the aftermath of what everybody knew, and here it is going on, in living memories. And it is as grim and pitiful and unbearable as it ever was.
… Is the past then healing? Forgiving and self-forgiving are graces, mysterious and individual, hard-won or sudden, always incalculable. There are some explicit signs of acceptance and of realization, of what the Germans themselves would call insight; there is also much bleating and shifting of blame—we were misled, we did not know, we had no idea….
This already sounds familiar, like an echo into the future, of what Americans will have to bear.
The promulgators of today’s evil policies will come a cropper just like, yes, those Nazis came a complete cropper before, because hating and harming people is disgusting, and so is the arrogance of imagining there is a Master Race and you are in it. The OG Nazis failed horribly because authoritarianism is gross and bad and will fail.
So it is impossible to even guess why these mouth-breathing lowlifes would want, in the year 2019, to be white supremacists, or fascists, or to march in Charlotte or to incarcerate brown children, just even in view of the truly colossal extent to which their thing did not work out the last time. And yet.
So here is a helpful (and partial) account of what happened to some of the top Nazis, cc: Andrew Anglin, Richard Spencer, Tucker Carlson, Steve King, Stephen Miller, Kirstjen Nielsen, Donald Trump et al.
Hermann Goering was the Number Two Nazi and absolutely gung-ho for the Third Reich. So great was the Third Reich that he poisoned himself with cyanide on October 15, 1946, the day before he was due to be hanged.
Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s favorite foreign policy wonk, however, was hanged on that day, along with nine other Nazi bigwigs (Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Fritz Sauckel, Alfred Jodl, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Alfred Rosenberg, Wilhelm Keitel, Julius Streicher and Arthur Seyss-Inquart; there are official photographs of their hanged corpses, which were published in order to disprove rumors that the executions had been bungled; they are online, and make for deeply unpleasant viewing). Ribbentrop also remained faithful to Hitler right to the end.
Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary, is thought to have committed suicide by jumping off a bridge, shortly after Hitler’s suicide. He was condemned to death the following year in the Nuremberg trials anyway, just to stress the point.
The propagandist anti-semite Joseph Goebbels was Hitler’s successor as Chancellor, for just one day in the bunker after Hitler’s suicide. On May 1st, 1945, he and his wife poisoned their six children ages four to twelve (Helga, Hildegard, Helmut, Holdine, Hedwig, and Heidrun) with cyanide, and then they killed themselves, too.
As a military commander, Heinrich Himmler realized in the spring of 1945 that the war was irretrievably lost and tried to start secret peace talks. But Hitler got wind of this, sacked him and ordered his arrest, and so he tried to fly the coop but was then nabbed by the British. He killed himself on 23rd of May 1945.
The clear message here is just do not be a Nazi or anything even vaguely resembling a Nazi.