At the outset please let me clarify that I am an Indian, I love my nation and I stand up straight and attentive every time the national anthem is played. Having said this, I have interest in history and love to read anything and everything that helps me decipher the past because in words of Churchill, the more backward we look, the more forward we can see!
In recent times I have developed keen interest in the history of Nazi Germany. Why? Well, for no particular reason! I hope this will not be a reason to label me seditious? No na? Phew…thanks what a relief! Anyway….
So I share a few facts.
Adolf Hitler had worked as a “causal laborer” in Munich in 1913, a fact, which was repeated off, and on, many times during his rule in Germany. A fact, which he believed, helped him in “connecting” to the masses of Germany (uncanny?). Please note that they never had tea vendors in Germany, otherwise…..
Once established, which most historians believed happened by end of his second year (uncanny?), Hitler’s party workers protested against music by Gustav Mahler and Felix Mendelssohn, who were subsequently banned from performing in Germany (and yes, Gustav was from the neighboring Austria and a jew!).
The Nazi censorship slowly engulfed newspapers and the radio with the newspaper Straight Path and its editor Fritz Gerlich being the first to be banned. Fritz Gerlich had a doctorate and harbored a beard (Uncanny? ..Hmmm). It is even more uncanny to know that on December 5, 1930, Joseph Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister of Hitler had himself gone and disrupted the screening of the premier of the movie, All Quite on the Western Front, a movie based on a novel which was very unpopular with the Nazis.
By 1935 Hitler had realized that to be fully controlling the German mind, it was essential to control the Universities. In this respect he suppressed universities which had significant communists in academic positions (uncanny?). The academicians and students at the Munich University particularly organized what was called The White Rose, a non-violent, intellectual group of anti-Nazis. One student of this group was twenty one year old Sophie Scholl, who was convicted of sedition and later killed by the Nazis (surely uncanny na?).
After coming to power in 1933, Hitler used radio to widely broadcast his speeches. What is uncanny is the fact that the Ministry of Propaganda ran his speeches on a weekly basis on radios throughout Germany! I am not sure what these weekly programs were called but were surely the voice from the Fuehrers heart!
We are told that Hitler was a vegetarian although the reasons for him turning vegetarian remain obscure. In 1934 the Nazi government issued a decree banning kosher meat in Germany (uncanny if you live in Haryana?). And even more uncanny is the fact that Hitler stressed on cleanliness of the nation as one of the first few drives the Nazi regimen took over after coming to power in 1933. It was aimed at increasing tourism in the Third Reich! He believed that the tourists should praise the Nazi Germany for its cleanliness, orderliness and cultural vitality!
And finally how can we talk of Hitler, Nazis and the Third Reich without mentioning mob lynching. Yes, mob lynching, as we know! The Russelsheim massacre involved the lynching of six American airmen by the people of Russelsheim, a town in the Gross-Gerau district of Central Germany. What is worth mentioning is the fact that the people of Russelsheim killed the six airmen with sticks, stones, hammers and shovels (uncanny na?); no guns were used!
So even as my indulgence in Nazi history grows, I can only hope that I discover less and less of the uncanny resemblances, of lesser and novel atrocities, of lesser suppression of expression and of course less of fascism!
We surely don’t want to tread that path!
There was once a nanny-goat who said,
In my cradle someone sang to me:
“A strong man is coming.
He will set you free!”
The ox looked at her askance.
Then turning to the pig
“That will be the butcher.”
Prof. Shah Alam Khan, AIIMS, New Delhi (views are personal)