In its annual review of American “hate groups”, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported the presence of 63 neo-Nazi groups active throughout the United States during 2020. Perhaps the most shocking recent sign of a Nazi presence on American soil occurred during the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol when at least two men were seen wearing sweatshirts with slogans ‘6MWE’ (six million weren’t enough) and ‘Camp Auschwitz’ on display.
This exhibition of neo-Nazi sentiments (evidently a full catalog of “hate wear” is available online) followed the 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville Virginia, where demonstrators chanted ‘The Jews will not Replace Us” as they staged a nighttime march. The violence in Charlottesville was followed by the murder of 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh the following year and a lethal assault on an Orthodox Chabad House in Poway California, suburb of San Diego, in April 2019. Then, in August 2019, a terrorist targeted Hispanics in El Paso, Texas, murdering 23 people. The terrorist published a manifesto in which he repeated Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and echoed the white supremacist great replacement theory.
Even after all this violence, right-wing figures like Tucker Carlson have continued to push this dangerous rhetoric:
— nikki mccann ramírez (@NikkiMcR) April 9, 2021
The overt echoing of neo-Nazi rhetoric or admiration for Nazism is not confined to the United States. Nor are Jews its admirers’ only targets. In 2019, two young Polish men living in Britain were convicted and sentenced to prison for threatening Prince Harry. They accused him of ‘race defilement’ for marrying Meghan Markle, a now-famous mixed-race young woman. In their enthusiasm for Nazi ideas about racial purity they forgot– or never learned– that the original National Socialists regarded Poles as racially inferior, often bordering on the sub-human.
Despite vigorous efforts to resist the ‘totalitarian temptation’ by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and other agencies, Germany itself has not been immune to the revival of interest in Nazi ideas and neo-Nazi practices. We remember the murders of Turkish immigrants carried out by the National Socialist Underground some years ago.
What explains recurrent support for Nazism among young people on both sides of the Atlantic?
Is it simply a matter of a generational rebellion, of youths thumbing their noses at the respectable world of adults? This outlook certainly may play a role. But two other explanations come to mind. Demographic shift is first among them. Adherents of Nazism falsely fear that white Euro-American majority populations are being replaced by immigrants from Third World countries, majority Muslim countries especially, and/or by native-born non-white populations at home. Some attribute the demographic shift to government ineptitude, myopia, or soft-mindedness. Others link it to a Jewish conspiracy aimed at undermining western civilization– or, at least in the United States, to a ‘deep state’ cabal.
A second widely mentioned explanation for Nazi revival is social media, an explanation perfectly compatible with the first. The Internet has enabled the creation of trans-Atlantic right-wing networks of white supremacists and racists who share similar replacement narratives.
These accounts explain the recurrence of Nazism in general macro-analytic terms but don’t explain the attraction of Nazism to individuals. What’s the appeal? After all, a range of white racist doctrines and organizations offer seekers reassurance, support, and membership.
Not only does Nazism, old and new, offer recruits a sense of racial and individual superiority over inferior ‘races’ of people, Jews especially, but also historical markers of behavior and belonging. Hitler and his followers preached a doctrine of ‘ruthless, toughness’ particularly with regard to perceived inferiors. Mercy was a sign of weakness. Individual and collective ‘will’ could overcome all obstacles. Further, a certain amount of glamour was associated with displaying Nazi paraphernalia – swastikas, twin lightning bolts, deaths’ head insignias, and all the various rituals. Above all, Nazis were self-proclaimed winners. No obstacle was too great for them to overcome, according to them.
These attitudes certainly do not portray reality as reflected by Nazi Germany’s performance in World War II. Some reminders are in order. First, we might consider the Allied air campaign. By the spring of 1945, most German cities, including Berlin, had been reduced to rubble. Flying from bases in Britain, the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command and the US Army 8th Air Force either flattened or set fire to most of the Third Reich’s major urban areas. And during the period 1944-45 the US 15th Air Force, operating out of bases in southern Italy, launched strategic bombing operations against Silesia and other eastern German targets. By the time the Nazi regime surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 8, 1945, between three and five hundred thousand German civilians had died as the result of the air operations.
This number of fatalities paled in comparison to the number of civilian and military deaths Germany suffered in the East, as a result of the failed Nazi effort to destroy the Soviet Union and enslave or replace what they saw as its racially ‘inferior’ population with ‘superior’ Aryans. At the time of the German attack on the USSR in June 1941, both the Nazi party and its military leadership assumed the Wehrmacht would be able to destroy the Red Army in a matter of months. They based their erroneous belief in part upon the Red Army’s poor performance during the “Winter War” against Finland in 1940, but primarily on the presumed racial inferiority of Russian soldiers, especially under ‘Judeo-Bolshevik” leadership.
When the German army was unable to capture Moscow during the winter of 1941-42, Nazi propaganda and military leadership blamed its defeat on the weather. The reality was something else again. Operation Typhoon, as the offensive against Moscow had been called, failed largely because of the massive casualties Soviet forces inflicted on the Wehrmacht during the months before the offensive began, and by the bungling and incompetence of its leadership – particularly leaders responsible for supplying the Wehrmacht with food, winter clothing, and military equipment, especially tanks and aircraft.
Overall, German racial arrogance provided the leitmotif against which the Wehrmacht suffered a long series of devastating defeats well before the Red Army reached the Reich’s ever-shrinking borders in the winter of 1945.
Not only did the Red Army break the back of the Wehrmacht, but its reputation became so fearsome that hundreds of thousands of Germans fled west as Soviet forces, smashed raped, and pillaged their way to Berlin. We should note here that Nazis caught wearing SS uniforms were often shot on sight after Red Army units overran their positions. This likely fate provided a strong incentive for members of elite SS units to discard their uniforms and put on civilian clothes.
In short, Nazi ideas about racial supremacy and Darwinian ideas about the desirability of fighting against lesser breeds led to Germany’s catastrophic collapse and the concomitant suffering of its civilian population. Young Americans might well contemplate this outcome before they begin to chant ‘Hail Victory!’ and stick their arms out in salute to the memory of the Third Reich.
Professor Leonard Weinberg is a Senior Fellow at CARR and an Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada. See full profile here.
© Leonard Weinberg. Views expressed on this website are individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).
This article was originally published at CARR’s media partner, Rantt Media. See the original article here.