Note: I am not a historian or an economist and I am sure none of the following is particularly new. This is just me thinking out loud.
In the wake of recent events, there are lots of discussions out there about the rise of fascist and neo-Nazi movements in the US and the historical contexts. Obviously, these types of hate groups exist elsewhere–I’ve spoken with friends in countries around the world who have seen similar alarming shifts, as I have in Canada. Racism and anti-semitism are hideous and not uniquely American, and neither are some of the other things I see underpinning these movements.
It is interesting to me that very few of the American historical discussions mention the role of wealth and finance in this whole mess. It is an ugly undercurrent I see where I live–the idea that “outsiders” are dangerous not only because they hold different beliefs or look different, but because they somehow threaten economic stability…or the ability of a few to obtain and sustain wealth. Its not a new concept, of course. It’s been used through the ages to protect the status quo. It’s the American Dream, right? That anyone can become rich, so the power structures of the wealthy have to be protected.
I saw an interesting discussion about why the poor are supporting Trump. It talked about the “elevation” of poor white men by wealthy plantation owners to help subjugate slaves and, later, the segregated black population. It was a fascinating study in the ability of the rich–who historically create poverty as they create their own wealth–to enlist the poor in protecting the very structures that preserve inequality. I am reminded of a line from “Romancing the Stone”: “He made you think you needed it, you sap.”
So I find it interesting that in the discussions of the US response to Hitler’s rise no one is talking about the money.
Anti-semitism is very real and very easy to see behind the choices the US (and other nations) made with regard to the rise of fascism in the 30s. However, it is so telling that Hitler emerged from economic crisis. That even as Germany struggled under war reparations, they and the rest of the world were clawing their way back from the devastation of the depression. That some of the loudest of those promoting anti-war sentiment in the US in the 30s were its surviving millionaire capitalists.
There are lots of theories about why the depression happened, but there have been some enlightening studies recently that compare the 1929 crisis with the one in 2008. In particular, the increase of finance’s share of the GDP–which many experts interpret as a misallocation of resources, and which they also see going hand-in-hand with a rise in financial inequality and personal debt in both cases. The New Deal proposed to redress the hardships caused by the Great Depression through social programs and increased taxation. In my own lifetime, I have witnessed how well these things go over with the rich, so it isn’t much of a stretch to see why the wealthy in many nations were initually so easily impressed by Hitler. His party infiltrated and then dismantled the socialists and set themselves against communism. This certainly had to have been music to rich American ears. All they had to do to eliminate the horrifying redistribution of wealth in their own country was to let Hitler be proven right/succeed by keeping America out of the war.
I have seen other commentary on tumblr about the influence of the Jim Crow laws and other American racist structures and policies on Hitler’s Germany. Which, in light of the discussion about using poor whites to protect the wealthy by turning them on blacks, is just stunningly obvious. It makes America’s initial response to WWII so clear–new century, new war, exact same people with the exact same goals (protect the structures that secure wealth for a very few while convincing poor white people that these actions are in their own best interests).
Has anything changed? I don’t think so–dig hard enough around any nation’s conservative politics and you will find the protection of the wealthy there. It is just so easy to manipulate the disaffected and exploit existing racism and anti-semitism (and misogyny and homophobia) to keep the imbalances in place. It just bothers me that in the wake of Charlottesville more Americans aren’t drawing a straight line from the “alt-right” to the long-standing economic agenda of the American wealthy and the GOP in particular. They want to win (i.e., become/stay rich) so badly that they don’t seem to care about the destruction being wrought by the mechanisms they are using to inflame their base. They don’t appear to be rational enough to recognize that they are setting everything on fire just so they can toast their marshmallows. They don’t care who suffers.
Seems like maybe we–everywhere this is happening–need to follow the advice of one Trump commentator on MSNBC. In response to every new catastrophe or shocking revelation, his answer is always “Follow the money.”
I know there is more to it, but this seems like a good place to start.
Since Mussolini had honored Hitler by visiting Germany in September 1937, the Fuehrer decided to return the favor by visiting with his good friend in Rome on May 3, 1938.
During his visit to Germany, Mussolini honored Hitler by declaring him “A Corporal of Honor of the Fascist Militia” (Mussolini was the “First Corporal of Honor”). Oddly enough, both dictators were both corporals in the First World War.
During his visit to Italy, Hitler wore the insignia of this distinction on his left shoulder and a Fascist Militia dagger at his side.
Commemorative coin struck to honor Hitlers visit to Italy
Hitler with Hess and von Ribbentrop
PHOTOS 3,4, and 5
Hitler appears to be ignoring the King in this photograph taken during a break in the parade on the “Via del Trionfo.”
Hitler is clearly wearing the shoulder insignia of a “Corporal of Honor” and the Fascist Militia dagger for high officers and “Corporals of Honor.”
A joke was being told literally behind the kings back and film footage of it shows it being shared by Hitler, Goebbels, and Himmler and others. (all things considered, it might actually have been about the king)
Hitler shaking hands with his good friend Mussolini
A certificate regarding Hitlers Fascist corporal of honor chevron badge
A fascist dagger similar to Hitler’s honorary dagger
Although Mussolini was Head of Government, King Victor Emmanuel III, the Head of State would, be Hitler’s official host. Hitler was surprised, and perhaps a bit chagrined, as he thought he would be visiting his friend Mussolini.
Hitler arrived in Rome with four trains bearing his entourage, which included Hess, Himmler, Goebbels, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Frank, Sepp Dietrich, Admiral Raeder and, in an unprecedented happenstance, Eva Braun, who wanted to go shopping in Rome. Of course, no one knew her true status as Hitler’s lover. Most thought that she was just another of his secretaries.
The King and Mussolini met Hitler, and much to German leaders’s disgust, they rode through the streets of Rome, in an open carriage with top-hatted footmen. Hitler asked if the House of Savoy had ever heard of the automobile.
Hitler’s discomfort did not end with the carriage ride. He was lodged in Prince Umberto’s private apartment in the Quirinal Palace, the official residence of the King, which Hitler described as “a dirty old museum, smelling like the catacombs.”
The King disliked Germans and abhorred Hitler, calling him “a physiological degenerate.”
Hitler, in turn, detested the King, saying that he was “an acid and untrustworthy little man.” Hitler urged Mussolini to abolish the monarchy, saying that the court and the King were anti-fascist. Even if he had wanted to, Mussolini could not, as the army was Royalist and had sworn personal loyalty to the King just as the Germany Army had to Hitler.
During his visit, Hitler was conducted through the Colosseum and shown various ruins from the Roman Empire, in the heart of Rome. He laid an obligatory wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier killed in the First World War and was greeted by a huge crowd of Italians in the Piazza Venetia, where he and Mussolini addressed the crowd from a balcony.
Mussolini later took Hitler to Naples where two watched a naval review from the battleship Conte di Cavour (which was later sunk on November 11, 1940). The review included all of the Italian Royal Navy’s submarines (more than 100) doing a nautical ballet, rising and sinking like a school of porpoises. Hitler was quite impressed with the Royal Navy ships and thought that they would be very useful in any future war.
Hitler was not so impressed, however, by the Royal Army’s parade down the Via del Trionfo (Street of Triumphs), or the military exercises at Centrocelle that included many obsolete cannon WWI artillery pieces and little, two-man tankettes. After the military review, his hosts took him to Florence where he admired ancient marble statues and architectural structures.
Hitler left Florence on May 9, after six days in Italy, no doubt vastly relieved that he did not have to return to Rome and the King. Reportedly, he actually enjoyed his visit once he had escaped from the King and was able to spend time with Mussolini.
As the two dictators bade each other good-by, Hitler declared, with tears in his eyes, “Henceforth, no force will be able to separate us!”
After his trip, Hitler never wore the fascist corporal insignia nor dagger again and swore that he would never again visit Rome although his veneration of Mussolini remained intact.
When Hitler came to power, women were forbidden from holding most jobs. At first, Hitler cracked down on this law, having women kicked from jobs all across his nation. Then, in 1937, the Nazi government passed the “Year of Duty” law, which allowed women to not only return to the second-class desk jobs they had before, but encouraged them to seek employment in previously male-dominated fields such as factories and agriculture. As the name suggests, the Year of Duty Law was only supposed to last until 1938. However, Hitler was so impressed with the female workforce that, even after the Year of Duty Law expired, no effort was made to remove women from the workforce.
The Nazi Government needed women to give birth as much as possible, in order to replace the populations they were removing. Recognizing that raising children was a difficult task for any woman (and her husband), they introduced many programs to help families - including one of the first financial aide programs for parents.
Women weren’t expected to wear makeup, and were allowed to wear trousers (Although they didn’t have to)
Women were not required to marry.
Women having children out of wedlock was acceptable, as long as they were aware who the father was (and thus could prove the children were acceptable under the Nuremberg Laws)
Although it was never enacted, a law was drafted that, when Hitler died or retired, women would be allowed to vote in any elections for the head of Germany.
Nazi Germany was one of the first countries to pass laws against abusing women. A woman who was beaten by her husband was allowed to return to her parents household to recover, and the abuser would have to pay for her medical bills.
EDIT: Upon request, I give you the citations for this infopost.