Who goes Nazi: A parlor game

The stub-fingered krimson klad klansman has made Nazis fashionable. That where the legion of pump truppets have taken us. Now the question is “How do you spot a Nazi?”

Dorothy Thompson

Back in 1944, Dorothy Thompson, an American journalist and one of the most influential women in the country at the time, wrote a piece in Harpers Magazine titled “Who Goes Nazi.” The world was at war and everybody knew the Nazis were evil, they just didn’t know the depth of their depravity. But Americans wanted to figure out what kind off person would be a Nazi. Thompson envisioned a cocktail party and scanned the room looking for the guests who were inherently fascist:

It’s fun—a macabre sort of fun—this parlor game of “Who Goes Nazi?” And it simplifies things—asking the question in regard to specific personalities.

Kind, good, happy, gentlemanly, secure people never go Nazi. They may be the gentle philosopher whose name is in the Blue Book, or Bill from City College to whom democracy gave a chance to design airplanes—you’ll never make Nazis out of them. But the frustrated and humiliated intellectual, the rich and scared speculator, the spoiled son, the labor tyrant, the fellow who has achieved success by smelling out the wind of success—they would all go Nazi in a crisis.

Believe me, nice people don’t go Nazi. Their race, color, creed, or social condition is not the criterion. It is something in them.

Those who haven’t anything in them to tell them what they like and what they don’t-whether it is breeding, or happiness, or wisdom, or a code, however old-fashioned or however modern, go Nazi. It’s an amusing game. Try it at the next big party you go to.

Read the whole piece here. It explains why there are idiots who believe there are “very fine people on both sides.”

Thompson actually met Adolf Hitler. She interviewed him in 1931, before he took power in Germany.

“He is formless, almost faceless, a man whose countenance is a caricature, a man whose framework seems cartilaginous, without bones,” she wrote. “He is inconsequent and voluble, ill-poised, insecure. He is the very prototype of the Little Man. A lock of lank hair falls over an insignificant and slightly retreating forehead. . . .The nose is large, but badly shaped and without character. His movements are awkward, almost undignified and most un-martial. . . .The eyes alone are notable. Dark gray and hyperthyroid—they have the peculiar shine which often distinguishes geniuses, alcoholics, and hysterics.”

To that unflattering description, she added: “There is something irritatingly refined about him. I bet he crooks his little finger when he drinks a cup of tea.”

She basically saw him as a crank, maybe even a clownish buffoon, thinking that no sane electorate would choose him as their leader. As history.net puts it:

But she couldn’t believe that this “Little Man” could actually succeed in that grandiose goal. “Imagine a would-be dictator setting out to persuade a sovereign people to vote away their rights.” That idea seemed preposterous to her.

But the thing was, he didn’t need a majority of the popular vote to take power. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum notes:

In the Reichstag (German parliament) elections of November 1932, the Nazis lose almost two million votes from the previous elections of July. They win only 33 percent of the vote. It seems clear that the Nazis will not gain a majority in democratic elections, and Adolf Hitler agrees to a coalition with conservatives.

You’d think we would have learned something from World War II. But no one pays attention to history.

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