The book: Every single book I’ve read that portrays the protagonist as hating those mean Nazis
The music: “Stripped” by Rammstein
Today’s post is more of a rant than a book review, especially in light of the recent US election where 70 million Americans voted for a guy who said about neo-Nazis and white supremacists, “There are good people on both sides.”
I started reading a historical/lit fiction book this week that I ended up shelving about 10% in because the MCs, who we meet in Germany in 1939, are very convinced that Hitler is bad and the Nazis are bad and Jewish people are good and oh no, we have to fight back. I’ve read several books in this vein in the last couple years, and I’m going to declare that while yes, people like this did exist, most of these stories are liberal revisionist propaganda aimed at making current moderates feel better about their own complicit silence.
If you’re an American, when you were in school you learned all about the Holocaust, how Hitler was a dictator and the Americans liberated the concentration camps and were appalled because no one knew that was happening. But then you grow up and learn that actually, people in the US hated Jewish people too, and we had all kinda of quotas to keep them from coming here in the early 1900s, quotas that directly led to deaths in Europe.
But no one wants to talk about that.
We Americans also like to tell ourselves, “If I’d lived during slavery, I would’ve helped to free slaves! If I’d lived in 1940s Europe, I would’ve joined the resistance!” Yet right now we have a government putting immigrant children in cages on the US-Mexico border, and how many people are silent about this? We have cops murdering BIPOC, and how many people are silent about this? Not to mention a hundred other societal ills, and everyone’s keeping pretty quiet about that too.
So when I read a book set in Germany where of course the MC opposes Hitler and loves freedom, I get pretty upset. The way to prevent fascism from taking over isn’t to pretend that no one supported it; it’s to understand why they supported it, then learn from that and apply it the next time this happens.
(As an aside, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg has a great exhibit on the rise of Nazism and how ordinary people were affected. IF the borders ever open up again, it’s definitely worth a visit. Also, Winnipeg is awesome with great food and you should visit just because of that.)
The song for today, “Stripped” by Rammstein, is more because of the video than the lyrics. It’s a cover of a Depeche Mode song, found on For the Masses which is one of the best compilation CDs of the 90s. The video got them in some trouble in Germany because it uses footage from the 1936 Olympics shot by Leni Riefenstahl, a filmmaker who made propaganda videos for Hitler. Looking at the faces of the athletes, there’s no way you can argue that they all thought Hitler was horrible. There were a number of people who agreed with him, that Jewish people were bad and he alone could fix everything for them. No revisionist novel is going to change that.
As a bonus, I also suggest watching Rammstein’s video for “Deutschland,” followed by the commentary by Three Arrows explaining the complicated relationship Germany has with its past. And then getting Rammstein’s new self-titled album and playing it loudly on repeat for the next month because it’s awesome.