Last year, when I visited New Orleans, I picked up a copy of the second volume of Ian Kershaw’s mammoth two-part biography of Adolf Hitler, which covers from 1936 to 1945 (they didn’t have volume one for sale, in case you’re wondering) at the National D-Day Museum. Kershaw writes that it was during the battle of Stalingrad, which killed well over 300,000 German soldiers, that the first signs of Germany’s discontent with Hitler were spotted. Here’s how the Nazis handled that rebellion:
Graffiti chalked on walls attacking Hitler, ‘the Stalingrad Murderer’, were a sign that underground resistance was not extinct…In Munich, a group of students, together with one of their professors, whose idealism and mounting detestation of the criminal inhumanity of the regime had led them the previous year to form the ‘White Rose‘ opposition-group, now openly displayed their attack on Hitler. The medical students Alexander Schmorell and Hans Scholl had formed the initial driving-force and had soon been joined by Christoph Probst, Sophie Scholl (Hans’ sister), Willi Graf, and Kurt Huber, Professor of Philosophy at Munich University, whose critical attitude to the regime had influenced them in lectures and discussions. All the students came from conservative, middle-class backgrounds. All were fired by Christian beliefs and humanistic idealism. The horrors on the eastern front, experienced for a short time at first hand when Graf, Schmorell, and Hans Scholl were called up, converted the lofty idealism into an explicit, political message. “Fellow Students!” ran their final manifesto (composed by Professor Huber), distributed in Munich University, on 18 February. “The nation is deeply shaken by the destruction of the men of Stalingrad. The genial strategy of the World War [I] corporal has senselessly and irresponsibly driven (gehetzt) three hundred and thirty thousand German men to death and ruin. Führer, we thank you!”
It was a highly courageous show of defiance. But it was suicidal. Hans and Sophie Scholl [Pictured in the left and center of the above photo–Ed] were denounced by a porter at the university (who was subsequently applauded by pro-Nazi students for his action), and quickly arrested by the Gestapo. Christoph Probst [Pictured at right–Ed] was picked up soon afterwards. Their trial before the ‘People’s Court’, presided over by Roland Freisler, took place within four days. The verdict–the death-sentence–was a foregone conclusion. All three were guillotined the same afternoon. Willi Graf, Kurt Huber, and Alexander Schmorell suffered the same fate some months later. Other students on the fringe of the movement were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.
The regime had been badly stung. But it was not at the point of collapse. It would lash back without scruple and with utter viciousness at the slightest hint of opposition. The level of brutality towards its own population was about to rise sharply as external adversity mounted.
That’s how the real Nazis handled protest: with the guillotine. (There was an electric-powered version at Dresden, incidentally.) For language such as Senator Durbin’s to be used about America today implies that Durbin doesn’t know much about the actual Nazis of history, or, as Jonah Goldberg once wrote, language such as Durbin’s is a de facto form of Holocaust denial:
By the way, I don’t say this because I feel a passionate need to defend George Bush. I would make the exact same points if Al Gore were president. I would make the exact same points if anybody running for the Democratic nomination were president. This has nothing to do with partisanship. It has to do with the fact that such comparisons are slanderous to the United States and historical truth and amount to Holocaust denial. When you say that anything George Bush has done is akin to what Hitler did, you make the Holocaust into nothing more than an example of partisan excess. Tax cuts are not genocide, as so many Democrats have suggested over the years. (For example, during the Contract with America debate, Charles Rangel complained that “Hitler wasn’t even talking about doing these things” that were in the Contract with America. In other words, the Contract with America was in some way worse than what Hitler did. At the end of the day, that is Holocaust denial.)
“Darn those Republicans” does not equal “Darn those Nazis.” The Patriot Act is not the final solution. The handful of men in Guantanamo may not all be guilty of terrorism, but it’s more than reasonable to assume they are. And no matter how you try to contort it, Gitmo is not the same thing as Auschwitz or Dachau. There are no children there. You don’t get carted off to Cuba and gassed if you criticize the president or if you are one-quarter Muslim. And, inversely, there was no reasonable justification for throwing the Jews and the Gypsies and all the others into the death camps. The Jews weren’t terrorists or members of a terrorist organization. To say that the men in Guantanamo — or any of the Muslims being politely interviewed by appointment — are akin to the Jews of Germany is to trivialize the experiences of the millions who were slaughtered. Even if you think Muslims are being unfairly inconvenienced, when you say they are the Jews of Nazified America you are in essence saying the worst crime of the Holocaust was to unfairly inconvenience the Jews.
Or make them listen to loud music in rooms that are too hot or cold. Jonah wrote that a year and a half ago. Sad that it applies equally well to remarks made this weekby a United States senator.As I wrote of Moveon.org’s similar remarks in January of 2004, how much play are Durbin’s remarks getting in the mainstream media? Not very much, says Hugh Hewitt.
Update: As I was assembling this post, I came across this Website, which was the third site listed by Google under the words White Rose. Note the slogan under the name. And note the name itself and the explicit comparisons it evokes. So let’s compare: 300,000 dead (plus another 500,000 or so of the Nazi’s allies) in a single six and a half month long battle, versus 1,700, the bulk of which occurred in terrorist attacks after Saddam fell. Guillotined protestors versus radio talk show hosts free to ply their trade.
Crushing of dissent, indeed.