Sunday, July 22, 2012

Nazi Chic in Asia, England, and Eastern Europe: Which is Scary?



"Bieganski" talks about why the repugnance an ethically normal person might be expected to feel in reaction to Nazi crimes is often directed, not at actual Nazis, but rather at Poles, specifically, Polish, Catholic, and other Eastern European, peasants. There are many posts on this blog addressing that question in small bites; the book addresses the question in full.

Readers of "Bieganski" will understand the significance of Nazi chic in Asia to the book's addressing of this question.

I thank blog reader Hanna for drawing our attention to the above two photos, just two examples of Asian Nazi chic.

The tendency to feel repugnance and panic in relation to Eastern Europeans, while remaining blind to other groups' dabbling in Nazi chic, is not limited to non-Poles. This past spring, on a web-based discussion forum for Polish-Americans, someone posted a link to a panicky article about those scary, primitive Eastern European Bieganskis who were all fired up Neo-Nazis. The article was Salon's "Eastern Europe's Hitler Nostalgia" by Michael Goldfarb, appearing on April 2, 2012.

I responded with a post that said, more or less, "Why is nostalgia for Hitler scarier in Eastern Europe than anywhere else?"

I don't think I received a reply.

Because, I would have to guess, even to the Polish-American who posted the link, alleged Eastern Europe "Hitler nostalgia" is inherently scarier than neo-Nazi trends elsewhere.

Back in December 2011, Otto Gross posted "Ripples of Sin," a blog post here about having grown up with a father who was a Nazi. Otto's dad beat him with a Nazi army belt. I wanted a picture to illustrate the blog post. I did a google search and found countless websites featuring close-up photos of Nazi belts … uniforms … insignia … sabers … all these websites actively staffed, monitored, visited, by rabid enthusiasts of Nazi paraphernalia. As far as I could tell, most of these Nazi-enthusiasts were American. Probably none of them were in Eastern Europe.

Again, the question is, why is the Polish Catholic, or the Latvian or other Eastern European peasant, more repugnant, more blameworthy, than the actual Nazi, or the American who has a basement full of authentic Nazi gear he buys on the web, or the British politician or member of the British royal family who is overt in his dabbling in Nazi chic?

My answer is in "Bieganski."

Prince Harry in Nazi gear. Not Eastern European; therefore, not scary. 
Recently Aidan Burley, a British politician, was exposed as dabbling in Nazi  gear. But it's okay. He's English, not Eastern European. 


21 comments:

  1. Again, I must agree with the Bieganski-Thesis-I does not suck if the right people do it-and your not allowed to call them out on it,cause that would be racism or s.th. A guy from Britain, Campbell, proofed it: If your black, you can be as rascist (against Poles and Ukrainians) as you like. Calling him names for this racist insult would,of course, constitute rascism as we all know that "Blacks in this day and age can do no wrong.” And — “Nobody messes with Black people, nobody.” (South Park) . Seriously, the older I get the more cynical I become...

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  2. About the Asians-Well, lets face it, the SS Uniforms were designer wear. Yes, they look very fine indeed.Thats why Asians f.e wear them, they are, of course, no Nazis. If they could just refrain from wearing it with all the Nazi insignia, I could accept that. Also, I think the reason why no one cares is this- not many Westeners happen to speak Asian languages (I myself belong to this rather small group), so not many people know how much of a following this has f.e in Japan-its about aesthetics. Unfortunately, no one cares to dress up as a Doomed Soldier or in a Polish uniform, I mean, it looks equally great and we have a very original rogatywka hat design that is unique...

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  3. So, in my humble opinion, the West SHOULD SHUT THE HXLL UP and stop lecturing them. I mean, it was the West, who did not care about the fate of the Central/Eastern European nations, it was the West who sold us, it was the West who had no apparent problems to do business with the Soviet Union. No, I guess they want to feel high,mighty and civilized about their only right opinion, a world-view, in which they (the Allies) were the ones who saved the world (which, apparently, does not encompass,as it did not for the Nazis themselves!, Eastern Central and Eastern Europe)

    About the author of this article: Michael Goldfarb I assume he is Jewish when looking at hisname. What angers me the most about this is the never-ending suggestion that Eastern Central and Eastern Europe are somewhat anti-Semitic and dangerous,while the exact opposite is true. It has become such a character assasination that some time ago, Serge Cwajgbaum (from the Council of European Jews I think) openly declared amonst others Poland to be safe to travel,much safer than f.e "civilized" France (where some time ago several Jewish French lost their lives or health)

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  4. Hi there!

    About the alleged "nazi-nostalgia"-Ive spend some time in Latvia (with AEGEE) and got to know some Latvians whom I have asked about this. To them, its..well, its kind of complicated. They detest the Nazis,they do not doubt the Holocaust and they hate the later for them, no doubt, but, what the West chooses to forget is the following:Soviet Russia set out on a plan to eradicate the Latvian people through an elaborate plan of democide, by,through administrative measures,neglecting the Latvian language, by having Russians en masse immigrate into Latvia (today, around 22% are Non-Latvians,this,of course,causes tensions and problems, Russia is,of course, trying to use them as a V column...!). Of course, the Nazis detested the Balts also very much (Generalplan Ost estimated that around 50% should be killed to make room for the Germans and their language),but in this particular situation they were kind of (or at least,appeared at that time) as the lesser evil-besides, those Latvians who fought in these SS units were not fighting for Nazi Germany,they were,in their own opinion, fighting for Latvia and their children-so just equating them with Nazi Germany is hurtful and plainly wrong.So, there is no "nostalgia for Hitler",not at all, just nostalgia for the time Latvians were,somewhat,kicking imperialistic Russias xxxx.

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  5. Of course, the Nazis detested the Balts also very much (Generalplan Ost estimated that around 50% should be killed to make room for the Germans and their language),but in this particular situation they were kind of (or at least,appeared at that time) as the lesser evil-besides, those Latvians who fought in these SS units were not fighting for Nazi Germany,they were,in their own opinion, fighting for Latvia and their children-so just equating them with Nazi Germany is hurtful and plainly wrong.So, there is no "nostalgia for Hitler",not at all, just nostalgia for the time Latvians were,somewhat,kicking imperialistic Russias xxxx.

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  6. Hi there!

    About the alleged "nazi-nostalgia"-Ive spend some time in Latvia (with AEGEE) and got to know some Latvians whom I have asked about this. To them, its..well, its kind of complicated. They detest the Nazis,they do not doubt the Holocaust and they hate the later for them, no doubt, but, what the West chooses to forget is the following:Soviet Russia set out on a plan to eradicate the Latvian people through an elaborate plan of democide, by,through administrative measures,neglecting the Latvian language, by having Russians en masse immigrate into Latvia (today, around 22% are Non-Latvians,this,of course,causes tensions and problems, Russia is,of course, trying to use them as a V column...!).

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  7. Hello Hanna, yes the Latvians killed by Stalin (and the millions of others) are all swept under that convenient, and vast, Omelette Carpet by the world. ("Tut, tut, very reprehensible, but you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.") And I am not surprised you are becoming cynical about the current system of things on the earth. The double standards are getting more and more open, more and more blatant. But please do note this. The "world" is trying to make us cynical towards our Creator and his Inspired word. It has for example, set up a big smokescreen of Evolution, Evolution, Evolution to try to hide what Genesis is clearly and plainly telling us. Isn't that why the door to door preaching work is so important for Christians? Because there is a rescue on its way. There really is. And though "the world" may choose to forget Stalin's victims, do you think the Creator of life does?

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  8. Sue,I am kind of confused with regard to what You are trying to convey. Door to door...are You a Jehovas Witness? I dont care-I am way to cynical to be an Atheist.As a Deist, although I respect that people may choose to derive their values from religion,or that it makes tchem feel good, I dont believe in the God/s of christianity,Islam,Judaism,Hinduism ect. They have the fingerprints of their human conjurers all over them ;-) There is a G-d, Im sure, but revealed religion is not really able I think to give us a clear picture.

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  9. The equation of Nazism with eastern Europeans goes beyond the Bieganski stereotype. It is part and parcel of Holocaust-related Polonophobia--the shifting of emphasis, if not blame, on the Poles and away from Germans. Such, for example, is the approach of Jan T. Gross who, for some reason, you choose to praise. It also goes hand-in-hand with the strongly anti-Christian biases of Holocaust promoters and many academics--which is why past Christian teachings about Jews are blamed for the Holocaust even though Nazi ideology could not care less who was responsible for the Crucifixion of Christ. And so on...

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  10. As a long-termer, living and working in Asia, maybe I can add some simple perspective on the Asian aspect of the topic. It is an aesthetic issue. People in Asia are just not sensitive to European history of the WWII era and they think the stuff looks cool. When Che stuff gets old-hat, try trendy Nazi. That said, I believe it would not do justice to the whole "Totalitarian-Wear" conversation to not mention the West's own fascination with Mao and Che Wear as well as the Nazi stuff. I don't think its reasonable to discuss totalitarian chic without noting Communist Chic. All totalitarian chic is bad, of course and no person sensitive to history would war any of it as a fashion statement. That said, the UK fetish with Nazi stuff among the upper echelons of society strikes me as the worst example of the phenomenon.

    But of course too, Danusha hits a home run with her conclusion and analysis.

    [additionally, official media and education in much of Asia is not highly critical of Hitler or his rule. Not much time is devoted to the Holocaust in studies and Hitler is shown as a strong nationalist leader who did everything he could to further his own country. With so many dictators in Asia this is a pretty understandable Weltanschauung to promote. This helps to further inure locals to any prejudice about wearing the hideous Nazi suits]
    MB

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  11. A few more points about the Salon article: In general, the article is nothing more than typical American claptrap and banalities. The pity is that such banalities are published read and believed.

    * Using the "SS" label as a buzz word. The SS units that are being celebrated in Latvia are Waffen SS, combat divisions not unlike the French Foreign Legion and the only element of the German WWII armed forces where non-Germans could serve. They were combat units of a tough nature and did not commit atrocities on any larger scale than any other elite front line combat units in WWII. [special cases on Eastern Front excepted, where both sides played rough] The Waffen SS units were separate from Gestapo type police SS units. These are the same units honored by President Reagan during his noted Bitburg cemetery visit in Germany.

    * Few if any details of Soviet atrocities are noted, not even the forced famine-starvation in Ukraine. Hatred of Stalin and the Soviets is shown as being anti-semitic based. He even implies a statute of limitations on Soviet/Communist committed atrocities when no such time limit is used on Nazi perpetrators.

    *An American author talking about "twisted History" studies is laughable, coming from a country where high school grads come out believing the Tuskegee Airman won WWII and the last major white male European face covered in a history book is FDR, with perhaps JFK thrown in later as a picture only.
    MB

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  12. Anonymous, You raise an interesting point-Danusha,all of You,have You heard that, in Israel, the Red Army is honour? Plz give me Your thoughts on this...

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  13. Hanna, good point. The Israel Red Army monument:

    http://www.jpost.com/VideoArticles/Video/Article.aspx?id=275041

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  14. Thanks for tip on monument. All I can say is: WOW. Ironic, insensitive, against the prevailing winds...what more can you say? We all know what happened to Red Army monuments throughout Eastern Europe...in fact, why bother making a new one...? Just buy a nice used one. Original Soc Realism too.
    MB

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  15. Israel estimates that over 500,000 Jews fought in the Red Army.

    Oh.Wow. Than there is this piece of information:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ministry_of_Public_Security_(Poland)
    According to IPN around 40% of the members of the stalinist secret service had a Jewish (atheist) background.
    (Disclaimer: I dont mention this because I believe in stupidities like Judeopolonia, on the contrary.Still, this needs some explanation-and no, Jews hating Polish people is not the right explanation. Personally, I think it can be explained in two ways: 1. In pre-war Poland there were in fact many Jewish Poles who were members of f.e the communist party-mostly, because they really believed in good ideals like the brotherhood of mankind, workers rights,social justice ect. and other things mandated by Jewish religious law. I find this truely laudable and great.
    2. Soviets loved to make us of minorities for their crimes-around 4% of all people on earth are sociopathic (according to experts like OHare) so you will always find enought willing criminals in every ethnic/social group. Either way, Jews very completely and cynically abused by the Communists-in the SU, in relative terms, more synagogues were closed than churches, when Israel/the Near East became a proxy battlefield for the US and the SU, again Jews f.e also in Poland had to take the heat-this should never be forgotten,though,apparently, it is.)

    I thinks it would be better if the monument were just dedicated to all those Jewish people who fought for the lives of their co-religionists,not at all to the Red Army.And a state, that was/is helping and supporting Israels enemies.

    Also, it would be great (and according to Jewish Law) if s.o Jewish (f.e a high Jewish authority) could denounce people like Helena Wolinska,Julia Bystiger,Kazimierz Graff as having totally defiled Judaism (ok, they were atheists, but still) and Torah law by their crimes.It would really help to dispel the stupid myth about Jews running everything.

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    1. An interesting post. For a Jewish perspective on the matters you raise, please click on my name in this specific posting.

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    2. Soviets were using "divide et impera" policy everywhere they could. I don't know why they chose Jews. Maybe other minorities (Germans, Ukrainians, Lithuanians) were hated too much by Poles. It's not wise to use someone who is already so despised by natives.
      I don't think that Jews know who Wolinska, Brystiger and others were. Maybe they don't want to know. When Solomon Morel fled to Israel he was just another fellow Jew to them. Poor victim of Polish antisemites. Heroic holocaust survivor who spend war in Auschwitz. They were deceived. And that's something no one wants to belive. Or accept.
      In my opinion Morel was a psychopath who cared nothing for other Jews or Israel. He lived for decades in communist Poland and left in a hurry after democracy was established here. The real hero to me is Stanisław Aronson. A Polish Jew, just like Morel, but he took a different path in his life.
      P.S. About monuments. I was really surprised when I found this picture. It always seemed to me that Polish-Jewish soldiers are forgotten in Poland, inconvenient in Israel and unknown in America. I guess I was wrong about Israel.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PikiWiki_Israel_4263_Monument_in_memory_of_Jewish_fighters_armies_Polan.jpg

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  16. 02-01-2009 17:28
    Apology for Nazism
    By Kim Ja-young

    Recently I began a friendship with a Jewish man. He is the first Jewish person I have met in my life. We talked about Korea and some other countries where he has lived or traveled.

    While listening to his experiences in Korea I felt embarrassed when he talked about seeing a jazz bar in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province, which painted on its exterior wall a portrait of an infamous Nazi SS officer standing on a tank. Really? Could there actually be a Nazi bar in Mokpo?

    This reminded me of Brian Deutsch's article, ``Insensitivity About Nazism," which appeared in the April 22, 2008, edition of The Korea Times in which he discussed a Nazi-themed cosmetics ad campaign in which a well-known Korean actress appeared dressed as a Nazi officer, holding a cap emblazoned with a Nazi style logo.

    I recall seeing this ad on Youtube. In the background were the sounds of shell-firing rounds, the German language and the text ``Even Hitler could not get East and West at the same time." This Nazi-themed ad was hardly an issue in Korean society and was largely ignored by the Korean media.

    Frankly, when I watched this ad with my friend, we just laughed. Even though the commercial showed Nazi propaganda or made mention of Adolph Hitler, I don't think it bothered most Korean people's conscience, including mine. Surely, most Koreans have sympathy for Jewish people because we suffered similar cruelties by the Japanese invasion and subsequent occupation. I believe that when pressed, most Koreans would express having bad or negative feelings about Hitler or Nazism or fascism in general. However, the problem is that we don't appear to have much interest in people's business or problems other than our own.

    I recall that my friend and I talked about what it would have been like if the actress in the above-mentioned ad had dressed in a colonial Japanese military style and the sentence was ``Even Ito Hirobumi, who was the biggest culprit behind the Japanese colonization of Korea, could not get all of Asia." At the very least, the following day the cosmetic company headquarters would have been egg-bombed by protesters, I reckon.

    It is interesting that a Nazi-themed advertisement was not controversial until it stirred up discontent by expatriates living in Korea. It is surprising and shameful that after being chastised in the international news, neither the Korean cosmetics company nor the ad agency apologized and excused their actions stating they just wanted to highlight the ``revolutionary" aspects of Hitler.


    I felt badly when my friend described to me that Japan treated Koreans as inferior or lesser people, while the Nazis thought Jewish people were vermin or insects and not even worthy of human description. I felt sympathy when he talked to me about how his mother was the last person in her family to have a certain family name. He asked if I could imagine if after World War II, I was the only person left with the last name ``Kim?" I felt terrible when he told to me that he could not travel to Germany because of the subconscious fear it brought up in him. I felt sadly because he could not visit Berlin and enjoy the most beautiful modern city I have ever seen.

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  17. continued:

    After coming to know him and trying to understand his history and identity, I realized how the Nazi-themed cosmetics ad was an insult to the memory of the victims of the Nazi holocaust. If the ad agency insists that they want to symbolize the ``revolutionary" aspects of Hitler and the Nazi movement, they are ignorant and inhumane.

    If the cosmetic company states that they did not know what the Nazi-styled cap logo meant and did not feel that there is any support for Nazism in the ad, they are lost. If the proprietors are thinking that a Nazi jazz bar seems cool, I suggest they try opening a ``Hirobumi Bar" or ``Japanese Colonial Theme Bar." How cool would that be?

    I don't think this issue is just about insensitivity toward Nazism, but highlights our insensitivity about our place in the world. To be a more global people, our children are being asked to change even their Korean names to English nicknames at English camps.

    What sense does this make? Globalization would mean becoming a responsible member of the world and sensitive to lives and feelings of the community's other members. It doesn't require becoming a fluent English speaker with an English nickname.

    As a Korean and friend of a Jewish person and member of this global village, I want to apologize about the Nazi-themed cosmetics advertisement and bars that feature Nazi imagery here in Korea. I hope my apology will be considered acceptable.

    The writer is a radiation oncology resident at Bundang Cha Hospital. She can be reached at hontas0809@hotmail.com.

    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/opi_view.asp?newsIdx=38760&categoryCode=162

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  18. Here's the original article, sent in by Otto. Thank you!

    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2008/04/137_22946.html

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  19. The telling point here, I believe, is the credential level of the writer. If it takes a happenstance one-on-one meeting to better inform such a high level person its clear what average people, who don't read this paper either, know about global sensitivity to the topic. And this is Korea which is an enlightened country by any standard and especially in Asia, with a vibrantly free press and political processes. Imagine China. While the world focuses on Chinese economic power we can only imagine the iceberg of ignorance being formed there. Holocaust matters are just one element of that and there is no similar desire for "globalization of views" in the vast population of the PRC. Rather the "national characteristics" focus of the PRC government and its media organs inadvertently pays homage to National Socialism. Its easier to see such issues in small and open Hong Kong, Japan and Korea but the second most populous country on Earth is a closed book on this, as perspective.

    [also FYI to anyone linking to Korea Times: it is not the main english language paper in Korea and is known for its iconoclastic views such as being the lead carrier of anything anti-American in the english Korean press.]

    MB

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