6 May 2019
Nazi Germany: Who is the Monster?
January 30th, 1933, this is the date that will be the spawn of yet another monster that the world has seen time and time again in different forms. The monster I speak of is one of the most famous tyrannical governments in history, Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler the leader of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party(Nazis’) was a man of great power, fear, and deception. He convinced an entire nation that Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and any person with disabilities were inferior and needed to be rid of forever. How were he and his goons able to pull this off? How can a group with such extreme and insane ideas have so much influence over so many people? It definitely was not overnight. Their plan took years of slowly using their unrivaled power of the German media to propagandize the people into believing them, and when the time was right they commenced the grand plan of racial purity.
From Cohen’s monster theory paper, the fifth theses explain that a supreme power or force in society will sometimes convince the people it controls that something or someone is a monster, which then justifies the act of destroying the so-called monster. Hitler did just this with years of newspapers articles, radio programs, and even movies slandering the Jews and other groups the Nazis found to be “inferior”. The truth of the matter though is that if a large group of people is fed the same information constantly, whether it be fact or fiction, they will eventually take it as truth. The people did and that led to popular support for acts such as Jewish business boycotts, forcing Jews to live in the ghettos and eventually to the liquidation of the ghettos themselves. The Jews were painted as the monsters and the Nazis were painted as heroes but as we all know that is not the case.
One way the Nazis were able to convince Germany that the Jews needed to be rid of was through the use of political posters. This particular poster depicts a Jew hiding behind the flags of the allied forces the United States, Great Britain, and the USSR. The message this was associated with was the presumption that Jews were working for the allies to conspire against Germany. This gave Hitler the justification he needed to say that the Jews were now aligned with the enemies of Germany and had to be stopped for the sake of all pure German citizens. As was stated earlier this isn’t the only example of the Nazis doing this. They used radio broadcasting, newspapers, movies, etc. basically anything they could use to get the message out.
The most horrifying part of this is that nobody was able to stand up to them from the inside. Hitler was able to get total control of the population’s thought. That’s the thing about large groups of people though, once enough people are on board with something it gets harder and harder to go against the grain. Why is this? Because of fear. Most humans as individuals don’t want to be the one that isn’t in a group especially when that group is preaching a doctrine that includes persecution and racism. Hitler knew that for the most part, he could gain popular support without much opposition because sure he had the firepower but the people had a collective desire to not be the odd ones out.
This leads to Cohen’s sixth theses which states that the monster is something we all desire but that is forbidden. This can be shown in two examples. The first one being directly related to the idea of not wanting to be an outsider. The bandwagon effect takes place on these people and regardless of whether supporting the Nazi Party is the right thing to do they’ll do it because the Nazis are the winning side. People will do some crazy stuff to survive, think about how many people turned a blind eye to the atrocities the Nazis committed. Before the Nazis spread their ideology of racism, how many Germans had Jewish “friends” who they knew and had no problem with? A lot for sure. Now how many of those Germans helped protect these same Jewish “friends” once the Nazis arrived? Not many. There were those who helped by hiding Jewish families but the reality is that most people will look out for themselves and their family when in a situation such as this.
That example was more on an individual basis. On a more collective note, there is also the part of how people even supported him in the beginning. To start, Hitler put out the idea that he can make Germany great and powerful again. Germany’s economy was destroyed from world war one and the treaty of Versailles restricted Germany from having an army more than 100,000 soldiers and only let them have six navy ships with no submarines or airforce. Having a powerful army, airforce, and navy was forbidden by the treaty and so when Hitler restored those things and took control of places such as Austria and Czechoslovakia it made the German people excited. Germany’s patriotism was in shambles after world war one and with a strong leader who defied the control of other countries, it boosted German morale. They wanted to have pride in their country again and it caused more and more support of the Nazis until Hitler had everything and could do anything he wanted.
In reflection of these events, one must question who is the monster in all of this? The easy answer, of course, is Hitler but it does go deeper than that. Yes, Hitler and the Nazi Party touch on the two points used from Cohens Monster Theory, but so do the citizens of Germany. The Nazis carried out the persecutions, holocaust, selective breeding of humans, and horrific experiments, but they did it with the support of seemingly innocent everyday people. The population wasn’t always like that. On an individual level, Germans would never have let these things happen but then you see that there is potential danger aimed back at you and then it’s over, you are going to turn a blind eye on a terrible reality to save yourself. So who is the monster? The government or the people? The answer is both. You cant have one without the other. Without support, Hitler and the Nazis are just a group of crazy people that cant do much. Without Hitler and the Nazis the people will just follow whatever power falls into place. The monster is Nazi Germany as a whole. The monster is humans and our dark nature.
Cohen, Jeffrey J. Monster Culture. 1996.
This source is about the seven monster theses we went over in class. It holds specific theses that are relevant to my topic. I’ll be using theories five and six to show how Hitler deceived the German people into thinking that something else was the monster when in fact it was him. This source is necessary for the paper because the main points are based on this work.
Narayanaswami, Karthik. “Analysis of Nazi Propaganda.” Harvard University, 29 Apr.2019,https://blogs.harvard.edu/karthik/files/2011/04/HIST-1572-Analysis-of-Nazi-Propaganda-KNarayanaswami.pdf.
This paper is about the specifics of Nazi propaganda. It analyzes how Hitler used propaganda to gain power and persecute Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, etc. I will be using this to demonstrate how Hitler relates to theory five. This source was written by Karthik Narayanaswami, who is a graduate student from Harvard University who centers on International Relations.
“Holocaust Encyclopedia: Nazi Propaganda .” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 29 Apr. 2019, https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/nazi-propaganda.
This source is a poster used by the Nazis. It depicts how the “Jew” is responsible for the alliances of Germany’s enemies. I will use this to show how the “good guy” is actually the monster and the “bad guy” is the victim. This was found in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museums website.
“Nazi Election Posters.” Facing History and Ourselves, 29 Apr. 2019, https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/image/national-socialism-election-poster.
This source is about how Hitler used the allure of socialism to get Germans to vote for him in the elections. The state of Germany’s economy was in ruin and Hitler promised to return Germany to greatness. I will use this to show how monster theses six applies to the citizens of Nazi Germany. This source was pulled from Facing History.