Posts tagged ‘racism’

October 5, 2010

Right-wing Sweden Democrats walk out of anti-racist sermon

IT APPEARS AS IF the Sweden Democrats, the far-right party that recently gained twenty seats in Sweden’s 349-seat Riksdag, are not only skinheads but they are thin-skinned too.  (I have already written about the Sweden Democrats here.)  Today, Prime Minister Reinfeldt, the new parliament, the royal family, and other dignitaries met at Stockholm’s St. Nicholas Cathedral to celebrate a formal service to mark the opening the new parliament.  So far so good.  But as soon as Bishop Eva Brunne began telling the congregation of the thousands of people around the country who were demonstrating against racism, and that it is not worthy of a devout person to make distinctions on the basis of race or ethnic background, the SD group stood up and walked out of the church…

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September 20, 2010

The new New Right wins big in Sweden

AS COUNTRIES GO THESE days, you can’t get much more respectable than Sweden. Didn’t the Swedes remain (more or less) neutral during both World Wars? Don’t they spend more than almost any other people on foreign aid? And wasn’t it a Swede who created the Nobel Peace Prize? But Alfred Nobel also invented dynamite, and last weekend’s parliamentary election with its lurch to the “respectable right” is the most explosive in recent memory.

Things started out very well for conservative minister president Fredrik Reinfeldt, who hoped to walk back to power after a successful four years at the head of this traditionally…

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September 8, 2010

Inspired timing: Berlin politician launches anti-Islam party

THAT’S WHAT I CALL inspired timing. Just when (some) Americans are already gathering to burn Qurans in Florida, a German city councilman in Berlin today announced the founding of a new anti-Muslim party that will run candidates in next year’s municipal election. The conservative Christian Democratic Union kicked René Stadtkewitz (45), who represents the city’s Pankow district in the capital’s local House of Representatives, out of the CDU group yesterday for inviting the xenophobic Dutch politician Geert Wilders to deliver a lecture here on October 2 to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of Germany’s reunification. This was too much for the CDU, and Stadtkewitz…

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June 29, 2010

German city “pulls the rug” from under neo-Nazi party

RIGHT-WING PARTIES ARE difficult enough to combat after they have seized power, after which they normally change the political rules and crush all opposition. But they are elusive in democratic societies as well, where they often become masters at flouting the spirit of democracy under the guise of freedom of peace and assembly. But a town in former East Germany has found a clever way to, as it were, pull the rug from under the feet of its own local neo-Nazi party while leaving its constitutionally guaranteed rights intact: It simply changed its address.

Riesa, population 34,000, is a picturesque Saxon industrial town located on the banks of the River Elbe. For the past ten years, Mannheimer Strasse has been the home of the local offices of the far right National Democratic Party (NPD) and its newspaper, the Deutsche Stimme (“German Voice”). Its politics are “conservative” in the eastern German sense of the word, with the Christian Democrats and the post-communist…

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September 24, 2009

The Swiss take aim at “the Islamist threat”

Anti-Minaret Initiative
Logo of the Swiss “Anti-Minaret Initiative”

SWITZERLAND OWES ITS INTERNATIONAL reputation to its watches, bank accounts, chocolate, and the Matterhorn, but now it is gaining a name for itself in another area as well: as a bulwark against Muslim expansion in Europe. On November 29 the country is holding a nationwide referendum concerning the construction of mosques on Swiss territory. But a controversial political poster is already raising temperatures in this land of Alpine glaciers and pristine ski resorts.

Anti-Minaret
Stop. [Vote] Yes to the minaret ban.”

The offending placard is the product of the “Anti-Minaret Committee,” an initiative that seeks to anchor a proposed ban on the construction of minarets in the Swiss constitution. The poster shows a veiled woman standing against a backdrop of missile-like minarets shooting out of the Swiss flag…

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September 8, 2009

Is Obama Hitler? A historical fact check on “black Nazis”

With the health care debate and the metastazation of the “Obama is Hitler” meme reaching a crescendo, I decided to repost my August 10 article on the fate of Africans and biracial people in the Third Reich. While I obviously don’t expect a mere fact check like this to influence the discourse, if just one or two people on this planet would start to feel even a little bit ashamed about the self-serving nonsense they’ve been dishing up over the past several months then I’ll feel like I’ve done my good deed for the year.


IN A RECENT ESSAY, Salon editor Joan Walsh asks in dismay whether “our first black president [is] a ‘Nazi’?” After being exposed to the increasingly frantic political rhetoric enveloping President Obama’s health care reform proposals, one is tempted to believe that he is. None other than Rush Limbaugh has pointed out that “Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate,” taking care to remind us that Obama has adopted a health care reform logo closely modeled on the Nazi Party emblem.

Well, I guess that about clinches it – for many of us, at least. Now I have already presented my own reasons why Obama isn’t Hitler elsewhere, and I’ll leave the comparisons between the President’s actual policies and those of the National Socialist dictatorship to the subtle minds that congregate on talk radio. What interests me is the term “black Nazi” itself. It sounds impressive enough, but just what does it mean? Yes, I know – in itself it means nothing at all. As George Orwell once wrote, “The word Fascism has now no meaning, except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable.’” Or perhaps Lewis Carrol’s Humpty-Dumpty had a better grasp of today’s politics: “‘When I use a word,'” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean neither more nor less.'” But just for fun, let us imagine for a moment that words actually do have some sort of verifiable meaning, and that terms taken from history have… well, a history of their own. So what attitude did actual members of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party – the fabled “Nazis” of American political punditry – display towards people of African origin? And what are the chances that a man like Barack Obama – the biracial offspring of a black Kenyan man and a white American woman – would feel any affinity for the NSDAP and its doctrines?…

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August 28, 2009

Hitler’s favorite Jew: The strange case of Dr. Eduard Bloch

Star of David

Star of David

SOME FOOTNOTES OF HISTORY are just that: random scraps of trivia that may well form part of the historical record but are of no real interest to anyone besides genuine buffs. Who was Napoleon’s podiatrist? Who cares? That is why it might at first sound like groping at the very bottom of the historical bag of tricks to write a book about Hitler’s family doctor. Unless, of course, that doctor happened to be a Jew whose remarkable life story has revealed a previously unknown side of the Austrian dictator’s character.

In fact, there has never been any mystery about Dr. Eduard Bloch. He was repeatedly interviewed by the Office of Strategic Services or OSS after his arrival in the US in 1940 and also published an autobiography in Collier’s Weekly in 1941. This information has been out there for generations, but so far no one has dared touch it. Austrian historian Brigitte Hamann has finally gone ahead and tackled the good doctor’s tale head on. Hamann, who is best known outside her home country for her 1999 book Hitler’s Vienna: A Dictator’s Apprenticeship, published her biography of Bloch in Germany in 2008. It has not yet appeared in the United States, but when it finally comes out we had all better be prepared to face what comes next…

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August 13, 2009

When the Greens “go black”

Or why an insensitive election poster is giving the German left a bad case of the blues

IT SEEMED LIKE SUCH a clever idea. Why not poke fun at Germany’s traditional color-coded party spectrum and at the same time make a plea for cultural diversity and racial tolerance? Doesn’t that sound like a very “Green” sort of thing to do? So when the local Green Party organization in the small town of Kaarst on the Lower Rhine unveiled its new campaign poster for the September 27 elections, it got a good laugh at party headquarters. 

But now that it’s hanging on buildings and lampposts all across town, not everybody thinks it’s so funny…

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