Last post, I started looking at the conenctions between Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow South. Today, I want to continue that examination by looking at the post-war period. In 1951, the Civil Rights Congress presented We Charge Genocide to the United Nations. The document demonstrates how the United States violated the U.N. Genocide Convention and took part in the genocide of over 15,000,000 of its citizens. The document chronicles countless incidents from the end of the war to 1951 where Blacks endured violence for a myriad of daily activities. At the core, though, is the violence enacted upon former service members returning from the war and exercising their rights to vote, rights that the powers that be interfered with on a daily basis.
From the outset, We Charge Genocide lays bare the connections between the atrocities of the Nazis and the United States government. The petition specifically lays out the historical through line of these atrocities in the United States and the ways that what happens in the United States does not remain in the United States, stating, “History has shown us that the racist theory of government of the U.S.A. i snot the private affair of Americans, but the concern of mankind everywhere.” They understood the ways that the Nazis looked to the United States, and notably the South, to enact their villainous schemes and plans of mass execution. They understood that the language of Hitler was not at all removed from he language of Herman Talmadge, Theodore Bilbo, the Klan, and countless others. They understood that turning a blind eye to the mirror would result in the continued genocide of millions, slowly but surely.
Standing in front of the United States Senate in June 1948, Louisiana Senator Allen J. Ellender said, “The more freedom and the more privilege a Negro is given, the more he will abuse that privilege. He will run wild and do violence to the society in which he moves.” This fear mongering echoes Hitler’s rhetoric against the Jews, claiming that their mere presence would destroy the society in which they resided. Reverend Harrison, at a Klan meeting in Atlanta in 1948, told those gathered, “In God’s sight it is no sin to kill a n—-r, for a n—-r is no more than a dog.” Again, the rhetorical connections between Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow South become clear. Hitler’s plan was to exterminate the Jews, and he murdered 6 million individuals in the process. An unknown poet, as Konnilyn Feig relates it Hitler’s Death Camps, highlights the ways that the Nazis viewed the Jews as less than their dogs. The poem begins, “We were not likened to dogs among the Gentiles–They pity a dog.” They love the dog and send the poet to death, “scatter[ing] the ashes over stream and sewer.”
Dr. Hiram W. Evans, in “Negro Suffrage–Its False Theory” sounds eerily familiar to Nazi rhetoric. Evans writes, “The first essential to the success of any nation and particularly of any democracy is a national unity of mind” that does not have mixing what soever. According to Evans, “They must have common instincts and racial and national purpose,” and the introduction of inferior “alien races” such as “Chinese, Japanese, and Hindus” would undermine that unity. No matter what education occurs, according to Evans, the “races can never exist together in complete peace and friendship” or equality.
Evans’ language sounds similar to Hitler’s in Mein Kampf where he writes that wherever “the people who grant [Jews] hospitality are bound to be bled to death sooner or later” because the Jewish presence “poisons the blood of others but preserves his own blood unadulterated,” thus leading to a decline in the “pure” race. This “poisoning” occurs due to the lecherous attitude of the Jewish youth [who] lies in wait for hours on end, satanically glaring at and spying on the unsuspicious girl whom he plans to seduce, adulterating her blood and removing her from the bosom of her own people.” Hitler echoes the South’s fears of race mixing and the predatory stereotype of Black men and Evans echoes Hitler’s thoughts on the poisoning of the “pure” race.
We do not learn this information when we study World War II. Rather, we learn about the heroic, and yes they were heroic, acts of valor, sacrifice, and survival in the name of democratic ideals. However, the hyper patriotic, all noble image of the United States’ and the Allies’ role in World War II overshadows the ways that what happened in Nazi Germany and elsewhere did not spring out of nothingness. We talk about anti-Semitism in Europe, yes, and its long legacy, especially in central and eastern Europe, but we ignore anything that would remotely implicate the United States and other Western nations in the atrocities of the Holocaust and the war. This includes the parasitic ideas of white supremacy that have permeated the United States for centuries, leading to the codification of laws that directly discriminated against individuals based on race, laws that, even if appealed today, continue to wreak havoc on the lives of generations.
We fail to acknowledge the impact of white supremacy and racism on the Reich’s construction of their laws. We fail to acknowledge that in 1935, after the passage of the laws in Nuremburg, that “45 Nazi lawyers sailed for New York under the auspices of the Association of National Socialist German Jurists. . . . to gain ‘special insight into the workings of American legal and economic life through study and lectures,’ and the leader of the group was Ludwig Fischer. As the governor of the Warsaw District half a decade later, he would preside over the brutal order of the ghetto.” We fail to acknowledge the waves of anti-Semitism sweeping the nation and events such as the German American Bund’s “Pro American Rally” in New York in 1939 which packed 20,000 people into Madison Square Garden amidst an array of Nazi and American iconography to hear white supremacist rhetoric from speakers on the platform. We fail to acknowledge that the United States and other nations stood by, even though they knew that the Nazis were exterminating Jews, and denied refugees entrance into their nations. In May 1939, the United States, Cuba, and Canada refused to let the St. Louis, a ship with 937 Jewish refugees, land. The ship went to Western Europe, and 254 of its passengers were murdered in the Holocaust. Secretary of State Breckinridge Long, on refusing asylum, said, “I took an oath to protect the flag and obey the laws of my country, and you are asking me to break those laws.” Long was talking partly about the quotas on German immigrants into the United States at the time.
I am still early in my research into these connections, and I know others have done a lot of this work. I know there will be more on this topic in the future. So stay tuned. What are your thoughts? As always, let me know in the comments below. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @silaslapham.