Our thanks to Sandra Schwab for this story. You can read the original on twitter: @ScribblingSandy.
Transcription and traduction (French) by : Anonyme(s), Cryptie, Shiv, Skhaen.
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How does fascism take hold? (by Sandra Schwab)
When you grow up in Germany and go through the school system in Germany, you will cover the Third Reich several times.
In history, we went throught it at least twice; in German we talked about it when we read short stories and poetry. In English we read Morton Rue’s “The Wave” [Die Welle]. When Schindler’s List came out, our teacher took us to the cinema to watch it. When we were 15 or 16, our history teacher showed us the German anti-war film “The Bridge” [Die Brücke]. One of our class excursions took us to the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt and another one to a concentration camp.
In Germany, you don’t have the luxury of telling yourself (and your children), “It can’t happen in our country”.
So we not only learnt about the horrors of Nazi Germany, but we also learnt about the mechanics of 1930s society. We learnt how vulnerable democracy is and how easily it is brought down. We learnt that something like the Holocaust doesn’t start with the concentration camp and murdering people, but that it starts much earlier.
It starts with speech that is aimed at dehumanizing a whole group of people.
Another thing we learnt was what life was like in Nazi Germany. Let me tell you it’s fucking terrifying how easily such a system is erected and maintained.
You used to belong to the wrong party? You are arrested. You tell the wrong kind of joke? You are arrested.You want your son to get an apprenticeship in the big factory that is the biggest employer in your small town? He better belongs to the Hitler Youth (that’s the reason why my grand father joined the Hitler Youth).
Oh, and what about your daughter ? Is she a member of the BDM [Bund Deutscher Mädel – League of German Girls] ? And if she isn’t, why isn’t she ??
If you want to be a teacher ? Well, you better belong to The Party then.
On Stew Sunday, expect somebody from the Party to show up at your flat / your house. They ’ll want to make sure that you really have stew and that you donate what you would have spend on a Sunday roast to the effort to make your country great again (and if you don’t have stew, you better come up with a good explanation.)
You ran a youth organization in the 1920s? Naturally that will be merged with the new national youth organizations.
I mean, yes, there is a bit of political indoctrination, but you get to do exciting things; you get to go on excursion and on holidays. You are being made feel part of a group - and we all know how powerful this feeling is, right?
Imagine living in such a country. Imagine living in a country where your children are being taught to inform on you and their teachers.
Imagine living in a country where your neighbors might inform on your if you make fun of the political leadership of your country.
Imagine watching your neighbor, a prominent member of the Socialist Democratic Party, being picked up by the police to be brought to a camp.
Imagine watching an angry mob destroy the shop of your Jewish neighbor.
Would you have enough courage to speak up in such a situation, knowing the mob might turn against you ? What would happen to your family ? Or would you be part of that mob ? Because being part of a group makes you feel powerful and important.
Would you be part of the bystanders cheering them on ? Because at least when they are turning on others, they are not turning on you.
Or are you sitting in your flat at the end of the street, with the windows closed and your hands over your ears bec gosh, you just want to get on with your life, and surely it can’t get any worse, and it’s easier not to look too closely at the bad things that are happening to other people
You know, from our perspective, it’s so easy to say, “I would have resisted. I would have spoken up”.
But until you’ve lived in such a system, until you’ve found yourself in a smilir situation, you cannot know for sure.