"'Ethnic Germans' is a really weird way to get around the wholesale murder of German Jews," Tablet Magazine's Noam Blum tweeted.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is worthy enough of condemnation without using it to prettify Adolph Hitler and Nazism. That’s just what Rachel Maddow did in her blog post last night, echoing extreme cold-warrior and former US Ambassador To Russia Michael McFaul, who was a guest on MSNBC. In an attempt to paint Putin as worse than Hitler, Maddow and McFaul credit the Nazis with not killing “ethnic Germans” on their march through Ukraine.
I don’t doubt they’ll have to walk it back.
There’s so much ignorance and deceit embedded in the Maddow tweet, it’s hard to know where to begin. How about the fact that Hitler and the Nazi’s path to power was strewn with the bodies of German socialists, Communists, trade unionists, homosexuals, German Jews, Romani (“Gypsies), and more.
The Nazis also did deadly medical experiments on disabled people—including "ethnic Germans" as they were planning their Final Solution. They literally slaughtered an entire generation of disabled people.
McFaul might argue that Hitler’s Jewish and Romani victims weren’t really “ethnic Germans” or “Aryans” (Hitler’s argument) or that their slaughter wasn’t done specifically in Ukraine. When you have to go that far in explaining what you really meant…
Before the German invasion, Ukraine was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, inhabited by Ukrainians with Russian, Polish, Jewish, Belarusian, German, Romani, and Crimean Tatar minorities. More than 4.5 million Ukrainians joined the Red Army to fight Nazi Germany, and more than 250,000 served in Soviet partisan paramilitary units.
Nazi occupation of Ukraine ended the lives of millions of civilians in The Holocaust and other Nazi mass killings. It is estimated 900,000 to 1.6 million Jews and 3 to 4 million non-Jewish Ukrainians were killed during the occupation; other sources estimate that 5.2 million Ukrainian civilians (of all ethnic groups) perished due to crimes against humanity, war-related disease, and famine amounting to more than 12% of Ukraine's population at the time.
Why did Maddow/McFaul/MSNBC find it necessary to make this claim? I’ll leave it to them to explain. If it was to make the case that Putin’s leveling of Ukrainian cities borrowed a page out of Hitler’s playbook, that’s fair enough. But when they repeat the saving-Ethnic-Germans mythology, they reveal their own white blindspot.
There seems to be a lot of that going around at the moment.
It was Martin Niemöller, the German pastor and outspoken public foe of Hitler who spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps who is best remembered for his postwar words,
“First they came for the [German] socialists, and I did not speak out…”
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I thought it was widely understood that all murderous groups always begin by preying on people of the group to which they belong.
"Among the earliest victims of discrimination and persecution in Nazi Germany were political opponents—primarily Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, and trade union leaders."