Skip to Content

Support MinnPost

Community Voices features opinion pieces from a wide variety of authors and perspectives. (Submission Guidelines)

Der Sturmer and The Daily Stormer: Decades apart, inciting ordinary people to hate Jews

REUTERS
When I heard the chants about Jews and I saw the huge swastikas that were worn and waved with pride and arrogance, I was truly frightened.

I am a Jew. I am a Jew with protective coloration, however: I’ve had a non-Jewish last name since the 1970s and I don’t have particularly "Jewish-looking" features.

author photo
Ellen J. Kennedy

People usually assume I’m Catholic, or at least Christian, because of my name and appearance. Over the years, a lot of anti-Semitic comments and jokes have been voiced in my presence but not directed at me personally, of course, because of that coloration. Those comments have offended me because of false and ugly stereotypes on which they are based, but the comments have never frightened me, and when I disclose my Jewish identity, the speakers are always contrite, ashamed, and genuinely embarrassed.

The events in Charlottesville frightened me. When I heard the chants about Jews and I saw the huge swastikas that were worn and waved with pride and arrogance, I was truly frightened.

Much of my extended family perished in the Holocaust, in the annihilation of the Jewish ghetto in Vilna, Lithuania. I work in human rights. I have followed the dramatic upsurge in hate groups and hate incidents that accompanied the Trump campaign, the election, and now the presidency itself. The chants of "Heil Trump" make my heart stop. Slogans having to do with Jews and ovens – I simply cannot believe that this is happening in my lifetime, in my country, from fellow Americans. And Trump is supporting this violence by failing to take a strong stand against the neo-Nazis, by demonizing the good people who were protesting hate, and by not disavowing the alt-right’s allegiance to him.

Young people are highly susceptible to online propaganda. The neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, part of the organizing impetus for the Charlottesville demonstrations, was shut down in recent days by several hosting sites and now resides in the dark web. It has its ancestry in the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer, circulated in Germany from the 1920s until the end of World War II. Der Sturmer’s publisher, Julius Streicher, was prosecuted at the Nuremberg trials after the Holocaust and was hanged for committing crimes against humanity.

Streicher never killed anybody, never filled shower rooms with poisonous gas, never rounded up Jews and packed them into cattle cars. He did something that in many ways was far worse. He incited ordinary people to hate Jews, to view them as objects to be reviled and defiled and exterminated.

These are the same messages we are hearing today, without opposition from the White House, without outrage and incredulity from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, without enough shock and horror from all of us to silence the hate speech and to put an end to the swastikas and the Hitler adulation forever.

This is no longer my country. This is a place where I am frightened, where the next Julius Streichers are taking boldly to the streets with encouragement and support.

Where will I go to feel safe?

Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D., is the executive director of World Without Genocide at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you're interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, see our Submission Guidelines.)

Get MinnPost's top stories in your inbox

Related Tags:

Comments (1)

Shared concern but lots of walking, talking rays of hope

Like a whole lot of people, when our new president was elected I wondered what was wrong with so many Americans and what would happen.

I had the same feeling when George Bush was elected in 2000 and we all know how that went.

I was sure things would go much worse under this new whatever he is.

Too much for here, but, so far (and it's nowhere near over yet), I've been amazed at how less badly things have gone than they could have. For reasons no one can quite fathom, a strange combination of things has, somehow, prevented "the worst" from happening time and again . . . The president has that uncanny compulsion to mess things up for himself and, while suffering from some kind of similar but different strain of "dysfunctionality," most Republicans in Congress haven't been much, if any, better.

I mean, try imagining how devastatingly bad things could already be IF the president and Congressional Republicans could have managed to just get over the lowest bar of political normalcy there is when one political party controls Congress and the White House.

But when it comes to the concerns Ms. Kennedy expresses, I'd say the encouraging news is Americans are stepping up, speaking out and letting the "alt right," white supremacists, homegrown nazis and their supporters know they want no part of their crap and, now that we've all gotten a clear look at them and what they're all about, a strong majority seem to be saying they want them to go away and crawl back under their rocks.

Yesterday's turnout in Boston, one week after the insanity in Charlottesville, was a powerful demonstration of that:

"Anti-racism protesters totally eclipsed Boston's right-wing Free Speech rally"

www.boston.com/news/local-news/2017/08/19/these-aerial-views-show-the-si...

The photos on that web site sum it up well.

Reports said just 200 to 300 (maximum) "free speech demonstrators" showed up for their rally and were welcomed by 30,000 to 40,000 other free speech-loving Americans who see things differently.

They found themselves and their message outnumbered 100, 200 or 300-to-one and, when they saw and experienced that kind of real world "wave of resistance" coming at and surrounding them, they shut down their gazebo event and slipped away as soon as they could.

Thanks to freedom of speech, people who defend these "right-wing" demonstrations (including the president, blowhard fascist media, etc.) can twist and spin things however they can't help themselves, but the reality is white supremacists, would-be American nazis and garden variety good 'ol boy racists had a TERRIBLE week last week . . . and the nationwide reaction to their actions in Virginia and yesterday's showing in Boston has given at least some of them some compelling reasons to rethink the odds and which side of their futures they'd rather be on, no doubt.