May 21, 2019

Why White Supremacists Love the Classics

“IN 1924, as a secretary and propaganda assistant for the young Nazi Party, Heinrich Himmler was spending a great deal of time on a train as he traveled Bavaria promoting his party. He had with him a small treatise on the German race called de Origine et Situ Germanorum, or On the Origin and Situation of the Germans. The treatise was written in 98 CE by a Roman senator named Tacitus, and Himmler read it avidly, finding in it eloquent evidence of the superiority and purity of the German race. In Tacitus’s description of the tall, blond, rather savage northern tribes, Himmler saw the superior Aryan stock whose preservation and dominance motivated the Nazis. “We will return to being what we were,” he wrote in his diary, and he vowed to rediscover the “nobility of our ancestors.”

The Germania, as the treatise is commonly known, remained an important source of ideology and pride for the Nazis. Nor was it an isolated use of ancient authority: Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy both proudly and explicitly connected themselves with the ancient Romans and borrowed many of their symbols — the very name “Fascist” refers to an important Roman status marker, and the Nazi Imperial Eagle is derived from the Roman standard.

Himmler’s reading of antiquity, on that train in 1924, was extreme, but it was also the natural extension of the discipline’s origins; earlier classicists had simply been more genteel, or perhaps less proactive, in their application of white supremacy to antiquity. After World War II, classicists were all too happy to denounce explicitly racist appropriations like Himmler’s as abuses perpetrated by extremist ideologues, to sweep them under a rug in an upper chamber, and to return to what they saw as their unbiased, unspoiled, and objective engagement with antiquity. The mainstream of the field continued to do this for decades, leaving the uglier aspects of the discipline’s history largely unexamined, assuming that our dry analyses of the distant past were safely contained in our responsible hands.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"The biggest topic in British political circles on Monday wasn’t the country’s impending departure from the European Union. It was milkshakes..."

"I often disagree with Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., but I've been disturbed by the idea that he should be run out of the Republican Party just because he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses."

"The Icelandic band Hatari, whose members are quite vocal in their animosity towards Israel, held up Palestinian flags... Madonna, likewise, had two of her performers wear Israeli and Palestinian flags on their costumes."

"To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, I turn to movie critic Roger Ebert's old review of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Trust me on this one.)"

"The money is already here—and has been for years. In the midst of a housing crisis, an injection of cash into the superheated real-estate market seems likely to cause an uptick in evictions and displacement."

"Parents concerned about YouTube debate whether to let their children have their own channels; some forbid it, others send them to summer camp..."

"‘I Had Completely Lost the Knack for Staying Alive..." Warmer weather brings daffodils, rhubarb at the farmer’s market — and, for some, despair."

"With his new book, Howard Stern proves that his rightful place is among the prophets and moral visionaries, not the ‘shock jocks’"

"I’m terrified of parenting in the anti-vaxxer age: Anti-vaccine propaganda isn’t just harmful to children. It threatens to erode our entire sense of community."

"...doctors are starting to think more about specific nutrients that feed tumor cells. That is, how what we eat affects how cancers grow..."

"...it represents an impressive achievement: a victory of humankind against the chaos that pervades the universe."

"If trends continue, in 20 years the majority of the world’s Jews will be living in Israel. The United States will see a continuing decline in overall numbers, with a growing observant Jewish population..."