American Nazism, a quietly lurking beast, often goes unacknowledged. To admit its presence is to confront the unsettling reality that a substantial portion of American culture is entangled with white supremacy and racial violence. Yet, for many, this notion is denied, and Nazism remains an abstract ideology tied to Germany and World War II. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The image of Americans marching with swastikas on a Florida overpass is indeed strange and disconcerting. It clashes with the memory of Captain America comics where Nazis were vanquished and the world saved. Veterans’ stories recount heroic battles and medals of honor earned fighting against German soldiers. Now, nearly a century after the war, the Nazi flag waves on American soil without the heroic response, police intervention, or declarations of war. Why?
The Conflation Conundrum
The issue is one of conflation. The American struggle against Nazis during World War II was not the battle against Nazism as an ideology but against the soldiers and war machine. It’s worth noting that Hitler’s Nazi party drew inspiration from American segregationist politics and racial laws. The ease with which Nazi legislation marginalized Jewish people in Germany was partly influenced by American practices. Even before Hitler’s brutal reign, he looked to the United States as an exemplar of a racially ordered society.
Early Nazi lawyers extensively studied American Jim Crow laws and aimed to introduce anti-miscegenation laws mirroring those in the U.S. The two nations found common ground in their racial convictions, even collaborating on matters of biological foundations of racial superiority. It wasn’t the defeat of Nazism that propelled the U.S. into war with Germany; it was the disruption of America’s trade partners and allies. Public opinion shifted towards aiding England with troops only after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Roots in Segregation
The racial concepts tied to Nazism are disturbingly familiar to Americans due to segregation policies. Black soldiers in World War II launched the ‘Double V Campaign,’ seeking victory against Nazis in Europe and against Jim Crow at home. This history matters because it challenges the portrayal of America as the victor over Nazis; it reveals that the racial convictions of Nazism found resonance among the white American public. Notably, America had its own Nazi party, not to mention the Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden in 1939. Killing a Nazi does not equate to eradicating the ideology.
Operation Paperclip: A Sobering Reality
The Holocaust exposed the horrors of Nazi ideology, and the U.S. government was quick to distance itself from the shame. Operation Paperclip is a post-war recruitment policy that integrated over a thousand Nazi scientists, engineers, and doctors into high-ranking U.S. government positions between 1945 and 1959. Many of these individuals contributed to organizations like NASA. The idea that these “former” Nazis instantly shed their racial doctrines upon setting foot on American soil is naive. Nazi criminals found refuge in the U.S., living peaceful lives and contributing to American society.
Not New, but Inherent
The point of this background is to underscore that Nazism is not new to the U.S. It is deeply ingrained in American culture and politics. Some aspects of Nazism can even be argued to be inherent to American culture, considering the nation’s foundation in white supremacy.
Core Tenets in the Modern American Right
Nazism is not merely anti-Semitism and anti-communism; it encompasses a fascist-totalitarian belief rooted in ideas of biological racial hierarchy, extreme nationalism, white racial superiority, and eugenics. The modern American Right, particularly the far-right, has embraced these concepts:
- Lebensraum: The American Right’s belief in the “Great Replacement” theory echoes the Nazi concept of Lebensraum. It alleges that non-white minorities are “replacing” white Americans through immigration, mixed marriages, and declining birth rates. This rhetoric can incite violence.
- Anti-“Wokeness”: The American Right opposes “wokeness,” often associated with support for critical race theory, social services, LGBTQ+ rights, diversity, equity, and inclusion. The elimination of “wokeness” translates to eliminating those who promote it.
- Antisemitism: Antisemitic conspiracy theories have gained popularity in right-wing politics. Leaders and commentators have propagated these theories with few consequences.
- Violence and Eradication: The American Right has shown an increasing willingness to endorse violence against targeted communities. Murders, shootings, and mass violence have been associated with these beliefs.
Nazism is an ideology that transcends the physical presence of swastikas or shaved heads. It manifests in the promotion of violence and legislations that target marginalized communities. Nazism thrives not only in visible extremist groups but in everyday conversations and policies.
Recognizing the Infiltration
Understanding how ordinary citizens were swayed by Nazism’s toxic ideologies is vital. The new American Nazi doesn’t always don Nazi regalia. They could be your neighbor, TV host, or influencer. Nazism infiltrates through elections and ignorance, wielding a potentially destructive influence on American society.
American Nazism’s roots run deep, entangled with the nation’s history. Recent political shifts have pushed the right-wing further into these extreme ideologies. Nazism is no longer just an abstract concept but an increasingly central pillar of right-wing politics. Recognizing it is the first step in countering its influence.
Author of Social News Outlet, Tanvi Garg weaves compelling narratives that illuminate the human stories behind headlines.