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Lurking shadows of fascism

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Angeline Loh reviews a book about Nazi atrocities that warns us to be vigilant about the dangers of neofascism.

Butchers of Berlin A book by Bela von Block titled, “Butchers of Berlin” was published in 1960, fifteen years after the end of the Second World War. It probably went out of print years ago.

The book is not a story but a comment and warning of the survival of neo-Nazi fascism, long after the so-called liberation of Europe from the grip of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi reign of terror over all the conquered countries on that continent.

The Nazi war machine progressively fined tuned its methods since 1933, when Hitler came to power in Germany, to infiltrate and undermine the traditional conservative political structures of its neighbours, bringing them under the overlordship of Hitler’s Third Reich.

In undisguised bitterness, the author recounts the atrocities and inhuman war crimes committed by Nazi war criminals, like Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich and Ernst Kaltenbrunner, who headed Germany’s Nazi state organisations like the Gestapo, the SS and SD. (The Gestapo, SS and SD made up three main sections of Nazi Secret Security which planned and participated in the extermination of Jews and others.) The author goes into horrifying detail in his description of the death camps, the extermination methods, human experiments, and sadistic torture of the victims of the holocaust by apparently criminally insane overseers of concentration camps such as Auschwitz, Dachau, Ravensbruck, Buchenwald and many more inside and outside Germany.

But the victims of the Holocaust were not only Jews; these included French, Polish, Russians, Czechs, Austrians, Germans, Hungarians, Yugoslavs, and anyone else who opposed the Nazi regime and its policies, or were deemed racially inferior to Hitler’s ‘Aryan’ super race.

Von Block warns that even after the fall of the Nazi regime and Allied victory in Europe, disciples of Nazi fascism survived, having escaped arrest and trial in the war crimes courts held in Germany and other locations around Europe. He alleges the numbers at large ran into the tens of thousands. “Nearly 30,000 Nazi war criminals “Wanted” by Allied authorities have never been apprehended.” ( B. von Block p. 148 “Butchers of Berlin”, 1960, Chariot Book, London.)

The fear expressed stems from the fact of Nazi mentality permeating all ranks of military, government civil services, security, and civilians influenced by the political aims and objectives of Hitler’s Third Reich. To support this point, von Block quotes excerpts from letters written by SS wives to their husbands, egging them on in the extermination of concentration camp inmates and even requesting executions as gestures to celebrate marriage fidelity. How a people lost sight of humanity to apparently restore their prestige and power is what is astounding about the whole issue.

What happened then to those who escaped accounting for the crimes they committed against humanity? According to von Block, a number found political asylum in South America and the Middle East, having amassed blood-stained fortunes from their deeds. Some stashed their ill-gotten wealth in banks in Switzerland and around Europe. Apart from these who could ‘buy’ their protection and liberty from others in power elsewhere, it seems that as time blunted the sharp horror of the Holocaust, many people in Europe and other wartorn countries, including Asia, forgot the scourge of fascism, moving on to reconstruct decimated societies, economies, and ruined infrastructure systems.

Yet, von Block has a point in jerking the reader into realising that the Allied victory over Nazi Germany did not eliminate the continuance and perpetuation of Nazi fascism and racial extremism. He touches on the existence of neo-Nazi organisations in various countries and the wealth that still exists to sustain this seeming underground global fascist network. Moreover, those war criminals whose sentences of life imprisonment had been commuted, were re-assimilated into society and were among the barons of industry, civil servants, military and para-military advisers, etc. anywhere in the world.

In spite of its heavily emotional tone, due to von Block’s personal relation to a victim of the Holocaust, he presents factual evidence (including photographs) revealing the consequences of cruel inhumanity found by Allied forces which advanced into the European continent from 1944 to 1945. This is indeed a very disturbing book; yet the warning given and questions raised are relevant even now.

Von Block is not the only or first post-World War Two writer, to express doubts about the end of fascism after the 1945 Allied victory. Many other writers confirm this possibility in post-war works like Fredrick Forsyth’s 1972 novel, “The Odessa File”.

One has only to read about the many ongoing conflicts in the world and to closely examine the policies of various governments based on ethnic, religious, gender, or political differentiation to feel the oppressive influence of fascism in its varied forms. Bela von Block is right to say that the evil of fascism is still with us.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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