Monday, December 18, 2006

Or, How to Turn a Good Boy into a Nazi

I stumbled across a sinister subculture in doing research about the HBO series "Rome." White supremacists hold the patricians of ancient Rome in high regard, as exemplars of the blond race. Patricians were "Nordic," apparently, and thereby ancient first cousins of the Third Reich.

Certain contemporary fascist types worry out loud and unabashedly about "impure" blood infecting "superior races" and point to the rather lax intermarriage of the ancient Roman patricians as a lesson in what not to do. Witness this: "the blood of the Plebeians was to mingle with the Nordic [patrician] upper classes. This was the first step in the downfall of Rome, sure to bring evil even though its effects were slow." (Caution: the website linked above is white supremacist to the core.)

Those lines were written by Roger Pearson, a British-born fascist who was for a time a member in good standing of the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Pearson noted with approval that "the oldest element in Roman law" provided for the killing of misshapen children, and he quoted Seneca: "We drown the weaklings and misshapen. It is not unreason but reason to separate the fit from the unfit."

Well, okay then!

No wonder Adolph Hitler admired ancient Rome, considered it an earlier Aryan empire to emulate.

Germany's Nazi past, especially the way the Nazis turned good boys into SS officers, is probed effectively in a new German film, "Before the Fall," written and directed by Dennis Gansel. (German title: "Napola," which was an acronym for "National-politische Erziehungs-Anstalt" or "National Political Education Institute," the training schools where young boys judged "Nordic" enough were sent to learn Nazi doctrine about race purity, to develop perfect military obedience, and to hone certain killing skills for warfare.)

"Before the Fall" helps us understand the process those boys went through, why it felt good to them, even life-affirming to turn over their free will to an abstraction. Gansel's film, though, carefully explores the experience of the doubters among the boys, of those who questioned, i.e., the "weak" who needed drowning. Seneca's line quoted above becomes a pivotal plot point in "Before the Fall."

One would like to know how Gansel's film was received by German audiences, many of them (we're led to believe) still in denial about the Nazi past. For that matter, one wonders how the film might be received by the mass of Americans, many of them all too ready to condemn as traitors anyone who questioned our own supreme leader's foreign policies during the last six years.

No comments: