Berlin | Russia | Sochi Olympics

Hitler And Putin: History Is Repeating Itself

In all the news around Russia's anti-gay pogrom, one comparison that gets brought up again and again is Putin to Hitler, Godwin's Law be damned. The comparison shows even greater similarity when set side-by-side with the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Over at AmericaBlog, John Aravosis provides a quick history lesson on how the IOC responded to Der Führer's campaign against the Jews.

In short, IOC chair Baillet-Latour was appeased by Hitler taking down anti-Jewish propaganda for the duration of the Olympics, but "asserted that the agitation against participation [in the Olympics] was exclusively a political campaign, citing as evidence the fact that none of the national Olympic committees now opposed having the games in Berlin."

And thus the maxim about being doomed to repeat history becomes ever more ominous.

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  1. Oh, noooooo! Gays to the ovens to be burned alive! Gays to concentration camps to be experimented on! Gays to prisons to be worked to death via hard labor 20 hours a day!

    Oh, noooooo!

    Posted by: Rick | Aug 14, 2013 5:02:49 PM

  2. I've been reading "Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia" by Dan Healey and it's worth noting that laws against homosexual relations were repealed in 1922 by the Soviet government, partially by inspiration of the repeal of similar laws in France following the 1789 revolution and also by a belief that homosexuality wasn't a crime so much as a sickness; however, as Stalin consolidated his power, he cast around for enemies at the same time the relations with Germany began to sour; with the rise of Hitler and the Nazis (and conflating the work of Magnus Hirschfeld's Sex Institute with the notorious homosexuality of Ernest Rohm and his S.A.), Stalin found one of his enemies in homosexuals; concurrent with this was the fact that Russian population -- already depleted by WWI, Revolution, the Civil War and the famines of the early 30s, had plummeted, and Stalin and others in power feared for military manpower in the decade to come.

    Male homosexuality was recriminalized in the Soviet Union in 1933-34 (female homosexuality was not even discussed when considering the new law); the only public discussion of the passage of these laws was an essay by Maxim Gorky, "Proletarian Humanism," which appeared in Pravda in May 1934, and equated homosexuality with Western immorality and particularly with Fascism; chillingly, Gorky wrote: "Destroy the homosexuals and Fascism will disappear." The law was used effectively during the Great Terror of 1936-38, used less during World War II, then gained traction after the war; by the 1960s, around 800 men a year were convicted; by the 1970s, the number averaged over 1,000 men a year. After the fall of the Soviet Union, homosexual relations were again decriminalized in 1993.

    What's similar about the current situation is that, like the 1933-34 era, these new laws are prompted by suspicion of the West, an ideology of Russian purity and a decline in the Russian birth rate; what's ironic is that whereas the '33-'34 laws were used as propaganda against Nazism, the new laws play into the hands of the Neo-Nazis thugs that are luring gay men to physical harm and death.

    Posted by: Joseph2 | Aug 14, 2013 5:11:17 PM

  3. And over at Daily Kos, any comparison of what is happening in Russia today to the Holocaust is being called out as improper.

    Posted by: gerry | Aug 14, 2013 5:20:39 PM

  4. I don't think I've heard one Jewish group or one colored group speak out against Russia on this law.

    Posted by: Brian | Aug 14, 2013 5:27:51 PM

  5. Here we go again...first we were "just like Black" people...except for that pesky slavery, we're "just like jews"...never mind the whole conentration camp/gas chamber thing...when will we learn....

    Posted by: TheSupremes | Aug 14, 2013 5:31:28 PM

  6. So this bears repeating again, once or many more times:

    "First they came for the socialists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me."

    And one more:
    "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

    Posted by: KC | Aug 14, 2013 5:35:11 PM

  7. "And over at Daily Kos, any comparison of what is happening in Russia today to the Holocaust is being called out as improper"

    It is. You people are embarrassing yourselves and the gay community with your hysteria. If gays in the West had not become so ridiculously flamboyant and even obscene in their public demonstrations like San Francisco Pride, this law would never even have been passed.

    Honestly, I would not want any of my nieces of nephews being exposed to a middle-aged man wearing nothing but a leather jockstrap and parading his flabby, ugly, hairy ass down Market Street in broad daylight, either.,,,,which is all this law is really about.

    Maybe you all really should start looking in the mirror and examining whether your own behavior is what has brought hostility on you around the world rather than some irrational behavior on the part of those passing laws like this.


    Posted by: Rick | Aug 14, 2013 5:35:42 PM

  8. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
    Boycott Sochi
    Boycott the Olympics Sponsors
    Coca Cola
    Proctor & Gamble
    and more

    Posted by: Jeff | Aug 14, 2013 5:36:26 PM

  9. @THESUPREMES What do you mean "ust like jews"...never mind the whole conentration camp/gas chamber thing"
    Homosexuals went to the Concentration Camps.
    "...when will we learn...."
    When will YOU learn?
    Google Rudolf Brazda for the beginning of your education.

    Posted by: global | Aug 14, 2013 5:41:27 PM

  10. Global...yes, and some gays were enslaved during slavery becasue some gays were black. duh. Yes, some gays were in the camps (pink triangle) and all that...but the holocasut was about exterminating jewish people....gays were incidental

    Posted by: TheSupremes | Aug 14, 2013 5:47:56 PM

  11. Thank you, Joseph2, for providing this history.

    Posted by: David Groff | Aug 14, 2013 5:49:31 PM

  12. This comparison is inaccurate and demeans Jewish history. The Holocaust was a pogrom. Millions of Jews and other ethnic and social minorities (yes, including gays) were literally rounded up, shipped off to labor camps, and worked to death, if not outright slaughtered.

    A law that has a very broad definition of what constitutes "propaganda" is not a pogrom . Of course the law in Russia is wrong and repressive, but it is not in any way similar to genocide. In fact, the law is similar (though obviously much broader in scope and penalty) to the "Don't Say Gay" bill in Tennessee. Many states have passed or attempted to pass laws that prevent schools from providing resources to LGBT students because doing so is somehow "promoting homosexuality." They are all wrongheaded and discriminatory, but that is not the equivalent of genocide.

    Are conditions in Russia for LGBT citizens deplorable? Of course! No one but the Kremlin is saying otherwise. An earlier post today highlighted horrifc acts of violence that have been committed in Russia against gay men and lesbians. Should the Russian government end its repressive practices and protect its LGBT citizens? Yes! It's cruel and inhumane to look the other way when gay and lesbian citizens are being murdered. But while Putin and the Russian government have some degree of moral culpability for allowing that violence to occur, the anti-gay propaganda law did not create the social attitudes that led to the violence. It's the social attitudes that created the propaganda law. If the law is repealed, those social attitudes will persist, but so many of us here in the US will rejoice and say, "We did it! We ended Putin's Final Solution!" while completely ignoring the continuing violence against gays and lesbians.

    This ridiculous comparison will only ensure that no serious action is taken to begin the process of changing the culture and social attitudes in Russia. By pretending that Putin is Hitler, we will simply ignore the true root causes of this violence.

    But I suppose that shouldn't be surprising. This is America after all, where racism ended in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act and where homophobia ended when the Supreme Court ruled in Windsor.

    The absurdity of the comparison between Putin and Hitler isn't merely the comparison, but the the comparison will lead us to claim victory where none has been achieved. But at least we will feel like we accomplished the lofty goal of ending homophobia, and what could be more important than that?

    Posted by: John | Aug 14, 2013 5:53:41 PM

  13. Russia is making scapegoats of the gays, squashing public protest, while talking heads on tv whip up the hatred.

    but don't you dare make comparisons to the early nazi regime and jews, that would disrespectful and inappropriate

    eff you, rick

    Posted by: gomez | Aug 14, 2013 5:54:28 PM

  14. @Rick.

    Nice generalizing there.

    The law is much more than about pride parades. When will people like you stop making the excuse that a few pride parades attended by gay AND straight people IS ENOUGH OF AN EXCUSE TO KILL AND HARM GAY PEOPLE.

    Posted by: Anthony | Aug 14, 2013 6:04:19 PM

  15. I agree with Gomez

    Posted by: disgusted American | Aug 14, 2013 6:04:21 PM

  16. @RICK

    the hostility, with which you have, has nothing to do with pride parades, but religion and bigotry.

    Posted by: Anthony | Aug 14, 2013 6:05:53 PM

  17. @TheSupremes As a Gay Jew who lost ancestors in the holocaust, I can say that the holocaust wasn't ONLY about Jews, and claiming that the persecution of other groups was merely "incidental" is beyond ignorant. Jews may have been the prime target, however, other groups targeted were not "incidental". I would hardly call 15,000+ dead gays "incidental".

    No one has ever said "we are just like blacks" or Jews, we have simply drawn parallels between the two. A fight for Civil Rights, Equality and the right to live without fear is the same regardless of what minority group is fighting for it.

    I find the whole "WE SUFFERED MORE THAN YOU DID!!!" thing to be immensely childish. YOU didn't suffer at all: Your ancestors did.

    Posted by: Chris | Aug 14, 2013 6:08:45 PM

  18. I, too, thank Joseph2. Great post. Very informative!

    Posted by: Jeff | Aug 14, 2013 6:11:46 PM

  19. Putin IS a modern day Hitler and Russia IS a modern day Germany and it's sad and sick and pathetic to observe in 2013. Those who refuse to see the connection are even more sick and twiste-aka(Rick the antagonist)or even worse the IOC?). It's been fun to watch the Religious Wrong,The KKKatholic Church,The Boy Scum of America,The Moron Churh,The Repurblican Rethugs and all the BIGOTED governors,senators,congressmen and other elected officials squirm and spew their illogical hatred of GLBT folks and then to watch them ALWAYS LOSE! Eventually they'll figure out we are not going away and we will always win because we are about love and inclusion and they are about hate and exclusion. I do think California Sentor Mark Leno has the right idea to divest all Russian investments from California to not fund their anti-human 'government'.

    Posted by: SFshawn | Aug 14, 2013 6:14:10 PM

  20. Ominous only among proponents. Let's see, now how are we going to throw everything but at the kitchen sink at this issue?

    Posted by: Paul | Aug 14, 2013 6:17:15 PM

  21. Because unless you can point to a CAPITAL LETTER event like SLAVERY or THE HOLOCAUST you haven't met the quota of suffering required to deserve basic rights or respect. Isn't that basically the argument?

    I've read extensively about the lead-up to the Holocaust and I by no means intend to dismiss it or minimize it. But comparing the actions of Russia in regards to gay rights and the Sochi Olympics to Germany in regards to the 1936 Olympics does NOT do that. There ARE similarities.

    As of 1936 there had been many limitations placed on Jews in Germany but the Death Camps were not yet in existence. Even German citizens thought it was a passing phase. Intent on "good PR," laws against Jews were relaxed during the Olympics so that the media and attendees would have good reports about their experience in Germany.

    But the rights of Jewish citizens were being infringed upon, they were attacked and assaulted by thugs, beaten and murdered. The international community for the most part ignored it because Jews were still "controversial" in many places and antisemitism was rife, including the United States.

    Is any of this starting to sound in the least familiar? There ARE comparisons to be made between the 1936 Olympics in Germany and the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia. It's a warning what what COULD happen in the future, not a comparison between the Holocaust and any other event.

    Posted by: Caliban | Aug 14, 2013 6:18:54 PM

  22. "...but that is not the equivalent of genocide." - John


    Posted by: reveiltoi | Aug 14, 2013 6:28:03 PM

  23. Slow down guys. Lower the hysteria. This is 2013 not the 1930's. Respond to the actual realities of today, not to the ghosts of the past.

    Posted by: andrew | Aug 14, 2013 6:28:37 PM

  24. Maybe pricking your finger should qualify? I can't be concerned about the historic comparison, since I know most on this site have no knowledge of real history. Blame public education over the past few decades. It's not your fault.

    Posted by: George | Aug 14, 2013 6:29:25 PM

  25. "Respond to the actual realities of today, not to the ghosts of the past." - andrew

    The ghost of the past is the reality of what is starting to happen in today's Russia.

    Posted by: reveiltoi | Aug 14, 2013 6:36:24 PM

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