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. Did you know that the Nazis made lampshades out of human Jewish skin in the concentration camps? Don't evoke that period lightly. I think the Russians are reacting in opposition to all the pro gay actions in the US. They are drawing a sharp distinction, and going overboard.

    Posted by: George | Aug 14, 2013 6:54:56 PM

  2. @George, and did YOU know that none of that had happened yet in 1936, that the antisemitic laws in Germany were largely ignored by the international community, that Germany relaxed its anti-Jewish laws DURING the Olympics, and the whole thing went off largely without a hitch? Then, as soon as there were fewer eyes watching, the previous laws were again enforced then made even more restrictive, the Jewish community further demonized, made scapegoats for all of Germany's ills, and what we NOW call The Holocaust truly began to commence.

    We only call it The Holocaust in retrospect. As it was happening it was just an unfortunate series of current events, largely ignored by those outside of Germany.

    Posted by: Caliban | Aug 14, 2013 7:12:15 PM

  3. Caliban,
    Are you suggesting that the failure to boycott the 1936 Olympics is the reason the Holocaust happened?

    I understand the chronology, but I fail to see the connection you are drawing between the two events. It is entirely laughable to suggest that the Holocaust would not have happened if the international community boycotted the 1936 Olympics.

    Besides, at that time, anti-Semitism was virulent everywhere, including in America. No one cared about the Jews, even after we were aware of the concentration camps. In a recent HBO documentary about two American Jews who rescued 50 Jewish children prior to the closing of Germany, one of those children powerfully summed up the anti-Semitism throughout the world, stating, “What people don’t understand is that at the beginning, you could get out. Everybody could get out. Nobody would let us in. Everyone could have been saved. Everyone."

    The Holocaust happened because so many powerful countries hated the Jews just as much. The current case is much different precisely because so many powerful countries do care about LGBT rights and freedom.

    If we want to find a more modern and possibly more effective method to change Russian law (though as I wrote in a previous comment, it won't really change the social attitudes), we should look to the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s. We should demand divestment, though given the Cold War, Americans don't have much trade with Russia, but the Europeans certainly do.

    Posted by: John | Aug 14, 2013 7:30:51 PM

  4. No ever said that the death camps appeared overnight. The comparison is between today and 1936, not today and 1944. The Holocaust followed years of demonization of certain portions of the population... which is exactly what is now taking root in Russia. To say it is anything less is to excuse the ongoing human rights abuses of the Russian government.

    Posted by: fedorajoe | Aug 14, 2013 7:51:50 PM

  5. Caliban seems to be the lone voice of reason here. I am surprised at how dumb some of you bitches are in not recognizing the signs. We should be very worried about the regressive policies happening in Russia. Just because it's 2013 doesn't mean that humans and societies are free from evil like what we saw in Germany during WWII... we all know how frequently history repeats itself.

    It's easy to see a direct link between what happened in Germany and what is now happening in Russia. I don't think anyone is saying that if the 1936 Olympics were boycotted, the Holocaust wouldn't have happened, but should countries have made a stand against what was happening in Germany? Yes.

    To say, oh, they aren't gassing gays yet in Russia is not the point, the point is they are systematically following the blueprint of what Germany did in scapegoating a minority to deflect attention away a poor economy and social unrest. Why are we poor? Because of those degenerate gays.

    It's very easy to guess how far the Russian government is willing to go based on what's happened already... and there is one alarming difference. Germany took down and relaxed the anti-Semite propaganda, Russia has already assured the IOC that they will continue to force the anti-gay propaganda law even WHILE the world is watching... not only do they hate us, they are not even trying to hide it.

    It's very scary... and we should be very concerned for the GLBT population in Russia. To shrug and say, oh it's not that bad.. easy for you to say in your place of freedom and privilege.

    Posted by: graphicjack | Aug 14, 2013 8:14:29 PM

  6. I never said that Russia has not committed any human rights violations. I don't think anyone who has spoken against the comparison to the 1936 Olympics/Holocaust has said there are no human rights violations (other than Rick maybe but everyone ignores him anyway). Disagreeing with your analogy does not mean that Russia has done nothing wrong. In fact, I clearly stated that Russia is wrong.

    My point was that the comparison is inaccurate. It's overly simplistic to say "Hitler scapegoated the Jews in 1936, and Putin is scapegoating the gays in 2013. Therefore these are similar." History is far more nuanced and complex than that. Americans scapegoat just about everyone, blacks, Muslims, Latinos, gays, etc., but we understand that despite the many discriminatory laws we have here in the U.S., we are not on the verge of genocide.

    Taking arguments to the extreme and past their logical end points is counterproductive. We all rally around them in our little echo chamber, but to anyone else, they sound silly and nonsensical. We can't build broader support for anything by making stupid arguments.

    Posted by: John | Aug 14, 2013 8:32:15 PM

  7. ...we are not on the verge of genocide. - John

    I agree, so it's wise to be vigilant in making sure it doesn't come to that...history has given us a blueprint, warning signs should not go unrecognized.

    Posted by: Saul | Aug 14, 2013 9:04:54 PM

  8. "My point was that the comparison is inaccurate. It's overly simplistic to say "Hitler scapegoated the Jews in 1936, and Putin is scapegoating the gays in 2013. Therefore these are similar." History is far more nuanced and complex than that."

    then please darling do educate us of these nuances...its just a broad comparison...and with humanity's penchant for repeating history, not entirely improbable...

    "Americans scapegoat just about everyone, blacks, Muslims, Latinos, gays, etc., but we understand that despite the many discriminatory laws we have here in the U.S., we are not on the verge of genocide."

    no reasonable person was linking the holocaust to what is happening today, as yourself said "history is far more nuanced then that". what they were conceptualizing was the systematic marginalization of a minority by a government that also happens to be hosting an Olympic games concurrently and their reactions to criticism...but unlike the nazis they did not lift restrictions...still does not make the comparison irrelevant...but really is this only notable once they start rounding up all the gays? it'd be a little to late for "Never Again" at that point, wouldn't it?..there, logic maintained successfully.

    Posted by: epic | Aug 14, 2013 9:15:13 PM

  9. Thank you epic, you said it better than I ever could.

    Posted by: Saul | Aug 14, 2013 9:20:51 PM

  10. @KC: You may love the dramatic effect of quoting Martin Niemoller; "I didn't speak out" but it is hardly applicable today when many individuals and nations are speaking out about Russia's maltreatment of its own LGBT people. And the King quote about the "silence of our friends" is also not applicable to today, because large numbers of our friends are speaking out. You may love drama but you should also attempt to reflect the reality of today.

    Posted by: andrew | Aug 14, 2013 9:20:57 PM

  11. did someone write "colored" in referring to African American groups? good grief.

    i assume that everyone who is posting about the lack of gay rights in Russia is using a PC or Mac made in China. please google gay rights or human rights and china.

    Posted by: Keith | Aug 14, 2013 9:22:47 PM

  12. "Caliban,
    Are you suggesting that the failure to boycott the 1936 Olympics is the reason the Holocaust happened?"

    No, I'm not saying that. In fact I don't think ANYONE can say what the result of a boycott would have been. But a BIG part of how Hitler got the German people on his side was to bring on a wave of national pride (aka Nationalism), which had been missing since WWI and that hosting the 1936 Olympics was a way to demonstrate Germany's new stature on the world stage. IF other countries had refused to participate in what was essentially a Nazi show-piece it's hard to tell WHAT the result would have been. Things might have gone to hell faster than they did. Perhaps the German people would have looked at Hitler in a different way after they and he and their country had been snubbed. Who knows?

    And yes, as I did say in my post on the first page, there was a LOT of antisemitism in the world in 1936, which is part of the reason why other countries looked the other way as things got more and more restrictive for Jews in Germany. And that included the United States. ("In The Garden of Beasts" by Erik Larson has some great insight into American antisemitism, and the slow way laws in Germany against Jews ratcheted up. Comparison to the story of the frog in a pot of slowly heating water is hard to avoid.)

    ALL I have said is that there ARE parallels between the two events, 1936 Germany and 2014 Russia, and that it isn't offensive to point them out. There ARE similarities and it is no way being overly dramatic or offensive to point them out. It's also not minimizing the Holocaust to do so, because no one (or very few) are actually making that comparison. There is a VAST difference between 1936 Germany and the mass genocide that came later.

    Posted by: Caliban | Aug 14, 2013 9:23:01 PM

  13. Don't flatter yourselves.

    Posted by: Peter | Aug 14, 2013 9:32:09 PM

  14. You may love drama but you should also attempt to reflect the reality of today. - andrew

    evidently, you're not aware of reality if you don't understand how the quotes applies to whats going on today.

    Posted by: In Nomine | Aug 14, 2013 9:38:03 PM

  15. @IN NOMINE: KC's quotes don't apply to today because many individuals and nations and our friends are indeed speaking out about the maltreatment of LGBT people in Russia.

    Posted by: andrew | Aug 14, 2013 9:50:52 PM

  16. @ andrew

    in 1936 civil rights activists also spoke out about the antisemitism in Berlin & in response the IOC called Americans seeking a boycott of the Berlin Games “liars” & we all know how that turned out. Just because we have people with us speaking out for us doesn't mean the quotes are not relative to today...I think you fail on that one, sorry.

    Posted by: In Nomine | Aug 14, 2013 10:11:04 PM

  17. Check out Wikipedia on Avery Brundage for the IOC's and the American Olympic Committee's response to the '36 Olympics.

    Also FDR's and the Waldorf Astoria's response to Jesse Owens.

    Posted by: rick scatorum | Aug 14, 2013 11:00:47 PM

  18. Caliban,
    I guess that's why I don't quite follow the logic. Why draw the comparison between 1936 Berlin and 2014 Sochi? What is it that everyone is saying we are doomed to repeat if it isn't an implicit reference to the Holocaust?

    Why go all the way back to 1936 to find an example of human rights abuses by the host nation when Beijing just hosted the Olympics in 2008? China is even more repressive than Russia, commits human rights abuses on a large scale against its own citizens, and financially supports countries that engage in large scale human rights abuses, like North Korea and Sudan. And that's not even bringing in the situation with Tibet. What is it about 1936 Olympics that merit the comparisons if not the Holocaust?

    People are drawing the comparison for a reason. If it's not being drawn to link the anti-gay propaganda law to the Holocaust, then what is the reason? People don't invoke Hitler to highlight basic state-sponsored discrimination. They invoke Hitler to highlight genocide. Maybe no one is saying Holocaust, but that's exactly what they mean.

    You commented that after the Olympics, the Nazi regime began repressing the Jewish population even more harshly. So if your point wasn't that the Holocaust happened after we went to the Olympics there, what was point you were trying to convey? It wasn't clear to me.

    Even taking all the post-Olympics stuff out of it, the conditions in Nazi Germany were vastly more harsh than what is currently occurring in Russia. Since Hitler came to power in 1933, the laws restricting what Jews could do become increasingly harsh. In 1935, the Nuremburg Laws stripped the Jews of their German citizenship. In 1936, the Roma people were put into concentration camps (which, by the way, were operating prior to the Olympics; Dachau opened in 1933).

    In Russia, "nontraditional sexual orientation propaganda" is outlawed in public. That is not at all similar to having your citizenship stripped. Not even close.

    That's not say that what is happening in Russia is okay and that nothing should be done. But let's not distort history just to invoke one of the most horrific crimes ever committed.

    If we want to talk seriously about what's wrong with the anti-gay propaganda law in Russia, let's talk about it on its own terms. It's wrong in and of itself. It's wrong because it denies Russians free expression of themselves. It's wrong because it prevents LGBT youth from gaining access to social support and adequate health information. It's wrong because it denies the basic equality of Russia's citizens.

    But it's not wrong because it is "similar" to Nazi Germany in 1936. Because it isn't similar at all. Drawing incredibly overblown comparisons simply diminishes the argument about why the anti-gay propaganda law is wrong, and it diminishes the history of what happened in Nazi Germany.

    Posted by: John | Aug 15, 2013 12:40:13 AM

  19. @JOHN: WELL SAID. I attempted to make some of the points you made but I didn't make them nearly as well.

    Posted by: andrew | Aug 15, 2013 3:38:19 AM

  20. @JOHN

    I don't think using the hitler/putin comparison 'diminishes' the events of the holocaust at all. Anyone involved in the holocaust will tell you that if anything good had come from that tragic chapter then it would be that the holocaust could exist as a lasting symbol of something that could never be allowed to happen again. That it would inspire eternal vigilance against those who would Try to subjugate, dehumanise or even exterminate a race, religion or minority group. I'm glad people are angry, I'm glad people aren't putting up with it, because maybe this time we can avoid the worst.

    Posted by: Tristram | Aug 15, 2013 6:42:28 AM

  21. Thank you, Tristram,

    Never easily we become complacent in our own comfort. Our predecessors said it best, so in the spirit of honouring our past...

    Act up. Fight back. Fight hate.

    /love to all

    Posted by: Epic | Aug 15, 2013 8:54:27 AM

  22. The Olympic Committee has a history of being both anti-Semitic and anti-gay. In recent times they sued former U.S.Olympian Dr. Tom Waddell the creator of the Gay Games from using the name "Gay Olympic Games" back in the early 1980s. And of course in 1936, Avery Brundage made a controversial move to limit U.S.Jewish Olympian athletes from taking part because they wanted to spare Hitler the possibility of seeing Jewish Athletes on the winner's podium
    ( ).
    They gave the Chinese the Olympics knowing quite well of their poor Human Rights record that they had and the same goes for Russia. Sadly it is always the Athletes who suffer when politics is involved.

    Posted by: Jerry Pritikin aka The Bleacher Preacher | Aug 15, 2013 9:07:28 AM

  23. Actually, based on current definitions of genocide, the Russian politicians are guilty of genocide. That is not even in question.

    Posted by: Daniel | Aug 16, 2013 8:19:47 AM

  24. "Instead of conversations between men, the press and the "electrical news-service keep the waking-consciousness of whole people and continents under a deafening drum-fire of theses, catchwords, standpoints, scenes, feelings, day by day and year by year. Through the media, money is turned into force—the more spent, the more intense its influence," from Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West, 1923.

    Posted by: David | Aug 16, 2013 9:11:27 AM

  25. Well gosh, John, I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest it's because both Germany and Russia are about to HOST the Olympics world's approval and they both singled out individual groups to act as scapegoats. Isn't that enough?

    Does China abuse civil rights? Of course they do. But their abuse is much more amorphous, against "dissidents." They haven't singled out a discrete ethnic, racial, sexual, or social group to single out so it's harder to characterize their oppression. It was much more focused in Germany against a single group*, just as it's focused against gay people in Russia now.

    *Though obviously others were also targeted.

    Posted by: Caliban | Aug 19, 2013 3:25:59 PM

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