TINTIN: Racism, Nazis and Sweden Democrats
A couple of months ago, it was before Coronavirus nCoV-2019 had appeared, I boarded a bus here in Rome and ended up sitting next to a young man with an unusually brutal appearance. He was big and burly, had a broken nose and looked like the caricature of a hooligan. I consider myself to be a relatively open-minded fellow and a long life has taught me not to judge people by their appearance. Accordingly, I hesitantly sat down on the unoccupied seat next to him (well ... there was no other seat available). However, after a quick sideways glance I became slightly worried since I found that on his neck the beefy lad had a tattoo of a fascio, a bundle of rods with a protruding ax head. As the swastika is a symbol of Nazis and the Wasa Sheaf was for their Swedish counterpart (and perhaps still is, along with the Solar Cross), the fasces is a symbol of the Fascists.
Fasces? During the Ancient Republic, Rome was ruled by three hundred senators who each year elected two consuls to be governors of the nation. These consuls wore a purple-lined toga and were preceded by no less than twelve policemen, lictors, each carrying a fasces. Those devices symbolized the right of the consuls to cane and execute people and was by Mussolini adopted as a suitable symbol of his dictatorial powers.
Now I was sitting next to a young man who had a fasces tattooed on to his neck. He glanced at me, obviously he had noticed that I was watching his marked neck. Troubled, I looked straight out into the air, but I could not hinder myself from trying to try to catch a glimpse of what he was reading. He had a book resting on his knees and the cover said León Degrelle: Apello ai giovani europei. I knew who this Degrelle was – a Belgian, despicable Nazi collaborator and SS warrior who has been transformed into an "intellectual" guru for Europe's worst, abysmal rightists. Probably I kept my eyes pinned on the book cover for too long and my Fascist neighbour had thus captured my interest in his Fascist signaling. Did he assume I was a like-minded fanatic? A white supremacist with a brain filled to the brim with the same drivel as him. Because I assumed he hardly had any academic interest in Nazis such as Degrelle, an ”ideologue” who hailed aggressive, ”pragmatic efforts” to silence ”vulgar democrats” and favour the emergence of A New Nazi Social Order.
My fears seemed to come true when the sinister looking Fascist; with his crew-cut hair, gray bomber jacket, camouflage pants and Doc Martens boots, brought out his mobile phone and obviously demonstratively revealed its profile picture – an official portrait of Der Führer himself. My bus companion began to devote himself his telefonino, though he repeatedly almost imperceptible glanced in my direction. Did he want to start a conversation? Was his indications of his faith and convictions intended to lure soul mates to his lair? Perhaps he assumed that, like Degrelle, I was a bourgeois older gentleman who, like the former SS soldier on his book cover, dreamed of a Fascist/Nazi Europe. Maybe he intended to introduce a senior Nordic Aryan to his terrorist cell, an old man who could provide a link to a by-gone more heroic age?
Sitting on a bench, I began pondering about the parallel worlds that exist all around us. Worlds that I did not know anything about and had nothing to do with, but which for their own inhabitants constituted their entire existence, their reference point, their raison d'être – the mafia world, the drug world, the prostitution world, the terrorist world and lots of other terrifying universes that exits and thrive in our absolute vicinity.
The tattooed youngster on the bus certainly lived in such a world, where he had his friends and obtained and expressed his opinions. Militant Fascism was probably his foremost raison d'être, the justification for his existence, the meaning of his ife. There are other people who perceive their feminism, homosexuality, race, immigrant status, professional activities, peculiar hobby or anything else as the hub around which the entire world circles.
I came to think of Håkan Jaenson's books Charlie’s Pillow. Charlie takes his babyhood pillow to school with him, to the barracks when he is in the army, to the restaurant where he works after his military discharge. He is parted from his beloved pillow only when his wife says he must choose between them. However, his wife cannot stand his constant whining over his lost pillow and leaves Charlie. Left alone without wife and pillow he hunts everywhere for the only comfort he assumes is left for to him. He loses his job and sinks into desperation and alcoholism. Charlie does not regain his foothold until he ends up in a secret club of blanket-clutchers and pillow-huggers, who unexpectadely has retrieved his pillow. Experiencing that he can finally share his pillow dependency with like-minded people Charlie once again obtain stability and happiness and his wife returns to him, accepting his strange addiction. Håkan Jaensson, who was heading the culture section of the Swedish, daily Aftonbladet, was certainly aware of what his fun-filled children's books about the Nussekudden (the Comfort Pillow) really dealt with – to assent to hidden desires by finding a context, a role, and thus affirm whom you think you really are.
Charlie is by a mysterious, slightly intimidating man brought into large basement premises where the fanatic blanket- and cuddly toy dependents assemble. Club members come from all social classes and occupational categories, but their cuddly addiction makes them a well-welded group. Had the brutal looking youngster on the bus intentions similar to thise of the doorman in Jaensson's book? To lure what he assumed to be a like-minded fanatics into a secret world of outsiders? And Degrelle? How come I knew who he was? Was I also a Fascist? My Degrelle expertise, which is certainly quite marginal, is like Charlie's plilow dependency rooted in childhood experiences.
My cousin Erik Gustaf, whose parents were artists, lived in a large and in my opinion quite ghostly former nursing home in Barkaby, just outside of Stockholm. He was a year older than me and knew things I did not know anything about. I had hardly learned to read when he showed me a comic book, The Secret of the Unicorn, which was about the young journalist Tintin’s and sea captain Archibald Haddock's adventurous search for the treausre of the pirate Rackham the Red. The varied, incessantly exciting adventure and the imaginative illustrations grabbed me at once. Time and again I laboriously spelled my way through the story. A brave, new world was opening up to me.
At that time, i.e. in the early sixties, Swedish school teachers distributed a magazine called Kamratposten, The Comrade’s Mail. If remember correctly, pupils did at the beginning of the semester receive a yellow note to take home for their parents' signature and then received a one-year subscription to Kamratposten. If I am not wrong, I believe that the magazine was actually received for free. There was a rumour that the Swedish Royal House paid for the subscription, though that sounds too good to be true. Well, I don't remember anything about the content of Kamratposten, except that it in 1963 began to publish King Ottokar´s Sceptre on a central lookup, both in black and white and in colour. I tore out this sections and did for several years save them, together with Prince Valiant, which I tore out from my sister's Hemmets Journal, The Home’s Magazine, a weekly paper she bought in the newsstand just for Valiant's sake.
For me, King Ottakars Sceptre, became an even more overwhelming Tintin experience than the Unicorn, perhaps because my reading abilities had increased to such an extent that I recognized the exciting environment from one of my favorite novels, The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope, an adventure novel that actually holds the measure and even for an adult like me, who recently reread it with almost the same appreciation as a book-devouring eleven-year-old who furthermore found pleasure in novels that I now find embarrassingly bad. Two years later, Tintin reappeared in with an adventure among Egyptologists and and drug-smuggling cartels, Cigars of the Pharaoh. Shortly after that Kamratposten vanished from my life. Maybe I had grown away from it, but I assume the ultimate reason was that schools stopped distributing the magazine. Thankfully, Tintin reappeared, this time in the comic magazine Banggg, where he featured in another riveting adventure called The Calculus Affair. Then he appeared in various comic books I borrowed from the library.
As an adult, I have occasionally read a thing or two about Tintin's creator the Belgian artist Georges Prosper Remi, Hergé, and have then come across the criticism he suffered for his racist clichés, especially those that made an appearance in his early comics. Hergé often tried to apologize for such ”slip-ups”. He later re-wrote and re-draw several of the most eye-catching prejudices, though it cannot be denied that such a relatively late comic album as The Red Sea Sharks from 1958 still suffers from a quite ludicrous depiction of Africans. Hergé's explanation for such ethnocentrism was that since childhood he had grown up with moronic stereotypes of other people and surreptitious racial innuendos. Something that certainly applies to a Swedish boy who was born fifty years after Hergé.
The story Tintin in the Congo, which was published as a series of comic strips between 1930 and 1931, has especially been in the line of fire when it comes to Hergé's racism. When I now read it again I come to think of how I at the age of seven in Sweden learned to read through Nu ska vi läsa Now Let Us Read, a school book with pictures by Ingrid Vang Nyman, the preferred illustrator of Astid Lindgren, famous author of children’s books. The letter N was accompanied by the following illustration and verse:
It might be akin to:
The negro becomes clean after a while,
Take a look at his happy smile.
Ever since the beginning of the twentieth century, Swedish children’s books reproduced ridiculous and offensive stereotypes of dark-skinned people. Pyttan's A-B and C-D was in 1896 written by two extremely popular poets, Verner von Heidenstam and Gustaf Fröding, while the author and artist Albert Engström, who like Heidenstam was a member of the Swedish Academy, illustrated it. In Pyttan's reading book you could find verses like:
Only the Kaffer, my friend,
pees around the bend.
A negro looking at his black abdomen,
might percieve it as a woeful omen.
Kaffer was a racist slur referring to an individual of Nguni ancestry, a Bantu people living by the coast south of the Zambezi River in southeastern Africa. The name found its origin in the Arabic kafir, unbeliever. The letter N continued to be illustrated with "witty negro images", not the least in official school books, for example The Funny ABC Book illustrated by Einar Nerman, a popular illustrator who among other things designed the cover of Swedish matchboxes that still are in use.
The negro´s clothes cannot be any finer,
though his aspect is black as a miner.
In the school library I could come across several children's books showing how little negro children were eaten by crocodiles, how they could not be washed clean and how they were civilized by benevolent, white people.
There were also stories about Swedish, white kids painting themselves black and playing “negroes”, such as Kalle Neger, Karl the Negro, in a rhyming tale that could be found in Min Skattkammare, My Treasury, a very popular collection of rhymes and stories published in 1961 by one of Sweden’s most prestigious publishing houses:
Kalle is a Negro king from the Congo
with assegai in hand he dances to the bongo.
He took some coal from the fireplace,
smeared it on and got a blackface.
He has earrings and curly, black hair,
black arms, black legs and a vicious stare.
He lives in a hut, all alone.
His roar chills you to the bone.
His fireceness makes us all unnerved,
but when his dinner is finally served,
he becomes nice and quite alright.
Hand and face he washes white.
His cheeks are now shiny pink,
though his feet are black as ink.
Advertising made frequent allusions to black Africans, especially if they recommended black products such as licorice or shoe cream, or brown ones as coffee. Even printing ink could be connected to ”negroes” as in this advertisement for Sydsvenska Dagbladet, a big Swedish newspaper, declaring that: ”The weight of these 14 negroes of 70 kilograms each, corresponds to 7 days consumption of printing ink for Sydsvenska Dagbladet Snällposten, Southern Sweden's national newspaper.”
Similar associations were made between black Africans, darkness and light, such as an advertisement for light bulbs:
A negro black as night
can never be white,
though in a PHILIP bulb´s glow,
he looks as white as snow.
Apart from ”witticism” about the skin hue of ”Negroes” there were countless jokes about their barbarism. In particular was cannibalism for decades, or even longer (before it was actually Native Anericans who were associated with it) related to ”Africans”. There are countless puns about white people ending up in ”African´s” huge cooking pots and they were not the least abundant in children's movies.
Myths about African barbarism can even today emerge in a wide variety of distasteful contexts. Well-known is for example Sergio Berlusconi's bunga bunga parties, which according to several testimonies got their name from a vulgar joke that the Italian Prime Minister liked to tell and which he allegedly had heard from Muammar al-Gaddafi:
“Three Westerners were captured by a primitive African tribe. The chieftain gave each of them the choice between death and bunga bunga. The first two chose bunga bunga and were sexually tortured in different ways before being killed. The third, who witnessed what had taken place, chose death, at which the chief sighed and declared: "Death you have asked for and die you shall, but first a little bunga bunga."
After as a small boy having browsed through illustrated children´ books about primitive negro kids I could walk down to the kiosk and buy sweets in the form of black heads, lemon-filled licorice bars, or GB's chocolate ice cream.
In view of all this, I am not particularly shocked by Tintin in the Congo, where most black Congolese are portrayed as quite stupid, but nevertheless kind and good-natured. Their ”stupidity” is largely blamed on their not being ”civilized” enough by well-meaning missionaries and Belgian administrators. Instead, they can be manipulated and exploited by white capitalists. It turns out that the worst villain and manipulator in Tintin in the Congo is employed by an American gangster syndicate that is planning to exploit the country's diamond deposits. Tintin, on the other hand, works for missionaries who regard the Congolese as Belgian subjects who only need be civilized through education and fair treatment. This done in the absence of no hint whatsovere of the ruthless predatory behaviour of Belgians and their European employees under Leopold II (who ruled between 1865 and 1909). With the blessing of this ruthless and utterly greedy monarch the Congolese were ferociously exploited, exposed to to such merciless murder and terror that it halved the huge area's population, approximately between 8 and 30 million men, women and children died, depending on various population estimates. A hell that was depicted in Joseph Conrad’s classic novel in Heart of Darkness, which, despite its condemnation of the Belgians' barbaric greed and the suffering of the Congolese, is by far more racist than Tintin in the Congo.
In 1946, Hergé redesigned and coloured his Congo comic strips, taking the opportunity to change some of the content. For example, a geography lesson in which Tintin taught the small school children about ”your homeland Belgium” was replaced by a politically more uncontroversial math lesson.
Hergé's racism was undoubtedly a child of his time, who was even more racist than the one of my childhood with its cannibal pots, cliché-like little negro children who could not be washed white, negro candy and all kinds of abusive advertising presenting ”black people” as ignorant barbarians, separating them from us ”enlightened”, white ”Westerners”. Such pranks have been described as ”good-natured, naive and innocent” nonetheless they are offensive and even dangerous. If you are dark-skinned, it is certainly not so naïve and innocent to be judged as belonging to a group of ”different” people not even regarded as equal human beings, targets of profoundly insulting clichés that portray you as a dumb witted barbarian. A ”good-natured” racism that in the US at the same time as Hergé wrote and drew his Tintin in the Congo resulted in frightening lynchings and an avalanche-growing Ku Klux Klan, while it by Europeans was expressed through brutal colonial exploitation and mass murder of indigenous peoples (for example, Italy's bestial genocide in Libya and on the Horn of Africa), and would soon explode in the Nazis' eradication of ”alien” humans.
Hergé could nevertheless be right while defending his racism by referring to that he had thoughtlessly been working within an environment where black people were naturally regarded as he reproduced them in Tintin in the Congo and that the mass slaughter of big game depicted in his comic strips in those days was considered to be a pleasure and a sport. Something which by the way was still the case during my childhood. In addition, Hergé worked for a ”deeply” Christian employer who in 1930 had asked him to describe the Belgian Congo in a comic strip for his newspaper's children's supplement, Le Petit Vingtième, to teach Belgian children a little more about their African colony, thus encouraging colonialism and missionary efforts to raise Christian morale among Africans, while counteracting the commercial interests from other nations. Abbé Wallez assumed it was time to take this opportunity to encourage Belgian children to work in the Congo in the future, especially after King Albert's and Queen Elisabeth's ”successful" visit to their “Belgian colony”.
I am actually more fond of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets than Tintin in the Congo. The first page of Hergé's series about the Soviet Union was published on January 10, 1928, in Le Petit Vingtième and was then followed by a full page every week. The then twenty-two-year-old Hergé soon became appreciated and famous among most of Belgium's children and young people.
Unlike his other early Tintin series, Hergé neither improved och approved of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets. It was not officially released again until 1981, two years before Hergé's death. The reasons Hergé gave for his reluctance to re-publish the series were both of an aesthetic and political nature. When the German occupation government during World War II asked him to re-publish Tintin in the Land of the Soviets as anti-Soviet propaganda, Hergé apologized himself by stating that the original matrices were in poor condition and that he accordingly had to rewrite the entire story, which he furthermore considered to be a clumsy ”youthful sin” As demand increased after the War and Hergé’s publisher Casterman wanted to re-publish Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, Hergé explained that he felt embarrassed by its grossly simplified propaganda.
While rereading Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, I find it to be a quite pleasurable reading experience, entertaining, fast-paced and quite accurate in its criticism of the Soviet Union of the time. Sure – the comic is certainly childish, though nevertheless quite charming. Each one-sided image sequence ends with a cliffhanger that was taken up in the following week's sequence. The speed is high-pitched and catchy. It is noticeable that Hergé was inspired by contemporary short film greats, such as the Keystone Cops and those created by masters such as Chaplin, Harold Loyd and Buster Keaton. The drawing style is reminiscent of those cartoon shorts that began to be produced in the early 1920s, particularly Pat Sulllivan Studios' Feline Follies. The same year that Hergé began writing his Tintin stories Disney became a celebrity through his Steamboat Willie, which managed to synchronize animated film with sound. Disney's early shorts look like copies of those of the Pat Sullivan Studio and so does Hergé's drawings with their rough lines and simplified characters. As a matter of fact, several of the twenty-two-year-old Hergé's drawings are not at all as simple as they have been described. Several of them demonstrate clever and varied image solutions, almost in the style of futuristic art.
As far as the content is concerned, it is also childishly simplified, but beneath the naïve surface a bleak Soviet reality is manifested, which the young Hergé had not been personally confronted with, but which he knew from Catholic, anti-Soviet propaganda. Oddly enough, Hergé's criticism has no religious associations, which may seem strangesince the comic strips were published in a fanatically right-wing Catholic newspaper.
In the series´ fast moving sequences, the young readers were confronted with Communist repression, a constantly present secret police, top-ruled elections, politically arranged ”tourist journeys” for manipulated socialists from the West, persecution of peasants who opposed the forced delivery of grain, the so-called Kulaks (tightfisted), decay, starvation and unabashed propaganda. The year before the series was published, Stalin had consolidated his power, strengthened censorship, started to persecute his opponents both inside and outside the Party, and launched a bloodthirsty campaign against the Kulaks. The nation had not yet recovered from the devastating World War I with subsequent internal, bloody conflicts and a devastating famine.
Not least did Hergé succeeded in paying a passing attention to the millions of besprizorgnye, ”without control, abandoned”, children and young people who could be ecountered in all Russian cities. After the end of the civil war in 1922, besprizorgnye was estimated to be more than seven million. Throughout the twenties, these hordes of orphaned, starving children were a major problem. Drugged, sick and starving, they devoted themselves to all kinds of crime and were often found dead in streets and squares.
Hergé knew of such problems and several other features of the repressive Soviet social system through Joseph Douillet's book Moscou sans Voiles: Neuf ans de travail au pays des Soviets, Unveiled Moscow: Nine Years of Work in the Land of the Soviets. Hergé had been given the book by his boss, the priest Norbert Wallez and it became his exclusive source for Tintin in the Land of the Soviets. Doullet had lived in Russia since 1891 where he had been the Belgian consul in the million town of Rostov-na-Donu, before being arrested in 1925, spending nine months in prison before he was deported to Belgium.
Accordingly, I assume that Hergé's criticism of the Soviet State was entirely justified. However, the crude antisemitism that flourished within the conservative Catholic circles around the colourful priest Norbert Wallez was much worse. Abbé Wallez was a starstruck admirer of Benito Mussolini and editor-in-chief of the daily Le Vingtième Siécle, where Hergé was responsible for its youth and children supplement. In the comics that followed Tintin in the Congo and Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, several villains appear to have a look similar to the caricatures that were abundant at the time and intended to portray supposedly Jewish capitalists. By Hergé they carried names like Blumenstein and Rastapopolous.
In The Shooting Star from1942, Hergé got completely overboard and published a grossly antisemitic sequence that subsequently harassed him throughout his entire life and after the war became one of the reasons to why he was accused of Nazi collaboration – a cloak-robed doomsday prophet turns up, striking a gong while shouting: "Yes. we will get the plague! … The Bubonic Plague! ... And the cholera! … And it will be the end of the world, Satan's servants! ” Two Jews are watching the madman. One of them wonders, “Did you hear, Isaac? … The end of the world! ... What if it´s true?” The other Jew greedily wrings his hands and notes: “Hey! Hey! ... It would be a gut ding, Solomon! I owe my suppliers 50,000 francs. ... and zis way I von´t haf to pay vem ... ” Of course, after the war, Hergé felt compelled to edit away these greedy Jews, but the damage was done and he was forever more stamped as an antisemite.
This is a reasonable and deplorable accusation. Unlike prejudices against blacks which continued to flourish for many more years and still do, anti-Semitism did after the Nazis' insane extermination policy become a sensitive anathema, though it continues to show its ugly demeanor every now and then. It was worse before the war when anti-Semitism was perceived as at least just as funny as ”Negro jokes” about cannibals and ignorant barbarians. For example, let's take a look at Jewish caricature by a respected artist like
the popular and admired academician Albert Engström's who made frequent use of Jewish spoofs:
Even the likable Ivar Arosenius who wrote and illustrated the beloved childrens´ books The Cat Journey, The Kaliph´s Golden Goose and My First Coloring Book could lapse into drawing an abhorren anti-Semitic caricature with a grotesque Jewish cuckoo pushing Swedish chicks out of their nest.
These artists and a huge number of writers, actors and film directors could probably not comprehend the hatred and madness they fueled through their, in theirs and others' eyes, ”innocent” jokes about greedy and alien, Jewish parasites.
Waldemar Hammenhög (1902-1971) was an avid journalist and author of some forty novels and young adults´ books. I have only read his novel Pettersson & Bendel from 1931 and browsed through Pettersson and Bendel in Sicily from 1950. They may be defined as picaresque novels written in plain language, filled with dialogues in a mundane easy-flowing jargon and variegated action, lacking profound psychology. In other words, they are perfectly suited for movie making and a moment of entertaing reading.
Pettersson & Bendel begins with the handsome but somewhat workshy Kalle Pettersson, who unemployed and homeless finds himself under a tarpaulin in Stockholm harbour, where bumps into Joseph Bendel from Reval, present-day Tallinn. Bendel is smart and enterprising. When the ingenuous Pettersson hears that Bendel thinks Swedes are excellent to do business with, he wonders if the quick-witted and street smart Bendel could possibly be a Jew, though Bendel declares that he is a true Christian (Hammenhög was Catholic) that his father was a Pole, while his mother was to ”half-Jewish”.
The two opposites find each other and over time became a devious team. Bendel uses the handsome Pettersson as a lure for his shady businesses, a backdrop behind which he can hide his not entirely reliable, foreign background. The first novel ends with the two companions becoming separated after they being sought after by the police for shady deals and obvious frauds. Pettersson goes free, while Bendel has to flee the country. However, they are soon reunited for further adventures and neither Pettersson nor Bendel appear to be any obviously unpleasant characters, although none of them are to be trusted and Pettersson is constantly manipulated by the wily Bendel.
Pettersson & Bendel was filmed in 1933. Joseph Bendel was played by the well-known Jewish actor Semmy Friedmann who appeared in the guise of an unmistakably stereotypical Jew. I have not seen the entire movie, though scenes found on Youtube confront us with a crouching, hand-wrining Friedmann who with a strong Eastern accent presents all unpleasant clichés that at the time in several Swedish films were linked to Jews. Jewish caricatures were quite common in several successful Swedish films which presented at least one greedy and scheming Jew, a few eamples are the comedies Life in the Countryside, The Dollar Million, Tired Teodor, The Southsiders and the more serious but quite awful Panic. The latter film, which had its premiere in 1939, the deragatory criticism was almost unanimous and a Stockholm newspaper did not hesitate to lable it ”Nazi crap”. The film told a story about how a Jewish owned company, Brody, Nathan and Kohn, through fraud and swindle brought down the mighty business empire of the world famous Swedish financier Ivar Kreuger.
A few years earlier the tenor had been quite different, the Stockholm daily Nya Dagligt Allehanda could without any objection whatsoever praise Friedmann's acting in Pettersson & Bendel as a masterful impersonation of ”an oily little half-Jew with stealthy gait and soapy movements, sly as a fox and scared as a hare.” The film critic of Dagens Nyheter declared that the final scene depicted ”in a superior manner the Nordic race's deep disdain for the ugly creeps, the race with which it finds no connection with and from which worlds separate us.” Certainly an exaggerated interpretation of a scene that nevertheless contains such tendencies, but they are far from being so strongly expressed. A single reviewer found the travesty and disrespect of Jews to be somewhat offensive, but immediately softened his opinion by stating that the obvious antisemitic tendency ” probably was unintentional.”
However, this more or less dumbfounded blue-eyed attitude about the dangers of distasteful racism was contradicted when Pettersson & Bendel two years later was highly acclaimed
in Nazi Germany. Goebbels was thrilled, paying tribute to the film as staatspolitisch wertvoll, state politically valuable, and made sure it was distributed in far more copies than usually was the case. The film was a great success and screenings were accompanied by huge anti-Jewish manifestations.
We shall not fool ourselves into believingSwedish antisemitism totally disappeared after the shocking revelations of a well organized, state-planned and systematic extermination of Jews by the Nazis. Meticulously executed through Einsatzgruppen and concentration camps. The link between Jews and capitalism was so ingrained that it even appeared in Social democratic election propaganda. In Per Albin responds - Welcome to us: The Labour Party election in 1946, directed by the then esteemed Arne Bornebusch. It was a half-hour an hour long feature film that in Swedish cinemas was presented as an introduction to the main attraction movies.
The film began with the confident Father of the Nation Per Albin Hansson sitting in his garden while answering questions from an ”owner of a trading booth” assuring him that the Social democrats do not threaten any businessmen, but favour them and all other hardworking Swedes. Then follows a variety show mixed with filmed snippets, among other them we see the popular Sigurd Wallén playing a clever old fisherman paying tribute to a recently introduced pension system. Åke Grönberg, who also appeared in Ingmar Bergman movies, played a judge, an old caretaker, a Communist agitator and was also leading the variety song group The Bobbies in the final number. Finance minister, assistant professor Ernest Wigforss, one of the main architects of Social democratic ideology and politics and one of the foremost ”builders of the Swedish People's Home”, acted as himself in a dream sequence in which he to a heavenly judge explains how all Swedes will gain from a fair economic distribution system. The whole thing is entertaining, albeit somewhat overly didactic. Being a Social democratic supporter myself, though admittedly with several reservations, and an admirer of the departed Social democratic community builders, I found it all to be fairly accurate, but rather naïve.
However … in the middle of it all, the skilled actress and couplet singer Hjördis Pettersson emerged in the role of an impressive revue prima donna. She sang an ironic song, set to the catchy tune of Peder Olrog's newly written and at the time extremely appreciated Schottis at Valhalla. It dealt with PHM, Opponents to Planned Economy, a slogan invented by the Social democrats and directed against righ-twing politicians who did not approve of the Social democrats´ tax policy. Hjördis Pettersson is assisted by two dancing couples dressed in eighteenth century costume. They carry placards with the text Support PHM! and Lower Tax for Millionaires, the latter is carried by a strutting, bend-legged Jew with a big nose and black calotte! Together with a capitalist with a top hat, the stereotyped Jew does at the end of the number carry a treasure chest to centre stage, which he opens up so that he and the other participants can dig into the gold money, which they scatter around them, while the Jew greedily wrings his hand while taking the opportunity to put some handfuls of coins in his own pockets.
If Swedish culture during the 1920s and 1930s was literally soaked in antisemitism, it was even worse among French-speaking, conservative Catholics. The guiding star for several of them was Charles Maurras, leader of the extremely right-wing Action Française. Maurras argued that an unwavering belief in a national, collective exclusivity should be ”our” (i.e. all French-speakers) fixed point in existence. A true patriot, a true Frenchman, is anti-individualist, anti-liberal, antisemitic and Catholic, though in the latter case, Maurras was somewhat ambivalent – after all, the Pope was not a Frenchman.
Hergé's boss, the Catholic priest Wallez, editor-in-chief of Le Vingtième Siécle, was a devoted Maurras fan and also a fascist who had met Mussolini in person and kept the dictator's autographed portrait exposed on his desk. While hiring the young Hergé, Wallez also hired León Degrelle, who was a year older than Hergé and already notorious due to a published tribute to Charles Maurras in which he had hailed the Frenchman´s nationalism and tried to reconcile it with his own view that conservative Catholicism was a guarantor for morality and patriotism. Like Hergé, Degrelle had been an enthusiastic scout and a strictly raised Catholic. However, Degrelle was a flamboyant, handsome womanizer and a politically active rabble rouser, quite different from the shy and quiet Hergé, who also suffered from an unusual blood disease, probably a form of porphyria. However, Hergé socialized extensively with his colleague and they both looked up to Ábbe Wallez as a father figure.
As a journalist and politician, Degrelle became known for his vile, extreme opinions and aggressive language, which meant that although he wanted to appear as a pious and convinced Catholic, several church leaders distanced themselves from him. For a Belgian like Degrelle, Catholicism was not so much a Christian faith based on the conviction that Jesus Christ is the savior of all humanity, that its foundation is the love of your neighbour and reconciliation with a God who is a father to us all, regardless of race and origin. On the contrary, Degrelle considered himself primarily as a ”Belgian”, but a Walloon who spoke French, though not a Frenchman, who was a Christian, but not a Protestant like the Flemish, whom he regarded as enemies of patriotism. Degrelle was a nationalist in a country divided between a people among whom some spoke French while others spoke Flemish, some were Catholics and other Protestants.
For a patriot like Degrelle Catholicism was equalled to self-assertion, a belief that he was different – not a Frenchman, not Flemish, but a Belgian Catholic with a unique belief in a God that loved people like him, i.e. Belgian Catholics. A Walloon God opposed to everything and everyone that Degrelle despised, feared and hated. His Catholicism was based neither on love of your neighbour nor on reconciliation, it was linked to struggle and patriotism. Many Catholics regarded Degrelle as a dangerous fanatic. A cardinal noted:
Mr. Degrelle makes use of extreme views in support of his personal thirst for power. […] One thing is certain and it is that he nurtures an enormous ambition, as he himself has stated – he wants to rule his nation.The impulsiveness he exhibits, especially during social unrest, makes him capable of causing the most grievous troubles.
Nevertheless, Degrelle's fighting spirit suited the fascist priest Wallez and in 1930 he sent him on a reporting trip to Mexico, something that would prove to have a regrettable impact on Degrelle and Belgium’s future.
Mexico's 1917 constitution stipulated that the State would be ”secular” and did thus separate the State from the Church. School education would henceforth be strictly ”civilian”, and the Law prohibited ”official religious activities outside religious buildings.” The clergy was not allowed to publicly express any criticism of the Government and religious orders were criminalized. The situation was exacerbated by extensive land reforms. Several bishops were actively opposing the school reforms and especially the land distribution, which negatively impacted the Church's extensive land holdings. The situation was worsened by the fact that many landless peasants used Church land for their livelihoods, land that now was expropriated and often sold to hacenderos, wealthy farmers and livestock breeders. Incited by Catholic opposition the bloody Cristero Uprising, La Cristiada, smote Mexico between 1926 and 1929, killing more than 250,000. In his novel The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene skillfully captured the Mexican conflict and tug of war between religious and political convictions.
In 1928, two weeks after the radical and combative General Álvaro Obregón had been re-elected as president, the young artist León Toral approached him at a restaurant presenteing Obregón with a few drawings he had made of him. While Obregón's laughed and appreciatively leaned over them, Toral at close range fired six gunshots into the back of the President´s head. Toral willingly acknowledged his guilt, declaring that the President's death would initiate ”Christ's dominion over Mexico.”
When Toral was executed in 1929, his last words were ¡Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King! Degrelle wrote in Ábbe Wallez's Le Vingtème Siècle ”To every new Toral we will heartily burst out in a Bravo!” This was generally perceived as a serious provocation, an encouragement of political violence. Wallez responded to the criticism by sending Degrelle on a reporting trip to Mexico, where he stayed for several months, contacted the Cristeros and claimed to have participated in in armed assaults on government troops, something he described in a successful book - My Adventures in Mexico.
Probably inspired by his Mexican adventure Degrelle did after his return to Belgium found a political movement he called Christus Rex, Christ the King. Initially, his movement supported the Catholic Party, though Degrelle's militant rhetoric increasingly distanced him from more sensible Catholic politicians, whom he called ”living excrement”.
Upon his return to Belgium, Degrelle also published Histoire de la guerre scolaire 1879-1884, a book about the so-called ”school struggle” during which the Belgian government had tried to limit the Catholic influence over education, something Degrelle, after his experiences among Mexican Cristeros, assumed would have a devastating effect on morality, nationalism and anti-socialism. Hergé designed the book's vignettes and much later explained that the support he had provided to Degrelle and his cause was something he did not regret.
Just like Degrelle the young Hergé assumed that a strong Catholic faith was needed to strengthen Belgian morality and patriotism. While illustrating Degrelle's book he also designed the cover for his friend Raymond de Becker's Pour un ordre noveau, For a New Order. Like Wallez, Hergé and Degrelle, de Becker was a conservative Catholic who mistrusted democracy and advocated a dictatorial Catholic social order under a Belgian monarch. de Becker wished to contribute to the establishment a morally elevated State of God, which he imagined had existed during Flanders' heyday in the Late Middle Ages.
During the Belgian parliamentary elections in 1932, Degrelle's group plunged itself into the electoral battle on the side of the Catholic Party and did throughout Belgium distribute a poster with a picture that presented a skull equipped with a gas mask and the text Against the invasion [implying a threat from communists and socialists] vote for the Catholics. Instead of stating that Hergé was the author of the picture, the poster´s small print claimed it had been created by The Studio of the Rex Magazine. An angered Hergé pointed out that he did not mind working for Degrelle, but he would definitely not have approved of any use of the image before he had revised and improved it. Hergé brought the case before the Syndicat de la Propriété Artistique, the Syndicate for Artistic Copyright, asking for a judicial review. It was only after a year of tough exchanges that Degrelle gave in and recompensated Hergé. Their friendship came to an end. When Degrelle in 1940 offered Hergé the management a children's supplement for his magazine Le Pays Réel, the by now very popular artist declined his offer.
In May 1940, the Belgian army surrendered to the Germans. King Leopold III declared he would remain on his post as king of the nation and urged all Belgians who had fled the country to return. Hergé, who had left for France during the German invasion, now accepted Raymond de Becker's offer to work for the big daily Le Soir, which the Nazis had expropriated, turned into their mouthpiece and appointed de Becker as its editor-in-chief.
Over the past decade much has changed for both Hergé and Degrelle. The unduly extreme Abbé Wallez had by its Catholic owners been forced to leave his post as editor-in-chief for Le Vingtième Siécle and a year later Hergé also left the newspaper. The enterprising Wallez had by then arranged for the publisher Casterman to assume the printing and distribution of The Adventures of Tintin. Delivered from Wallez's ideological straitjacket, Hergé began to move in a more radical direction. He cautiously attacked both Hitler and Mussolini.
The latter was not to Wallez's taste, though since he was more of a Fascist than a Nazi he did not mind that Hergé rather discreetly attacked Hitler and Nazism.
With the comic album The Blue Lotus, Hergé began to undertake serious reserach and interest himself in the people and countries he was sending Tintin to. When he wrote and made his drawings about Congo, Russia and the United States Hergé had largely relied on one single source. In his depiction of the United States, he had portrayed the nation as governed by vulgarity, big business, organized crime and racism. In one of the comic strips he had for example made a bank janitor declare to the police that “when I came in the morning I found the manager like this [dead] and the safe open. I sounded the alarm and we immediately hanged seven negroes, but the culprit is still on the loose.” A statement that Hergé after the war changed to: "When I came into the bank this morning, like I always do, there was the boss and the safe wide open ... I raised the alarm, and we hanged a few fellows right away, ... but the thief got clear ... ”
Tintin is also close to being hanged by a lynching mob and is only saved by good luck, since a sheriff that might have come to his rescue is, despite prohibition, becoming dead drunk and unable call off the lynching. Hergé's dark depiction of the United States was almost exclusively based on the French writer Georges Duhamel's Scenes de la vie future, Scenes of the Future Life, from 1930. Duhamel described a corrupt society where pursuit of profit is more important than empathy and predicted that the same circumstances would soon prevail in Europe as well. Duhamel's terrifying description of a society in decline also influenced Lous-Ferdinand Céline's Journey to the End of the Night.
That Hergé deepened his world view and political convictions was mainly thanks to a young Chinese artist, Tchang Tchong-Yen, who helped Hergé to elaborate The Blue Lotus and turn it into a condemnation of Imeperial Japan´s ruthless occupation of China. In King Ottokar´s Sceptre Hergé continued along the same road and decried the intrusion of totalitarian regimes in the affairs of other countries. In that comic the concealed dictator, Müsstler, who is controlling his henchmen from a distance is without doubt a sinister combination of Mussolini and Hitler, while the dictator's brutal servant, Boris Jorgen, carries the features of the mass murderer Heinrich Himmler.
In spite of this promising development Hergé ended up as a Nazi collaborator by accepting a job at a Nazi-promoting newspaper, controlled by an occupying power. On several occasions, Hergé was asked how an apparently decent person like him so easily could be persuaded to work for the Nazis. At each occasion, Hergé gave different explanations, though in a moment of sincerity he explained that he did in fact share the thoughts and ideas of several his friends who already were working for the German-expropriated Le Soir:
Without doubt, Raymond de Becker sympathized with the National Socialist system and that he was in agreement with Henri de Man. I acknowledge that I also believed that the future of the Occident depended on The New Order. To many people democracy had proved to be disappointing. The New Order meant hope for a better future. In Catholic circles that was a common standpoint.
At a later date, he added
Like de Becker, we felt distraught by democracy and feared communism. It was wrong of us not to notice the brutality of fascism. I was wrong to be impressed by their will to power.
The great popularity of the Hergé´s Tintin made people read a newspaper propagating the unpleasant views of an occupying power. If it had not been for Tintin and their children´ addiction to him several of these Le Soir readers would have avoided the tabloid. Nor can it be denied that Hergé was a good friend of the writers and journalists who had put their words in the service of occupying Nazis.
When Raymond de Becker in 1930 wrote about A New Order, he dreamed of a future Europe united under a single monarch. A Kingdom of God's Grace where Catholic beliefs and morals prevailed over all other faiths. This also meant that abominations such as Judaism and Bolshevism had to be abolished and believers who could not be persuaded to follow the Path of Righteousness had to be expelled from a future European State of God. Apart from the fact that de Becker dreamed of a Catholic monarchy, preferably under a Walloon ruler, his ideas coincided to some extent to those of the Nazi leaders, who also painted an image of a New Order, which they labeled as Neuordnung.
According to Hitler and his ideologues, the map of Europe had to be completely redrawn. The continent would become the equivalent to a new economically integrated Europe under Nazi rule. The Jewish-Bolshevik Soviet state, a pernicious barbarian-Asian abnormality unable to add anything to a culturally high-ranking Europe, had to be wiped out. Its vast, fertile lands would be occupied to Aryan-Nordic supermen. The racially inferior Slavic people would be enslaved, while gypsies, Jews and others labeled as ”unworthy to live” would be extreminated, or if this could not be argued openly, expelled to ”distant places”.
When Hergé began working at the Nazi-oriented Le Soir, his budding politicized, often radical, approach disappeared from his comics, apart from one or two glaring mishaps, such as the rough Jewish caricature in The Shooting Star. At the same time, his stories became more vivid and sophisticated, not least through the introduction of innovative and amusing characters such as the temperamental alcoholic Captain Haddock and the absent-minded Professor Calculus. The artistic quality also increased when Hergé began to apply the so-called ligne claire, the clear line. It meant that outlines were dreawn in an equally wide, black line, contrasts were simplified and the colours became clear and crisp, while the cliché-like figures moved within a realistic environment depicted in great detail. Hergé's style has often been imitated and reminds me of Chinese propaganda images.
It has been claimed that Hergé drew his inspiration for la ligne claire from the American comic strips, although it is more likely that he was influenced by French illustrators, like Benjamin Rabier whose art Hergé studied while he created his Tintin in the Congo. Rabier's influence is especially evident in some drawings Hergé made when he in 1946 improved the original series.
Hergé's good friend Raymond de Becker soon came into conflict with the Nazi occupiers. After all, his New Order was not the same as the Nazis leaders´ Neuordnung. de Becker was and remained a Belgian, Catholic royalist. When Degrelle, was hoping that the Nazis would make him a Belgian dictator he did in a speech, delivered on January 1943, declare that the Wallons in fact were Germans, this measure infuriated de Becker. A few months after Degrelle's notorious speech, de Becker called a meeting at Le Soir's editorial office during which he declared that he had now reached a dead end in his relations with the German Nazis. For another month the new owners allowed him to continue to work as editor-in-chief before de Becker was arrested and placed under house arrest in the Bavarian Alps. Probably the animosity directed against de Becker was not solely based on political disagreements, the well-known homosexuality of de Becker may also have had an effect on his fall from grace. After de Becker's departure, Hergé and his friends nevertheless continued to work for Le Soir.
Two days after the liberation of Brussels September 7, 1944, Hergé was arrested by the Belgian security police and his home was searched. Hergé was held in custody for one day and after his release he was subjected to one interrogation after another. In December, the then world-famous Hergé was released from the charges of collaboration with the Nazis and a year later he received a ”certificate of good citizenship”. However, several of his friends and colleagues were sentenced to death, though they were eventually freed and did not end up among the 242 ”traitors” who were eventually executed.
Most famous among Hergé's detah-sentenced friends was the journalist and politician Robert Poulet, imprisoned for more than six years before he was pardoned and like many other Belgian Nazi collaborators moved to France. de Becker was also sentenced to death, though he was pardoned after four years in prison and moved to Paris, as well. Nevertheless, neither Poulet nor de Becker, as well as several of Hergé's other friends, did not change their views, while Hergé maintained his contacts and friendship with them.
Hergé also had several friends among French intellectuals who had been Nazi collaborators during the war, for example the literature professor Maurice Bardèche, who after the war established a support for his brother-in-law, the admired author and antisemite Robert Brasillach, who was sentenced to death after the war and eventually executed. Hergé and several other celebrities became members of the Association de Amis de Robert Brasillach,, which still exists. Both Poulet and Bardèche subsequently became influential Holocaust deniers and foreground figures within the European Abyssal Right.
However, one of Hergé's fellow collaborators managed to sweep his past under the rug. Paul de Man moved to the United States and in the late fifties he presented at Harvard University a famed doctoral thesis in literature and was later engaged as a professor at the Cornell -, the John Hopkins -, the Zurich - and the Yale universities. Paul de Man became a giant in postmodern philosophy and literary criticism. It was only after his death in 1983 that his antisemitic and Nazi-friendly articles from his time in German-occupied Brussels, to the bewilderment of his admirers, were re-published.
Raymond de Becker did not become as successful as de Man and Hergé occasionally supported him financially. However, de Becker gained some international fame through his historical study of homosexuality, L'erotisme d'en face, which he published in 1968, four years before his death Its English edition The Other Face of Love became a cult book for the growing gay movement .
Raymond de Becker, was member of the right-wing circles around the magazine Planète, issued between 1961 and 1971. Planète published excellent short stories characterized by occultism and fantastic realism. Leading lights of the Planète were Jacques Bergier and Louis Pauwels, who wrote the strange, far from reliable, though yet fascinating Le Matin des magiciens, The Morning of the Magicians. Hergé based his character Mik Ezdantitoff in the Tintin album Flight 714 to Sidney on Jaques Bergier.
Despite his suspicious political background, Hergé was praised by admirers from both the right and the left of the political spectrum. He is now an established Belgian cult figure and I continue to be an avid reader and admirer his Tintin series. When I passed the airport in Brussels a few months ago, I found it to be replete with Tintin memorabilia, including a monument in the form of the space rocket from Destination Moon.
While Hergé continued to develop The Adventures of Tintin, Degrelle was whipped on by his boundless ambition. He broke with the Catholic Party and established his own party - Rex (Parti Rexiste), which most successfully managed to obtain 11 percent of the votes in the general elections of 1936, though opinion figures soon dropped rapidly. Degrelle's party found itself in a constant pursuit to obtain economic support from both German National Socialists and Italian Fascists and it constantly adapted its rhetorics to various conditions determined by the financial contributors. Despite reservations based on his fanatical Catholicism and Walloon nationalism Degrelle became increasingly attracted by German National Socialism, especially after meeting with Hitler and his foreign minister Ribbentrop in 1936, these Nazi coryphées promised him continued financial support if he adapted his policy to their wishes.
In numerous books that Decrelle wrote after the War, Degrelle presented himself as the key figure he never was. Admittedly, he fought on the Eastern Front and quickly rose in the ranks of the Waffen SS and ended up as Standartenführer, roughly the equivalent of colonel. In books and interviews, Degrelle created an entire mythology about his war experiences and privileged relationships with Nazi leaders, not the least Hitler and Himmler. Furthermore, he presented himself as an heir of European National Socialism. In fact, the Nazis took advantage of Degrelle's reputation to recruit Belgian soldiers for the Eastern Front and turned him into a propaganda tool. In confidence, Reichführer SS Himmler shared his views on Degrelle with Hitler, telling der Führer he considered the Belgian agitator to be lacking ”political seriousness”. Admittedly, Degrelle's role as SS officer could serve as an effective propaganda minion to reach like-minded people in occupid countries, though as a political leader in an occupied Belgium the overambitious Degrelle was definitely not someone Germany could confide in.
In May 1941, one year after the Germans defeated and occupied Belgium, Degrelle and his party, the Rexists, emerged as hopeless losers. They lacked popular support and were completely ignored by the Germans. One of the Belgian King's closest advisers explained to him that the failure of Rexism was a consequence of Degrelle's lack of credibility and characterized him as ”a balloon inflated by his own vanity, whose wild claims are in an inverse proportion to his actual abilities.”
During the chaos caused by the collapse of Belgium in 1940, Degrelle had been captured by the French and ran the risk of being executed together with several of his fellow Fascists, though he was released when France capitulated in June. Sonn after Degrelle made contact with the German ambassador in Paris, Otto Abetz, who was on friendly terms with both Ribbentrop and Himmler. Abetz made Degrelle realize that to secure a powerful position in Belgium he ought to offer his services to the German authorities, who now was in control of his fatherland. The best way to win the confidence of the Nazis would be to join the German army in its war against the Soviet Union. On June 22, 1940, the Soviet Union came under a massive attack by the German Reich and its allies. More than 4.5 million soldiers from the Axis powers invaded Russia along a 2,900 km long front line. Already on July 22, Degrelle arrived Germany together with 850 Walloon volunteers and after two months of inadequate training they were thrown into the fighting on the Eastern Front. However, the German war leadership complained about the Walloon's lack of ”fighting ability” and it was only after Degrelle and his troops allied with the Italians that they could participate in actual fighting.
Degrelle proved to be a brave soldier who did not avoid throwing himself into bloody battles. In March 1940, he received the Iron Cross and was promoted to Feldwebel, Staff Sergeant, after ”his” Walloon legion lost more than half of its men as they bravely resisted an attacking Soviet army unit. Himmler kept himself informed about Degrelle´s activities and after the Walloon politician had proved himself worthy of the Reichsführer SS's attention, his legion was being prepared for the privilege of being included as a exclusive unit of the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking, which largely consisted of Nordic and Baltic SS volunteers. On the night of May 24, 1942, Degrelle met with Himmler, who promised that the Walloons would eventually form a Storm Brigade within the Waffen SS, something that was realized in June 1943.
The Brigade received its exceptionally frightening baptism of fire during the Battle of Korsun-Cherkassy, which was fought in late January and early February 1944. More than 60,000 men from the German army had outside of the Ukrainian city Cherkassy been encircled by Soviet troops under command of the legendary General Zukov,. Terrified by the possibility that the defeat at Stalingrad might be repeated and the entire army unit could be taken prisoner, the cut off Germans fought with violent desperation. The battle was carried out under extreme weather conditions and in a difficult terrain – heavy downpours or thick fog, in mud and amidst hostile civilians. After just over a month, 40,000 soldiers managed to break out of the trap. Their retreat was covered by the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking and the Walloon Storm Brigade. Of the 2,000 men of the Walloon Brigade 632 survived. Degrelle was promoted to Sturmbannführer and received the Ritterkreuz from Hitler's hands.
This was one of the three official occasions when Degrelle met with Hitler. He was far from as intimately acquainted with Der Führer as he claimed in his memoirs, neither did Hitler as Degrelle later asserted, and many have repeated after him, tell him that if he had a son Der Führer wished he would be like Degrelle. The Belgian politician and warrior were neither particularly familiar with Himmler. Someone has stated that Degrelle´s recollections of long meetings and discussions with the two Nazi leaders had emerged from Degrelle's ”nostalgic fog”. Furthermore, something that also spoke against Degrelle's familiarity Hitler and Himmler, who could only speak German, was that Degrelle's language skills were quite insignificant and he never learned to speak a correct and fluent German.
Although they generally thought he was far far too ”self-glorifying” several of Degrelle's brothers-in-arms suggested that he nevertheless was a daring man who did not dodge from fighting side by side with ”his men”. However, one of his acquaintances from the ”fighting years” characterized Degrelle as being a victim of his
of boundless ambition. Degrelle was a slave to his own inventiveness, [he was] a genuine, a completely effortless mythomaniac. Sometimes people wondered if he did not suffer from an unhibited sense of self-grandeur.
After the war, Degrelle was in his absence sentenced to death in Brussels. He escaped from Norway in an airplane and emergency landed on a beach outside San Sebastian. The Belgian State made several attempts to have him extradited, though the Franco regime refused to hand him over while pointing to the fact that crimes and massacres committed by Rexists by the end of the war, and for which Degrelle had been accused as instigator and accomplice, had actually been committed while he was outside of the country. When Degrelle was very close to be extradited in 1954, since he had kept his Belgian citizenship, he was in the last minute adopted by an elderly Spanish lady, given the name José León Ramírez Reina and thus became a Spaniard.
After arriving in Spain, his friend, the remarkable Otto Skorzeny, helped Degrelle to get back on his feet. Degrelle became the head of a construction firm, which on behalf of the United States Army constructed military airfields in Spain and elsewhere. He also earned an income by trading in art and antiquities, though his efforts to run a large laundry company and an import firm for agricultural machinery from Argentina failed completely. Along with Skorzeny, though not as effectively as him, Degrelle was also involved in a multitude of networks with both overwintered and newly hatched Nazis, terrorists and war criminals. An endeavour with generous funding from various industrilaists and financiers with a suspicious past among Nazis and Fascists. These shady networks furthermore counted upon a discreet support from intelligence organizations such as the U.S. CIA and the German Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).
During the War, the huge, almost two meters tall Skorzeny had been active as a bold and skilled commander who with small, effective units had operated in hostile territory all over Europe and especially on the Eastern Front. He had among several dare devil operations organized and carried out the Hungarian head of state Miklós Horthy´s removal from power and the spectacular rescue operation of Mussolini, after he had been ousted and imprisoned by his own governing party. After the war, Skorzeny did with American support escape from an internment camp. In Spanish exile Skorzeny succeeded in amassing a fortune with crucial assistance from his beautiful wife Ilse Luthje, Countess of Fincke von Finckenstein, who was the niece of the Nazis´ Finance Minister Hjalmar Schacht, who had been able to distance himself from Hitler's entourage well in advance of the outbreak of War, though he had retained his other right-wing contacts, and during the fifties and early sixties he maintained a wealthy living as financial adviser.
Together with the infamous Swiss financier François Genoud, Schacht was involved in extensive business transactions in the Arab world and South Africa. After he had met Hitler in 1932 Genoud had became a devoted Nazi. He supported antisemitic networks, various terrorist organizations and also the mysterious Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, aka The Jackal, who declares himself to be a Marxist and a Muslim. Through his extensive arms deals Genoud was apparently able to fund the ODESSA and Die Spinne networks, which supported Nazis wanted for crimes against humanity. He also funded the defense of Klaus Barbie and Adolf Eichmann. Genoud's import-export companies served as a cover for antisemitic and anti-Israeli propaganda as well as arms exports to such diverse groups as the Algerian National Liberation Front and the South African Apartheid regime.
Skorzeny was the ideal choice for Genoud's shady businesses. During the war Skorzeny's closest boss, Reinhard Gehlen, had been responsible for intelligence operations behind enemy limes. Gehlen's vast amount of valuable information about the Soviet Union made him significant during the Cold War, something he was well aware of long before the German capitulation and which made him to microfilm his most important information and pass it on to the Americans after he had been arrested in n1945. Gehlen was immediately flown to the United States, after a year he returned to Germany to establish an intelligence network aimed at the Soviet Union. Gehlen's organization was in 1956 transformed into West Germany's intelligence service, BND, which Gehlen headed until 1968.
Like Haiti's bokors, discredited vodú priests who engage in black magic, Gehlen worked avec les deux mains, with both hands. That means while you claim you work for the best of humankind, for justice and peace, you are secretly doing the opposite. One of Gehlen’s main confidants and servants was his favorite and good friend Otto Skorzeny, who often with secret support from the CIA trained guerrilla forces aroud the world and served as an advisor to Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser, something that did not prevent Skorzeny from offering his services to Mossad, Israel’s Intelligence Agency, as well. Skorzeny even approached the Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal with an offer to provide him with the addresses of wanted war criminals, on condition that Wiesenthal removed Skorzeny from his list of mass murderers. He also worked as an advisor to Juan Perón in Argentina and maintained contact with notorious Nazis like Mengele and Eichmann. On combined business travels and political assignments Skorzeny was in close contact with a several African and Latin American dictators and terrorist groups. In Spain, he organized the so-called Paladin Group, which from Alicante offered its services to totalitarian regimes around the world and assisted Franco in his fight against Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), the Basque terrorist group that fought against his regime.
Together with Degrelle, Skorzeny was also a leader of the Circulo Español de Amigos de Europa (CEDADE), the Spanish Circle for Friends of Europe, a fellowship for veterans from the Spanish Liberation Army which fought side by side with the Nazis during World War II and those of their European comrades-in-arms who lived in Spanish exile. Degrelle was responsible for the fellowship's publishing and printing company in Barcelona where he published his articles and memoirs from his fighting years and various inspirational appeals to Europe's youngsters. CEDADE supported Italian neo-fascists like Junio Valerio Borghese and Stefano Delle Chiaje, who with CIA's blessing were cruited for the so-called Operation Condor, which assisted coup makers and dictators in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. Since the military coup in Chile in September 1973 until the late 1990s Operation Condor served as an umbrella organization for Latin America's many military dictatorships, which in their fight against the opposition used terror, ”disappearances”, and torture.
With the CIA's blessing and support from Italian right-wing forces, old and new Fascists were behind the so-called Stategia della tensione, Strategy of Tension, a plan that meant that terror and fear within Italy would prepare this nation for an extreme right-wing take-over. Fascist gangsters led by Borghese and Chiaje were behind a coup attempt and the blast called Strage di Piazza Fontana in Milan, which in 1969 blew up the National Agicultural Bank and left 17 dead and 88 wounded. A similar blast, Strage di Bologna, blew in 1980 up the Central Station of Bologna, leaving 85 dead and 200 wounded. Borghese and Chiaje were never convicted of their horrific crimes in Italy and Latin America.
In his magnificent penthouse in Malaga, with oil paintings by Flemish masters and other precious works of art the pompous León Degrelle welcomed the scum of Europe's ultra-right. Degrelle was a diligent writer and regarded himself as an intellectual, a prominent ideologist. Unlike Skorzeny whom he characterized as
a specialist with unique skills, a very strong ma with a strong will. A soldier, not a philosopher, who had a very simple view of the world – that Europe had to be anti-Communist and unified
One of Degrelle's many recurrent guests was for example the former paratrooper Jean-Marie Le Pen who on behalf of the Foreign Legion had been fighting in the Indochina War, during the Suez crisis, and the Algerian Revolt. Le Pen founded the French Front National in 1972 and was almost elected President of France in 2002, but was excluded from his own party in 2015 after characterizing the Nazi gas chambers as ”a small detail”. His daughter. Marine Le Pen, a right-wing extremist like her father, was during the 2017 elections close to become the President of France.
Like many of Degrelle's friends, as well as his enemies, Le Pen found that Degrelle had an annoying tendency to exaggerate his own importance:
I know Degrelle, just as I know a number of world politicians. [...] He is a World War II monument and an extraordinary historical figure. But he is also an aging gentleman who attributes to himself an influence that he does not have.
In more or less truthful memoirs and lofty panegyric Degrelle praised himself and his grandiloquent Nazi ideals. His goal was to contribute to the creation of an idealistic elite consisting of conservative Aryan supermen:
True elites are formed at the front […] a chivalry is created there, unsimg leadres. When we see a young revolutionary from germany, or elseweher, we felle he is one of ours, for we are one with revoultion and youth. We are political soldier we prepare a politcial takeover.
Like many other fanatical Nazi survivors from the Eastern Front, Degrelle denied he knew anything about the mass murder of Jews and Romani people – which actually is an impossibility. Even the few Swedish SS volunteers who participated in battles together with the Walloon Brigade and the SS Division Wiking have confessed that they witnessed murders and abuses directed against Jews.
Degrelle's repeated statements about the small scale and insignificance of the Nazi instigated killings of Jews and Romani people resulted in a lengthy trial, which began in 1985 after an indictment by the Romanian born Spanish resident and Holocaust survivor Violeta Friedman. In 1991 the Tribunal Constitutional de España sentenced Degrelle to pay a large fine. When asked if he had any regrets about the verdict, his participation in the war, his support to neo-Nazis and Holocaust denial, Degrelle answered : ”Only that we lost.” Degrelle died at the age of eighty-eight in 1994.
To be able to imagine at least a fragment of the immensity of the indescribable infernal human suffering and ice cold savagery created on the Eastern Front you might read Jonathan Littell's novel Les Bienveillantes, The Kindly Ones from 2006. To write this intensive portrayal of the intellectual and perverted SS Obersturmbannführer Maximilian Aue's motivation and actions, Littell studied several memoirs published by participants in the German army's struggles, including those of Degrelle. Before the Les Bienveillantes was published Littell had written a brief account of how he perceived Degrelle and his descriptions of the battles along the Eastern Front, Le sec et l'humide, The Dry and the Damp.
Littell tries to understand different aspects of evil. How an ideological approach based on human contempt in extreme conservative circles can be transformed into a grotesque slaughter of fellow human beings and then, after the carnage, once again can be abstracted and defended. Littell studied how Degrelle in his memoirs described how an abstract belief in knightly ideals and a new world order was confronted with an unexpected ”bloody, sticky, damp and smoky reality.” The upright, proud ”Aryan” knights were forced to crawl in mud and dirt while committing the most grotesque crimes in the history of mankind, only to to rise again from the crap and present themselves as the knights they in the past had imagined themselves to have been.
The preface to Le sec et l'humide was written by German historian of ideas Klaus Theweleit, who had a great influence on how Littell planned his novel, which on many levels is extremely disturbing. Theweleit doubts political and historical explanations of the Nazi movement, in particular its approval of killing and unrestrained violence. He does not underestimate the importance of politics and social factors, though he seeks the root cause of senseless aggressiveness within the individuals who actually commitedand those who aciviely supported the uninhibited violence. He wonders why they were able to perform such disgusting acts of bestiality while others remained observers, applauded them, refused to condemn the horrific acts, or simply preferred to ignore them. This search led Theweleit to psychoanalysis and his own childhood. Theweleit´s father used to claim he was
primarily a railway man … and only secondarily a man. He was a good man, too, and a pretty good fascist. The blows he brutally lavished as a matter of course, and for my own god, were the first lesson I would one day come to recognize as lessons in fascism. The instance of ambivalence in my mother – she considered the beatings necessary, but tempered them – were the second.
Theweleit's book Male Fantasies, which I read several years ago, has since then lingered in my subconscious and followed me through life – a bewildering reading experience; stimulating, thought-provoking, but sometimes also repetitive, tiring and somewhat dubious, but ultimately perfectly believable.
Theweleit made use of books diaries written by and for German soldiers returning home after the World War I. Mentally and physically degraded several of them experienced how their minds and bodies had become fragmented. They were looking for means to reconstruct their ”true selves”. Like many psychoanalysts, Theweleit perceives an intimate connection between body and mind, manifested in sexual urges, which are either realised or oppressed. The returning soldiers' bodies were filled with fear – fear of falling apart or in danger of being engulfed by the increasingly incomprehensible existence surrounding them. Their bodies had during their childhood and adolescence been disciplined through physical violence exercised by parents, school and military. All forms of bodily fluids and exudation came to be associated with disgust and had to be mastered and disciplined. The skin of boys had to be transformed into an armor that enclosed bodily functions and emotions, denied and despised such processes and emotions were hidden under disciplined postures, impassivity, uniforms, weapons and leather.
The connection Theweleit makes between body fluids and militarism reminds me of the crazy warrior U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, which premiered thirteen years before Male Fantasies was published:
I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids. […] A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual, and certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard-core Commie works. I first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love... Yes, a profound sense of fatigue, a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I — I was able to interpret these feelings correctly. Loss of essence. I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women, er, women sense my power, and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid women, Mandrake...but I do deny them my essence.
The threat to the disciplined man came from the shapeless mass and soft femininity, its opposite was a mastered masculinity, orderly formations, a uniformed mindset. Alien and harmful elements were the encroaching ”strangers, retards and perverts” the threatening enemies on the other side of No Man's Land. They were characterized as a pack; a cowardly, lousy and vulgar horde of rats, a looming avalanche of dirt, ugliness and loathsome barbarism – non-Aryans, Jews, Bolsheviks, homosexuals, proletarian masses manipulated by global capitalism, democracy and liberalism. Anyone able to see the truth straight in the face, someone who really dared to take up a fight against this suffocating river of disgust, was a true hero. An exceptional person who in body and soul and through his actions represented the true will of the people – an Adolf Hitler, a León Degrelle, an Anders Breivik.
I searched for León Degrelle's books online and found that several of them had been translated into Swedish, for example his war memoirs, The War on the Eastern Front, which in the publishing advertisement was described as an epic story
told by the legendary person whose unrivaled combat experience and literary talent made him the foremost spokesman for his fallen comrades.
With rising wonder I read about the publishing house Logik's other publications. I found an astonishing number of Nazi madmen whose insidious schmaltz is divulged among sinister groups all over Europe. Of course, Logik publishes the infamous counterfeit The Protocols of the Elders of Sion, which has become the bible of every antisemite and the ultimate inspiration for a myriad of conspiracy theories. There is also a surprisingly rich selection of stale and disgusting ”race biology”. International classics such as H.S. Chamberlein and Gustave Le Bon are published together with Nordic troglodytes like Gustav Sundbärg, Adrian Molin and Evert Rosberg (whose racism targeted the Sami people), as well as more contemporary representatives of unpleasant racism such as Kevin Macdonald, Arthur Kemp and John Philippe Rushton. Of course, we also find in Logik´s publishing list writings by William Pierce, who wrote white-power extremists´ favorite book The Turner Diaries, which enthusiastically was swallowed up by the ”race warriors” and mass murderers Anders Breivik and Peter Mangs. There are several translations into Swedish of books by León Degrelle, as well as another party founder – the right-wing saint and martyr Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, who gave rise to the Romanian Iron Guard, which carried out an extensive but little-known mass slaughter of Jews and Romani people. Translated into Swedish we also find contemporary fascists like Roberto Fiore, supporter of the twisted ideology of the deceased old prophet Julius Evola, whom I wrote about in a previous blog, which to my surprise has turned out to my most visited blog entry. I fear it is web surfing Fascists who have found it.
Among Logik´s publication we find, side by side with French, German, Russian, American and Italian authors plenty of Nordic loonies, nurturing a special disgust for Jews, and in particular Muslims, such as Kristian Tørning, Juha Snellman, and the now deceased Jimmy Windeskog who was excluded from the Sweden Democratic party, Anton Stigermark, who is closely associated with the Sweden Democrats´ chief ideologist Mattias Karlsson and, not least, Jonas Nilsson, former foreign legionnaire and now one of the front figures in the Nordic Alternative Right, with a large contact network among European and American right-wing extremists. We also find the rabid Swedish, antisemitic Ahmed Rami and David Duke, former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, featured in Spike Lee's excellent film BlackKklansman.
Rarely have I encountered such a snake's nest of nasty and stubborn extremism. How is it possible that such an abominable phenomenon could occur in Sweden? One of several clues may be När flaggstängerna blommade, When the Flagpoles blossomed, which also appears in Logik´s publishing list. In this book Vera Oredsson tells about her wonderful childhood and youth in Nazi Germany.
Vera Schimanski came to Sweden in 1945 and did in 1950 marry the Führer of the tiny Svensk Socialistisk Samling, the Swedish Nazi Party, Sven-Olov Lindholm. When she thought her husband had begun to falter in his ideological conviction, Vera remarried with another Nazi, the gardener Göran Assar Oredsson, leader of Nordiska Rikspartiet, the Nordic Reich Party.
I was quite familiar with this story since my father, who was a journalist, sometimes brought home Nordisk Kamp, Nordic Stuggle, "Sweden's largest electrically stenciled magazine", in order to provide us with some laughs caused by its silly lunacy. Clumsily written antisemitic dithyrambs, sleazy, sentimental tributes to Nazi Germany and Aryan supermen and blonde Valkyries, upsetting articles about cruelty against animals, intermingled with Holocaust denials. Among its blurry illustrations one could enjoy instructions about the correct manner of performing the Führer Salute, demonstrated by Vera Oredsson.
The miserable publication was sent for free to Norra Skåne, the local paper where my father worked, otherwise there were different subscription prices, extra expensive if you wanted the magazine to be sent to your home in a sealed envelope without a ”designated sender”. If you preferred an ”honest, open consignment” the price was considerably reduced. Between 1975 and 1978 .Göran Assar Oredsson resigned from the party leadership to write his memoirs and handed over the power to his wife, who in an interview stated that:
We have not gassed six million Jews to death. That is nothing but a perpetual nag. I consider it to be a lie and even if happens to be true there is so much else, more postive things, that may be highlighted.
Something Vera did in a wealth of nostalgic reminiscences she published in the Nordisk Kamp and repeated in her embarrassing rigmarole When the Flagpoles Blossomed. After Göran Assar Oredsson's demise and the final collapse of the Nordic Reich Party in 2009, Vera continued to be involved with various fringe National Socialist movements, among them the Nordic Resistance Movement and the Swedes´ Party. This is where Hans Stefan Jacobsson made his appearance. By the end of the 1990s, he had as a sixteen-year-old become involved with the White Power environment and from 2013 he became leader for the now defunct Swedes´ Party and it was at the time of that party's dissolution in 2015 that Jacobsson thought it would be an opportune moment to provide the nationalist movements with a more ”intellectual image” and a effrectve and sophisticated outreach, to attract like-minded ”nationalists”. Among other efforts, Jacobsson ”tided up” the publishing house Logik by increasing its range of offers and outgoing activities. Logik´s books and magazine do nowadays not at all provide an impression of being ”electrically stenciled” and makes me wonder from where the funding to this abysmal right-wing baloney is coming.
All this may seem to be a marginal phenomenon, but I don't think so. Political trends in Europe, and around the globe are fuelling my worries about what is happening in Sweden. Logik´s treacherous image is played out to the tunes of the pied piper and the expalantion of its editorial policies as a support to the freedom of expression does not att all impress me. Furthermore, Logik states that it publishes
literature focusing on social debate and anchored in a Western tradition of ideas. The purpose of Logik is to increase the accessibility of books focusing on Western history, culture, philosophy and politics.
Not at all – what is being issued is an unpleasant concoction of ideologies stinking from the human contempt that once brought Europe to the brink of the abyss. This unpleasant drivel grows out of the same soil where the Sweden Democrats, and several other European populist parties are firmly rooted.
Several Swedish friends of mine tell me that I am overreacting. According to them the Sweden Democrats are quite harmless. I do not think so. It does not at all calm me down that this ”nationalist” party according the latest opinion polls now is Sweden’s largest political party with approximately 24 percent of voters´ support. Knowing the roots and background of this political monster makes me very worried indeed. A party which, on its website, correctly states that
The road from the party’s establishment to today has not been straight. We have been extensively scrutinized and it has actually happened that we have been wrong, especially during our adolescence. However, we have matured and learned from our experiences.
Quite rightly put – during its ”adolescence”, the Sweden Democrats was without any doubt whatsoever a Nazi party, with such a party´s inhumane ideology and blatant lies. Sure, the party has ”matured” by covering its predatory nature in sheep's clothing, paying homage to ”Swedish” roots and correctly declaring that it is now a folkrörelse, a people’s movement, while hiding its sinister background to the public. Downplaying it's raison d'être as a full fledged chauvinist party firmly rooted in stale, decrepit ideologies from anno dazumal.
Similar tactics can even apply to Hergé, who apparently became more radical and eventually ended up more to the left than to the right, an assumed development he did not comment on. Radical admirers point out that Hergé ironized over capitalist mass production and profit hunger, the consumer society, multinational corporations and arms trade. Tintin fought against the murderous Japanese empire, European and Latin American dictatorships, freed slaves and defended Romani people. Always supporting the weak and defenseless, upholding justice and remaining loyal to his friends. However, this coincides with Hergé's original Catholic scout ethics and it was also the beliefs of several of his most extreme, conservative friends. Even if they eventually turned out to be Nazi collaborators and Holocaust deniers, Hergé faithfully maintained their friendship, as well as he openly defended them. Tintin's villainous opponents also remained the same – wealthy Jewish-like capitalists, members of global, secret and profit-hungry cabals. It seems as if Hergé did not really change his views, but rather adapted them to a changed reality – not at all unlike the tactics of the Sweden Democrats, although it should be pointed out that Hergé was neither xenophobic, nor a fervent nationalist.
Demons from his past constantly appeared during Hergés post-war life, trying to usurp his work. Two years after Hergé's death in 1983, when he could no longer be opposed by Tintin's creator, Degrelle published the book Tintin, mon copain, Tintin, My Pal, in which he claimed that Hergé had created Tintin with Degrelle as his role model. As usual, Degrelle placed himself at the very centre. The book is more about Degrelle's life and achievements, the myths he created about himself, than about Hergé. Degrelle writes that Tintin's distinguishing tuft of hair and plus fours were inspired by his own youthful appearance. Furthermore, that Tintin's origins in the scout movement and his trips based on journalistic assignments abroad were inspired by Degrelle's travels to Mexico and the United States.
Degrelle ignores the fact that Hergé completely broke all contact with him after their lengthy brawl around the election poster, which Degrelle had published without Hergé’s consent. Since then, Hergé had distanced himself completely from the loudmouthed and self-centred Degrelle, demonstrating only contempt for his Rexist party. Nevertheless, Degrelle does everywhere discern similarities between himself and Tintin, implying that like the youthful hero Degrelle is a also a straight guy who has always been on the side of the weak and all his life been fighting the dark forces that threaten the Free World. Degrelle even had the audacity to claim that Hergé's revolutionary art with its ligne claire had been inspired by him and was based on the comic books Degrelle had sent to his young colleague from the United States. However, it is a well known fact that Hergé far earlier had appreciated and been inspired by French comics from the beginning of the twentieth century with a ligne claire similar to the one he came to apply to his own work of art. Especially comics and drawings created by Andre Hellé and Émile-Joseph Pinchon.
Hergé's use of speech balloons was not inspired by any comics that Degrelle sent him from the U.S., something Degrelle claimed. Hergé had used them several years before Degrelle went abroad. That Degrelle would be Tintin is quite obviously a construction of a passé and self-overestimating politician who wanted to attach himself to Tintin's fame, not unlike Sweden Democrats who attempt to use the Swedish Social Democrats´ original and genuine popularity by implying that their social policies are an inheritance from the radical and transformative Social Democratic social reforms that were implemented during the 1930s and 1940s, when they tried to create something they called Det Svenska Folkhemmet, the Swedish People's Home.
In fact, even though Hergé throughout the post-war period obviously struggled with his past, he stubbornly continued to defend and support his Nazi collaborating buddies. Did he not understand that the friends he never abandoned harbored destructive and hostile views? That they remained Fascists and Nazis who stubbornly denied the annihilation of Jews and Romani people? At one moment of truth and honesty Hergé declared:
But believe me, if I had known the nature of the persecution, and the Final Solution, I would not have done them [the Tintin comics]. I did not know. Or, like so many others, perhaps I made sure that I did not know.
Therein lies the answer to why so many people still deny the existence of obvious abuse. Hergé preferred to ignore things that were too painful or to annoying for him to admit. Logik’s owners and sponsor are well aware that the raison-d´être of their publishing house is far from defending any freedom of expression, but that it does in fact propagate racism and totalitarianism. Admittedly, I do not think that Sweden Democrats, like most other populist parties, are anti-democratic. On the contrary, they consider democracy to be a prerequisite for their power, something that does not prevent them from basing their ”values” on racism and chauvinism. Like Hergé, they prefer not to let their admirers know where they came from and even to themselves admit where they find their roots, at least not officially. Sweden Democrats steal the recipes for success from other political parties and ideologies and garnish their own distasteful dish with their more appetizing messages. They use the Social Democrats' idea of a People’s Home, well aware of the fact that their own vision of such a ”home” is quite different from the one of the Social Democrats.
The Sweden Democrats´ people’s home is actually more akin to the one of Rudolf Kjellén (1864-1922), who actually coined the term. Kjellén´s book Nationell samling, National Unity, is also issued by Logik. A People’s Home did for Kjellén mean an exclusive ”home” only for genuine ”Swedes”. According to him, ”our nation” had to find ”happiness on its own” and not copy other nations' constitutions or social systems. Accordingly, Kjellén did not recognize any global human rights.
It is such thefts of respectful and compassionate values and their subsequent use in defense of despicable ideas and offensive actions that annoy me. I do not claim that such behaviour has to be forbidden and censored, though in the name of decency they must be condemned. When the Swedish artist and art historian Lars Vilks, in order to provoke, draws a Judensau, Jewish Sow, he does so well aware of a long tradition in which Jews were offended by being put in a close and grotesque connection with something that to them was the height of impurity. Such an act does actually not have anything to do with irony, humor or defense of the freedom of speech, it is and remains an unpalatable and unjustifiable violation of the dignity of other people.
I have several friends who have met, listened to and appreciate Lars Vilks. They claim that he is a spiritual and learned man who with elegance and ease defends his actions through profound analyses and examples of the task of art to provoke and spark debates. That does not impress me at all. Vilks´s pictures, for exmple Mohammed as a Stray Dog, the Jewish Sow and Jesus as a Pedophile are unnecessary and distasteful provocations, a fact that is not at all offset by the assurance that ”they give rise to a valuable debate” about the freedom of expression and religious oppression.
I am equally angered by the ”street artist” Dan Fredrik Park, who occasionally have been praised for the ”politically incorrect” posters he exhibits in public spaces in towns like Malmö and Copenhagen. In spite of his grotesque renderings of Jews, Feminists and coloured people Park has declared that he ”does not act on the basis of any specific political agenda.” Another appalling lie, in particular since his ”art” has been happily embraced by white supremacists and other extremists. How can anyone find a grain of irony and humor in a picture of a dying boy in Auschwitz and a shower with the caption ”Shower phobia”?
In the name of ”freedom of expression” the gallerist Henrik Lilja Rönnquist exhibited and sold "works of art” by Vilks and Park, while playing the role of being a harmless promoter of social, critical art. Something he was not, apart from a successful gallery owner Rönnquist was at the time also founding member of and spokesperson for Swedish Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against Islamization of the Western World). I do not know whether Wilks, Parks or Rönnquist's actions should be punished, but it they have undoubtedly to be condemned as attacks on human dignity.
Racism, contempt, and the promotion of violence against groups of innocent people who happen to belong to an ethnic group is an all-devouring poison that, if unrestrained, can have terrible consequences – such as the Nazi genocides, the Rwanda massacres and ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia. Just to mention a few examples that started out as seemingly ”innocent jokes”. Contempt for other human beings is neither funny nor entertaining, especially if you experience it from a victim’s perspective. Still, people happily shiver in delight when ”politically correct” opinions are chastised, like small children who are laughing when they utter ”forbidden and ugly” words.
Offensive depictions of entire population groups have always been in use for political purposes. For example, the internet is currently infected by a distasteful Jewish caricature called The Happy Merchant, undoubtedly a conglomerate of the grotesque lampoons used by a wealth of conspiracy theorists who, like the Nazis did with terrible consequences, want to indicate that scheming Jews are behind all conceivable misery.
Accordingly, the nasty image is a standard version of various antisemitic distortions of a human aspect with hooked nose, wringing hands, satanic smile, deformed back, bulging eyes, unkept beard, a receding hairline and curly black hair crowned by a black calotte. The picture was first published together with an equally tasteless depiction of an African American, where the Jew is likened to a rat and the African American to a cockroach, implying that they both ought to be exterminated.
It is not hard to find any paragons for these abominations. The Happy Merchant may be compared to Philipp Rupprecht's (Fips) grotesque Jewish caricatures in the antisemitic weekly Der Stürmer which openly advocated that all Jews should be exterminated. The vulgarity of this notorious publication was so gross that even Gobbels and Göring, who certainly both were full-fledged antisemites, tried to get it shut down. However, Hitler considered the tabloid’s founder and owner, Julius Streicher, to be an esteemed and personal friend and did with great anticipation look forward to each issue. With great enthusiasm der Führer read every Stürmer from the first to the last page.
Julius Streicher was sentenced to death in Nuremberg, although it was perfectly clear that he did not actively participate in the planning and execution of the extermination och Jews and Romani people, he was nonetheless considered guilty of the Holocaust through the hatred and encouragement of genocide he had spread with each issue of his despicable magazine, which with its circulation of 500,000 copies had made Streicher a millionaire. Philipp Rupprecht, who through his hateful caricatures of Jews had contributed to Der Stürmer´s popularity, was also considered to be a contributor to ”crimes against humanity” and was sentenced to ten years of hard labour, of which he served five.
Few are aware that the artist Nick Bougas is the originator of the unpalatable Happy Merchant. Like Vilks and Park, Bougas is experimenting with insulting provocations making them known as ”art” or ”jokes”. Bouga's caricatures, along with the equally abhorrently politically incorrect Ben Garrison's racist images, have been gratefully accepted by white supremacists all over the world and they are now spreading the dung all over with the pretext that they defend freedom of speech.
The drawing above is a typical Garrison cartoon depicting how the financier and philanthropist Georges Soros is controlled by a fictional Sionist World Conspiracy, as usual indicated to be governed by the Rotschild family, which aim it is to infiltrate and dominate the entire world. A view that seems to be reflected by Hergé's super villains, the internationally active and unscrupulous capitalists Blumenstein and Rastapopolous.
The existence of a Jewish, global network planning to achieve the destruction of all goyim is one of the extreme right's favorite myths and far from being as harmless as its believers often claim it to be. The fictional story finds its main origin in the discredited forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Sion, an antisemitic concoction that emerged in Russia sometime in the early twentieth century and quickly spread throughout the world through various antisemitic associations and intelligence services. This pamphlet gained great importance for the Catholic-fascist movements in France and Belgium and of course it was also appreciated by the Nazis.
The myth of a Jewish World Conspiracy is still alive and well and, for example, an important ingredient in Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán's rhetoric and in his exploitation of the philanthropist George Soros as an image of everything that opposes him. One of Orbán's absurd accusations against Soros is that he is funding illegal immigration to Hungary. The poster below, which was dispersed by the Hungarian Government states that ninety-nine percent of the Hungarian population reject illegal immigration and exclaims: ”Don't let Soros get the last laugh.”
This insanity has also infected Donald Trump's loyal lawyer and confidant Rudy Giuliani, who in an interview unfoundedly claimed that the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, who had been deposed by Trump, Giuliani called her Saint Mary Yovanovitch, had been ”controlled” by George Soros.
He put all four ambassadors there [in Ukraine]. And he’s employing the FBI agents Don’t tell me I’m anti-Semitic if I oppose him. Soros is hardly a Jew. I’m more of a Jew than Soros is. I probably know more about — he doesn’t go to church, he doesn’t go to religion — synagogue. He doesn’t belong to a synagogue, he doesn’t support Israel, he’s an enemy of Israel. He’s elected eight anarchist DA’s [District Attorneys] in the United States. He’s a horrible human being.
All of it utter gibberish that Guiliani, sorry to say, nevertheless seems to believe in and probably feeds into the no less ill-informed elected President of 320 million people and the world's most powerful nation … so far. By the way, apart from being a staunch supporter of the state of Israel Guiliani, who is the grandchild of Italian immigrants, is not a Jew at all.
It is difficult to know whether to cry or laugh at all these miserable prejudices and pointless ”wittiness”. Even jokes can be treacherous. For example, it is customary that as soon as any hypocritical Sweden Democrat has made a deeply offensive comment about a group of people, or a political opponent, the criticism is generally wiped off with the silly explanation that it was just a joke. However ... lies are lies and prejudices are prejudices in whatever shape they manifest themselves. I leave the last word to Arne Duck, a cynical cartoon character who roams the streets of Stockholm spreading wicked cynicism around himself: ”Sometimes I wonder if I live in a joke or a country ...”
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