The problem of Nazism: about the tribute to Hermann Göring

Nazism is a very complex phenomenon to deal with, among other things, because it represents a limit between what is acceptable and what is abject for modern societies. But setting that limit exactly is difficult. While there are overt ways to adhere to such political ideology, there are also other ways to reproduce or promote its ideas and practices.

That is why the detailed and rigorous study of the receptions of Nazism and of fascism more generally, within Chile and Latin America, is so important. In this sense, it is possible to establish that these political positions dialogued and were amalgamated with more general perspectives. For example, the Aryan myth has recently been studied in the work of Miguel Serrano, where it unfolds in connection with nationalist positions such as that of Nicolás Palacios, as well as with views that liquefy the most biological conceptions of racism. This scourge was projected towards more abstract issues, such as spiritual struggles between groups called creators and other destroyers.

The foregoing opens up a significant tension, which has to do with the differences between reproducing ideas or discourses related to Nazism versus being resolutely Nazi, to the point of using symbols or publicly explaining this type of affiliation. It is evident that the latter would be very difficult to bear for any moderately relevant political or social leadership and, therefore, it seems problematic to reduce the problem only to those manifestations. However, it is also complex to use this category lightly or speculatively, precisely because of the seriousness of the accusation, but also because it can end up emptying the word of any concrete meaning.

Hence, it is valuable to distinguish some of the ways in which these reception processes were developed in the country. In the first instance, the movements and parties adept at such ideas that existed in the decade between 1930 and 1940 are well known, several of which were related to Ibañismo, a current that in turn is connected with nationalist movements that have been developing since end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, and that in one way or another drank from culturalist and organicist perspectives that prefigure some expressions of Nazism. Several leaders of that time continued to participate in political and public life once the axis was defeated in World War II, such as the cases of Juan Gómez Millas, Guillermo Izquierdo or Jorge González von Marées.

At an intellectual and disciplinary level, the presence of Nazi ideas and figures is also significant. For example, at the geopolitical level, General Ramón Cañas was nurtured by the thought of Karl Haushofer, one of the most influential geographers in Nazi imperial thought. Likewise, the thought of Friederich Ratzel is very influential in figures such as Luis Galdames, nationalist leader, Ibañista and who was dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Education of the University of Chile for a decade. We are talking about theoretical perspectives that coin terms such as vital space, that display the relationship between blood and land as essential for understanding the historical development of peoples, and that develop theories that distinguish between groups that create culture, from those who diffuse and from The destroyers. These ideas were linked with the Aryan myth, which assigned to this group the place of creators, and gave the Jews the place of destroyers.

Within the framework of physical education, a positive view of Nazism can also be found, for example, by Luis Bisquertt, who advocated eugenic ideas mixed with proposals such as social physical education. In this case, a radical philhellenism also converges, which saw in Sparta or Athens, depending on the moment, a model to follow. The latter is also related to anti-modern positions that came to rescue the Mapuche with regard to their sports practices and their plastic beauty, an issue derived especially from interpretations of La Araucana by Alonso de Ercilla.

As for medicine, there are several cases where Nazi ideas and positions are related to Chile, and there are also German figures who hold conferences in the country, or who work here, and who before, during or after their stay participated in the Nazism. A clear case is that of Max Westenhöfer, who was rescued from defeated Germany in 1945 by his Chilean disciples to give him a safe haven in Chile in his old age, after having been a leading figure in Nazi science diplomacy. This doctor had worked in our country, performing, among other tasks, autopsies on indigenous people with the purpose of proving that the Darwinian theory of evolution was wrong, and that the Mapuche represented a process of decline with respect to a primitive origin. Another notable case is Otto Aichel, the first professor of Gynecology at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Chile and director of the first private gynecology clinic in the country, who became an important anthropologist of Nazism and a member of the hereditary courts. that legislated on compulsory sterilization imposed by Nazi eugenics.

After the defeat in World War II, the directions of Hitlerism have been diverse and multiple and the emphasis of “totalitarian ideologies”, which includes both the USSR and European fascism, continues to be valid in the political arena. but not so in historiography and the social sciences, where it has been clearly seen that all these processes cannot be described with fairness and conceptual rigor under the easy label of totalitarianism.

As with genocidal racism and eugenics, it can be very convenient to close these tendencies with the end of World War II and the military defeat of Nazism. But all the historical evidence indicates that it is a reassuring and cosmetic fiction, since some forms of thought of Nazism pulsate with varying intensity in spaces such as Hitlerian esotericism, ideas of national purity, vociferous nationalism, xenophobia, aversion to diverse family forms, population control in poor countries and the cult of physical appearance according to Philhellenic canons, to name just a few areas in which the ideas of Nazism are still dangerously valid.

In short, it is possible to establish that Nazism has been received in various ways within Chile, and in most cases these links involve the promotion of eugenic, racist, authoritarian and dehumanizing ideas of one or more human groups. For this reason, it is important to sharpen the gaze to recognize remnants or relationships with these formulations in current discourses and positions. That is also why the attempts that have been made, in recent days and weeks, to whitewash some of the leaders and participants of said regime are so disturbing. The fundamental question no longer seems necessarily to be in the past, closed in its role as a museum relic, but rather in the forms that the future can take, as the essayist Carl Amery warned, when asking if Hitler could not also be seen as a forerunner of the 21st century, and that such awareness should put us on alert.

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The problem of Nazism: about the tribute to Hermann Göring


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