Germany backs Netanyahu for the same reason it created Hitler

Germany’s support for the Israeli genocide in Gaza has caused huge anger. 

Michael Kuenne ZUMA Press

On 12 January, the day commemorating the 1904 revolt of the Herero people against German colonialism, Olaf Scholz’s government announced that it would intervene in the International Court of Justice to oppose South Africa’s charge of genocide against Israel. The move sparked widespread indignation.

The following day, the Namibian presidency published a forceful statement condemning the decision.

“On Namibian soil, Germany committed the first genocide of the 20th century,” the statement said. “In light of Germany’s inability to draw lessons from its horrific history, President Hage G. Geingob expresses deep concern with the shocking decision.”

It is worth dwelling on the word “inability.” Many who condemned Germany’s decision accused it of “failure.”

Germany, they argued, has a sacred responsibility to humanity for its role in World War II. It has failed in that responsibility.

But if Germany’s decision is a failure, then its actions are an aberration, a deviation from some expected historic norm.

“Failure” substitutes open complicity with omission. It replaces the systemic with the particular.

Instead, Germany’s position demonstrates that, despite the horrors that German imperialism has inflicted on humanity in the 20th century, the German ruling class has been able to preserve fascism’s ideological and material basis.

Rather than a “failure,” then, German policy represents a remarkable success. It testifies to the great resilience of the colonial mentality.

And it makes clear that moral condemnation – or, worse still, self-designated “guilt” – is an inadequate framework by which to establish accountability for the crimes of imperial and colonial domination.

Wretched legacy

Germany’s stance is a gift for those of us who consider ourselves anti-imperialists. It dismantles one of the central ideological defenses of the imperial order.

For decades, Europe and North America have worked to cleave Nazism from the colonial tradition that birthed it. The singular evil of the Holocaust became the wellspring of the Germans’ singular “guilt” – a mechanism that both laundered the wretched legacies of the wider colonial world and obscured the threads that bound its sordid history to the present day.

If Nazism stood alone in the annals of human barbarity, then everything else could be cast to the side: the exterminations, the enslavement, the famines, the plunder.

The genocide of the Herero people – and Germany’s flagrant inability to address this legacy – provides an immediate rebuke. It was in modern-day Namibia that Germany’s Imperial Chancery recorded perhaps the first use of the term Konzentrationslager – the concentration camp – to describe an instrument of mass extermination.

Among other abuses, inmates were tortured, starved, worked to death, condemned to disease, and subject to medical experiments. Most were women and children.

As cruel punishment for the 1904 revolt, Germany killed some 65,000 Herero people in four years and over 10,000 Nama people who also dared rise up against its domination. It was in Namibia that Germany honed the tools that it would turn against Communists, Jews, Roma, Sinti, homosexuals and people with mental illnesses just a few decades later.

But the subjugation of Namibia furnished just part of that wretched toolkit.

Hitler’s “Wild West”

Adolf Hitler sought to conquer the “Wild East” and build a slave nation of the Slavs – a people who, by virtue of their past abuse by leaders like Charlemagne, gave the etymological root to the word “slave.” Hitler envisioned a settler-colonial project that would secure “living space” for Volksdeutsche – or “members of the German nation” – and obliterate the “Bolshevik subhumans.”

He found a template in US “manifest destiny” and its project of westward expansion.

In 1928, Hitler remarked approvingly how US settlers had “gunned down the millions of Redskins to a few hundred thousand and now keep the modest remnant under observation in a cage.” Hitler would create a “Wild West” to Germany’s East.

In this way, Nazism carried forward the European colonial tradition against the greatest threat that had yet emerged against it: the Soviet Union.

The Soviet counteroffensive not only crushed the dreams of the Third Reich and liberated Europe from fascist imperialism. It also cast a permanent shadow on the mythos of German “guilt.”

The Soviet Union was, after all, the Germans’ first target. Hitler promised that Germany would stand as the “bulwark” of the West against Bolshevism – a position that, for a time, found broad support among the Western ruling class.

Through its war of extermination and enslavement, the Nazi colonial project claimed an estimated 27 million Soviet lives.

Through deliberate starvation, disease, mass executions, it massacred 3.5 million Soviet prisoners of war, considering them to be Untermensch – or subhuman. Auschwitz was first built for them.

Germany systematically exterminated one in four Belarussians, often by forcing entire village populations into barns and churches, setting them on fire, and shooting anyone who dared to escape. The crimes are too ghastly and numerous to recount here.

If Germany was compelled by “guilt” to pay reparations to Israel for decades after the war, why did its reparations to the Soviet Union cease within years of its defeat? In violation of the Potsdam Agreement, the Western occupation zones stopped their payments to the Soviets before the ashes of war had settled.

The USSR could only plug the gap with technology transfers from its own occupation zone in the East, which proved to be a major burden on the development of the young socialist state.

Not with Israel.

Konrad Adenauer, then chancellor of West Germany, spoke bluntly when he met David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, in 1960.

Adenauer said, “We will help you, out of moral reasons and out of practical politics. Israel is the fortress of the West, Israel has to develop in the interest of the whole world.”

These transfers – in the form of financial assistance, weapons sales, and diplomatic cover – continue to this day.

Here, the payment of reparations reveals itself to have a purely political character, an instrument to bolster the allies of imperialism while stifling the development of its adversaries.

If Germany is compelled by “guilt” to support Israel, then why does it not extend the same support to the Russian and Belarussian people?

Instead, Germany’s former victims have retained their historic designation as Untermensch.

“People simply die”

In 2022, German researcher Florence Gaub channeled the virulent Russophobia that exploded in her country by repeating a trope that will not be unfamiliar to the colonized. “We should not forget that, even if Russians look European, they are not European,” she said. “In a cultural sense, they think differently about violence or death… That is why they treat death differently, that people simply die.”

When a German activist asked whether the German government would consider the siege of Leningrad – which claimed 1.5 million lives in 900 days – as a genocide, Annalena Baerbock’s foreign ministry replied that the UN Genocide Convention did not apply retroactively. Of course, this statute of limitations did not seem to bind the Bundestag, which months earlier recognized a famine that struck the Soviet Union as a genocide in Ukraine, putting it on equal footing with the Holocaust in a grotesque act of historical revisionism.

If Germany is so riven by “guilt,” then why did the socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR) stand by the people of Palestine?

At the level of official policy, the GDR differentiated between Jews and the state of Israel – a position that would be considered anti-Semitic in Germany today.

The GDR saw that Israel was deeply imbricated in the system of imperialism led by the US. It cooperated closely with Arab countries and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) – including at a military level.

The first PLO office in Eastern Europe opened in Berlin in 1973.

The GDR considered Zionism as a “reactionary nationalist ideology of the Jewish big bourgeoisie.”

This echoed the analysis of Palestinian thinkers like Ghassan Kanafani, who showed that Jewish migration to Palestine between 1932 and 1936 included a significant percentage of capitalists – along with a sizeable proletariat. Together, they transformed Palestine’s agrarian society into a bourgeois industrialized economy with employment reserved for “Jewish labor only.”

This policy of racial exclusion “was to have grave consequences,” Kanafani wrote, “as it led to the rapid emergence of fascist patterns in the society of Jewish settlers.”

“Never again” must mean resistance

Anti-colonial thinkers understood Nazism for what it was. It was not alien to them.

They saw the coming storm and, when it passed, understood clearly what they had seen. Its ideology had already been threaded through their world.

In 1900, W.E.B. Du Bois had warned that the exploitation of the colonized world would be “fatal” to Europe’s “high ideals of justice, freedom and culture.”

Decades later, after the horrors of German colonialism had swept through Europe, the Martinican poet and thinker Aimé Césaire would repeat that warning — now as a profound indictment of European society:

They say: ‘How strange! But never mind – it’s Nazism, it will pass!’ And they wait, and they hope; and they hide the truth from themselves, that it is barbarism, the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms; that it is Nazism, yes, but that before they were its victims, they were its accomplices; that they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole edifice of Western, Christian civilization in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps and trickles from every crack… At the end of the blind alley that is Europe… there is Hitler. At the end of capitalism, which is eager to outlive its day, there is Hitler.

Germany’s gift to progressive forces is precisely that it has exposed the continuity of the colonial project.

Germany does not support the Zionist genocide despite the Holocaust. It supports Zionism for the same reason that it birthed Nazism.

It backs Benjamin Netanyahu for the same reason that it created Adolf Hitler. At a time of systemic crisis, both appeared as bulwarks of Western imperialism against the rebellious Untermensch, the subhumans – the people who “treat death differently,” who “just die.”

The history of colonial and imperial domination has seen many Final Solutions – each limited in its barbarism only by the technological capabilities of the perpetrators and the strength of the resistance mounted against them. That is why the words “never again” ring out from Jakarta to Santiago, Pyongyang to São Paulo, Hanoi to Buenos Aires, Kinshasa to Gaza City.

Gaza is a dress rehearsal for the violence that threatens workers and oppressed peoples everywhere as the crises of our century grow in magnitude. This is the historical tendency of capitalism in decay.

Now, the contours of our century’s struggle – dimmed by decades of imperialist hegemony – come into sharp focus.

On one side, an Axis of Genocide is in formation as Germany, the US, Canada, the UK and other ramparts of the imperial order intervene on the side of extermination. On the other, we find an Axis of Resistance made up of those who know colonialism’s wretched face.

If “never again” is to have any meaning at all, it must mean joining the resistance and dismantling the imperialist system before it absorbs us into its unrelenting death march.

Paweɫ Wargan is a researcher and organizer. He is the coordinator of the secretariat at the Progressive International and has published in Tribune, Monthly Review, Peace, Land, & Bread and elsewhere.




Mr. Wargan, superb!

Within the Axis of Resistance there is also the multi-polar reality, actively dismantling the imperialist system. Being built by China & Russia, offering win-win agreements, respect of sovereignty, and everyone is welcome (even US) - but first, abandon hegemony.

Can't a banker see that, although "At the end of capitalism, which is eager to outlive its day, there is Hitler", there is the BRICS? Offering value - much, much better value - than the hegemon? Sadly, in Canada, it appears to me, my bank only sees Hitler.


Excellent article. In fact there was an even closer connection between the Herero genocide and the Holocaust. Eugene Fischer the doctor who carried out medical experiments on Africans in Shark Island, Namibia was a race scientist who went on to train the SS doctors including Josef Mengele who then practiced their arts in Auschwitz and elsewhere


And the father of Hermann Göring was also there

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