Comparing Syrian refugees to a bowl of Skittles – three of which may be poisoned, so best to discard the whole bowl – is an idea that has deep roots.
The concept of one bad apple threatening the peace of society dates back at least to 1938 and a children’s book written by an especially nasty demagogue called Julius Streicher, called Der Giftpilz, or The Toadstool, in which a mother explains to her son that it only takes one Jew to destroy an entire people.
Active in politics from 1919 onwards, Streicher’s arguments were primitive, vulgar, and crude but he believed in what he said and was an uninhibited, wild agitator, to whom masses would listen; which was what mattered to the Nazis and their backers.
In November 1923, Streicher participated in Hitler’s first effort to seize power, the failed Beer Hall Putsch in Munich. Streicher marched with Hitler in the front row of the would-be revolutionaries and braved the bullets of the Munich police. His loyalty earned him Hitler’s lifelong trust and protection; in the years that followed, Streicher would be one of the dictator’s few true intimates.
As well as “The Toadstool”, Streicher also published a newspaper that Adolf Hitler loved to read, Der Stürmer. The newspaper published anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, anti-communist, and anti-capitalist propaganda.
In 1933, soon after Hitler took power, Streicher used his newspaper to call for the extermination of the Jews.
One of Streicher’s constant themes was the sexual violation of ethnically German women by Jews, a subject which served as an excuse to publish semi-pornographic tracts and images detailing degrading sexual acts. These “essays” proved an especially appealing feature of the paper for young men. With the help of his notorious cartoonist, Phillip “Fips” Rupprecht, Streicher published image after image of Jewish stereotypes and sexually-charged encounters. His portrayal of Jews as subhuman and evil is widely considered to have played a critical role in the dehumanization and marginalization of the Jewish minority in the eyes of common Germans – creating the necessary conditions for the later perpetration of the Holocaust.
This “Otherisation” is today eerily repeated in the claims of Donald Trump that “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” And also arguing that all Muslims must be refused entry to the United States because they are potentially terrorists.
Do such statements resonate? The evidence is they do. In just one reported event, two brothers reportedly attacked a 58-year-old Hispanic homeless man in Boston, breaking his nose and urinating on him, in mid-August. They allegedly told police they targeted the man because of his ethnicity and added, “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.” After the GOP candidate was told of the attack, and instead of denouncing the act Trump said his followers were “passionate.” Later (no doubt after taking advice) the Twitter-friendly presidential candidate tweeted about the incident, saying he would “never condone violence.” Yet Trump has denied protesters their constitutional rights to freedom of speech, assembly and dissent; currently at least three protesters are suing Trump after being manhandled and physically abused at his campaign events. Peaceful protestors have been verbally abused, manhandled, pepper-sprayed, beaten and kicked by Trump supporters. Trump has repeatedly talked about the virtues of punching and otherwise abusing protesters. At one rally he encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap” out of protesters. He offered to pay the legal fees of his supporters who attacked protesters. He expressed his personal desire to punch protesters, although one late night comedian observed that Trump seems more like the evil mastermind who would stroke a white cat while someone else does the punching.
Streicher’s attitudes were so disgusting he even offended many of his fellow Nazi leaders. For his twenty-five years of speaking, writing, and preaching hatred of the Jews, Streicher was widely known as “Jew-Baiter Number One”. In his speeches and articles, week after week, month after month, he infected the German mind with the virus of anti-Semitism, and incited the German people to active persecution. Each issue of Der Stürmer, which reached a circulation of 600,000 in 1935, was filled with such articles, often lewd and disgusting. As we now know, the mood of terror created by Streicher and others resulted in the industrial extermination of millions of people as state policy.
Julius Streicher was not a member of the military and did not take part in planning the Holocaust, or the invasion of other nations. Yet his pivotal role in inciting the extermination of Jews was significant enough, in the prosecutors’ judgment, to include him in the indictment of Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal – which sat in Nuremberg, where Streicher had once been an unchallenged authority as Gauleiter. Most of the evidence against Streicher came from his numerous speeches and articles over the years. In essence, prosecutors contended that Streicher’s articles and speeches were so incendiary that he was an accessory to murder, and therefore as culpable as those who actually ordered the mass extermination of Jews (such as Hans Frank and Ernst Kaltenbrunner). They further argued that he kept them up when he was well aware Jews were being slaughtered.
He was acquitted of crimes against peace, but found guilty of crimes against humanity, and sentenced to death on 1 October 1946.
With various histrionics on the scaffold, Streicher was hanged in October 1946.
The consensus among eyewitnesses was that Streicher’s hanging did not proceed as planned, and that he did not receive the quick death from spinal severing typical of the other executions at Nuremberg. Kingsbury-Smith, who covered the executions for the International News Service, reported that Streicher “went down kicking” which may have dislodged the hangman’s knot from its ideal position. He stated that Streicher could be heard groaning under the scaffold after he dropped through the trap-door, and that the executioner intervened under the gallows, which was screened by wood panels and a black curtain, to finish the job.
The first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is this Monday evening, in America. It will make interesting viewing.