US President Donald Trump’s prevarication on calling out white supremacists as terrorists and subversives resonates with the chilling 2001 BBC film, Conspiracy, about the Wannsee conference at which SS General Reinhard Heydrich bullied other representatives of the Nazi German hierarchy to accept the SS’s ‘Final Solution’ to the ‘Jewish question’.
In reality there were two meetings, on 20 January and 6 March 1942, but for dramatic effect, the events have been combined into a single set piece.
The film, purportedly based on the sole surviving record of the conference proceedings, contains a private exchange between Heydrich and leading Nazi legal philosopher and practitioner, Dr Wilhlem Stuckart, after he opposed extermination and favoured sterilisation. In the film it is shown as a conversation on the grounds of the Wannsee house where the conference is hosted, in the gray cold of a winter’s day:
Heydrich: We will accomplish this. I will not allow administrative technicalities to slow it down. Every agency will jump to follow my order, or arses will sting. And there are no shortages of meat hooks on which to hang enemies of the state. This will be an SS operation. And as the war goes on, the SS will more and more command the agenda … …and put marks against the names of the less than cooperative. You have a choice to make.
Stuckart: You understand that I respect the …
Heydrich: Please. You will still have to make your choice. Do not let a strutting …imbecilic, porcine prick like Klopfer make it for you. I’d rather not see the bullies – I admit we have more than our share of them in the SS – take too much of an interest in you.
Stuckart: Interest in me?
Heydrich: Do you not think? And all I want from this meeting is unanimity … and no trouble getting what has to be done, done. With you at my side, so much is possible.
Another exchange, this time in front of the full meeting, occurs later in the film, this time with Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger, who was then state secretary of the Nazi Reichskanzlerei (Reich’s Chancellory).
Kritzinger: That is not — no, that is contrary to what the Chancellery has been told! I have been told, I have … Purge the Jews, yes. But, to annihilate them, that we have undertaken to systematically annihilate all the Jews of Europe? That responsibility has personally been denied, to me, by the Führer!
Heydrich: And it will continue to be.
Kritzinger: [stands abruptly, stares out the window…after a long pause, turns back] Yes, I understand. He will continue to deny it.
Heydrich: My apologies. Do you accept my apologies?
Kritzinger: [pause] Of course.
That exchange contains a clear admission that Heydrich is acting on orders from Hitler or someone very close to him that will never be officially acknowledged.
When President Trump refused to condemn white supremacists, chanting a literal translation of the Nazi slogan ‘Blut und Boden’ – ‘Blood and Soil’ – those neo-Nazis had every reason to suppose he supports their ‘cause’.
Moreover, an outside observer now has to wonder whether the neo-Nazis had been emboldened by the tacit support of one or more members of Trump’s White House inner circle.
For Trump’s coterie, the Charlottesville attack might have looked like a convenient distraction for the news media, diverting attention from the mounting evidence of treasonous criminality by Trump and/or his staff. Possibly as a precursor to further demonstrations of neo-Nazi terrorism to intimidate Trump opponents and keep news cameras focused on carefully staged violence in American streets.
If this were indeed part of a conspiracy to harness neo-Nazi and other white supremacists as distractions, or even to enact a wider agenda of intimidation, it looks to have backfired. Popular support for neo-Nazis in the USA is not as widespread as some administration personnel might want to believe.
Nevertheless, there can no longer be any doubt that Donald Trump himself regards neo-Nazis as a legitimate political movement, and white nationalist violence as not terrorism.
At the Wansee conference, the few dissenting voices who opposed extermination of the Jews were silenced by threats pitched at varying levels of sophistication.
I don’t imagine that Trump’s coterie envisions wholesale exterminations. Yet. And I can see how reasonable it would be to dismiss notions of a conspiracy emanating from the White House. Embracing the KKK, the Neo-Nazis, and all their fellow traveller white supremacists as a ‘Sturmabteilung; of street thugs to siolence the President’s opponents seems just too monstrous to contemplate, doesn’t it?
And yet the President’s coterie includes people whose stock-in-trade includes conspiracy theories, and who might be more willing to engage in such subterfuges than most others. And the President publicly embraced the thugs who comprise the far right groups during his election campaign … and afterwards. And the President continues to refuse to criticise their methods, which do seem to be gaining an official seal of approval. A normalisation of their terrorist agendas.
One has to wonder now whether America’s civil servants in Homeland Security and the FBI will allow themselves to be silenced the same way, rather than doing what is obviously right, and declaring the American neo-Nazis and their fellow travellers as terrorist groups to be closely watched and opposed, and stopped when they set out to terrorise or murder citizens.
You will still have to make your choice.
[I first reviewed Conspiracy in February 2013.]