Julius Streicher and his relevance in today’s Burma

By Dr. Habib Siddiqui

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Xenophobia as – fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign. As can be seen, for xenophobia there are two main objects of the phobia (fear). The first is a population group present within a society, which is not considered part of that society. Often they are recent immigrants, but xenophobia may be directed against a group which has been present for centuries. This form of xenophobia can draw out or facilitate hostile and violent reactions, such as mass expulsion of immigrants, or in the worst case, genocide. The second form of xenophobia is primarily cultural, and the objects of the phobia are cultural elements which are considered alien or foreign.However, as is often the case, the two forms of xenophobia go together, with the second form used as a pretext by chauvinist, racist demagogues to justify their first kind of phobia, which invariably turns into acts of violence against the target group – the ‘strangers.’ In recent years, xenophobia has become a powerful political factor in many parts of Europe, especially France and Denmark. The fact that many of the immigrants and refugees are non-Christians is an important factor in shaping the thrust of the xenophobia in Europe.[1]

Xenophobia is not a new phenomenon and dates back at least to the mid-17th century when Japan practiced it against people that looked different.[2] While much progress has since been made per Article 14 of the Constitution, the 2006 report by Doudou Diène, the UN Special Rapporteur for Racial Discrimination, was highly critical of current Japanese xenophobia and on-going discriminatory practices. These include difficulties in access to housing, accommodation (hotels) and other commercial establishments open to the public (spas, bars, night-clubs, restaurants and others) based on physical appearance and myth, and bullying at school of foreign-looking children.

In our times, the worst forms of xenophobia are practiced against the Rohingya Muslims of Burma, who have been rendered ‘stateless’ through the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law. Under this highly discriminatory law, these Muslims were considered to have come along with the British colonial administration after the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1824-26, and must prove their uninterrupted existence in Arakan anterior to 1823. This, in spite of the fact that Rohingyas have lived in the Arakan state from at least 1430 CE when Arakan King Narameikhla (Mun Sawmon) was restored to his throne by 30,000 Muslim Army![3] Interestingly, one of the authors of this discriminatory law is a Rakhaing intellectual by the name of Dr. Aye Kyaw, who now teaches history at a New York City University, himself a naturalized citizen in the USA.

The Dominican Republic is another case where xenophobia against the Haitians is promoted by the government. In 1937 more than 50,000 Haitians were killed by Fascist Dictator Rafael Trujillo in an attempt to whiten up the country.[4] According to the New York Times report in 2004 – grandchildren and great grandchildren of Haitians are still denied birth certificates, medical care, education and social services because of their race and ancestry. Both the Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch have reported that physical attacks against Haitians have increased since 1992, including reports of the lynching of Haitians as late as 2006.[5]

Xenophobia against the Jews in Germany provided the necessary justifications for their “Final Solution” (genocide) at the hands of Nazi criminals.

For every ideology, there is always at least an ideologue. This role is often shared by intellectuals, who are the real ‘brains’ that energize the wheel of the movement. So, as we have Aye Kyaw and Aye Chan (author of xenophobic works like the “Who are the Rohingyas?”, “The Muslim Enclave” and “The Influx Virus”) among the Rakhaings, steering the wheel of xenophobia against the Rohingyas of Burma today, Julius Streicher was the ideologue responsible for breeding hatred against the Jews of Germany.

Julius Streicher (February 12, 1885 – October 16, 1946) was a prominent Nazi prior to and during World War II. In 1923 Streicher founded the racist newspaper, Der Stürmer of which he was editor. The newspaper become a part of the Nazi propaganda machine spreading deep hatred of everything and everyone Jewish. (See: http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/sturm28.htm for samples of xenophobia against Jews.)

Streicher argued in the newspaper that the Jews had contributed to the depression, unemployment, and inflation in Germany which afflicted the country during the 1920’s. He claimed that Jews were white-slavers and were responsible for over 90 percent of the prostitutes in the country. Eventually the newspaper reached a peak circulation of 480,000 in 1935. After the Nazi party was reorganized, Streicher became the party leader of Franconia. After 1933, he practically ruled the city of Nuremberg and was nicknamed “King of Nuremberg” and the “Beast of Franconia.” His publishing firm released three anti-Semitic books for children, including the 1938 Der Giftpilz (The Poison Mushroom), one of the most widespread pieces of propaganda, which purported to warn about insidious dangers Jews posed by using the metaphor of an attractive and yet deadly mushroom on May 23, 1945, two weeks after Germany’s surrender, Streicher was captured by the Americans.

Chief Justice Jackson, chief counsel for the prosecution, spoke to the tribunal and explained to them the importance of what they were doing. He said, to paraphrase, that: “We are handing these defendants a poisoned chalice, and if we ever sip from it we must be subject to the same punishments, otherwise this whole trial is a farce.” Interestingly, in Jackson’s opening statement he claimed that the prosecution did not wish to incriminate the whole German race for the crimes they committed, but only the “planners and designers” of those crimes, “the inciters and leaders without whose evil architecture the world would not have been for so long scourged with the violence and lawlessness … of this terrible war.”

So, at Nuremberg, the ordinary Germans who threw Jews into crematoria were not tried, but only their leaders, who incited violence. It was not surprising, therefore, to find Julius Streicher included in that short list. He was found guilty of crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial and sentenced to death on October 1, 1946. Another person who didn’t escape punishment at Nuremberg was Dr. Wolfram Sievers of the Ahnenerbe Society’s Institute of Military Scientific Research, whose own crimes were traced back to the University of Strasbourg. They were not the typical people prosecuted for international war crimes, given their civilian professions. As Professor Norm Chomsky has argued recently there is a justification for their punishment, namely, those defendants could understand what they were doing. They could understand the consequences of the work that they were carrying out.[6]

What is important here to stress is that Julius Streicher was not a member of the military. He was not part of planning the Holocaust, the invasion of Poland, or the Soviet invasion. Yet his role in inciting the extermination of Jews was significant enough, in the prosecutors’ judgment, to include him in the indictment.

The hanging of Julius Streicher did not proceed as planned. The consensus among eyewitnesses is that he died by slow strangulation rather than by the quick death from spinal severing typical with the type of hanging used at Nuremberg. The executioner had to intervene under the gallows to silence and finish Streicher, who was still groaning and swinging on the rope moments after the release of the trap-door.

It is no accident that most human rights activists consider Xenophobia as a crime against humanity. Yet I am not sure if this fact has sunk in with many of the so-called “Democracy” leaders in Burma and Rakhaing leaders and intellectuals, whose actions speak louder than their hypocritical words unmasking their closet Fascism and xenophobia. It is high time that they amend their ways and advocate for repealing the discriminatory 1982 Burma Citizenship Law. Sooner the better!
August 6, 2007
________________________________________
[1] http://randomplatitudes.blogspot.com/2006/02/digression-origins-of-xenophobia-in.html
[2] Wakabayashi, Bob Tadashi, Anti-Foreignism and Western Learning in Early-Modern Japan, Council on East-Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1986.
[3] Yeager, Moshe, The Muslims of Burma, Wiesbaden, 1972.
[4] Sagas, Ernesto, An Apparent Contradiction? Popular Perceptions Of Haiti And The Foreign Policy Of The Dominican Republic, Sixth Annual Conference of the Haitian Studies Association, Boston, MA, October 14-15, 1994.
[5]http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?lang=e&id=ENGUSA20070321002; http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR270012007
[6] http://www.counterpunch.org/schivone08032007.html

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