DEYAN RANKO BRASHICH was born in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia, and is an Op-Ed columnist for Connecticut's Litchfield County Times.  He writes the monthly Letter From America column for Romania’s Scrisul Romanesc, a literary magazine and is the Editor-at-Large for  The Country and Abroad, another literary/art magazine where he authors the Dispatch from Abroad column. He is a frequent contributor to Pecat, the Belgrade, Serbia weekly news magazine, Britić, a magazine published in the United Kingdom, Ekurd Daily, a multinational Kurdish news portal and Passport, a lifestyle quarterly. He resides in New York City and Washington, Connecticut.

 

 

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Wednesday
Mar142018

I WAS NOT A NAZI POLKA

PUBLISHED BRITIĆ [UNITED KINGDOM] AND EKURD DAILY [TURKEY IRAQ SYRIA] MARCH 15, 2018    

My generation flirted with communism and had some one-night stands with the idea. We fucked socialism every chance we got and with every imaginable variation of the idea. Some embraced communal living and joined the Hare Krishnas and dropped off the grid. Ultimately, as we got older we married in traditional ceremonies in white dresses and dinner jackets to a capitalist reality and lived more or less happily ever after. But never, not once, did my generation ever kiss, embrace or consider holding hands with far-right fascism.  

Back then I lived in a broken down fifth floor tenement walkup in New York’s Carnegie Hill. One Saturday morning on account of nothing at all we started drinking gimlets, the cocktail that is half gin and half lime juice. After having replenished the gin and juice we were whiling away the afternoon listening to WBAI, the antiestablishment voice of the left when it played Chad Mitchell Trio’s I Was Not a Nazi Polka.

The alcohol, the tune and the lyrics combined into an uncontrollable mix of hysterical laughter. WBAI was in the midst of a never-ending pledge drive for survival – it is still going strong 50 year later. We kept pledging money we didn’t have and asking for a replay of the Nazi Polka tune. Each time it played we drunkenly rolled on the floor, howling at the lyrics: “Each and every German dances to the strain … All without exception join in the refrain, I was not a Nazi Polka … We all thought Dachau was just a nice resort … I never shot a Luger or goosed a single step … Did you not love Ilsa Koch? I did not love Ilsa Koch … Did you not despise the Jews? I did not, some of my best friends … I was not a Nazi Polka”.

Back in the sixties Fascism and Nazism had been so thoroughly discredited that we reveled in the parody, it was a joke, not to be taken seriously, something to laugh and guffaw at. Not so much today, I am afraid.

I Was Not a Nazi Polka is replete with historical references that resonates with my generation and the generation that fought World War II. Ask today who was Ilsa Koch and you will be met with a blank stare. Ilsa Koch, the sadistic “Bitch of Buchenwald”, the Nazi concentration camp, has faded from our collective memory as has Dachau - definitively not a summer resort.

It is this “widening historical distance from any direct experience of the horrors of German Fascism or Soviet Communism … [that explains] … the indifference to democratic rule … [and] the rising enthusiasm for authoritarian alternatives”. I would call it just plain ignorance, a refusal to acknowledge the lessons of history.

The result is that “[i]n France, Germany, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, far right parties and faction have not yet taken power, but they are contenders to do so, and they influence the debate on everything from immigration to foreign policy.” If that be a fair statement then this should scare the bejesus out of you.

This resurgence of rampant nationalism tinged with racial xenophobia has faces and names: Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, the United States’ Donald Trump and Donald Duke, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Poland’s Jaroslav Kaczynski, France’s Marine Le Pen and many others too numerous to name. They all sprout the same dangerous dogma.

You cannot create memory that never was. My memory of bombed cities will never fade. My memories of refugee camps are forever. My memory of the Gestapo searching our home is indelible. Memories of concentration camps and of the evils of Fascism and Nazism belong to the few remaining survivors. Veterans of Foreign War and American Legion Posts are deserted, forlorn and closing and are no longer a political force. These memories are no longer current or of interest.

How do you veer away from this march to totalitarian madness? Frankly I do not have an answer except to sound the alarm and hope for the best. Perhaps the answer is to go out and buy a bottle of Tanqueray London Dry Gin and one of Rose’s Lime Juice, mix a couple of gimlets and play I Was Not a Nazi Polka once again.

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