I doubt two more offensive words exist than “Heil Hitler”.

During the rise of the Third Reich in 1930s Germany (and continuing until 1945), “Heil Hitler” was part of the Nazi Party’s official fascist salute which signified commitment to that organization’s cause. Whenever meeting a superior the salute was mandatory proof of loyalty.

Hey! Nitang musai!
You said it and I’m a Blazing Fire.
Bad-minded people
and one hand wash the other…

What was the “Cause” to which “Heil Hitler” signalled commitment? We seem in danger of forgetting. The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933 and ruled by terror for 12 years, believed Germans of Aryan extraction were “racially superior”. Jews were foremost among those “inferior races” deemed an alien threat to the German racial community but other groups were also targeted as being “racially inferior”. These included blacks, gypsies, the disabled, some Slavics (especially Poles and Russians), Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals. These were all abominations onto Der Führer designated for death.

You said it, I am a black head chiney.
But, when I were with you,
I were like Bull in a Pen.
Live and let others live
and your days will be much longer.
You said it. See what a Blazing fire!

All the above was subject to a State sponsored, legally entrenched system known as “The Final Solution”. Racial inferiors were herded into forced labour camps where unspeakable medical experiments were performed often without anaesthesia. When the Nazis deemed the inferiors no longer useful they were sent, naked, unsuspectingly huddled together for warmth, to death in the gas chambers. Others were slaughtered on the spot to avoid over-crowding camps. Numbers differ depending to whom you’re speaking but approximately 6 million Jews were eliminated during the application of the Final Solution.

That holocaust spared nobody. Two hundred thousand gypsies were slaughtered along with a similar number of the mentally or physically disabled who were forcibly euthanized in nursing homes under an official state sanctioned Euthanasia Programme. These numbers sound relatively low but they would’ve been higher had more qualified victims been available.

Between two and three million Soviet prisoners of war were murdered or died of starvation, disease, neglect, or maltreatment. Non-Jewish Polish intelligentsia were targeted and millions of Polish and Soviet civilians were deported for forced labour in Germany or occupied Poland, where they worked or were the subject of experiments until that final, terrifying huddle waiting for a shower (or, at worst, a delousing) but instead being gassed to death. Women and children weren’t spared. Those yet to read Sophie’s Choice by William Styron (or see the movie starring the incomparable Meryl Streep) should immediately correct that major omission.

German authorities relentlessly persecuted homosexuals and others whose “behaviour” was outside prescribed social norms. German police officials targeted thousands of political opponents (including Communists, Socialists, and trade unionists) and religious dissidents (e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses). Many of these “inferiors” died as a result of incarceration and maltreatment. Mass murder operations of helpless Jewish, gypsy and communist civilians behind German lines were routine.

Stick and stone can break my bone
even sitting on a throne.
But words from your mouth
can’t bore me in two.
What are you going to do?

Words like “Heil Hitler” break bones! They should be scrubbed from modern language. I believe in freedom of expression as much as the next person but some expressions are so vile; so historically heinous; so intrinsically destructive that they cross any boundary within which freedom of expression can survive.

You said it, I am a black head chiney.
But be still and know I’m your superior
Time is longer than rope
and time is catching up on you….

One of Jamaica’s earliest local musical “clashes” took place on vinyl after Derrick Morgan switched producers moving from Prince Buster to the then rising star Leslie Kong (Beverley’s). There he recorded Forward March, one of his biggest hits, including a musical passage Buster insisted was “stolen” from one of his arrangements. Buster started the war with Blackhead Chiney which opened “You done stole my belongings and give to your chiney man” inadvertently exposing a racial prejudice against Chinese which was prevalent at the time. Morgan countered with Blazing Fire and the war was comprehensively on. Hostilities lasted about as long as World War II.

Towards the end of World War II, Germans, realizing the end was near, moved prisoners by train or on forced marches, often called “death marches,” in an attempt to prevent the Allied liberation of as many “inferiors” as possible. The marches continued until May 7, 1945, when German armed forces surrendered unconditionally to the Allies.

After the war, the Allies divvied up the spoils and Germany was split into East (aligned to the Warsaw Pact nations) and West (NATO aligned) separated by the infamous “Berlin Wall” built by the Soviets to keep citizens from crossing over to the West. Since 1945, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) has participated in only one football World Cup finals (1974) but the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) has won 3 World Cups. In 1989, an avenue of escape for East Germans opened when Hungary’s border fence was removed and it was more the reality of mass migration to Hungary than any alleged heroics by Ronald Reagan that caused the Wall to come down in 1990. Reagan’s political skill had him reading the portents and timing his “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” challenge as perfectly as a Bastian Schweinsteiger sliding tackle in the penalty area.

Since 1990, a united Germany has taken every possible step, in word and deed, to make amends for its horrific past and is anxious that it and the rest of the world should move forward without the baggage, as much as possible, of that gruesome time in German history. Still, some of us haven’t forgotten and we’ll never forgive. Every now and then, we’re reminded that the repugnant evil of Nazism hasn’t been removed from the planet. Each reminder is usually accompanied by that malignant mantra “Heil Hitler”.

In April of this year, Glenn Frazier Cross, 73, was arrested by Kansas City police after fatally shooting three Jews on Passover Eve outside the Jewish Community Centre. Victims included a 14 year old and his grandfather. The third was a woman. Cross is a known white supremacist and former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan’s Carolina Knights. As he was taken away by police, he yelled (exuberantly) “Heil Hitler!”

In July of this year, after a re-united German football team finally won the World Cup. Rohan Daley, vastly experienced TV Anchor and local opinion leader, in what he later described as a moment of exuberance, yelled “Heil Hitler!” Is this excusable?

We MUST remember. We can NEVER forget. We MUST be forever on guard. Otherwise, it’ll happen again. If we arrive at a place where this most egregious of all atrocities is so dim a memory that “Heil Hitler” can be a joke or an expression of enthusiasm for any German victory; if a black man can flippantly, without penalty, recite that phrase to support a German cause; if we stand by and allow this expression of hatred and degradation to be used regardless of subsequent facile expressions of remorse; the entire world is in danger. Don’t fool yourselves. It can happen again.

Peace and Love


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