A slightly humorous list of 10 contributions to civilization by history’s most famous villains.
As we all know from school, from literature and from film, Nazis represent the ultimate evil to have befallen mankind; the absolute, perfect evil even more vile than Devil himself. At least so we are told. Obviously, everything such vicious genocidal madmen did was without doubt wrong, immoral and destructive, and even considering giving them a positive word on anything is still considered a grave taboo – anyone daring to break it is likely a Nazi sympathizer himself, at least so holds the popular opinion.
However, little do we think of the many great and good things that were accomplished under the direction of no one other than Adolph Hitler and his henchmen. So if you are a rabidly-fanatical anti-Nazi who cannot bear to even hear their name spoken, here is the list of things you should strive to avoid.
1. Space technology
Everyone has probably at least heard the name of Wernher von Braun, the father of spaceflight. His connection to the Nazi regime is no secret – von Braun was both a member of NSDAP and an officer of the SS. Von Braun’s interest in rocketry led to his development of various liquid-fueled rockets. His experiments were noticed by Nazi officials, who drafted the young scientist to put his hobby to the service of the Fatherland. Having access to the vast funds and resources the Third Reich could offer, von Braun could expand his research greatly, peaking in the development of the V2 rocket – the grandmother of all ballistic missiles.
After the war, he surrendered to the US forces. To avoid being taken and used by the Soviets, the Americans would retrieve and send him and many other German scientists to the United States, offering immunity from prosecution for war crimes and a lucrative employment contract in exchange for his cooperation. Von Braun would thus become the leading rocket designer and eventually the head of US Space program. His life’s work became the Saturn V rocket that took American astronauts to the Moon in 1969.
Therefore, if you are an avid Nazi-hater, you should avoid anything related to the technologies derived from von Braun’s work – after all, these are all derivatives of a weapon built by a dedicated Nazi using slave labour, intended for a campaign of conquest, plunder and genocide. That means no satellite television or any other application that requires having something launched in space with a rocket.
2. High speed freeways
Also known as Autobahn, a freeway transportation system was pioneered by German engineers under direct orders of Adolph Hitler. The Fuhrer had envisioned a Germany with an infrastructure that would be the envy of the rest of the world, and took steps to make it a reality. The highway building campaign also provided employment for over a 100 thousand Germans, a much-needed boost to the deeply-depressed German economy of the day. Virtually every civilized country with the means has invested in implementing this system of mass transportation since then. Zealous anti-Nazis will have to make do with the narrow, bumpy country roads.
3. Fashion brands
If you hate the mere mention of Nazis, then look into your closet now. See anything that doesn’t belong there? Well, it must be your 2000-dollar Hugo Boss suit. Hugo Boss was not only a member of the Nazi party, but also the official designer and supplier of uniforms to various Nazi organizations, most notably the SS – the goose-stepping sombre folks in purty hats and black trenchcoats you see in film are wearing his design.
Your Adidas and Puma sportswear you are so used to wearing during your morning jogs will also have to go in the garbage bin. These two brands were established by Dassler brothers, both members of NSDAP, supplying footwear for the Wehrmacht and German athletes. Interestingly, African American sprinter Jesse Owens who won in 1936 Berlin Olympics was also wearing Adidas shoes. I wonder what a politically-correct sportsman of today would have to say about that. By the way, you should also be wary of all the hard-rock, biker, industrial and heavy-metal fashion articles – many of them are inspired directly by the fashion of the Third Reich.
4. Animal rights
Whether you are one of those tree-hugging hippies, or just a regular guy or girl who can’t stand animals being abused, you ought to re-consider your views on the Nazis for this one – because believe it or not, the sadistic, genocidal madmen that delighted in the slaughter of millions were also animal lovers. Nazi Germany was the first in the world to ban animal vivisection and enacted other strict laws relating to animal slaughter and abuse. While Nazis had no qualms about using humans for the same purpose, all environmentalists and animal friends will probably find this feat of theirs admirable.
5. Medical science
If you are a Nazi-hater and happen to fall into icy water and consequently suffer from hypothermia, it is your moral obligation to not seek treatment and die. The reason is simple – most of what we know about the effects of cold on human body is a direct result of research by Nazi scientists using concentration camp inmates as test subjects. The goal of these experiments was to develop survival tools and techniques for pilots shot down over the sea.
Similar experiments were conducted to determine human endurance in other extremes like altitude and high G-forces, as well as treatments of various combat injuries. While without doubt unethical, Nazi scientists contributed greatly to the advances of medical knowledge used to this day. For example, modern ambulances still use a technique developed by Nazi researchers to treat hypothermia.
6. Volkswagen beetle
Yes, that is right – this little fancy car is the direct result of Adolph Hitler’s vision of every German family owning a car. His concept required a car that was simple, robust, functional and that every German could afford to buy. Designed by Ferdinand Porsche, the original Beetle was available for a price of 990 Reichsmark, and the last generation of Beetle was produced in 2003, making it the oldest model of car still in production.
Compared to the original 1930’s Beetle, the last generation has undergone only minor technical changes and optimizations in comfort, technology and aerodynamics while retaining the same overall design that earned Beetle its fame. So if you happen to own one, better start looking for a buyer – it is, after all, a Nazi-designed car you’re riding in.
As mentioned before, while the Nazis weren’t exactly famous for observing human rights, same cannot be said about animal rights. But their interest in protecting wildlife did not stop at banning cruelty against animals. Nazis also implemented various wildlife conservation laws now in place in most Western countries, such as accurately defining hunting seasons, setting bag limits for various game animals, and even creating an education program on animal conservation. I guess this is the point that anti-Nazi zealots should avoid observing despite moral objections, since failing to follow hunting regulations can land you in jail.
8. Social welfare
The Nazis might have been genocidal madmen, but in order to make genocide and torment, they would obviously first need victims to kill and torture. And what better a way to attract new unsuspecting citizens than with a generous welfare program? Many modern Western nations can certainly attest that welfare programs do attract new citizens, perhaps even too well.
Of course, the Nazis did not feel obliged to take care of any people from outside, but they certainly cared for their own people – Nazi Germany had the most generous social welfare program not only at their day, but arguably in all of history, which firmly cemented their reputation among the German public. This was done not only for PR purposes, but also to approach the goal of all Germans sharing a more or less equal and comfortable living standard.
Therefore, you really should avoid receiving any welfare payments, because your government apparently holds Nazi sympathies by trying to emulate them, buying your loyalty with social security. Back in 1930’s, the German welfare program was partly funded by confiscating property of the enemies of regime. Today, the same process is called social welfare tax.
Hitler himself was a non-smoker and would not allow any of his staff to smoke in his presence. According to reductio ad Hitlerum principle, if Hitler did something, then it is obviously immoral and wrong, even if it involves mundane things like eating with a fork (at least that is how these issues are sometimes presented). Nazis had envisioned a healthy and fit Germany, an showcase nation of Aryan supermen, so unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive drinking had to go.
At the time when comparable campaigns in other countries failed miserably, Nazis managed to enact a very effective anti-smoking campaign, banning smoking in restaurants and public transport, as well as restricting tobacco advertising and placing high taxes on tobacco. All of these measures seem commonplace today, but back then, it was something revolutionary. Better start smoking, anti-Nazis.
10. Petrol cans
Whenever a petrol can is mentioned, you probably imagine the handy pressed steel can in the back of your car, also known as jerrycan. Throw it away – as the name suggests, jerrycans were first made by the Nazis to have a cheap and handy container to store fuel for their military vehicles, and you don’t want to have anything to do with Nazis, right? An integrated handle and a lid easily popped open made it easy to carry and use.
For comparison, American and British petrol cans of the day were large, unwieldy cube-shapes with no handles and a screw-on lid that had to be cranked open with a wrench, so while Allied soldiers might not have appreciated Nazi ideology, they certainly appreciated Nazi engineering and sought to obtain the jerrycans whenever possible in place of their own.
And there are more things to name, including but not limited to vegetarianism and modern film-making techniques. So what was the point of all this then? To show that the Nazis were clearly not the absolutely evil and malicious monsters as they are frequently depicted in popular media and even scientific literature – that in fact it is difficult to imagine modern civilization without contributions directly made by prominent Nazis or at least under their direct orders.
Today, it is nearly unthinkable in Western media to have a Nazi protagonist in film, computer game or literature in context other than condemning National Socialism – in short, giving Nazis any, even deserved positive credit is a strong social taboo, and any who dare challenge it are likely to be labeled neo-Nazi sympathizers and extremists. Most of all, no similar taboos apply to Communism, even though far more atrocities have been committed under the sickle and hammer than under the swastika. Even the term itself has become a word of abuse, making Nazis a kind of mythical bogeymen that mothers call upon to frighten their children into behaving. I have dared to commit the unforgivable heresy and challenge this reputation and view of them, to try and give the Nazis back their human form and face, return their good and praiseworthy side next to their enshrined sinister side. I believe Nazis deserve a fair and unbiased look at their ideas and achievements as well as their crimes as much as any other historical figures.
The history of WWII is the most heavily politicized subject in the whole science of history. But the war is long since over – maybe it is time to move on and finally look at it without the ideological prism that we have been coached to use by the ruling powers for 60 years to meet their ideological ends. History is written by the victors, but let’s not forget that a medal always has two sides, and truth is always somewhere in between them.