Kremlin education | The cult of death and the growing Nazism in Putin’s Russia

Eighty years ago, “education in death” was the way the Hitler regime created the perfect Nazis, observed Gregor Ziemer in a famous book-report. Today it is the same path of idealization of death that is leading to the growing nationalization of Puitin’s Russia.

«It was a gloomy winter day in Berlin» of an unspecified year of Hitler’s regime, when a group of elementary school kids threw stones at the students of the neighboring American school shouting «Jews!» and “Down with hateful foreigners!” Journalist Gregor Ziemer, founder and director of the institute, went to protest with his German colleague, who apologised. ‘However,’ he added, ‘you must understand that it is impossible for me to control the boys once they are out of the school building. In any case, aren’t you going to expect me to suppress a spontaneous popular demonstration? Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be allowed to.” Ziemer replied that his school had always had respect for German culture. «Yes, but you have Jewish students. We teach our pupils that the Jews are our most hated enemies.” Ziemer insisted “that his pupils disliked all foreigners, without exception”: “he agreed: he also agreed that his boys knew that the whole world was against them and their Führer. They had been urged by their teachers to be tough, ready to fight and die for Hitler. He ‘assumed’ that those young men had had some exercise.’

Ziemer then set out to obtain a permit to visit German schools of different grades as well as various youth associations and welfare organizations, and he obtained it. “The Nazi Party begins to take an interest in the German child before its conception,” he was explained. The first stage of that journey to the hell of totalitarian education was therefore in the limbo of the clinics where women “mentally deficient” or “weak constitution” were sterilized, in chains. Then came the “maternity homes” in which single mothers were welcomed and pampered provided they were “Aryan”, since the regime encouraged procreation even beyond the “antiquated” institution of marriage. Before eating, the women recited a prayer to Hitler. “Our Führer, we thank you for your generosity, we thank you for this house, we thank you for this book. We dedicate all our strength to you; We dedicate our life and that of our children to you”.

He will then see “children who can barely stammer” singing hymns to Hitler; 10-year-old boys who express “the desire to hang all the French, to march on Paris and to drop bombs”; teenagers doing military exercises. You will visit “special” schools where “deficient” children are taught to prepare for the final euthanasia in the “Hitler-Kammer”. You will hear the new Nazi fairy tales, as distinct from “nausea-abundant glorifications of being crippled” such as “Snow White and the Seven Nazis”. He will take a little girl to the hospital who will die of appendicitis after feeling ill during a march, because her father «that morning had scolded her, telling her to forget that little stomach ache and to be strong and energetic for the Führer ». You will be amazed by the rite of girls dancing in a circle in the Roman amphitheater of Trier to invoke fertility from the Nazi martyr Horst Wessel. Finally, after watching the students spit on the Bible and then burn it, she decides she’s had enough.

Soon Germany will also declare war on the United States, and Ziemer will have to return home. His bookbasis for the 1943 film Hitler’s children and for the 1943 Disney cartoon as well education for death, will be used as testimony for the prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials.

This is more or less the kind of nightmare that Svetlana Stephenson, professor of sociology at London Metropolitan University and author of Gangs of Russia: From the Streets to the Corridors of Powerhe explained in a article that appeared in the Moscow Times come on Novaya Gazeta Europe. Subject, “the carnival of violence that has permeated the state-controlled Russian media for years.” “While the menacing laughter of the authorities can still be heard on Russian TV screens as state propagandists discuss the destruction of Ukrainian cities or the use of nuclear weapons,” he notes, “new characters have come to the fore.”

A scholar of the subculture of Russian criminal gangs, Stephenson observes how this hooligan style of “mocking one’s victims» has now become «an officially approved style of conduct», as recalled by the history of the Wagner group which published a video in which one of its mercenaries is brutally murdered with a club for surrendering to Ukrainian forces. Days later the group’s founder released a video of him sending a bloody club to the European Parliament.

«This kind of sinister performance – which openly demonstrates the rejection of morality and the law, and rejoices in the humiliation of the weak – seems designed to demonstrate Russia’s sovereignty to its enemies and to emphasize that the conventions of Western civilization, with the its most basic standards of decency do not apply here.’ Russian viewers watch these things from the sofas of their homes, and find consolation in a condition of generalized misery in the idea that «even if they live in poverty, Russians are still tougher than anyone else and shouldn’t be made fun of».

The military defeats in Ukraine, however, caused a shock, to which was added the flop of mobilisation. The answer is a new climate symbolized by the hit with which the regime pop star Shaman call to resurrect standing the fallen of the Great Patriotic War because “God is with us”. Svetlana Stephenson talks about «zombie-like artists, including many elderly pop stars of the late Soviet years», who «began urging the population to ‘oppose’ those who ‘look down on them’, and so doing, to emulate one’s deceased ancestors.” The artists “display sallow complexions, dark make-up and mourning clothes that combine to create a funereal atmosphere”. In the images, “soldiers go to the front with looks of stern determination on their faces, while placards list the names of dead children from Donbas alongside those of fallen soldiers in World War II. A woman sheds a tear as a boy in a military cap greets passing soldiers.’

But “any mention of hope and victory is absent: this is a requiem for a Russia doomed to fight eternal wars”. In early November Putin himself appeared on TV visiting an exhibition on the defense of Moscow during the Second World War. Slowly crossing Red Square, Putin languidly spun the propeller of a replica plane as a choir dressed as World War II soldiers sang a war hymn.

The notion of death giving meaning to life was also brought up during Putin’s recent meeting with the mothers of mobilized conscripts, to whom he said their children’s lives had been meaningless before their deaths in war. “He hasn’t lived her life in vain.”

According to this analysis, “such an appeal is alien to Russian and even Soviet culture, which portray the mother of a dead soldier as an inconsolably tragic figure. The right of mothers to try to save their children was also recognized during the Chechen wars, as evidenced by the respectful attitude assumed by the military authorities towards the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers. But Putin clearly lacks this cultural understanding. The concept of a mother rejoicing over the death of a child is drawn from Nazi ideology, in which women are portrayed as the state’s demanded producers of children.”

In short, “the accelerated nazification of Russian life has coincided with a growing public awareness that the authorities are indifferent to their well-being”.

Kremlin education | The cult of death and the growing Nazism in Putin’s Russia –