Nazism and neo-Nazism in Santa Catarina

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By MARLENE DE FÁVERI*

Preface by the author to the new edition of the book “Memories of (another) war: daily life and fear during the Second World War in Santa Catarina”.

1.

Twenty-five years ago I immersed myself in endless research sources, which told me about “another war” that I was previously unaware of. As I combed through official documents and processes initiated by the National Security Court, newspapers, letters, photographs, parish reports, official or unofficial correspondence, private archives, among others, I also heard reports from people who lived during the war, more evidence appeared of the real existence of internal war which, even without cannons or trenches, pitted “axists” against “nationalists”. These sources and reports told me about the tensions experienced by the population in everyday relationships in the late 1930s and early 1940s in the state of Santa Catarina during the Second World War.

From the original as a doctoral thesis defended in 2002 at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, the book Memories of (another) war: daily life and fear during the Second World War in Santa Catarina, received its first edition in 2004 (publishers UFSC and Univali). The following year, with its 2nd edition, the book received the “Lucas Alexandre Boiteux – History” award, granted by the Historical and Geographical Institute of Santa Catarina. The work became a reference for new research on the subject, given the scarcity of writings about the years of the Second World War from the perspective of the most ordinary daily life lived on the fringes of the experience of this “other” war in Santa Catarina.

This third edition, produced by the publisher Insular (2024), maintains the original writing of previous editions, but revised, updated and expanded. In the original text, the topic of Nazi cells was not a research problem at the time (2002), not because there were no isolated events, but because they were not considered a threat, and were soon forgotten. With the brutal rise of the extreme right and the resurgence of neo-Nazi groups on a global scale, even with media outlets that legitimize these discourses, Nazism and fascism in their genesis have been revisited in an attempt to understand current manifestations.

2.

There are many speculations surrounding the question: why is the state of Santa Catarina leading the advance of neo-Nazism in Brazil? With only 3% of the Brazilian population, from 2021 to 2022, 320 active neo-Nazi cells were identified, which represents more than a quarter of the 1.117 groups cataloged in the country. Blumenau, in July 2023, was among the cities with the highest number of neo-Nazi groups, and, in April 2024, there were 63 cells (approximately 30% of the total in the state) according to a report presented to the United Nations (UN) by the Council National Human Rights Council (CNDH) in which it considers the current scenario alarming.[1]

The immigration factor is often resorted to – Santa Catarina was one of the states that received the most German immigrants both in the first wave, from 1870 to 1900, and after the First World War, between 1918 and 1933. However, linking these neo-Nazi groups only to immigration German is not sustainable. Santa Catarina is one of the states where oligarchies have strongly inserted themselves into the political sphere, taking turns in power for the benefit of an economic elite eager to maintain its privileges through ties and networks based on conservatism, and this is another factor to consider for the expansion of these groups with extreme right-wing characteristics.

These elites, therefore, took refuge in coexistence among peers, establishing a kind of “disguised colonelism”, in the analysis of historian João Klug, with neo-Nazism being “the old Nazism packaged in a new society and applied to extreme right-wing groups” .[2]

In the context before the World War (1939-1945), between 1928 and 1938, in Brazil, the Nazi Party, founded in Timbó (SC), was the largest party group outside Germany, with 2900 members, operating in 17 Brazilian states. Members of this party took part in marches, displayed their symbols and lived in society among their peers. Getúlio Vargas, fearful of the growing political forces, decreed the Estado Novo Coup in November 1937 and outlawed parties or associations, whether Nazis, integralists and, of course, communists.

With the advent of World War II, even though Getúlio Vargas had until then openly flirted with Nazism, he was pressured and took the side of the Allies. He created a repressive apparatus against “Axis subjects”, as they called those who defended Italy, Germany and Japan, waging a fierce campaign that authorized arrest and, for the Nazis, the opening of concentration camps, mobilizing the National Security Court (two fields in Santa Catarina and around fifteen in the country).

Shortly before the armistice, in May 1945, these prisoners used the procedure that granted them requests for pardon through the State Penitentiary Council (also in other States) and directly to Getúlio Vargas, being pardoned and released at the end of 1944 and beginning in 1945. Decree-law no. 7.474, of April 18, 1945, granted amnesty to all those who had committed political crimes since July 16, 1934, and Decree-Law no. 7.723, of July 10, 1945, suspended the effects of decree-law 4.166, of March 11, 1942, which provided for compensation in the form of confiscation of bank deposits collected from Germans, Italians and Japanese as a form of reparation for aggressions committed by Germany in attacks on Brazilian ships.[3]

After the war, there was a kind of pact of silence: it was necessary to forget about the raids, arrests and persecutions that occurred during the war. This “erasure” of memory was necessary for coexistence and the return of political and economic elites to the spheres of command of the state of Santa Catarina. In the following decades, representatives of these elites were elected and returned to the ranks of the political sphere. Santa Catarina supported the 1964 military coup, established municipal governments with supporters of the regime with active participation in Operation Barriga Verde and Novembrada.

At the “Family March with God for Freedom”, which took place in Florianópolis on April 17, 1964, the first lady of the state congratulated herself on the victory of the military movement and, as “Christian mother and wife of the state governor” , praised Castelo Branco to whom he attributed the “security of the free Homeland” and “safeguarding Christian and democratic traditions”, notably anti-communist.[4] This digression into history highlights the close connection with the same ideas propagated today within the parameters of fascism, whose representations present the same religious tones of moral discourse and model of patriotic women. That's what happened in the stands today. Was it just a coincidence?

3.

Recent studies have demonstrated how Nazis fleeing Germany (camouflaged with the help of businessmen established in America, Catholic bishops and with falsified documents) occupied positions in the armies, actively participating in military coups in Latin America, as journalist Uki Goni demonstrated in work The real Odessa: Nazi smuggling to Argentina by Perón.[5] It is not fallacious to say that torture methods in Nazi Germany were used against opponents of the military regimes in Latin America and Brazil. And in Operation Barriga Verde, as Celso Martins demonstrated.[6]

Anthropologist Adriana Dias confirmed the connection between the former president of the Republic who, in 2004, maintained his base was made up of neo-Nazis.[7] Eduardo Bolsonaro recently met with the granddaughter of Hitler's Nazi minister, now deputy leader of the AFD, an acronym of the extreme right in the German Chamber, appointed as a member of the “ultraconservative Christian” wing.[8] In 2021, then-president Jair Bolsonaro had already posed alongside the vice leader of the AfD. Nothing new on the front, therefore.

Elements of continuity from past Nazi-fascist practices to manifest speeches of neo-Nazi ideology, although redefined, are based on the same logic of destruction. Adriana Dias observes that hatred is cultivated on a tripod: meritocracy, or the belief that the fittest have earned rights; supremacy, or the idea that white people deserve this place and anyone outside their skin color is a usurper of their privileges and, therefore, an enemy to be eliminated; and the misogyny that disqualifies and propagates hatred towards women. All of these arms of the tripod choreographed virulent practices before and during the years of the (dis)order of combat boots.

The contemporary extreme right appropriates the theocratic element: it takes shelter in the defense of a single Nordic god, a militarized homeland and a single form of family, patriarchal, white, heterosexual, banishing all differences with fury and violence. Brazil above all, a motto appropriated by Nazism, God, Fatherland, Family, by Benito Mussolini's fascism, appropriated by Integralism in the 1930s and, in other words, by the Vargas government, reappropriated more recently by the religious right in the same spurious wave of cooptation of souls. And it has spread shamelessly with speeches and practices, against communism, feminism, socialism, human rights, non-white people and democratic forms of political representation.

The search for votes to ascend to political and, above all, economic power, moves today anchored in the Theology of domination, raised in the Old Testament or in revenge “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. Religious people reveal themselves as pawns of indoctrination for usurpation, in the name of a god (such as the cult of Israel and Jerusalem) and are converted into currencies that favor vested interests for political uses and illicit enrichment of groups eager for power and privileges.

Allied with the international extreme right, they control machines in the unbridled production of lies, hate speech, denialism, obscurantism, violent and recalcitrant imposition of conspiracy theories. Efficiently, it mobilizes “resentment and hatred in favor of its Nazi-fascist and fundamentalist causes”, in Marcos Dantas’ precise analysis.[9] Bertold Brecht already warned that “Fascism is not the opposite of bourgeois democracy, it is its evolution in times of crisis” and is “the true face of capitalism”.

4.

Talking about a topic like Nazism and neo-Nazism means that we cannot forget its destructive origins, learn how it is updated and look for ways to combat it. Michel Foucault[10] taught us that speeches have strength, whether for good or evil, and their order traces an intimate relationship between knowledge – knowledge – and power. These discursive forces for destruction reverberate in violent and exclusionary practices, as has also occurred with women elected to the public political sphere and who have suffered political gender violence.

President Dilma Rousseff was deposed, councilor Marielle Franco was murdered, councilor of São Miguel do Oeste, in Santa Catarina, Maria Tereza Capra had her mandate revoked, the latter, surprisingly, for denouncing a notably neo-Nazi demonstration in November 2022. And there is others, and others and more cases in this direction.

Testimonies collected from criminal proceedings initiated by the National Security Court show that, even under pressure, interrogated prisoners maintained their belief in the superiority of the German race and swore allegiance to the Führer, reaffirming the feeling of belonging to their origins based on Germanness. “Hitler's Germany rescued and made official the feeling of 'belonging' of the German people to the German nation, whose origins date back to Germanic pan-Germanism and eliminationist anti-Semitism manifest since the second half of the 19th century”, says historian Maria Luíza Tucci Carneiro .[11]

In one of the criminal proceedings of the National Security Court it is stated that, in the residence of political prisoner Hans Walter Taggesell,[12] German engineer based in Lages, Santa Catarina, approximately 100 letters were found in German and the transcription into Portuguese, written between 1929 and 1942, the year in which he was detained and sent to the Concentration Camp in Trindade, Florianópolis.

Reading these letters details the derogatory impressions about Brazilian men and women, the defense of the white race, the co-optation and indoctrination work for the German cause and Nazism - “Despite having made myself available to the German embassy, ​​we here can only limit to spread the truth about Germany as much as possible and this is also done with every effort” in a letter in 1939. In addition to the letters, 44 photographs seized showing civic parades in Germany, Hitler with children, tributes to the German homeland, etc.

In another case, Hans Peter Petry,[13] de Joinville, arrested in March 1942, is described “as a deep-rooted Nazi element, whose activities are harmful to national interests. In the accused's testimony, he states that he "remains a Nazi (...) and that those who abandon Nazism will be traitors", because although the Brazilian government's decree closed the Nazi party "it did not extinguish Nazi feeling, and that the true German carries in your heart.”

Vargas' campaign was effective, at least as proposed at the time, arresting, persecuting and isolating Nazis and even suspects. However, the post-war silence did not cool the nationalist feeling around the German homeland and the supremacist ideology whose merits and social, material, economic and symbolic advantages were understood to be rights due to whiteness. How much of this feeling was cultivated in private and social spaces, also individual? The feeling of humiliation, dishonor, resentment, impotence in the face of economic and symbolic losses during the persecution raises the question: which memories were forgotten and which resentments were transformed into hatred and/or feelings of revenge?

Pierre Ansart proposes attention to a history of resentments: “Repressed and then manifested hatred creates an affective solidarity that, going beyond internal rivalries, allows the reconstitution of cohesion, of a strong identification of each person with their group”.[14] If it seems necessary to think about the meanings of history taking into account subjectivities and resentments, this argument is valid today, given the now routine manifestations of these neo-Nazi groups.

Obviously, it is not the same Nazism as its genesis, but it has been multiplying in the here and now, immersed in racist, sexist, misogynistic, nationalist, xenophobic, warmongering, homotransphobic, anti-communist, weapons-oriented, denialist and, above all, violent ideology. However, no one is born a fascist, but becomes a fascist, Nazi and prejudiced in social relationships, especially in family life and groups among their own.

The analogy to the serpent's egg remains timely, unfortunately. The phrase was said in the film The Serpent's Egg and was used as a foreshadowing of the “evil in the making” that was growing in the years before the rise of Nazism in Germany. “It’s like a serpent’s egg. Through the thin membranes, you can clearly discern the already perfect reptile,”[15] in the words of Dr. Vergerus, a doctor dedicated to experimenting with people's brains and thus controlling minds, behaviors and making them manipulable and without autonomy.

Shakespeare had already used this analogy in tragedy when, upon joining a conspiracy against the dictator Julius Cásar, Brutus compared him to “a serpent's egg which, once hatched and by its nature, will become harmful, which is why it must be extirpated yet in the shell.” At the time, 1977, Igmar Bergman's film seemed like a dystopia. Yet prophetic.

5.

When I was involved in writing the thesis, details of the most ordinary events that had previously been silenced, even within families, were revealed. Characters that move in this book, at least those of adult age at the time, are no longer alive and can tell nothing more. Some survivors, now octogenarians or older, were children. How were they educated in the recesses of their homes? And in schools, which reproduced customs, language, the senses of nationality sewn into sociability between equals, what did children imagine? The children and young people profiled in civic marches, right arm in the air swearing allegiance to Heil Hitler (Hail Hitler, or Sieg Heil, Hail Victory) how much/how did they subjectify themselves?

Among documents, flags and books in the German language collected during nationalization and during the war years, made public at the Nazi Material Exhibition organized in Florianópolis in August 1942, the majority consisted of school material. Some photographs, hidden and therefore spared from seizure, appear in albums of family and school memories.

This photograph[16] It is in the entrance hall of the Education Department of Dona Emma, ​​a municipality in Santa Catarina with just over four thousand inhabitants. On the wall, full of paintings with historical images of the city, we see the teacher, the only man in the image, flanked by profiled girls, all with similar haircuts, dressed with the modesty required at the time, posing in front of the Brazilian flag and the Nazi swastika. It was the mid-1930s. The image is accompanied by the caption “The private German school was maintained by the parents of the students with resources from Germany”.

In another photo, seven men appear posing while one of them holds a Nazi flag. In the caption, they are described as “Hitler sympathizers in Nova Esperança”, a neighborhood in Dona Emma. This neighborhood housed Nazi cells in the past and is in a region with a history of extremism.

We must consider the education of these children in schools, families, clubs, groups, churches and ask how much of the ideology was introjected into the minds of these children. How much of the ideology was dormant? It is worth highlighting the absence of themes such as Nazism, its faces and dangers in school curricula. During my schooling, I didn't have any information about war and Nazism, only about little heroes of the country. Point. Not even in History faculty was the topic developed. The silencing had effects – whose interests?

However, if generalizations are inhospitable to historiography, naturalizations also do not fit. Studies show that, of the contingent of German and Italian immigrants at the time, only 3% joined the Nazi party and, to join, the criterion was to have been born in Germany (this percentage disregards sympathizers born in Brazil). Therefore, to generalize (re)affirming that the state of Santa Catarina moves in the bubbles of neo-Nazism is to force, on the horizon of expectations, its past in its future, crystallizing the shifting experiences.

In the last election, if the vast majority of voters in this state chose, at the polls, a government project that openly flirted with Nazi-fascism, a conscious part of society placed confidence in democracy and placed its hopes there, showing that there is resistance. This state led to the birth of the MST, Novembrada, strike movements, to name a few experiences.

6.

In 2023, a group of people committed to democratic ends created the Movimento Humaniza SC, a non-profit entity, representing Civil Society to mobilize in the promotion and respect for the dignity of the human person, diversity and in defense of peace. It works to combat all forms of violence, discrimination, prejudice, intolerance, hatred, motivated by ethnic issues, religious beliefs, race, skin color, sexual orientation, gender identity and, with the aim of defeating fascism and Nazism. However, it is a difficult task.

Today, in the state of Santa Catarina, there is recurrent news of seizures of Nazi material, weapons events, students involved, posters apologizing for Nazism in the streets, attacks on schools and teachers, racial, ethnic, gender-based, homotransphobic violence and other barbarities of the content. An alert about the growth of neo-Nazi groups in Brazil was sent to the United Nations by the National Human Rights Council (CNDH) and a delegation from this Council was, in April this year, in Santa Catarina with the purpose of investigating neo-Nazi cells in the state, whose report will contribute to discussions at the 55th Meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.

It is worth thinking about the political relations of interests (always capitalist) in a state whose governor, the three senators, the vast majority of state and federal deputies, mayors and councilors have close links with the extreme right of the country that defends arms agendas (the re-registration, in June 2023, identifies Santa Catarina as the state that was most armed in the government of Jair Bolsonaro), denialist, militarist, sexist, supremacist, racist, coerces and persecutes teachers, unions, workers in general, indigenous people and the poor. Some of the people of this State were involved in the attempted coup d'état against the center of political power on January 2023, XNUMX.

When I compiled data and wrote, not even out of dystopia could I imagine that we would have a deliberately denialist, racist, sexist, homophobic, aporophobic, epistemicidal, biocidal, gerontocidal, nationalicidal, weapons-oriented government that would openly flirt with Nazism and fascism. Distorting the meanings of freedom of expression, extremists are able to grant themselves the right to violate legal rights, violate the principle of human dignity and threaten the Supreme Court in a vile and criminal way.

Democracy is uncomfortable. We are rebuilding, not without realizing the dangers of these disastrous ideologies. Today, in 2024, disputes over neoliberal dominance and bellicose conservative ideologies revive the specter of the last war and alert us to the possibility of a third world war. The tensions are far from ceasing and are proving to be lethal for human lives, animals, the environment and natural resources essential for the reproduction of life on the planet. Where are we heading in this world with so much uncertainty, fearfulness, doubts and conflicts? War is always stupid.

Revisiting history should serve to remember and learn from the destructive events of the past, change direction in the present and hope for the future.

*Marlene de Fáveri She is a historian, writer and poet. She is the author, among other books, of A body that enjoys does not age. (Infinitta Reading).

Reference

Marlene de Fáveri. Memories of one (another) war: daily life and fear during the Second World War in Santa Catarina. 3a. edition. Florianópolis, Insular, 2024, 432 pages.

Notes


[1] See report on this link.

[2] John Klug. Historian explains why Santa Catarina has so many neo-Nazi groups. See this link

[3] LEX 1945 – Federal Legislation, pages 108 and 265, respectively. BALESC.

[4] Michel Goulart da Silva. The 1964 coup and the political activities of the Women's Campaign for Democracy in Santa Catarina. See this link

[5] Uki Goni. The real Odessa: Nazi smuggling into Perón's Argentina. Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2004.

[6] Celso Martins. The four corners of the sun: Operation Green Belly. Florianópolis: ed. UFSC: Boiteux Foundation, 2006.

[7] Adriana Dias. (See this link)

[8] See the publication at this link

[9] Marcos Dantas. The mathematics of information disorder.

[10] Michel Foucault. The order of speech. 2 ed. São Paulo: Edições Loyola, 1996. .

[11]Maria Luiza Tucci Carneiro. Between feijoada and sauerkraut.

[12] Criminal case no. 3.307 – Hans Walter Taggesell (Appeal no. 1.640). Binder: Santa Catarina. National Security Court. National Archives, Rio de Janeiro. From page 05 to 107 of the process are the letters in German and, from page 108 to 124, the translations into Portuguese. It is a suggestion for journalists, historians or anyone interested, to brush up against this process (today available online).

[13] Criminal case no. 5.150 – Hanz Peter Petry. Binder: Santa Catarina. National Security Court. National Archives, Rio de Janeiro. It was entered on April 17, 1944.

[14] Pierre Ansart. History and memory of resentments. Memory and (re)feeling: questions about a sensitive issue. Campinas:Unicamp. 2001, p. 22.

[15] "The Serpent's Egg”, American and German film, directed by Ingmar Bergman, in 1977.

[16] Public Agency


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