Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again. --Bertold Brecht, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
Brecht was writing about Hitler's defeat, and offered an always-timely warning--if only we would heed it.
Two extreme-right parties, one of which wants to repeal laws against the public use of Nazi symbols, have just captured one-third of the vote in Austria, Hitler's birthplace. What a surprise. That country has been a-crawl with unreconstructed Nazis since the end of World War Two. The history of Austria not only shows that "it can happen here," but, in certain benighted places on this earth, it just never stops happening.
Simon Wiesenthal estimated that about three-quarters of the guards in Hitler's extermination camps hailed from Austria. After the Anschluss, mobs quickly took to the streets to hound, beat, rob and kill Jews. But after the war, Austria claimed to be a "victim" of Nazism, playing that line back to themselves and the world until some actually began to believe it.
Meanwhile, the Nazis were simply regrouping. The Freedom Party, a big winner in the elections just held, was created in 1956 by former Nazis such as Anton Reinthaller and Friedrich Peter. The 1960s saw the rise of Norbert Burger, and then the "Borodajkewycz Affair," where students in the Freedom Party's youth wing took to the streets to defend this anti-Semitic professor. During the subsequent rioting, a former concentration camp inmate, Ernst Kirchweger, was beaten to death.
Many Austrians, in fact, just didn't get it. They held onto confiscated Jewish property until their fingernails bled. Kurt Waldheim's lies about his Nazi past were exposed--and he was subsequently elected president of Austria in 1986.
Austrians who have bravely spoken up against the country's Nazi past have been ostracized. Nobel prizewinner Elfriede Jelinek's plays were banned by the Austrian government in 1996 because she criticized the Nazi era in her country. To this day the Austrian army sends representatives to an annual rally to celebrate the Waffen SS. They were joined in the festivities this year by a delegation of American neo-Nazis.
Of course, today the codes have changed. "They're just against unrestricted immigration! They're worried about Islamism!" Elements of the conservative blogosphere adore these guys. Meanwhile we watch, transfixed and paralyzed, while Fourth Reich worker bees construct their new hives, first in Italy and now in Austria. They love us for their freedoms.