Putin Plays the Nazi Card - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Putin Plays the Nazi Card

Among the most shocking claims by Vladimir Putin in justifying his Ukraine invasion is his assertion that he’s seeking a “de-Nazification of Ukraine.” His surreal assertion has angered and bewildered observers worldwide, with everyone knowing it has utterly no basis. Where in the world would Putin have come up with that whopper?

Two words: KGB and disinformation.

The answer is easy if you know the history and background of Putin. He was trained in the Soviet KGB, which long ago mastered the crass art of dezinformatsiya (disinformation) and agitprop — agitation and propaganda. In fact, this tactic long precedes the KGB. The Kremlin and Soviet Communist Party have done this since the 1930s, when Hitler first came to power. In turn, here in the United States, Communist Party USA did it as well. One of the reasons they’ve done it is that they’ve long known that the wider liberal left is easy prey to pick up these charges, seize them, push them, and help smear the accused.

I could demonstrate this at great length. Anyone who has read my books has seen it repeatedly. It has long been standard operating procedure for these propagandists. I’ll give just a few examples that happen to be at my fingertips because of past or current books I’m working on. First, an example from the Ukraine and wider Europe, and then an example from America.

In the Ukraine and Eastern Europe, the Soviets smeared every Catholic cardinal and bishop who resisted them as “Nazis,” “fascists,” and “Hitler sympathizers.” In the Ukraine, the victims included the likes of Bishop Vasyl Velychkovsky, Father Severian Baranyk, Father Zenobius Kovalyk, Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, Nicholas Charnetsky, Josyp Terelya, and many more. In Eastern Europe, it included high-profile clergy like Cardinal Josef Mindszenty in Hungary, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski in Poland, Cardinal Stepan Trochta and Cardinal Josef Beran in Czechoslovakia, Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac in Yugoslavia, and on and on. As high up as the Chair of St. Peter at the Vatican, it included popes from Pius XII to even John Paul II, who suffered under Nazi occupation in Poland and saw his beloved Jewish friends rounded up and murdered.

Among these vicious character assassinations, the Pope Pius XII smear worked magnificently. It was started by Stalin and the Kremlin with a June 3, 1945, Radio Moscow broadcast labeling Pius “Hitler’s Pope.” Communists everywhere, right on cue, grabbed the label and peddled it worldwide. Eventually, as these labels almost always do, it was picked up by liberals in the West, many of whom never knew the original misbegotten source of the smear. To this day, and probably forever, Pope Pius XII, who should be recognized as a saint, is instead known as “Hitler’s Pope.” The late pontiff will probably never shake this slander, given that far too many liberals have accepted it in shameless ignorance. It’s permanent.

Is this not ridiculous? Unjust? Terrible? Sure, but communists learned that it doesn’t matter how wild and reckless the smear is. They would wield it regardless, knowing that eventually it would get picked up.

As for America, consider as merely one example (again, at my fingertips) the experience and testimony of Bella Dodd. She was one of the leading ex-communists among American women in the 1950s and 1960s. She started working for the American Communist Party in the early 1930s and formally joined in 1943. When she was expelled, the Party labeled her a “fascist,” an “anti-Semite,” a “Nazi,” and more. Again, standard operating procedure. Dodd wasn’t surprised when this happened, because she had egregiously engaged in these vilifications herself when she was a communist.

Dodd explained in March 1953 U.S. Senate testimony how these smears worked, which is hauntingly similar to how progressives fling them today when looking to purge — or, in today’s parlance, cancel — people they disagree with or who stand in their way. She noted how communists not only called their enemies “Nazis” but also flung terms like “racist.”

“The Communists use the race situation in a very effective manner,” Dodd explained. “Since the Communists wants to create a sense of fear among people, and a sense of hatred, what they do is to indicate that the majority of the people are against them. They will say to the Puerto Ricans, ‘The white people are against you.’… They will say that to the Negro person…. In other words, they pit one racial group against another.” The communists divide. “They utilize this racial situation very effectively.”

They utilized it against Dodd. “For instance, when I was expelled,” Dodd told the Senate, “the expulsion read that I was anti-Negro, anti-Puerto Rican, anti-Semitic, anti-working class…. Suddenly I found myself smeared in the most violent kind of way.”

And in these slurs, communists could count on liberals to join in and pile on. “The Communist Party knew how to fight very effectively,” she recalled. “If anyone tried to attack the Communist movement, the Communist Party immediately went among the liberals, among its allies, and on various bases got the support and help of these people to smear and to isolate the person.” They would take the target and “build him up into a pro-fascist, anti-Negro, anti-Semitic, anti-this and that kind of personality…. Everything which the man has done is blown up so as to create of him a monster and a horror.”

From there, the misrepresentation and defamation would worm its way through the wider left-wing media and other progressives (from professors to Religious Left ministers), picked up by liberals inclined to favor the smear of the targeted person. “We had certain contacts with the newspaper world,” continued Dodd. “We would contact them and see to it that they would use the publicity to smear the person.”

And they would.

You think this stuff is new today? Not at all. The left has been doing this for a century.

So, Vladimir Putin knows what he’s doing. Will the smear work with Ukraine? It seems hard to imagine. After all, Putin’s big hurdle is that his adversary in the United States right now is a Democratic president. Democrats don’t like Putin, because they convinced themselves with their tin-foil-hat election conspiracy-mongering that he and his KGB pals sat in a smoke-filled room with Donald Trump and stole the 2016 election from their beloved Hillary. Thus, Putin is at a disadvantage this time peddling a smear that usually works with the progressive left.

Now, if Putin had called Donald Trump a Nazi, well, liberals would repeat that mantra through their media echo chamber. There would be no doubt about that one.

The irony in this is that the true Nazi behavior is entirely on Putin’s part. His justifications for invading Ukraine have been Hitlerian, as he pushes Big Lies about ethnic Russians being allegedly persecuted in this or that region of the Ukraine. Amazingly, he claimed they were being targeted for “genocide” by the Ukrainian government. This is exactly what the Fuhrer charged against countries like Czechoslovakia and Poland in the late 1930s.

In fact, when you saw the title of this article, you probably thought I was referring to just that. But no, the Hitler-like actions are being committed by a Russian authoritarian who simultaneously levels charges of “Nazi” behavior at the Ukraine and its (for the record) Jewish president, Zelensky. Go figure.

Will Putin’s “Nazi” charge stick? Eventually, yes, it probably will. It will take some time. It took the Pius XII charge decades, but it eventually stuck.

Do not be surprised. Putin won’t be.

Paul Kengor
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Paul Kengor is Editor of The American Spectator. Dr. Kengor is also a professor of political science at Grove City College, a senior academic fellow at the Center for Vision & Values, and the author of over a dozen books, including A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism, and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.
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