Harry Potter and the Nazis

So I’m giving a paper on Rowling’s use of Nazi/Holocaust imagery at the ‘Concentrationary Imaginaries’ conference in Leeds in a couple of weeks, and I have to write it today.

I have been kind of terrified about it, partly because, oh, I would have liked to do so much more research in about three separate and quite weighty areas (theories of representation, myth, and the Holocaust; fan responses to the Nazi imagery in HP; and the history/afterlife/dissemination of the specific myths with which JKR engages in the books, specifically Hitler’s ‘Jewish ancestry’ and Nazism-as-bureaucracy). But today I am very cheered by finding this as one of the three aims of the Concentrationary Memories project:

Identification of a hitherto unacknowledged cinematic and popular archive that indirectly registers a ‘Holocaust effect’ (Van Alphen) which we define as a ‘concentrationary imaginary’. This appropriates, without direct historical reference, the core aspects of totalitarianism’s novelty and terror as a narrative premise. We analyse the concentrationary imaginary by tracking the seepage and normalisation of totalitarianism in diverse forms of post-modern popular culture that invert the political-aesthetic use of the relations of horror and the everyday (Resnais/Cayrol) to insert horrific violence into the everyday.

because that’s exactly what I think the Harry Potter books are doing: appropriating, without direct historical reference, the core aspects of totalitarianism’s novelty and terror (though less as a narrative premise than as a tonal effect). So at least I’m on target for what the conference is trying to do.

ETA1: Trying to find the photo the Daily Mail published in 1933 of a Jewish tombstone with the name ‘Adolf Hittler’ on it. Learning that you don’t want to Google-image ‘adolf hitler jewish cemetery tombstone’, because it will make you sad.

ETA2: Why is there no paper at this conference called We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thing? A missed opportunity.

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8 Responses to Harry Potter and the Nazis

  1. Beppie says:

    Oh, I want to read your paper and refernce it in my thesis — except, of course, that my thesis is currently being proofread and will be bound within the month, so there won’t be time. 😛 I touch on some related stuff in the chapter of my thesis that looks at Hannah Arendt’s theories of totalitarianism and evil in relation to YA fantasy.

    • nowandrome says:

      Ee! Congratulations! Would love to see the chapter on Arendt and YA fantasy, if you wouldn’t mind – am planning to write the paper up properly in the next couple of weeks, and would of course reference you…

  2. RM says:

    Oh, I am excited about this paper! I once remember being at an HP conference and talking about Snape as a collaborator figure (back before book 7 and possibly before book 6, when all we had was a lot of speculation about Snape’s origins and motives) and it turned into one of those moments where I had to actually explain lots of pretty grim history to a room full of folks who had never been exposed to the idea of Jewish people (or other at-risk individuals) having collaborated with the Nazis for reasons of (among other things) survival. It was an intense/shocking moment for me as a (Jewish) fan, and that imagery and thematic line in HP has always been one of those back-burner topics for me. Am very happy someone whose work I enjoy is exploring it.

    • nowandrome says:

      That moment at the conference sounds extraordinary: I wish I’d been there to hear the discussion (partly because although, oddly, I’ve thought of Snape as Jewish for a long time and I’ve also been outraged by what-I-see-as Rowling’s lazy use of Nazi signifiers for a similarly long time, I never put those two things together before). Anyway, I’m going to be posting more about this in the next couple of weeks as I try and write the paper up more seriously – I got some excellent leads at the conference.

  3. Tammie says:

    hi there, i’ve been following your post and the website to try to find something for my summative on the ministry of magic being a totalitarian regime, linking nazism to that of voldemort and a lesser extent fudge and totalitarian dictators. but now that the conference is convened and ended, i would like to see your content. hmmmm…i hardly have time to watch tv and do my exams and write this essay though reading the books over is rather fun and time consuming

    • nowandrome says:

      Hi Tammie! I’m hoping to write the paper up seriously for an academic journal, which will mean about a year till it get published, probably. In the meantime, some places to start – which I basically got by googling ‘harry potter nazis’, so it shouldn’t be too hard to replicate my ‘research’ – would be:

      this Leaky Cauldron essay by vick_hpfan on links between the series and Nazi Germany, and this one by WaggaWaggaWerewolf, which cite similar evidence but come to different conclusions; this Dateline interview with JKR from after the seventh book came out; the Leaky Cauldron’s transcript of the Carnegie Hall interview, in which JKR says she consciously based the Ministry on the Nazi regime (among others); this archived Wall Street Journal article comparing Fudge to Neville Chamberlain; and this transcription/translation of a Spanish-language interview in which JKR confirms that Chamberlain was the model for Fudge. Good luck!

      • Tammie says:

        hey ika guess what i got an 86% for the essay!!! yess, hope yours goes super well!

  4. Tammie says:

    mymy i can’t believe that i have quite a few of common information gathered as you; consistent search engine :> thank you so much for your help and super fast reply Ika. I’m sure your upcoming journal would be a great read!

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