Sunday, August 15, 2004

Bizarre Nazi Triangles Part III -- Chile

Read Part I -- Introduction
Read Part II -- Brazil and Peru

Chile

The April 2004 edition of The Americas has an article by Marcus Klein on the relationship between Germans in Chile, Chile’s Fascist movement, and their role in anti-government activities.

Like other fascist parties, the Movimiento Nacional Socialista (hereafter Nacismo) formed in the wake of Hitler’s rise to power. The party’s admiration for the NSDAP could not have been more visible–or more problematic. Nacismo imitated Nazi symbols, mannerisms (like the salute), and organizations (they had their own version of the SA). However, emulation was mostly on the surface: in other ways the leaders of the party tried to develop their own ideology.

Nacismo was immediately popular with Chilean Germans who, on the one hand, wanted to preserve their German identities and on the other, were disturbed by recent successes of communism in Chile. German organizations (Klein points out the German youth groups in particular) worked closely with Nacismo, and Germans joined the party in large numbers.

Because of the outer imitation of NSDAP and the large presence of Germans, most Chileans felt that Nacismo was nothing more that an agent of the Third Reich that worked to undermine the nation. It was criticized as an import from Germany that did not represent Chile. Under pressure from the criticism, the leaders of Nacismo were forced to adapt: they defended the native roots of their party, and they dumped Nazi symbols in favor of Chilean. By 1937, Nacismo was still trying to prove itself: members had been involved in several violent incidents, and it was widely believed by both government and public that the party was directly supported by the Third Reich–both ideologically and financially–to overthrow the state.

Party head Gonazalez tried to distance Nacismo from Nazism. He became critical of Nazism and the Third Reich. He tried to realign Nacismo within the national political spectrum. He even criticized Chilean Germans. As Klein points out,
he increasingly distanced his movement from Nazism, avoiding, as a report of the German Embassy stated in August 1937, any identification with Nazi Germany, if only ‘ideational.’

If the German embassy believed that Nacismo was not its tool, the public did not. And at least one of the two charges against Nacismo were proven true. In 1937, a court claimed that the party was not trying to overthrow the government; in September 1938 it did try–its coup was a miserable failure.

As Nacismo nationalized itself, it distanced itself from the support that it received from Chilean Germans. The new emphasis on creole identity was not in keeping with the desire to preserve German identity. German organizations stopped working with Nacismo: the youth groups and the party went in different directions. Germans were still over-represented, but they were not attracted to it because it was an expression of identity:
[Germans] were proud of their origins and traditions and not willing to accept the Nacistas’ idea of complete cultural integration.
Nevertheless, the German presence within the party remained strong–not for reasons of identity, but for reasons of nationalism:
... ‘ethnic affiliation’ was less important than the ‘active participation’ in an organization that promised, as they saw it, a ‘better Chilean future.’
This might not be a ringing endorsement of Chilean Germans, but there affiliation with Nacismo would continually distance them from Nazi Germany and from a politics based on ethnic identity.

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