Harry Potter and the Third Reich
Written by Caroline
We all know how much J.K. Rowling loves to put hidden meanings behind pretty much everything she writes – from the names of spells (Avada Kedavra for one) to people’s names (Remus Lupin, anyone?), to character’s actions and personality traits (Sirius Black’s bark-like laugh, Snape’s billowy gliding, and Ron’s jokes). But is the entire series a metaphor for something far grander than just your average Good vs Evil? Could Ms. Rowling, whether purposefully or not, have created an allegory for the Nazi movement? All the evidence certainly seems to point to this as a definite possibility. Let’s investigate, shall we?
First of all, there is the obvious use of Voldemort as a symbol for Hitler. Not only is he of mixed blood, but he also has a ruthless need to wipe out all who offend him, for whatever reason. Most of these people he wishes to be rid of are “Mudbloods” or “Half-bloods”, witches and wizards born into Muggle families or who are half-Muggle. Though Voldemort himself is of half-breeding, he uses that to fuel his hatred for Mugglekind. We do not know all of the circumstances of Voldemort’s youth, but we do know that it was an unhappy one, and though he was very clever, he was fraught with the burden of carrying his Muggle father’s name – the father who abandoned Voldemort and his mother when he found out she was a witch. This incident would certainly be enough to increase Voldemort’s distaste for the non-magic world.
The Death Eaters, Voldemort’s followers, are not only a terrifying clan of hooded evildoers, but they are also a representation of the Nazis. Hitler’s followers also wore very particular uniforms and used unusual salutes. While the SS preferred the one-armed salutation, the Death Eaters have a burning one-armed salutation (think tattoo). There is a sense of blind loyalty that accompanies many of these Death Eaters and also a sense of enjoying watching the “inferior” wizards be tortured. At the
Quidditch World Cup, for one, a family of Muggles were levitated and humiliated by a group of Death Eaters for laughs. It is a well-known fact that Nazis often took it upon themselves to mortify the occasional passing Jew or other minority just for kicks. (By the way, the standard for what makes someone a “Mudblood” or “Half-blood” generally falls under the same standards for what made someone a Jew during the Nazi reign.)
If everyone in Ms. Rowling’s magical world represents something from the Third Reich, then the Daily Prophet most definitely symbolizes the propaganda used during the Second World War (speaking of which, isn’t the current Good vs Evil movement the SECOND wizarding war? Interesting…). If this is the case, then Rita Skeeter must be Fritz Hippler and Cornelius Fudge is Joseph Goebbels. Fudge controls exactly what is read in the Prophet, and Rita writes it (well, wrote it, before she was unemployed). Goebbels was the commissioner of propaganda in the 1930’s and 40’s, and Hippler was a filmmaker for him (look up The Eternal Jew – Hippler directed it).
Of course, this leaves us wondering what our favorite trio of underage wizards stands for. Since there are two boys, Ron and Harry, and one girl, Hermione, in this group and they are most certainly working toward the resistance movement, they could easily be an allegory for the White Rose. In the early days of Hitler’s power, two young men and one young woman started a resistance organization called Die Weisse Rose, or the White Rose. They used pamphlets and fliers to try to gain support for the anti-Nazi cause, much like Hermione persuaded Harry to use The Quibbler to gain support for his telling the truth about Voldemort’s return. In addition, the Order of the Phoenix itself can be considered a metaphor for the larger partisan groups during the reign of Hitler…such as the Warsaw Ghetto fighters or those who escaped from the Sobibor death camp (talking of death camps, doesn’t Azkaban seem rather concentration camp-esque to you? In the third film, Gary Oldman as Sirius Black very much resembles a concentration camp victim).
Other symbols include the use of the Dark Mark, which could easily parallel the swastika, and the basilisk. It’s a stretch, but a deadly beast that targets only those who pose a threat to the purity of the world Voldemort hopes to build? Sounds like a gas chamber to me. Lastly, the use of a Secret-Keeper by the Potters when they were in hiding reminds one of the use of the secret annex (the word “secret” used in both
terms only reinforces this) when the Franks went into hiding to avoid being captured.
Ms. Rowling rarely does anything by accident, and on many occasions she has mentioned how like Hitler Voldemort is. But does she even realize just how similar their entire situations are? Who can ever tell what’s going on in her brilliant mind? At any rate, it poses yet another question for our already suspense-filled heads: The Allies won WWII, this is true… but will she put a twist on the happy ending? The only thing to do now is to wait, watch, and cross our fingers.
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