Donald Trump has once again called undocumented immigrants "animals." Juan Cole writes that Trump's use of the word has uncomfortable echoes of Adoph Hitler's use of the term untermensch or "underman:"
“Animal” functions similarly in this regard to the Nazi technical term “Untermensch” or underman, subhuman.
Richard A Etlin in Art, Culture, and Media under the Third Reich translates passages from the infamous SS pamphlet of 1941, entitled Der Untermensch:
“It is a frightening creature, a mere shadow of a man, with humanoid racial features, yet spiritually and psychologically more base than any animal. Within this being rages a vile chaos of wild, uncontrolled passions, a nameless desire for destruction, the most primitive desires, and naked vulgarity.”
The pamphlet goes on to be more specific about the identity of this horrible category of apparent human beings, who are actually animals or worse. It specifies eastern Slavs (Russians and Poles) and Jews, among others. Not even some members of those groups, but all of them. The pamphlet functioned as a call for and a justification for the genocide against the Jews, Gypsies, gays and other groups as well as the slaughter of Russian boys at the eastern Front.
That is, denigrating people as less than human is a step toward permitting their elimination.
It is, perhaps, too easy to use the Hitler analogy these days. But make no mistake. Like Hitler, Trump believes there are certain groups of people who are subhuman. Once there is growing public acceptance of that notion, it is only a small step to making their elimination government policy.
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