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The number one least-favorite baby name worldwide? Adolf.
The second definition of the word ‘nazi’ in the dictionary? – An evil person who wants to use power to control and harm others.
Favorite term worldwide for repressive regimes or police forces? The Gestapo.
Common slang terms for young fanatics? Hitler youth, Brownshirts.
Negative word applied to all political ads and marketing? Propaganda.
I could go on – but you get the point. With just a few examples you can see how even the terminology, the very speech itself, that the Nazis used has become rife with derogatory meanings. To call someone a Nazi today is a deep insult, implying the absolute worst in human behavior.
And if you think about it, the defeat of the Nazis in 1945 has resounded throughout the world ever since. Their ideology instantly became completely radioactive; and with the exception of a few fringe racist groups here and there, has virtually disappeared from the world stage. Fascism still rears its ugly head in various places under other names – oligarchy, absolutism, dictatorship, totalitarianism – but many of the world’s governments and peoples have slowly but steadily moved away from the Nazi belief systems of racial superiority, eugenics and iron-fisted national supremacy since its ignominious defeat. Fully discredited as a philosophy or a viable political stance or even a way of looking at the world, Nazism can now be buried with all of the other obsolete, morally bankrupt and hideously corrupt human inventions.
It took an enormous amount of human effort, sacrifice and pain to make that happen.
We can all take heart from one positive after-effect, however. As a species, we now understand what such ignorant and blind fanaticism can do; and that horrifying example, hopefully, will continue to educate us and make the Nazi phenomena that much harder to repeat or replicate.
Those who understand the implications of this statement, one of Baha’u’llah’s most well-known, can also take heart:
It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens. – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 167.
The world has seen a strong resurgence of the symbols of positive growth and progressive world citizenship since those terrible Nazi years. There have been many such symbols, but I’ll end this series with one small but hopeful instance in one small town in Germany. Remember, from an earlier essay, when the Nazi “Reichsfuhrer of the SS” Heinrich Himmler outlawed the Baha’i Faith in 1937, and the Nazis tore down the monument that memorialized Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to Germany? Take a look at this newspaper report from 2007:
BAD MERGNTHEIM, Germany — A Baha’i memorial removed when the Nazis were in power has been restored by municipal authorities in this resort town in southern Germany. The stone commemorates the visit in 1913 of Abdu’l-Baha, the successor of Baha’u’llah as head of the Baha’i Faith.
The original memorial was erected in 1916 but removed in 1937 at a time when the Baha’i Faith was outlawed by the Nazis.
Abdu’l-Baha took an extended trip to Europe, North America and back to Europe between 1911 and 1913 and took a side trip from Stuttgart to Bad Mergentheim – a small, quiet town known for its health spa – on April 7-8, 1913. He spent the night there at the invitation of Consul Albert Schwarz, a government official who was the owner of the hotel and mineral bath and also a member of the Baha’i community.
The new memorial was unveiled earlier this month, on 7 April, by Mayor Lothar Barth accompanied by Dr. Bahman Solouki, a representative of the Baha’i community of Germany.
“Bad Mergentheim can be proud that Abdu’l-Baha came here,” the mayor said at the ceremony. “The Baha’i Faith is one of the six major world religions — there is no other way to put it — and this should be honored accordingly.” He continued: “I consider this a good sign. It shows that in Bad Mergentheim we are a tolerant society, that we integrate people of different faiths in our town and are cosmopolitan enough for that.”
Sussan Rastani, a Baha’i who lives in Bad Mergentheim, thanked local authorities for putting up the monument. “In these times of religious intolerance and even religious fanaticism, it is exemplary of the town authorities and the resort administration to re-erect this memorial stone in remembrance of Abdu’l-Baha, who served as an example of love and tolerance towards all.