I was reading Martyn Whittock’s ‘A Brief History of The Third Reich – The Rise and Fall of the Nazis’ the other day and was amused at the stark social and political similarities between the Nazi Germany and the Pakistani state policies. The 9th chapter of the book deals with subject of Jewish persecution in the Reich and there were quite visible similarities between some of the developments that took place in the Germany of 1930s and the ones that took place earlier this year in Pakistan.
According to Whittock, there were about 500,000 Jews living in Germany in 1933, which made roughly 0.5 percent of the total German population. But the people hated them. In the medieval Germany, and rest of the Europe, the hatred for the Jews was driven primarily by religious sentiments of the public but they were hated for economic reasons too. Being the only community allowed to lend money for interest, the Jews were despised by the common people.
The Jews, due to the constant persecution spanning over centuries in Europe, had by and large given up on the labour work and were more interested in self-employment. As a result, they became the convenient target of all the hate and resentment as a reason for the economic woos of the Germans after the two great depressions of the 19th century.
So when the 1929 Wall Street crash hit the global market, Nazis took full advantage of the situation and took their propaganda against the Weimar Republic to a new extreme. Hundreds of thousands of people went out of jobs and all the anger was directed towards the Weimar Republic, which was as helpless in the face of the adversity as an average German worker, and the Jews, who, according to Nazis, were responsible for the economic upheaval.
Nazis took the general anti-Semitism of Europe to a new level by introducing the race into the mix. The Aryan-White race was considered to be the supreme caste of the society while Slavs, Gypsies, Asians and Africans were considered the lower classes; worst of all were the Jews. This new class system made the conditions even worse for the already persecuted Jewish community. Their businesses and properties were confiscated by the SA – and later SS – workers with impunity. When Nazis came to power, Jews owned about 100,000 businesses across the country but by mid-1938, the number had fallen to some 30,000 businesses. Most of the businesses were ransacked either by the government or the local Nazi officers or the competing businessmen affiliated with the Nazi party.
What happened during the war was a nightmare of a different magnitude altogether but let’s not get into that for now. Let’s just focus on the part mentioned above and the discrimination certain minorities face in Pakistan. We all know how Ahmadis are hated for the enterprises they own. The bakery a certain Ahmadi owns is a target of hate for no reason but the beliefs of its owner. Ordinary workers even in Pakistan can cause havoc if provided little support by the local officials or government representatives. The Chakwal incident from December 2016 can be cited as an example. It’s just that we haven’t yet been hit by an economic recession of the magnitude that the German people had suffered from. And that’s only because we were never industrialised to such an extent to be hit too heavily by any stock market crash. Wonder what would have happened if the country was hit by such an economic crisis.
But most glaring example would be that of Mashal Khan. In January 2017, four prominent social media activists were unlawfully abducted by the state institutions and they were charged with blasphemy allegations. Why they were picked up in the first place is a different story but certain media persons, a few Facebook pages and the then interior minister of the country continuously kept flaring up the religious sentiments in order to justify the blatant violation of a basic human right. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan held numerous press conferences trying to prove that blasphemous posts on Facebook by certain individuals were something that needed to be dealt with an iron hand. On April 13, a student at a Mardan university was lynched by an angry mob over unproven charges of blasphemy. It’s not that there was a coherent blueprint for Mashal’s murder in all that Nisar was doing; it’s just an example of how a narrative built by the state can actually embolden the bigots already present in the society and help certain people achieve their vested interests by eliminating their competition in the name of religion, just like local Nazi supporters seized Jewish businesses when the state encouraged Jewish persecution.