I feel that I have to start out by praising Swastika Night. This is by far my favorite of all the books that we have read so far in class. There is so much depth in this book that I am sad that we only have one class period to cover it.
One of the things that interested me most about this novel is the ideas about religions that are present. As I was reading the novel I looked up some of the names associated with the deity figure of Hitler. One of his associates who I found most intriguing was Goebbels, who had also been recorded as a legend among the Germans. Goebbels was the Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, and his policy (I found debate about whether this was actually his policy or someone else’s), was that a lie repeated often and forcibly gains legitimacy as truth. This was fascinating to me because it reminds me so much of religion. I don’t intend to persecute religion in this blog, but religion has severe impacts on people.
People look for something to believe in beyond themselves, and religion is a great way to control people. That is not to say that all religions are lies, but that people tend to use religion as a means to whatever end they see fit. That is why there are books that are not included in the Bible, why pagan mythology is integrated into the Christian religion, and why in the Hitlerian society women are only above worms and Christian women. The Germans wanted a society that was dominated by men and manliness and to do this, women are pushed out of the picture. The Germans then used religion to create a perfect deity who had no connections to femininity at all “Who was not begotten, not born of a woman, but exploded” (Burdekin 5). And by using this model of creation women became disposable to society. I imagine that anyone who openly opposed the myth of Hitler in this tyrannical society is forced to correct themselves after being severely punished. After a time it seems only natural that this would become truth, and I think it works this way with many religions.
Something else that struck me in terms of religion was the way that the Hitlerian religion borrowed so heavily from the Christian mythology that they despised so much. In the Hitler Bible Roehm is a traitor, and von Hess describes him as a “Judas” saying, “Judas is in the Christian religion. The friend of Jesus who betrayed him.Roehm was a man who either did rebel against Hitler soon after he came to power, or did not rebel and was killed for some other reason” (Burdekin 137). There are so many areas of overlap between the two religions, yet there is so much hate between the two. This is present in the real world in terms of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all of whom incorporate the Abraham arc into their religion. I found looking at the Hitlerian religion comparatively with Christianity was fascinating because it parallels so much with religious conflict in society, and I think this is intentional.
Burdekin’s novel has so much to say about society, and I find it amazing that some of what she is critiquing or commenting on, like religion, still is so relevant today.
Burdekin, Katharine. Swastika Night. The Feminist Press, 1985.