Gunnar Gunnarsson and the Nazis

“Nazi” — the word means so many things that it is close to meaningless, and that’s a problem, because the real Nazis were a group of vicious, dangerous thugs with an ideology that continues to attract a disturbing number of people worldwide. Nazism should be strenuously guarded against, because its outcome is misery and chaos. So, let’s use it accurately, as the first line of defence against its resurgence and the first act of understanding the complexity and diversity of what went on in Germany during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, and what is still going on around the world. To set the record straight, Gunnar used this sheepfold …


to sort sheep as part of communal activity. In contrast, Nazis used this pen …

p1140486Nazi Zoo at Buchenwald

… to stage bear fights, as a lesson to new guards about the need to have no squeamishness about violence against Russian prisoners and communists, who, after all, were “Russian bears” and “beasts” were known in Nazi ideology to be politically self destructive, and used the electrified fences of the camp (right beside the zoo and visible in the upper left of the image) to herd people and spiritually and physically destroy them. Today I am writing an essay about the complicated relationship between Gunnar and the Nazis, but, ultimately it is as simple as the difference between these two types of fences and the uses to which they were put.


4 thoughts on “Gunnar Gunnarsson and the Nazis

    1. Harold Rhenisch Post author

      Thanks for the link. I read it thoroughly and with enjoyment while creating my post. Guilt by association, I find, obscures some far more interesting and dynamic stories, including that of Gunnar the Skjald, in the old sense. That would be a good thing to write a post about. Thanks for nudging me towards clarity. It’s going to be a region of shadows, mind you, rather than one of stark black and white contrasts. Humans are complex. Gunnar was more complex than most.

  1. Dr. Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson

    A member of the Nordische Gesellschaft, a man who gives lectures for the SS in 1940, a individual who visits Hitler, is in my opinion not complex. A person like that, if not a Nazi, is a very simple personality. The word “Nazi” has definitely not become meaningless to the families of those who lost their loved ones because of all the Germans who voted Hitler to power. “Nationalsozialismus”, former and present admirations of that ideology are still at large, partly because people believe the Nazis only were thugs. Any supporter of National Socialism in the Arts and sciences contributed to the Holocaust and the deaths of millions of other people during WWII.

    1. Harold Rhenisch Post author

      To be fair, Gunnar was a member of the Nordische Gesellschaft before it was nationalized. That he did not quit is proof of naivetée but not of Nazism. It could conceivably be (and likely is) a strong indication of right wing sensibilities. I suggest that he stayed in order to attempt to maintain influence (and likely income, but influence mainly,) which he hoped to cash in for support of his Nordic Reich idea, as late as March 1940, with the goal of preventing war between the Nordic states. After that, Gunnar saw the light. To say that the Germans voted Hitler to power is not entirely the case. To be fair, hiis support was beginning to wane when the Reichstag appointed him chancellor, thinking they could contain him. He never received majority support until he was in power. After that, well, dissidents were put into camps or otherwise silenced. Wiechert, for example. I suggest that Gunnar was using his popularity with the German Propaganda Ministry for his own purposes, and directed his books after 1928 to influence the German people through it, while Hitler was using Gunnar’s folk motifs and belief in a Nordic Reich to try to win Scandinavia without a fight, and when Hitler gave up on that outcome, and when it was clear that a great reversal was at hand in Russia, and Gunnar’s books should have been pulled from publication as their purpose was no longer valid, production increased. I think that was because dissidents buried within the Ministry were publishing them because they had noticed that, as Gunnar had intended, they could be read by anyone depending on their individual circumstances; what were being read as calls to war were now being read as guides to retreat. If Gunnar was playing games anything like this, and I believe he was, he was not a simple man. In terms of his ability to read social circumstances, his life story indicates he was indeed a bit foolish, but he’s far from alone in that and that is more the human condition than a crime. That Gunnar thought the Nordic people were superior is not unique to him, nor are such beliefs the sole territory of Nazis. As for National Socialism, I’ll go with Lukacs, that it is the dominant form of world government today and has been since 1941 or 1942. What is commonly referred to as “Nazi” is something else, something that could be identified as being individually complicit in mass murder. Gunnar wasn’t even a National Socialist, though, only an Agrarian Socialist with a penchance for playing Lord of the Manor. All the while, he was playing the part of a skjald of old — a romantic fantasy, perhaps, but it was the age of romantic fantasies of all kinds, and why not, bureaucratic technical modernism is also a romantic fantasy and one that comes straight out of Nordic tropes. I doubt the NG had enough influence to contribute in any meaningful way to anything. Have you read the trash that they published? Can you think of anyone actually reading that stuff? The popularity of Gunnar’s books within the propaganda apparatus, now that’s a point it would be really useful to interview him on, because it is both ethically simple and ethically complex. It is out of such knots of encountering real binds that character is created.



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