by Lee Cross
In the wars littered throughout history, there are no Saints… well, actually, there are, real ones, and loads of them, anointed by one faith or another (isn’t that weird – but I’m not going to touch that).
Of all those bad guys though, no one group appears more in books than the Nazi’s. Aside from the obvious, as antagonists in books about the Second World War, they appear as fantastically old men, cryogenically frozen remnants, genetically engineered super soldiers, psychology conditioned children, time-travelers, Zombies, men possessing supernatural abilities… I can’t actually think of any vampire Nazi’s off the top of head, but that probably just means I’ve been lucky enough to miss those particular books.
What is it that makes Nazi’s such quintessential bad guys?
Well for a start, and with the clear view of hindsight, they are undisputedly evil. Usually, you can spin up stories in a lot of different directions, but you’d do well produce something that painted Hitler and the lads in a positive light.
Taking the Ancient-Egyptians as a counterpoint, they committed innumerable atrocities… but they built the pyramids, which anyone will tell you is pretty cool (even though most people can’t tell you how they were built); you’d do well to spin up a story, which gave props to The National Socialist Party, for revitalizing the German economy (or some other achievement).
A big part of this is their proximity in history; the statement, “what have you done for me lately”, can easily be switched to, “what have you done to me lately”. Gosh knows how the peoples of a thousand years from now will remember the 1940s – surely there won’t be any recasting in a more favorable light – but who truly knows what tomorrow will bring.
Writers love to cast Nazi’s as storybook villains, because in a lot of ways that was how they behaved. These were people obsessed with the perfect, blonde haired, blue-eyed, Superman… have you ever seen images of the German high command? …and they proclaimed to be patriotically homophobic… and racist… and bigoted… and monstrous.
They were fantastically hypocritical, and there isn’t an easier group to cast in a negative light, than the self-deluded.
Then there is the language, although this applies more to movies. When you don’t understand a bloody word, it actually sounds very forceful, and slightly angry (although we probably have this opinion because of what we have seen in movies). I’ll just leave this point with a quote from Dylan Moran, who said the German language, “sounds like typewriters, eating tin foil, being kicked down the stairs”.
Another idea I think we have from movies is the perceived links to the occult… the internet loves this shit and, true or false, it’s so easy to believe because it’s a rumour that’s been around for decades. I’d speculate that Mister’s Lucas, Spielberg and Jones, deserve a huge shout out here, for the wonderful influence impact they had on the imaginations of children; who have grown into the writers of today.
How much longer will Nazi’s continue to regularly appear? Well, who knows; it’s nearly 60 years since the Third Reich came to its end, but characters inspired by its legacy still pop up all the time. Noticeably, they more and more become figures of Fantasy and Sci-Fi, but given that genre is very much on the rise at the moment, it seems likely that these ultimate bad guys will continue on long past the memory of their actual time and crimes.
One thought on “Nazi’s… the Ultimate Bad Guys in Writing”
I’d also add that Nazi’s pop up in fantasy and Science Fiction as a way to ground the story telling, they are usually the villains that remind audiences that people can be just as evil as say, ghosts or nefarious aliens.