American History X

Good evening people. This is my second entry for the blog and I´d like to dedicate it to the American movie classic “American History X“. Strangely enough, that movie was the first thing that popped into my mind when thinking about Nazi ideologies. The scene with Edward Norton in his underwear breaking a black man’s neck on the boardwalk will forever stay with me, I can assure you. I think the film is a good example of how dangerous the modern neo- nazi culture is. Edward Norton´s character, Derek, becomes a skinhead after his father, a police officer, has been killed. He finds a father substitute in Cameron, a hardcore anti- Semite and sympathizer of nazi ideology. Together with a group of rowdies and extremists, Derek threatens and terrorizes foreigners in his neighborhood in Venice Beach Kalifornia; until getting imprisoned for killing two black men, who were trying to steal his car. The prison fundamentally changes Derek´s way of thinking and he decides to quit with the neo- nazi gang. But his younger brother starts to show some interest for Cameron and his fellows…

american hitory x


The aspect of the movie that made me reflect the most, was the part toward the end where the viewer is shown a flashback in which he understands that  Derek´s father was a racist himself, making a racial statement about his black teacher. This brief scene doesn’t only make the audience understand why Derek has become a neo- nazi but made me also reflect on the story of real life right extremists. It would be too easy to generalize and say that all neo- nazis come from a troubled social background, although in some cases that might be true. But if we take the german extremist gang NSU (Nationalsozialitischer Untergrund) who was responsible for killing ten people and have a closer look at its single members, it becomes clear that one cannot blame an ult- right tendency on the social background. While Beate Zschäpe´s childhood was very simple, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt had a middle-class background. The same can be said about American ex- white supremacist Arno Michaelis. I was watching an interview of his the other day which left me stunned. It was the classic story- an aggressive child feels alienated from society and starts to idealize a bunch of skinheads, with which it tries to save the “white race”. Although Michaelis claims that he comes from a troubled household where emotional abuse was happening on a daily basis, the ex- radical admits that his neo- nazi background cannot be blamed on that. After all, not every troubled child becomes a neo- nazi and some young adults from settled social backgrounds on the other hand- as we have seen- do.

It is very difficult to understand where the exact reasons for right- extremism lies. According to a theory by Theodor Adorno,  prejudice is one of the fundamental aspects of an authoritative character. People that have that kind of characteristics are more likely to follow powers and other authoritarian voices. But after all, this is just a theory and cannot e taken for a fact. Whatever makes people fall for the neo- nazi trap, the important thing is that in some cases like the one of Arno Michaelis or even Derek in America History X, they manage to see the danger and the stupidity and eventually break out of the movement.




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