Pivotal elections for the European Union parliament reach their climax Sunday as the last 21 nations go to the polls and results are announced in a vote that boils down to a continentwide battle between euroskeptic populists and proponents of closer EU unity.
Right-wing nationalists who want to slash immigration into Europe and return power to national governments are expected to make gains, though mainstream parties are expected to hold onto power in the 751-seat legislature that sits in both Brussels and Strasbourg.
Salvini vs Macron
Leading the challenge to the established order is Italy’s hard-line interior minister, Matteo Salvini, head of the League party, who is assembling a group of like-minded parties from across Europe.
“We need to do everything that is right to free this country, this continent, from the illegal occupation organized by Brussels,” Salvini told a rally in Milan last weekend that was attended by the leaders of 11 nationalist parties.
Proponents of stronger EU integration, led by French President Emmanuel Macron, argue that issues like climate change and reining in immigration are simply too big for any one country to tackle alone.
Macron, whose country has been rocked in recent months by the populist yellow vest movement, has called the elections “the most important since 1979 because the (European) Union is facing an existential risk” from nationalists seeking to divide the bloc.
Sunday promises to be a long day and night for election watchers — the last polls close at 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) in Italy, but the European Parliament plans to begin issuing estimates and projections hours earlier with the first official projection of the makeup of the new parliament at 11:15 p.m. (2115 GMT).
Right-wing populists top opinion polls in two of the big four member states — Italy and supposedly exiting Britain — and could also win in a third, France, rattling a pro-Union campaign championed by centrist Macron.
However, exit polls in some countries that have already voted have given pro-EU parties some comfort. The Dutch Labour party, all but written off, looks to have finished first, helped by the visibility of having the EU socialists’ lead candidate, current EU deputy chief executive Frans Timmermans.
In the Netherlands pro-Union parties scored 70%, up three points on the last European Parliament vote in 2014, and left the upstart anti-immigration party of Thierry Baudet fourth at 11%.
The Dutch also turned out in bigger numbers, albeit at just 41%, reinforcing hopes in Brussels of reversing a 40-year trend of declining turnout that critics cite as a “democratic deficit” that undermines the legitimacy of European Union lawmaking.
An exit poll after Friday’s vote in deeply pro-EU Ireland pointed to an expected “Green Wave.” Across the bloc, concerns about climate change and the environment may bolster the pro-EU Greens group and could mean tighter regulations for industry and for the terms the EU may set for partners seeking trade accords.
As the dust settles on four days of elections, European leaders will begin the task of selecting candidates for the top jobs in the EU’s headquarters in Brussels. The leaders meet for a summit over dinner Tuesday night.
The legacy of anti-colonial freedom fighter Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s activities in Berlin, with Heinrich Himmler by his side, resonated deeply with Indian nationalists back home; especially the ones, who were interested in an armed resistance, much unlike Mahatma Gandhi’s pacifist non-violent struggle. After India achieved independence in 1947, and with the subsequent strange disappearance of Netaji in a supposed aircraft disaster (denied by the government of Taiwan, later), the interest of Indians in the Nazi ideology and mode of functioning, should have died a natural death. Instead, as time has passed, India’s fascination with wartime Germany has irrepressibly bloomed into mirth, freely expressed by obsequious Right Wing Sanghis, and armchair anti-intellectuals, alike. “Only a dictator like Hitler can save the day!” “Iron rule, Nazi style, is what the country needs!” are not uncommonly dished out opinions. This starry-eyed reverence of ours, with a foreign administration that nearly destroyed half of the world, needs a deeper examination.
It is not ungodly to love those, that love us back. Perhaps Indian Hindus’ fixation with Germany, has arisen out of this symbiotic relationship. There are no dearth of German natives, who show an unusual interest in the ancient history and ethos of India. Many emigrate or take great pains in touring this country, ending up in one or the other camp of some Himalayan guru, holed up in India’s northern mountains, deliberating over yoga lessons, and interpretation of India’s sacred Hindu texts. But how can a seemingly innocent interest in India by the people holding a certain citizenship, harmonize with ideas of crude nationalism, that go so far as deifying one of the most hated figures of the last century? In the town of Nagpur, centrally located on the map of India, there stands a building with the brazen name of: Hitler’s Den. It has swastika graffiti all over the walls, and is festooned with symbols of Nazi glory. An Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, made the pertinent observation in 2017. The image is incongruous with this nation’s erstwhile role, as the leader of the NAM (Non-Aligned Movement), which had straddled the Cold War, and established peaceful co-existence as one of its founding principles.
An indigenous movement, praising Germany’s classical past, and exhorting her people to assemble around the Volkisch, folk elements of her pre-Christian history, had taken root in the 19th century. Magazines like Ostara, had become wildly popular, calibrating a rising sentiment of nationalism, with notions of blood, land, identity, athleticism, and hygiene. None of this would have been odd, had it not drawn the attention of a young man, who was in the process of becoming a disgruntled, failed businessman of water colours and oil paintings. From his adolescent years, Hitler visited Volk festivals, and read more than a few copies of the Ostara. The harmless ideas, would fuel his later injunctions of insular patriotism. Disturbingly enough, that insular patriotism would superimpose pseudo scientific social Darwinism, over Germanic folklore and the tradition of magic. Nazi academic Alfred Rosenberg in his rambling account of history titled ‘The Myths Of The 20th Century’ (Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts) detailed much of Nazi beliefs.
Himmler and former German Air Force pilot Hermann Goering, were practicing anti-Christian mystics, who placed their faith in astrology, numerology, and the teachings of eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. On certain days of the week, Himmler refrained from eating meat, so he could honour the Hindu tradition of Ahimsa, or non-violence. It is interesting, that meat eating was prevalent in Hinduism, until the rise of Buddhism. Once the latter began to steal the flock of the Hindu order in the name of non-violence towards all living creatures, alarmed Brahmins invented the idea of a meat-free Hinduism, hoping to win back converts. Since then, the Sanaatan tradition of India’s ancient identity, has preserved the (borrowed) habit of preferring vegetarianism over omnivorism.
Himmler’s fascination with ancient India and Hinduism; in concurrence with Hitler’s decades old interest in Pagan German occultism; made for a macabre order; where racialist ideas were embellished over legitimate polytheistic beliefs, to create an odd medley, that would satisfy the Nazi party’s need for a new religion. It was to be a religion that instead of worshipping a Palestinian deity, Christ; would instead focus on the rooted divinities of Germanic peoples.
As an artist of postcards, the young Adolf would wander the back alleys of Vienna, spending the money he had earned from his paintings, eating cream pastries – a favourite of his – visiting the occasional brothel (from where he contracted lifelong syphilis), and practicing yoga in his spare time. As Peter Watson points out in ‘An Intellectual History Of The 20th Century’. For years afterwards, the budding dictator would take great pains in explaining to his audience, how he drew spiritual inspiration from the Indo-Aryan sages of Hindu India, along with the classical philosophers of the Greco-Roman Age.
Hitler’s tithe paying Catholicism was a political gimmick, just as Constantine the Great’s had been. He dreamed of dismantling Christianity as soon as the Nazis had Europe in the palm of their hands. He was hoping to replace Christianity, with his party’s pastiche of pro-pagan beliefs.
But Hitler’s relationship with India was far more complex as we shall soon see. It was ultimately, a victim of his own racial policies.
Germanic-Scandinavian Polytheism is a vibrant system of beliefs, that unlike its fellow European counterparts, never fully made a departure. The rural populations of Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, along with those in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland, have essentially maintained intact, large portions of their pre-Christian rituals. Donar’s Oak, the sacred tree which influenced Christianity’s Christmas Tree; and which was ultimately mutilated and destroyed by the Christian fundamentalist monk Boniface; the Poetic Edda, religious ceremonies known as ‘Blots’ (pronounced as BLOW+T); and the mysterious Runic script which remains one of the most fascinating patterns of writing known to archaeologists, have always been close to the souls of the simple masses of western and northern Europe.
It were these benign symbols of ancestral faith that the Third Reich sought to exploit, manifold. Modern Germanic-Scandinavian Heathenism goes by the name of ‘Asatru’, but no right-thinking (pun unintended) practitioner, would want to conflate it with the twisted thought process of the Third Reich.
Hitler and his inner circle were not only consumed and infatuated with the Indo-Aryan roots of Hinduism, they looked upon the two holiest fixtures of Norse and Icelandic Paganism, the Sacred ‘Yggdrasil’ tree and the Runic script, as items with magical powers. Insane efforts were made to wring out the same using dark occultist practices, which were then harvested for gains to the Third Reich. In his well-researched book ‘Hitler’s Religion: The Twisted Beliefs That Drove The Third Reich’, author Richard Weikart exposes the Nazi Party for what it really was constituted of; Superstitious itinerants, with a penchant for the irrational. In their hands, Norse-Germanic Heathenism was turned into a mockery of itself, and Hinduism’s Swastika, came to be forever intertwined with the spectre of dehumanization and injustice. This is certainly not what the ancients would have foreseen.
For many modern Hindus, irrespective of ideology, Fascism has come to rest as a desirable method of administration. The love story between Germany’s esoteric existentialists like Frederick Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Arthur Schopenhauer, and the German-American J. Robert Oppenheimer among many others, and Classical Hinduism, which was essentially an Indo-Aryan way of life, is always worth retelling. But such a convenient relationship, cannot be without its riders.
It is a little known fact, that Hitler had a personal meeting with the Palestinian Muslim leader Amin Al-Husseini, who had pledged the support of the Islamic world, to ‘The Final Solution’ which was scripted to force millions of Jews to meet their death. Under the watchful eyes of SS leaders like Heinrich Himmler, Bosnian Muslims had been inducted into the German Fascist Army and indoctrinated for the subsequent pogroms on Jews, East Europeans, Homosexuals, and the Roma (Gypsies).
Gypsies are of North and North-West Indian descent. Around the tenth century, they had made their way across the caravan routes of West Asia, to Eastern Europe. Through the centuries due to inter-marriage with local Europeans, the South Asian DNA may have been diluted, but it is present nevertheless. How do Nazi loving Indians hope to circumnavigate the difficult topic of their revered figures, putting to death thousands of Roma in gas chambers, remains to be seen. If these Indians happen to be those that bear an unreasonable hatred of our minority Muslims, how will they explain Hitler’s fond association with Amin Al-Husseini? What do they have to say about the admiration of Indo-Aryan liturgy, by a group of people, who have come to embody the evils of genocide?