After race history, the far-right is coming after World War II history

The Trump-led Republican Party has used its opposition to teaching the actual racial history of the United States in public schools to capture political power in Virginia and school boards across the nation. Using as a weapon the convenient but erroneous label of “critical race theory,” a niche college post-graduate level course not taught in any public school, the far-right is not stopping at banning outright or altering the teaching of European genocide of Native Americans; the Underground Railroad Emancipation, post-Civil War Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation laws, and the modern civil rights movement; and the era of McCarthyism. The right is also targeting the history of World War II and the almost universally-accepted justification for going to war against Nazi Germany. What the far-right is accomplishing with increased success is historical negationism, denialism, falsification, and revisionism. Legitimate educational institutions find themselves, quite needlessly, on the defensive. That has to change and fast. The right is not entitled to alter the historical record for its own racist, religious, and fascist purposes. Neither does the right possess license to promulgate nonsensical and easily debunked “alternate facts,” as Trump White House official Kellyanne Conway once put it to an astonished public.

The right, including Florida’s tinpot banana republic caudillo Ron DeSantis and Governor Greg Abbott, Texas’s personification of corruption and ignorance in a wheelchair, complain about the “wokeness” of the Democrats and progressives. These and other white nationalists are gaslighting the nation. It is they who are leading their own “woke” movement, one that recognizes that the United States and the Allies were wrong in declaring war against Nazi Germany. In weaponizing history, the right wants school children taught that if the United States had rejected the foreign policy of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in favor of the neutralist stance of the America First Committee and its leader, Charles Lindbergh, or the pro-Nazi German-American Bund, American war deaths could have been avoided. This same line of historical revisionism does not merely minimize Nazi crimes against humanity but suggests the atrocities never occurred in the first place.

What those who would re-write the history of the Second World War actually want is to get across to young minds that the world would have been much better place under a Pax Germania that would have rid the world of Communists, Bolsheviks, Jews, socialists, Marxists, Negroes, mulattoes, Slavs, the diseased, feminists, gypsies, homosexuals, and the physically and mentally handicapped. After all, Donald Trump said that those who believe in such notions were “fine people.” These “fine people” have now decided that they can bring about their desired white nationalist utopia by attacking the curricula taught from kindergarten to Grade 12 and beyond in community colleges and state-administered and state-funded colleges and universities. This line cannot be crossed and the educated among us must resist, at all costs, the right’s desire to re-write history.

Public school history teachers and college history professors are reporting being inundated with students questioning America’s involvement in World War II based on unfounded and unsourced tropes on the Internet that generally absolve the Third Reich and Axis from any responsibility for the war and the atrocities brought about by the Nazis and their allies. This questioning of the accurate historical record comes with a heavy dose of Holocaust revisionism, or worse, outright denialism.

In October 2021, an administrator for the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas, near Dallas, instructed teachers to include in their reading lists books that present “opposing views” of the Holocaust. This was nothing more than a hat tip to the far-right revisionists of history.

With very few World War II veterans left to condemn the right’s campaign to question America’s involvement in the conflict, the white nationalists see an opportunity to revise public school and state-supported college and university curricula to question the fight against fascism and cast World War II as an “unjust war” waged by the Allies. After all, Donald Trump and the Republicans have now become a fascist party, one that is united with other fascist leaders in Brazil, Hungary, India, and other countries in a new version of the Axis. Present curricula and lesson plans that stress the immoral wickedness and evil of fascism and Nazism are high on the target list after the unvarnished racial history in the United States is consigned to the rubbish piles and bonfires.

The dictatorship in George Orwell’s “1984,” a novel about a dystopian fascist future, used the slogan: “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” Even museums are now under pressure from right-wing donors to revise their presentations of World War II. At a seminar last November at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, the attack by the right on history curricula and museum exhibitions and programs was a recurring theme.

The right-wing Heritage Foundation has been at the forefront of attacking museums and the public funding they receive. American museums are not the only institutions facing right-wing attempts to modify exhibits and educational programs to satisfy a political agenda. This past December, the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM) held a conference at the Museum of Art in Lodz, Poland titled “Under Pressure: Museums in Times of Xenophobia and Climate Emergency.” Poland has experienced an attempt by the far-right to not only re-write history to please extremists but to question the very fundamentals of science, particularly climatology. The right-wing government of the inappropriately-named Law and Justice Party of Poland has not only purged the nation’s museums of “leftist” curators but has permitted exhibits having anti-Semitic themes to be featured. Similar right-wing revisionism is the rule rather than the exception in Lithuania, Hungary, Latvia, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and other countries. The website Defending History has called attention to the revisionism being advanced by governments and other interests. The American Historical Association has been forced to defend history professors who teach “contextual history” as an essential element of conveying accuracy based on widely-accepted facts and documentary evidence.

A manifestation of the influence of wealthy libertarians—keep in mind that libertarianism as expounded by the Club for Growth, Heartland Institute, and the Cato Institute is nothing more than fascism hiding behind a happy face—is that World War II is being re-written as Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin wrongfully forcing regime change on Germany, Italy, and other Axis nations. Revisionists like Pat Buchanan have ridiculously suggested that FDR was a member of the “Churchill cult” and was lulled into backing Britain in the war. Other right-wing revisionists pushing their own interpretations of World War II have even brazenly suggested that the Allied war crimes tribunals that saw a number of Nazi and Japanese war criminals convicted of crimes against humanity and executed were, themselves, crimes against humanity.

The libertarians and their ilk argue that it was illegal and immoral for the Allies to engage in policies of denazification of Germany, defascistification of Italy, and demilitarization of Japan. Multi-billionaires like Charles Koch, Peter Thiel, Rupert Murdoch, and Elon Musk who push their libertarian ideology but mask their respective Dutch, German, Australian WASP, and Afrikaner white nationalistic lineages would have every student believe that there were two reasonable sides to the World War II conflict and the “misunderstood Germans” never had a chance.

As early as 1989, there were signs that revisionists of history were deeply embedded in the Reagan and Bush administrations. That year, Secretary of Education Lauro Cavazos denied $70,000 in funding to a nonprofit group called Facing History and Ourselves. The group had developed a curriculum for eighth and ninth grade students that dealt with the Holocaust. The department decided to eliminate all funding for history in 1989 and with it, the Holocaust curriculum. An outside evaluator for the Holocaust course, Dr. Christina Price, criticized the curriculum because it failed to take into account the points of view of the Nazis and Ku Klux Klan! One of the Holocaust curriculum developers questioned the decision to defund the course, asking, “What in the world is the view of the Nazis, that it’s good to murder people?” Gina Peddy, the Carroll, Texas school district executive director of curriculum and instruction, was channeling Dr. Price when she said teachers had to teach the Holocaust from the point of view of Nazi deniers. It should come as no shock that Secretary Cavazos also hailed from Texas. The seeds of historical revisionism were planted in that state long before spreading the spores of hatred and ignorance to neighboring states in the South, Midwest, and Southwest.

Another Education Department official in 1989, Shirley Curry, told a hearing of a House subcommittee of the Government Operations Committee that she found the contents of the course material on the Holocaust inappropriate for eighth and ninth graders. These are some of the same trite arguments being used today by school boards and Republican politicians from Texas and Florida to Virginia and Tennessee. Current laws in Texas, Idaho, Florida, Tennessee, and other backwaters of education prohibit teachers from making white students feel ashamed, anguished, or psychologically distressed over past events. That includes the facts that Hitler was a great admirer of Jim Crow segregation in the South, that whites routinely massacred Native Americans, that whites leveled the affluent black district of Greenwood in Tulsa and murdered scores of its inhabitants, that whites similarly lynched African-Americans, that U.S. troops massacred Vietnamese civilians in My Lai, and that German-Americans attended in massive numbers Nazi rallies during the 1930s. They were bullshit arguments in 1989 just like they continue to be in 2022.

The Trump administration waged an incessant war on the historical truth. Trump halted federal funding for the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS). a signal that was avidly received and acted upon by the book banners and burners now rearing their ugly heads in school boards, state legislatures, municipal councils, and churches around the nation. Trump’s President’s Advisory 1776 Commission was a blatant attempt to re-write history. The commission’s report, issued on January 20, 2021, as Trump was reluctantly leaving the White House for his Florida retreat, ominously called for “patriotic education” based on a new pro-American curriculum. This set into motion the current wave of public school book bans and historical revisionism of lesson plans and reading lists. James Grossman of the American Historical Association said of the 1776 Commission report: “This report skillfully weaves together myths, distortions, deliberate silences, and both blatant and subtle misreading of evidence to create a narrative and an argument that few respectable professional historians, even across a wide interpretive spectrum, would consider plausible, never mind convincing . . . They’re using something they call history to stoke culture wars.” Outrageously, the 1776 report likened the women’s suffragette and early labor union movements, as well as the abolitionist and civil rights causes, to fascism.

With the very last survivors of the “Greatest Generation” and the Holocaust passing on, it is incumbent on every decent American to prevent the history of the war against fascism to be twisted by white nationalists, racists, and other ideological sub-species to become neutral on the Nazis and their allies or, even worse, praiseworthy for the likes of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Marshal Philippe Petain and Vichy, Vidkun Quisling, Subhas Chandra Bose, Sir Oswald Mosley, Fritz Kuhn, Francisco Franco and the Falangists, and the “Rush Limbaugh” of his era – Father Charles Coughlin. For the revisionists, Holocaust-denying historians Harry Elmer Barnes and David Irving are “in” and unvarnished historians like Howard Zinn and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. are “out.”

Fascism and Nazism must be shown as abhorrent anti-American ideologies in our school curricula, lesson plans, museums, and library programs. That is the way it has been and always should be in our nation. There can be no alternative. A war on history is nothing less than a war on democracy.

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

Copyright © 2022

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and nationally-distributed columnist. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).

One Response to After race history, the far-right is coming after World War II history

  1. Hahahaha what a bunch of bullshit. How fucking ignorant are you you unAmerican piece of shit? You asshole democrats are the ones trying to change history, remember pulling down statues, burning flags? Yeah though so. Go fuck yourself you democrat. Fuck the retard biden & fuck you for voting for him.