One of the great refrains of the right wing, anti-maskers, and anti-vaxxers in the United States these days is the old “Don’t Tread on Me” mantra made famous on the backs of pickup trucks driven by racist folks who couldn’t believe a Black president was elected into office. Along with pictures of President Obama sporting an Adolf Hitler mustache, the rhetoric of Democratic/Globalists* taking over the world and subjugating everyone to communism has morphed into all of the “culture war” battles that the GOP has used in lieu of having popular policy ideas. The most recent culture are attacking schools for mask requirements and businesses for vaccine requirements. The argument is that these medical decisions are being forced upon people by a fascistic federal and state government.** One might even say that the Democratic politicians are acting like the Nazis!
In 1874, the German empire began a mandatory vaccination program in the hopes of ending the scourge of smallpox. Called the Imperial Vaccination Law, it was so successful that it has been used by people promoting the public health efficacy of state-driven vaccination requirements. You can see the difference in smallpox deaths between Germany and its mandatory vaccination program and Austria with its not-mandatory vaccine policy right here. From then on, infants and men joining the army were required to get vaccinations. This all happened before the Nazis came to power.
**The incongruity of anti-abortion advocacy in this conversation will not be discussed because it is beyond-the-pale idiotic
By the 1930s, when the Nazis rose to power, it was at a time when an anti-vaccine movement (that began even before the 1874 law) had picked up steam—along with a touch of antisemitic conspiracy theory. What started as the “Lebensreform” (life reform) that believed all “chemicals” being “injected into the body” could be replaced by being healthier and getting more sun, among other things, became a real movement with hundreds of thousands of followers. You know, the I have an immune system response many people now suffering and/or dying from COVID-19 have been promoting on their social media pages for months? They were basically the same thing.
One difference between the two movements was that in the first half of the 20th century there was a serious case of infant deaths between 1929 and 1933, called the Lübeck disaster, due to contaminated tuberculosis vaccine. Modern anti-vaxxers only have a galactically debunked link between the MMR vaccine and autism to hang their anti-gravity hats on.
As Branko Marcetic writes in the Jacobin, while the Nazis didn’t do away with the compulsory vaccination laws, they continued an “elasticity” policy that made proving that one had a vaccine null, thus taking away any enforcement of the law. More importantly, this gave the Third Reich control over who they would promote good science and bad science around vaccines to. While the Nazis knew that a healthy society was an important thing to have when you are trying to keep the trains running on time, they were also super racist white supremacist antisemites who could easily be called psychopathic. Marcetic points to the book Hitler’s table Talk 1941-1944: Secret Conversations, where one of the most famous mass murderers in history has these moments of reflection about vaccination programs.
In the field of public health there is no need whatsoever to extend to the subject races the benefits of our own knowledge. This would result only in an enormous increase in local populations, and I absolutely forbid the organization of any sort of hygiene or cleanliness crusades in these territories. Compulsory vaccination will be confined to Germans alone, and the doctors in the German colonies will be there solely for the purpose of looking after the German colonists. It is stupid to thrust happiness upon people against their wishes. Dentistry, too, should remain a closed book to them.
Elsewhere, talking about the need to keep populations of non-pure German subjects from benefiting too much if Germany were to colonize their lands, Adolf Hitler of the Nazi Hitlers had this to say:
Their conditions of life will inevitably improve under our jurisdiction, and we must take all the measures necessary to ensure that the non-German population does not increase at an excessive rate. In these circumstances, it would be sheer folly to place at their disposal a health service such as we know it in Germany; and so—no inoculations and other preventative measures for the Natives! We must even try to stifle any desire for such things. by persuading them that vaccination and the like are really most dangerous!
So while Ohio Republicans ask Tweedledee and Tweedledum to tell them how the COVID-19 vaccination is really most dangerous, and while anti-vaxxers die and continue to spread death at rallies portending fascism, the truth is that being anti-vaxx is a Nazi policy. It’s the actual grand conspiracy to subjugate and control populations of people who are considered inferior to the ruling class.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.