I can already hear an objection being formed in your furious little fingers about ‘muh oppression.’ ‘Only whitey can be an oppressor!’ ‘Whitey can never be oppressed!’ Et cetera, et cetera, blah, blah, blah.
Well, Hitler argued, quite successfully, that the German people were oppressed. His entrance into politics was spurred by the end of World War I and the myth of the ‘stab in the back,’ the notion that Germany could have won the war but for ‘betrayal’ on the homefront by Jews and Socialists. The truth is somewhat more complicated. The armistice and subsequent Treat of Versailles was demanded by the German High Command. The head of the civil government, Prince Max of Baden, didn’t know how bad the war was going because the military concealed the truth from him. The Social Democrats(Socialists) formed a republican government and signed the armistice and Treaty of Versailles to keep Germany out of the hands of the Bolsheviks. None of this mattered to Hitler, who condemned the Social Democrats as the ‘November criminals’ a label which stuck to them from 1923 to 1933 when the Nazis finally attained political power.
The danger of the oppressor/oppressed mentality is that it can be wielded by anyone and that it justifies every brutality imaginable, because it does not condemn a person for anything they have actually done; it condemns them for what someone else did. Killmonger murdered the museum curator with a smile because some white person somewhere did a thing in Africa and picked up a Vibranium pick axe.
The Water Fall Putsch
In 1923, the NSDAP was a small but rapidly growing provincial party in the German state of Bavaria. The Bavarian government and the national government had a falling out over the treaty of Versailles, reparation payments to the French, and the dictatorial powers assumed by the German army generals. Like any good socialist revolutionaries, the Nazis thrived in conditions of civil unrest and economic uncertainty. However, Hitler, inspired by Mussolini’s successful march on Rome, decided that the time had come for the Nazis to launch a ‘Putsch’ on the Bavarian government, which would then give them the resources to confront and force the national government to concede. The name Beer Hall Putsch comes from the Buergerbraukeller in Munich where the Nazis seized the leaders of the Bavarian government (and subsequently allowed them to escape) and declared their intentions to overthrow the national government. Or, as most people call it, treason. After the Bavarian state leaders got loose, they marshaled the state police and the Reichswehr to suppress the Nazis. By the time it was done, 16 Nazis and 3 policemen were dead, and Adolf Hitler was in custody awaiting a trial for treason that would, far from ending his ambitions, give him the biggest platform for National Socialism he had to that point.
Killmonger’s Water Fall Putsch went a little better for him. Replace the Bavarian state with the Border Tribe. Rather than try to overthrow them, Killmonger wins their leader with a nice little present that he’s been waiting 20 years to receive: the bullet-riddled corpse of Ulysses Klaw. Overjoyed at this thoughtful gift, W’Kabi promptly switched sides from Wakandan nationalism to Wakandan identitarianism and walked his new best friend Killmonger right into the royal palace. Then a half-naked fight happens and Killmonger becomes the new king.
So Hitler’s putsch failed. He would succeed later through electoral politics. Killmonger’s putsch succeeded, though its success would be short-lived.
The Wakandan Anschluss
This brings us to the most blatant similarity between Adolf Hitler and Erick Killmonger: the question of the Anschluss Osterreichs. Hitler, a native Austrian, wrote in that funny little book of his that one of his dreams was the union of all the German people into a Greater German state, an Osterreich, if you will. And the largest population of Germans in Europe outside of Germany itself were in Austria. Therefore, those Germans needed to united, or Anschluss’d, with Germany. And if you’re going to take half of a pie, you might as well take the whole thing, so, might as well Anschluss all of the non-Germans of Austria as well. But how to go about it? One way is to have allies in Austria. By 1936, a nice, healthy, National Socialist party was established in Austria. Propaganda, political pressure , lobbying, organizing, etc. were underway but the Germans were getting a bit impatient. So it was decided in Berlin that efforts would be undertaken to demonstrate to the Austrians just how serious the Nazis were about this Anschluss business. In 1937, a group of Austrian Nazis known as the Committee of Seven launched a campaign (secretly financed, armed, and directed by the Schutzstaffel) of bombings and violent demonstrations to weaken the position of the Austrian government. At the same time, the Nazis publically made it known that if Austria cracked down too hard on the poor oppressed Germans of Austria, they would send the Reichswehr over the border to protect the sanctity of German blood. This strategy worked fantastically and Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schussnigg, meekly handed over Austria to the Nazis.
The same strategy would be repeated in Czechoslovakia in 1938 through the Sudeten German Party, and again in Poland of fomenting political unrest, covertly arming partisans loyal to Germany, and threatening military conflict unless Germany received concessions.
Killmonger never got past the first step, though he made no bones about the fact that he intended to arm ideologues, and likely those who shared his vision of a Black Anschluss with Wakanda at its center. Out of this unrest, Killmonger would likely have carried guerrilla war into open war, especially in the face of countries not inclined to submit to terrorism, no matter how much magical Vibranium the terrorists had. By this I mean America. The Europeans would bend over and grab their ankles faster than you can say ‘Heil Mein Schwarze Fuhrer.’
The Night of Long Spears
I’m proceeding along the movie’s timeline but jumping back and forth through the history of the Third Reich so I’m going to beg your indulgence if you get confused by me going from 1923, to 1938, then back to 1934. At the climax of the movie, there is this big battle between the Border tribe who are in Killmonger’s pocket because he presented them with the corpse of a dead white guy, and the strong, empowered women of Wakanda who are loyal to T’Challa. A similar schism and subsequent house-cleaning occurred in the Nazi Party in 1934. The Nazis had control of the Reichstag after the 1933 election, they didn’t have the loyalty of the officer corps Reichswehr. Ernest Roehm, a long-time Nazi, personal friend of Hitler, and leader of the S.A. or Brownshirts, took it into his head that the Stormtroopers ought to become the new German army, with him at its head. This did not sit well with the officers who were of old, noble blood and turned their noses up at letting the cabal of street-fighters, drunks, pimps, and homosexuals that comprised the leadership of the Brownshirts have any say in commanding the Reichswehr.
General von Blomberg, on behalf of the Army High Command made Hitler an offer that he couldn’t refuse: Get rid of Roehm, the S.A. commanders, and disarm the Brownshirts. In exchange, the Army would endorse Hitler to replace Hindenberg as President. With the offices of President and Chancellor, and the Reichstag under Nazi control, he would be the absolute ruler of Germany. A few dozen deaths in exchange for absolute power was a hell of a bargain.
June 30, 1934 has multiple names: Operation Hummingbird, the Roehm Putsch, the Blood Purge, and the Night of Long Knives. The outcome is what matters. Hitler dispatched Himmler’s S.S. to dispatch Roehm and all other ‘disloyal’ elements targeted for death or ‘schutzstaff’ (protective custody). By the end of the three day purge, 77 were dead and a thousand were taken to prisons or concentration camps. Germany was firmly in the hands of its fuhrer and would remain that way for the next 11 years.
Killmonger’s blood purge did not go as well. He intended to kill T’Challa’s family, along with anyone else who defied his plans to Anschluss all of the world’s blacks into his Wakandan Reich. His Border tribe loyalists were not as committed to his cause as the S.S. was Hitler and surrendered rather than continue fighting the T’Challa loyalists.
Ironically, Killmonger probably spilled more Wakandan blood in his brief reign than T’Challa or his father in the entirety of theirs.
Hitler opted for suicide in the bunker rather than capture.
Killmonger blathered about ‘muh Middle Passage’ and stabbed himself in the chest rather than be tried and imprisoned by Wakanda. That’s a shame. I’m sure his version of Mein Kampf would have been an interesting read.
Black Panther is the struggle between nationalism and identitarianism. T’Challa and T’Chaka are nationalists. Their duty as kings was to protect the nation of Wakanda, which includes its land and the people within it. The Wakandans generally did not interfere in the affairs of other countries UNLESS it posed at existential threat to Wakanda and would not allow others to interfere in their affairs, hence the whole secrecy policy. Even the pursuit of Ulysses Klaw, while straining nationalism a bit, fit within it. Black Panther’s goal was to capture Klaw, snatch and grab, quick and quiet. He did not intend to capture any land for Wakanda, take any resources for Wakanda, or alter South Korean government to one more amenable to Wakanda. Nationalists comprehend national sovereignty of both their own nation and others.
Identitarians, on the surface, appear similar to nationalists. But they aren’t. The identitarian view is rooted in ideology rather than blood or borders or law. For identitarians, it’s not enough that you are black, or white or brown or a man or a woman or whatever; you must adhere to what identitarians perceive as ‘correct thinking.’ This ‘correct thinking’ always boils down to some perceived grievance with those not in the identitarian’s group. This grievance justifies whatever act the identitarian may take against an outside, and usually ‘oppressor’ group. This leads to the second part of the ‘correct thinking’: justification. Whatever the identitarian does to a person in an out-group or oppressor group is justified solely by being in that group.
This formula fits across identitarian ideologies. Hitler murdered a number of Germans, despite his talk about the sanctity of German blood and the greatness of the volk. Killmonger, by his own admission, murdered Africans, other black people, and Wakandans in his pursuit of the throne, Vibranium, and a war with the out-groups and oppressors.
T’Chaka tried to bring N’Joba back to Wakanda for trial. T’Challa tried to save Killmonger and put him on trial. Despite being a traitor in fact, N’Jobu’s Wakandan identity entitled him to the protection of Wakandan law.
Nationalists pursue civic tranquility because they value the lives and safety of people in their nation-state. Identitarians pursue civil war because they value no one’s lives, not even those of their supposed people, and will destroy anyone through internal or external conflict to achieve race/class/gender purity.
Nationalists deal with real people. Identitarians live in a utopian delusion baptized in the blood of its enemies.