Harry Potter and the Nazi Regime
Henry James once said “It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.” Intentional or not, historical events can manifest into great novels, with contemporary characters representing the great leaders of the past. In the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling, a dark wizard, known as Lord Voldemort, tries to take over the free Wizarding World. With the help of his army, the Death Eaters, he succeeds, causing a war between good and evil. Coincidentally, a similar event happened in Germany in the years leading up to the Second World War. The overall agenda, symbols, and origins of Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters parallel those of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Regime.
To start, both the leader of the Death Eaters and leader of the Nazis had glorious pasts. Lord Voldemort, formally known as Tom Riddle, represented the perfect student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Well liked by teachers and students, he later became Head Boy and earned an award for services to the school. Tom’s Professor, Albus Dumbledore, stated in iHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that “Tom was one of the most brilliant students Hogwarts has ever seen.” Although he didn’t succeed in school, Adolf Hitler was a distinguished war hero. During The Great War, Adolf Hitler left his country of Austria to join the German Army. Eventually, Hitler received two Iron Crosses, one for his bravery and another for serving his adoptive country. Both men had great leadership skills, which later helped them gain loyal followers.
Additionally, both Hitler and Voldemort used blood purity to determine which people belonged in their ideal worlds. Hitler believed that only Aryan blood was pure and that both, Jewish and half-Jewish blood lines were dirty. His army consisted of men who fit his perfect mold: blond hair, blue eyed with full Aryan blood. On a similar note, Voldemort and his Death Eaters believed that magic learning should be kept within pure-blood families. The Wizarding World classifies witches and wizards into three categories: pure-blood, half-blood and Muggle-born (not having any magical parents). Pure-bloods often call Muggle-borns “Mudbloods” because they believed the Muggle bloodline is dirty, tainted from not having magical parents. Ironically, both leaders did not have pure-blood themselves. Voldemort’s mother was a witch, but she had little power; his father was a Muggle, or non-magic person. Therefore, Voldemort, a half-blood, hypocritically preached that only pure-bloods belonged in the Magic World. Although this detail is often debated, Hitler is rumored to have had Jewish blood himself, although two to three generations back. Both men despised the bloodline they had, but couldn’t change, and used their hate to fuel their plans of global conquest.
In spite of their similar views, Hitler and Voldemort gained their power in very different ways. Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and gave himself the title of “Der Führer”. Skilled in persuasion, Hitler won the hearts of many German citizens. With so many loyal soldiers, Hitler easily laid out his plan to rid the world of the Jews. Although highly respected, Hitler was also feared by many of his loyal Germans. In contrast, Voldemort never got elected for a political position. After finishing school, Voldemort, then Tom Riddle, convinced his closest friends to help him form a secret society for pure-blood wizards, which he titled the Death Eaters. Their goal: to eliminate the world of Muggle-borns and anyone else who got in Voldemort’s path to total power. Eventually, after killing many people, both magic and Muggle, Tom Riddle became feared by all the Wizarding World and even some of his closest minions. He called himself “Lord Voldemort”, a name he said “Wizards everywhere would one day fear to speak.” In 1998, Voldemort gained political power after assassinating the Minister of Magic, and began to control all of Wizarding England through the magic government, known as the Ministry.
When in power, the Nazis and Death Eaters used strict laws to control their country’s people. During Hitler’s reign, all Jews were required to wear yellow Stars of David on their clothing to identify themselves to Nazis. The Jews were also placed under many debilitating laws and even stripped of their German citizenship. Unlike Hitler, Voldemort didn’t go to such extremes when persecuting the Muggle-borns. In the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, all Muggle-born witches and wizards were required to register with the Ministry of Magic, then controlled by The Death Eaters. Their names were placed on a list, making them easy to identify to the Snatchers, a select group of Death Eaters chosen to round up Muggle-borns and blood traitors. Even though there were fewer laws enforced, the Death Eater’s would not let the people speak out against Voldemort. Both the Nazis and Death Eaters killed anyone who tried to break their laws or spoke out against the new political system. By playing off people’s fears, both groups scared their citizens into obeying authority. The Nazis used threats of Concentration Camps while the Death Eaters threatened to use the Killing Curse, better known as “Avada Kedavra.”
Lastly, the symbols used to identify the Death Eaters and Nazis both came from peaceful origin, but were modified to be feared by all who recognized them. The Death Eater’s symbol contained a skull with a snake shooting out of the mouth, known as the Dark Mark. One of the four houses at Hogwarts School, known as Slytherin, is represented by a snake and values students who are cunning, ambitious, and natural leaders. Voldemort and many of his followers were members of the Slytherin House. Because of Voldemort, Slytherin gained a reputation of being the house of evil wizards and the Dark Mark became feared throughout the Wizarding World. Likewise, The Nazis used a Buddhist symbol of peace for their Swastika. By slightly altering the original, the once happy symbol was transformed into a sign that is still feared today. The insignia of each group were also used for uniform purposes. A new member of the Death Eaters was branded with a Dark Mark on his or her left forearm, and with magic could used the tattoo as a way of communicating with Voldemort and others in the inner circle. In a similar fashion, the Nazis soldiers wore an arm band with the swastika on their left arm. Unlike the Nazi soldiers, who proudly wore the uniform, the Death Eaters only showed their marks to other members. To keep their association with Voldemort a secret, Death Eaters cover up their tattoo’s in public and, when carrying out Voldemort’s orders, covered their face’s with masks. Even with the secrecy, many of the Death Eaters flaunt their blood status, exposing themselves in the process.
Ultimately, the Death Eaters are the Nazis by another name. Both preached blood superiority, and tried to rid the world of the “inferior race.” Both parties had great leaders, although corrupt, with loyal followers to support their actions. Fantasy books can be a great way to open up our imaginations, but when read critically, fictional writing can be used as allegories, showing useful lessons from the past with a completely different twist, and help history live on in a completely different light.