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DECEMBER 5, 2011 10:49AM

Nazi terror gang marketed anti-Jewish board game

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 Pogromly
This game doesn't end well:
The NSU's "Pogromly"
(Source: FAZ)

GAMES ARE A PREPARATION for real-life situations. According to a report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung yesterday, the German neo-Nazi terror trio calling itself the National Socialist Underground designed and marketed an anti-Jewish board game called “Pogromly” as a fundraiser in the late 1990s. Modelled on the classic Monopoly, this game uses a swastika as its starting point and drives imaginary Jews around the board across squares marked with SS runes, concentration camps, gas plants, and a portrait of Adolf Hitler. It uses fake reichsmarks as currency and replaces the white-mustachioed capitalist of the original game with a skeleton dressed in a Nazi uniform. 

The game is similar in spirit to the 1930s game Juden raus! (“Jews Out!”, recently featured in an article and video report on the BBC website) and other such board games of that era. The NSU sold only about a dozen of the games at 100 DM (around 50€) each before going underground in 1998. It appears that the venture was not a success, since the trio complained that their business partners were cheating them out of their take. 

The firm of Günther & Co.’s original game of Juden raus! from 1936, which was based loosely on the ever-popular Mensch ärgere dich nicht! and had to do with hunting down and concentrating Jews from a walled city at a collection point from which they would be deported to Palestine, was not government propaganda, but rather a profit-making venture by a private games company wishing to exploit the swell of anti-Semitic sentiment that followed the Nuremberg racial laws of 1935. (In fact, Himmler's SS complained that the game trivialized the serious business of expulsion and, ultimately, extermination.) Even so, by making the removal of Jewish neighbors from one’s community appear not only “normal” but also fun, it undoubtedly played at least some role in reducing ordinary people’s resistance to the idea. 

Board game 
The game Juden raus! simulated the
removal of Jews from a small town
(Source: Yad Vashem)

Now this would normally be the point in a blog where author and readers alike are supposed to start tut-tutting about the old Nazis and the new. Evil, evil Nazis! How could otherwise ordinary people be so callous towards their fellow human beings?

Yes, the original Nazis were evil all right, as are their twenty-first century epigones. What a twisted culture. Thank god we're beyond all that! But hold on – what about our own culture today? One of the most popular games on earth right now is Xbox’s “Call to Duty” computer game series, which has sold over 55 million copies. The “Black Ops” edition alone has sold over 12 million. In this “first-person shooter game,” Wikipedia tells us, 

the player assumes the role of a foot soldier who can wield various firearms, of which two at a time can be carried; throw grenades and other explosives; and use other equipment as weapons. … [T]he player pilots a Hind helicopter and guides friendly troops from a SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft. The campaign features several scripted cinematic moments. One of them is a bullet time effect during the "Victor Charlie" level, activated when the player fires toward the last enemy of a Viet Cong squad. 

At one level of the game, players simulate the Bay of Pigs invasion and an assassination attempt on Cuban President Fidel Castro, prompting the following response from the Cuban government: 

This new video game is doubly perverse. On the one hand, it glorifies the illegal assassination attempts the United States government planned against the Cuban leader ... and on the other, it stimulates sociopathic attitudes in North American children and adolescents.

 

 The German government, concerned over much of the content, approved only a watered down version with the following edits: 

 

  • A scene where an enemy is shot in slow motion with copious amounts of gore has been toned down.
  • A torture scene involving a prisoner has been completely eliminated from the German version.
  • The song Sympathy for the Devil by Mick Jagger has been removed.
  • No explosions that lead to limb loss.
  • Removal of what Germany deems 'anti-constitutional symbols'.

 Black Ops
(Click on image to play game trailer.)
As Günther & Co. would agree, the great thing about
games like this is that nobody ever gets hurt.

Last year, I woke up to discover a five-story advertising poster for “Black Ops” sheathing the building under construction on my street corner here in Berlin. When I caught sight of it, I instantly imagined a sci-fi scenario in which someone wakes up in an alternative reality in which the Nazis won the Second World War and the very same poster is still hanging there, the only difference being that the soldier is wearing an SS uniform and the game is now entitled “Meine Ehre heißt Treue: Einsatzgruppe.” 1

That is, admittedly, a writer’s daydream, and the Cuban notion that such games transform their youthful users into “sociopaths” may be an exaggeration. After all, “Black Ops,” just like Juden raus! and “Pogromly,” are designed for fun. But is there any doubt that video games that simulate the mass murder of human beings desensitize players, either making them willing to tolerate such outrages in distant countries or actually helping prepare them for remote-control killings themselves one day without any fear of consequences to their own lives or those of their families? 

In fact, the current US drone war over Afghanistan and Pakistan, which may have killed over 2,000 persons in Pakistan alone since 2004 by Washington’s own estimate, simulates a shooter game, which is itself a technology originally designed to simulate actual combat. There are thus already two steps of removal when it comes to what amounts to shooting fish in a barrel from the other side of the planet. While drone “pilots” sit at their controls in New Mexico, civilians and insurgents in West Asia – most of whom have never even heard of the event we call 9/11 – are terrorized from the air for reasons that make even less sense to them than to the average American voter.2 

Never before has war been so painless - at least for the side inflicting the pain:

"They're putting a missile down somebody's chimney and taking out bad guys, and the next thing they're taking their wife out to dinner, their kids to school," said Herz, a Ph.D. who interviewed pilots and sensor operators for a doctoral dissertation on human error in Predator accidents.  'A lot of them have told me, 'I'm glad I've got the hour drive.' It gives them that whole amount of time to leave it behind," Herz said. [...] Col. Gregg Davies, commander of the 214th Reconnaissance Group in Tucson, Ariz., said he knows of no member of his team who has experienced any trauma from launching a Predator attack.

Drone pilot 
Is it "real" or is it some kind of game?
This drone "pilot" is looking forward to that drive
home in order to "decompress." What his "soft targets"
are feeling is anyone's guess.
(Source: defensetech.org)

The concept of zero-risk cynegetic – man-hunt – warfare, which already forms the premise of Juden raus! and Pogromly, has reached its perfect expression in games like Black Ops and in drone warfare. In cynegetic warfare, philosopher Grégoire Chamayou writes,

War becomes pure power of murder. The drone is the emblem of contemporary cynegetic war. It is the mechanical, flying and robotic heir of the dog of war. It creates to perfection the ideal of asymmetry: to be able to kill without being able to be killed; to be able to see without being seen. To become absolutely invulnerable while the other is placed in a state of absolute vulnerability. ‘Predator’, ‘Global Hawk’, ‘Reaper’ – birds of prey and angels of death, drones bear their names well. Only death can kill without ever dying itself. Facing such an enemy, there is no way out. As a T-shirt glorifying American drones stated: ‘You can run, but you’ll only die tired.’ 

 Drone victims
Or if there is collateral damage, it won't
be anyone whose name we'll ever know.

Günther & Co. probably thought they scored a real hit with Juden raus! back in 1936. Will our descendants regard our attitudes and entertainments any more kindly seventy-five years from now? Sometimes I wonder.  



1 "My honor is my loyalty," the motto of the SS, Hitler's private army, which was charged with such special tasks as managing concentration camps and hunting down the undesired.  Its killing squads were called Einsatzgruppen or "task forces." The SS had severe problems with morale when it came to shooting civilians at close range, and thus created murder factories such as Treblinka and Auschwitz-Birkenau located in occupied territories and staffed by coerced inmates and local volunteers, according to the principle: Out of sight, out of mind.

2 On September 8, 2011 the Wall Street Journal reported:

According to a survey of 15- to 30-year-old men in the two southern provinces where President Barack Obama sent the bulk of American surge troops, 92% of respondents said they didn't know about "this event which the foreigners call 9/11" after being read a three-paragraph description of the attacks.

"Nobody explained to them the 9/11 story—and it's hard to win the hearts and minds of the fighting-age males in Helmand if they don't even know why the foreigners are here," says Norine MacDonald, president of the International Council on Security and Development, the think tank that carried out the survey of 1,000 Afghan men in eight districts of Kandahar and Helmand. "There is a vacuum—and it's being filled by al Qaeda and Taliban propaganda claiming that we are here to destroy Islam."

Some Afghans who do know about the events of 2001 often subscribe to conspiracy theories, imported from Pakistan and Iran, that have long lost currency even in the Middle East.

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Comments

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And let's not forget all the video games out there glorifying Prison Management, Homeland security and border sweeps. Those are scary as hell. Good post. R.
@Rw
Thanks. The idea of prison management and border sweep games is terrifying. I have to imagine they deaden our sense of outrage at such things and that there is method to the madness. I'd like to here what others think about that.
Good post.
From your comment to RWoo5g :" I have to imagine they deaden our sense of outrage at such things and that there is method to the madness."
Give us and yourself more credit. Is your sense of outrage deadened? RW005g's sense of outrage? I think not. More so the threat is that those who would be inclined to pull these triggers may be increasingly numbed and inclined to have what sense of outrage they still possess be deadened. Those that design them to be used are dupes on a payroll, and the politicians who order their use have left behind their souls already.
@alsoknownas
"the politicians who order their use have left behind their souls already."
Indeed. Now that local police departments are using the things over US territory, fully financed by the Federal Government, it seems to me the genie has been out of the bottle for a long time now. Without some sort of seismic shift in American politics and culture, the only limits on drone use will be of a technical and not a political nature. And just think: I once thought the "Terminator" movies were fiction!

But just like with "Juden raus!", this isn't the end of the story by any means. Once everyone else, including organized crime, is buying drones off of eBay, things will start getting very interesting. I suspect the last battle of the "Global War on Terror" will be fought mano a mano. All the more reason to cut the crap NOW.
Let's not forget that all of these brave anti'"Terrorist" warriors will eventually come home, and get jobs with Police, TSA, FBI, ATF, etc , etc. and presumably put their "expertise" to work, wherever their bosses direct. Who's going to stop them? Now we know just what ordinary Germans felt like in the 1930s, watching their country turn into a Police State.
Interesting comparison of the board games to Call of Duty and its ilk Alan. I've been hedging my opinion of CoD as the complaints levied against it are so similar to those of previous generations of adults against comic books, TV and Dungeons and Dragons. It seems kind of obvious that getting immersed in CoD is bound to lead to callousness of indifference about real life military action. But I'm not sure that similar arguments in the past have held up.
@abrawang
Okay, so you're saying we can also give "Juden raus!" and "Pogromoly" a pass? It seems to me that, if we're honest, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
These clowns had better watch out. TSR (now Hasbro), the creators of Dungeons & Dragons, trademarked the word "Nazi" for their old Indiana Jones game. Yes, it's an urban legend, and you can find the explanation on the web, but...

I'm surprised you didn't mention plain ol' person-to-person violence, like in the "Grand Theft Auto" game, where you get to screw a hooker, then kill her and take back the money you paid her. The fantasy lives of people with game consoles is one of the fires helping to re-light the burning crosses of American fascism.
I am speechless and glad I saw this.
Good piece, well done.

The "Black Ops" advertising in Brussels was similarly obnoxious.
One of the reasons to dehumanize the enemy is to bring people not to care in any way for the people on the other side of the barrel or drone. One of the remnants of "old" warfare, meaning before the French Revolution introduced mass warfare and Clausewitz proposed the theoretical coating for it, is a sense of honor. However, where this sense of honor included the enemy in "old" warfare, its application perimeter is now reduced to own troops and a "no man left behind" rhetoric, whereas an enemy, however much his aspirations and sorrows resemble mine, is just a piece of meat that needs some cooking. The thousands of kilometers or miles between a drone pilot and his target might well have a purpose similar to the high pay of a CEO laying off loads of low-pay people: to avoid any empathy, any feeling for those people's real life, that might impact the efficiency.

Alsoknwonas has a point: By far not everybody will be desensitized by violent video games where other lives only exist as moving targets. (I used to play D&D and many other role playing games as a teenager yet never killed anybody.) But there is a message that continuously rains unto us, hammered down by the entertainment industry (if only because of the script writers' lack of imagination or skill at handling more elaborate dramatic devices), i.e. that problems should be shot or hit away and then commented by a single line ("Hasta la vista, baby"), and that talk and diplomacy are for the weasels. Those minds where this message meets preexisting personality fault lines are thus not educated into trying to cope with them in a civilized way. Even if only a small percentage of people turn to violence as their default conflict resolution mode, that is well enough to make our streets and schools and soccer games and family reunions far more insecure.

On the other hand, there is a natural law that an evolution into one direction always is paralleled by another into the opposite direction of often similar strength but catching less attention due to its unspectacular nature. E.g., I never saw as many video games available on agricultural simulation, driving a train or a tractor, running a small business or a family, gardening, and so on.
Alan, no, I do not mean to give these games a pass. They constitute a form of hate speech. I should have made myself clearer.
It's a very sick world. Thanks for bringing attention to evil and hate wherever it may be found.
@fernsy
Thanks for stopping by!

@alex and abrawang
I think the issue of desensitization is a complex one. Games, films and stories increasingly follow the same cliched patter. This is particularly visible in action and fantasy films that imitate video games. The current scenario with Iran, a war crime in the making, is also scripted like "Call of Duty," complete with the sinister all-evil villain (Ahmadinejad) and remote-controlled killing.

Let me point out that I'm not a games and movies prude by any means, but I despise the hypocrisy whereby one example of hate speech (Pogromly or Juden raus! in this case) is considered inhuman whereas what makes money in our society somehow "builds character."
While I have never promoted the use of any game that results in death and destruction, I suppose it's all a matter of choosing our battles. After all, there was a time when a game that displayed a little Italian man who went around assaulting turtles was considered "just a game" ... we're a doomed breed, us humans, with our natural inclinations to find entertainment in blood sport.
I only play Shoots- Guys -On-Ladders.
Very well put and certainly far more reaching than I was expecting when I started reading. You may have a legitimate point that CoD crossed a line once it stopped with historic battles and went into speculative scenarios. I suppose a first-person shooter game with the player firing a musket during the American Revolution may not be a bestseller.
Here is the thing. It is all designed to promote some kind of agenda. It is all a form of propaganda. Apparently we want to be led, to experience vicariously through a game, something which we cannot now do in our lives, but are curious about and the we become the victims of this kind of socialization. It is all madness. In the end who makes the game? Why do they do it? They see a market and they want money. So we are once again exploited for our hatreds and our inability to find constructive amusement that might benefit mankind instead. We acquiesce to the darkness in our natures and bingo, some are very entertained, not the least of which is the manufacturer who sits on the profit. Humans are creatures that can be socialized. Unfortunately many are done so with no moral compass, the popularity of which is highly over rated by the 1%, as it always, always rips into their profit. G-d forbid.
as a young man, i thought "i will tend my garden" was too submissive. in old age, with endless evidence that a capacity for universal education has only succeeded in raising a generation of orcs with nimble fingers, it turns out candide was right.