Monday, November 22, 2010

Spoiler Alert: Harry Potter, a Modern Holocaust Narrative?

Tell me this doesn't look like partisans running for dear life circa World War II ... 
So, there I was, sitting in the movie theater, at the 8:10 showing of Harry Pottery and the Deathly Hallows, minding my own business, and there's this woman, sitting a few rows up and over, telling some extravagant story, with her hands motioning wildly in the air. People are shushing here, telling her to be quiet, and there she goes, hands a'go in the air. So, being the mature adult that I am, I threw some ice at her. This stopped her talking, of course, and the rest of my time in the theater was excellent. I'd intended on writing a blog post on the premise that I like my movie theaters like I like my synagogues (quiet, quiet, quiet), but as the movie progressed, I realized there was something more interesting and pressing to write about.

The Holocaust.

I wrote in the title that this is a spoiler alert. I'm only saying that because I'm going to offer some details of the movie that might give things away. But I can't not write this blog post. It will eat away at me until you all go see the movie (or not), and maybe this will prompt some of you to head to your nearest theater. So let's begin.

I haven't read the Harry Potter books, but I've seen all of the movies. Up until this edition of the series, I hadn't really caught on to the overarching and ever-present looming Holocaust narrative. But this part of the series was ripe with Holocaust imagery, from propaganda to arm tattoos and more. The Deathly Hallows begins with a violent regime change, putting those of pure-blood wizard/witch status in full power. Muggles, that is to say, normal folk without any powers, are viewed as vermin, the lowest level of life form, and propaganda is dispersed about how to spot a muggle and what makes them vile. They must be registered, and ultimately are hunted down like animals. Harry Potter and his two BFFs make their way to the woods, where they hide out for much of the movie, running from Snatchers (people who seek out muggles and half-bloods) and trying to figure out how to save themselves and the world. There is a scene toward the beginning of the film where a woman is on trial, accused of not being a witch, and the woman -- I kid you not -- is styled perfectly with the 1940s, from her house dress to her pin-curl hair. Toward the end of the film, during a particularly heart-wrenching scene, Hermoine -- a half-blood -- is tattooed on her left arm with "Mudblood" by one of the major supporters of the violent regime change.

Wow. I know, right? It goes on and on and on. Here's a list of some things that I spotted that pretty much map out how this fits with the Holocaust narrative.

  • Muggles = Jews
  • Witches/Wizards = Nazis
  • Harry Potter + His Band of Noble Witch Friends = Righteous Gentiles, who fight partisan style from the woods
  • Hermoine = a half-Jew who has escaped to fight with the partisans
  • Voldimore = Hitler
  • And, I'm guessing, Dumbledor will come back Churchill style and save the day. 
I am still marveling at how this turned into a Holocaust narrative. And all of these examples are but mere, well, examples. There was a whole lot more. Harry Potter and Friends disguising themselves to pass as part of the regime, for one. Anyhow, the Holocaust narrative is strong with this flick. The righteous fighting for the safety of those not like themselves, while also trying to save the righteous who are fighting the just cause. And the arm tattoo!? Seriously!? And this was only Part 1 of the two-part final installment of the Harry Potter franchise. Personally, I'm razzle-dazzled to see how it's going to end. 

Did any of you see the movie yet? Did you pick up on this? Did it blow your mind like it did mine? 

26 comments:

  1. Read the series, the imagery is much stronger and much more creepy. There's a "Muggleborn Registration Office" that doesn't get much play in the film and the discussions around who fights and why are fabulous.

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  2. I actually think that it was totally intentional. The scene in the Ministry of Magic was eerily Nazi-esque.

    A little harder for those of us who know exactly how it ends...this was the movie that was truest to the book, so I'm guessing that the second part will be as true...so I'm prepared for the ending..

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  3. Intentional, yes. My kids said that Rowling has mentioned it in interviews.

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  4. I have not seen the movie yet but have read the book. I disagree with many of your examples in your review stating that Harry Potter 7 is a Holocaust narative. Charity Burbage who is tortured in the beginning is a witch and a teacher at Hogwarts. She is identified as the Muggle Studies teacher in the final book. Because her teachings about Muggles gave an overall favourable impression of them, going so far as to write an editorial praising Muggles in the Daily Prophet, she ran afoul of the Death Eaters, whose philosophy asserted the supremacy of pure-bloods. She became a prisoner of Voldemort, who tortured her, killed her, and fed her to Nagini.

    All muggles (humans with no magical abilities) are not being persecuted [yes they are considered beneath the pure blood wizard] but mudbloods are. Hermione is a mudblood (both parents are muggles so she in your analogy would be a jewess not a half jew).

    Humans (muggles) are not being registered. The Muggle-Born Registration Commission was set up by the Ministry of Magic following Lord Voldemort's takeover on 1 August, 1997. The public goal of the Commission was to force all Muggle-born wizards and witches to register with the Ministry, then undergo interrogation as to how they "stole" their magical power from "real" wizards and witches. The true purpose of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission was to imprison and degrade Muggle-borns. It is not against regular humans with no magical abilities. Harry and his friend disguise themselves so they can retrieve the horcrux from the ministry of magic not b/c they are trying to pass as wizards but b/c otherwise they will be discovered.

    Another difference is that everyone is not on Voldermort's side and that people who are in power do fight against him such as Kingsley Shackelbolt,as well as major Professors at Hogwarts. People do not stand idly by and do nothing like in the Holocaust.

    Glad you enjoyed the movie. Part 2 should be fantastic

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  5. To be fair here is a review that does agree with your Holocaust imagery "The Ministry of Magic, which governs the magical world, has been infiltrated by Voldemort's followers. After overthrowing the Ministry, they institute a brutal regime that mixes Orwellian measures with Nazi-like means. The main purpose of the Ministry, under Voldemort's invisible command, is to find and exterminate "mudbloods" – wizards and witches who are born to non-magical parents.

    In some ways, "Hallows: Part 1" resembles a World War II drama. Unlike Hermione, Harry and Ron are not "muggle-born" (the nice word for "mudblood"). But their opposition to Voldemort's holocaust earns them the status of "blood traitors," marking them for death. Throughout the film, the friends are refugees on the run, hiding in the wilderness lest they become the latest victims of a government bent on ethnic cleansing." and another "I've always felt that the series was best when it focused on the racism and intolerance of its Hogwarts setting (in particular, of its Aryan villains), and Harry Potter 7a fascinatingly advances the notion that what's born in the hearts of boys gradually flowers into the ideologies of hate and exclusion. The film is seething with Holocaust imagery, from the anti-"muggle" propaganda produced by the new masters of the Ministry of Magic to the summary rendition and interrogation of random citizens to, finally, the tattooing of an identifying mark on Hermione's inner forearm, declaring her to be of undesirable blood. The henchmen for evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) are either jumpsuited goons or leather-clad stormtroopers, while quick visits to abandoned locales from previous films give the impression of ghettos cleared and populations cleansed."

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  6. Chaviva, I have read the books so many times and watch the movies the same. J. K. Rowling, in a interview, stated thaty she based many parts of these books on what took place during WW2. I saw what you saw from the beginning. BUT I also see something else. Jews-of-Color can also be placed with the Muggles in some cases. Jews from Birth make it awfully hard for Jews-of-Color be they born Jewish or converted. There is no let up of how we are treated/discussed. Just my observation and opinion.

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  7. Untilllll the part where Harry dies & is resurrected. That feels like a DIFFERENT familiar story...

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  8. There is much more of this in the books. Already on page 2 for example when Snape (and Yaxley) are walking in to the meeting with Voldemort in order to get past the gate "In silence both raised their left arms in a kind of salute...". Also notice that the puppet minister of magic (who in the books is not really evil but just under a spell and tacitly complacent with the bad guys) is named Pius Thicknesse possibly a hint at Pope Pius XII.

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  9. Well, truth is stranger than fiction, hence why so much fiction/fantasy is (loosely) based on actions and events that have taken place at different times in world history.

    I've read some of the HP books and then lost track. I would say that it is likely that JKR drew from many events in history - it's not only the Jews that have been persecuted in times far back and also more recent, unfortunately.

    I'm not nay-saying you by the way, just offering my thoughts!

    Glad you enjoyed the film...

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  10. If you haven't seen it, you might like my book Harry Potter and Torah

    I agree with your comparison, and it appears deliberate. One of the great things about the Harry Potter series is that there are many such analogies and morals, deliberate or not, that we can learn from.

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  11. you can also make analogies with any police state running roughshod over other people's rights-apartheid, china, romania.

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  12. @SS You make a *very* good point. Very conflicted stuff, right? :)

    @KosherGourmetMart Okay, so you're a huge Harry Potter fan. I get it. Simmah down.

    @Dov Interesting, I'll totally check it out.

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  13. I am calm. yes we are big harry Potter fans.

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  14. Would just like to clarify that it's not the witches and wizards who are the Nazis, but rather specifically Voldemort's followers who can be compared to the Nazis--Death Eaters, Snatchers, etc. For the most part, the witches and wizards in HP are good.

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  15. Interesting. I haven't read or seen any of the Harry Potter stories, but there is a long tradition of making the villains in science fiction/fantasy stories thinly-veiled Nazis e.g. Star Wars (mainly the prequel trilogy, although the original trilogy has a little of the terminology and imagery). There is also a whole argument as to whether The Lord of the Rings is a World War II allegory (Tolkein said not).

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  16. @Liva All of the people who worked in the ministry under the watchful eye of evil would be compared to "collaborators." The good ones, then, were the partisans, underground workers (e.g., Harry Potter, Ron, Ron's family).

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  17. There is no doubt that there is a totalitarian slant in the last book/movies. In terms of collaborators--according to wikipedia - Nazi collaborators were individuals who were not citizens of the Third Reich at the outbreak of World War II and collaborated with the Nazi regime during the war. The people who work at the ministry are part of the magical race similar to the way Germans were part of the 3rd reich. It seems from reading the book, that only a few people who worked there were really pro-Voldemort (death eaters) such as yaxley, dolohov, delores umbridge, runcorn; everyone else worked there b/c it was their job and scared but did not support Voldemort or were anti-muggles-I would not called Reg Catermole a collaborator or Voldemort supporter. As another note, the only reason why Harry is hunted (and as a result Ron and Hermione) is b/c of the prophecy from book 5 (this is quotes from harry potterwiki)
    "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches ... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies ... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not ... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives ... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies ..."
    The prophecy above was made to Albus Dumbledore by Sybill Trelawney and foretold the coming of a boy who would have the power to vanquish Lord Voldemort. The prophecy was made while Dumbledore was giving an interview to Trelawney for the post of Divination Teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Dumbledore, who was disappointed at the performance she gave during the interview, was about to leave when she went into a trance and made the prophecy. Severus Snape, who was working for Voldemort at the time, was caught eavesdropping on Trelawney and Dumbledore by the owner of the Hog's Head and was subsequently thrown out of the pub. Snape then returned to Voldemort to tell him what he had heard. Snape was apprehended before the full prophecy could be made, only part of the prophecy was reported to Voldemort. Oddly enough, the prophecy could have referred to one of two people born at the end of July, later known to be Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom. Though the prophecy could have referred to either Potter, a half-blood, or Longbottom, a pure blood, Voldemort decided that it was the child of James and Lily Potter to whom the prophecy was referring.

    Chaviva-you should definitely read the books-I think you will enjoy them and you will get more immersed in this magical world. And yes, I am calm as I write this

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  18. There is no doubt that there is a totalitarian slant in the last book/movies. In terms of collaborators--according to wikipedia - Nazi collaborators were individuals who were not citizens of the Third Reich at the outbreak of World War II and collaborated with the Nazi regime during the war. The people who work at the ministry are part of the magical race similar to the way Germans were part of the 3rd reich. It seems from reading the book, that only a few people who worked there were really pro-Voldemort (death eaters) such as yaxley, dolohov, delores umbridge, runcorn; everyone else worked there b/c it was their job and scared but did not support Voldemort or were anti-muggles-I would not called Reg Catermole a collaborator or Voldemort supporter. As another note, the only reason why Harry is hunted (and as a result Ron and Hermione) is b/c of the prophecy from book 5 (this is quotes from harry potterwiki)
    "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches ... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies ... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not ... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives ... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies ..."
    The prophecy above was made to Albus Dumbledore by Sybill Trelawney and foretold the coming of a boy who would have the power to vanquish Lord Voldemort. The prophecy was made while Dumbledore was giving an interview to Trelawney for the post of Divination Teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Dumbledore, who was disappointed at the performance she gave during the interview, was about to leave when she went into a trance and made the prophecy. Severus Snape, who was working for Voldemort at the time, was caught eavesdropping on Trelawney and Dumbledore by the owner of the Hog's Head and was subsequently thrown out of the pub. Snape then returned to Voldemort to tell him what he had heard. Snape was apprehended before the full prophecy could be made, only part of the prophecy was reported to Voldemort. Oddly enough, the prophecy could have referred to one of two people born at the end of July, later known to be Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom. Though the prophecy could have referred to either Potter, a half-blood, or Longbottom, a pure blood, Voldemort decided that it was the child of James and Lily Potter to whom the prophecy was referring.

    Chaviva-you should definitely read the books-I think you will enjoy them and you will get more immersed in this magical world. And yes, I am calm as I write this

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  19. sorry for the double comments-quite unintentional

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  20. look at this for more insight Politics of Harry Potter
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Harry_Potter

    Jk rowling said at an event "Q: Many of us older readers have noticed over the years similarities between the Death Eaters tactics and the Nazis from the 30s and 40s. Did you use that historical era as a model for Voldemort's reign and what were the lessons that you hope to impart to the next generation?

    It was conscious. I think that if you're, I think most of us if you were asked to name a very evil regime we would think Nazi Germany. There were parallels in the ideology. I wanted Harry to leave our world and find exactly the same problems in the wizarding world. So you have the intent to impose a hierarchy, you have bigotry, and this notion of purity, which is this great fallacy, but it crops up all over the world. People like to think themselves superior and that if they can pride themselves in nothing else they can pride themselves on perceived purity. So yeah that follows a parallel. It wasn't really exclusively that. I think you can see in the Ministry even before it's taken over, there are parallels to regimes we all know and love. [Laughter and applause.] So you ask what lessons, I suppose. The Potter books in general are a prolonged argument for tolerance, a prolonged plea for an end to bigotry, and I think ti's one of the reasons that some people don't like the books, but I think that's it's a very healthy message to pass on to younger people that you should question authority and you should not assume that the establishment or the press tells you all of the truth.

    here is an excerpt from an interview the author J.K. Rowling has given a new interview to the Dutch newspaper "The Volkskrant." "When did you decide to draw a parallel with the Nazis? With Voldemort, who strives for the rule of the"pure blood", and with Draco Malfoy as a young soldier who is just ?
    Immediately I think. I'm not exactly sure. I think The Second World War in anchored in all our minds, right? Draco Malfoy does indeed stand for that type of boy. He wouldn't have killed Dumbledore , he couldn't. As long as things are imaginary, okay, but once it becomes reality, the thing becomes more difficult. No, that I gave him that light blonde hair is not because I wanted to make him into a scary Nazi. You give your characters the appearance that you find attractive; that is why I gave my hero dark hair, green eyes and glasses. I'm married to a man who looks like that."

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  21. There's definitely overtones of WWII in the series. Echos of the political issues discussed are resonating today -- with the Bush admin and our current political climate. Which is to say that these themes are constant in human history -- making the books timeless and powerful. Do yourself a favor and read them -- and be sure to read them all before the last movie comes out. Hopefully you haven't heard how it ends -- don't let anyone tell you and deprive you of Rowling's genius for the surprise ending.

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  22. Hermione is actually muggle-born, not a half-blood. She comes from two muggle parents.
    Also, one image that isn't mentioned is the fact that the guards at the ministry are dressed exactly like S.S. officers.

    I'm actually writing my thesis on this.

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  23. i don't think that the guards at the ministry are dressed exactly like S.S. officers is in the book-I think it is a liberty taken by the filmakers (I am sure with Ms. Rowling's ok)

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  24. J.K. Rowling is a very talented author. She is very successful and it is a very captivating series. I also have read the books and I loved them but Harry Potter is very well written and she managed to use that and expand her popularity. She is wealthier than the queen of England @ the moment. what other series(???'s???) do you think are more deserving? just curious. email me or add it to your question (i really want to know)

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  25. I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter books. I don't care for the movies much simply because I think some very important linking parts were left out of them. Example: In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire the ending is a very important part and the way the movie ends leaves to much out. I do see however the symbolism towards the holocaust and the Harry Potter books. Especially in the 7th book. I urge anyone who has not read the books to please do so. Not only will it help you to understand more, they're a very good read. From what I got though much of what everyone's saying is
    Muggles/Mudbloods/blood traitors= gypsies, the mental/physically handicapped, and Jews. (because in the holocaust it wasn't just Jews who were persecuted. Look it up.)
    Voldermort=Hitler. (standing behind the scenes and never fully making himself the one to do the "dirty work".
    Death Eaters/Voldermort supporters=The third Reich,and much of Germany.
    Snatchers=Gestapo. Trying to round up all mudbloods, muggles, & blood traitors.
    While I do not think it was suppose to go exactly to the holocaust(seeing as how it is fiction), I do believe that it is based loosely around it. There's to much evidence to suggest otherwise. It may not have been intentionally but if not I'm amazed. Just my thoughts on it. :)

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  26. Maybe you should actually read books before you start saying what the movies are about. Yes some things do over shadow the Holocaust but if you did research you'll find that Dumbledore is dead and he does not come back and save the day. An in case you missed it yes the witch being interviewed is in a 40's get up but the rest of the wizarding world is not the most modern group. Like I said yes, there might be a bit of Holocaust over shadowing but more than anything it's the classic battle of Good V. Evil!

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