Will Harry Potter Defeat the Nazis?

Deatheaters=Nazis in Final Solution metaphor.

By , Contributor
The Nazis have been movie bad guys for a long time - at least since Casablanca. They’ve provided readily identifiable villains in the ever-popular theme of the struggle between good and evil. Still, there wasn’t much left for filmmakers to do with the Nazis and World War II after Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, so we don’t see them so much anymore.

Sometimes, though, the Nazi story appears in a disguised form, which is what happens in the Harry Potter saga.  The confrontation between Harry and Tom Riddle/Lord Voldemort is not about the Nazis as such, but there’s a Nazi subtext in Hermione’s story. Hermione is a Jewish name, as in actress Hermione Gingold, who appeared in many movies and TV shows.

In the Harry Potter books, Hermione is the classic smart Jewish girl. And she is a Mudblood (always capitalized in the books, just as Jew is capitalized), a child of non-wizarding parents. As such, she is despised by Draco Malfoy and his father Lucius, who want to keep Hogwarts “pure” and have Hermione expelled, just as the Nazis wanted to keep German universities “judenfrei” by expelling the Jews.

Just as the subtext of quiddich is soccer, so subtext of the Malfoys’ alliance with Voldemort is the Nazi party. (“Malfoy” is French for “bad faith.”) Certainly Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy, and Jason Isaacs, who plays his father, Lucius Malfoy, have the blond hair, clean-cut features and blue eyes that the Nazis thought indicated membership in the master race.  And of course Draco has a mini-Gestapo do his dirty work in the form of a couple of thugs - the wonderfully named Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle (as in gargoyle).

Hermione Mudblood arm.jpgIn case anybody missed the clues about Hermione as a half-blooded Jewish girl, there’s an important detail in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I that wasn’t in the book. As Rowling originally wrote the scene, when the Snatchers capture Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and take them to Voldemort’s castle, Bellatrix LaStrange threatens Hermione by holding a knife to her throat. In the movie, screenwriter Steve Kloves made an indicative change.

In the movie Bellatrix uses her wand to write “Mudblood” on the inside of Hermione’s left arm - just where the Nazis tattooed numbers on the arms of Jews in concentration camps. We can feel confident that Rowling herself approved of this change, since she has the right to make decisions about pretty much everything that goes into the movies.

Like a lot of people, I don’t want the Harry Potter movies to end, but I am looking forward to the wedding scene at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II.  And I’ll be curious to see whether Rowling and Kloves leave the Nazi subtext in place, and the word “Mudblood” on Hermione’s left arm.

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JIm Curtis has a background in Russian studies, and is fascinated with both high culture and popular culture. He just finished a book on Dylan, and covers the book beat for The Morton Report.

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