Nazis and ‘fake news’ | Richard J. Evans: “Conspiracyists Live in a Closed World”


-Why does the figure of Hitler arouse so much interest?

-As a result of secularization, Hitler becomes a kind of substitute for Satan, an icon of evil, probably the most famous man in history, immediately recognizable. It has a great power of attraction for conspiracy theorists, so in the book I analyze five theories that are the subject of a recent ‘revival’.

-One of them is that he did not die in the bunker, but fled to Argentina

-There is even a television series -‘Hunting Hitler’- in which a group of people look for footprints of Hitler in South America, without finding any. One critic went so far as to say that if we had a drink of whiskey every time we heard conjectures like “it could be here or this or that probably happened” we would end up drunk at the end of the first chapter. Obsessed as he was by politics, Hitler would not have retired and kept silent in Argentina, like Adolf Eichmann. And, by the way, there are secret recordings of Eichmann conversations with other Nazis in which Hitler is not mentioned even once. They simply accepted that he had died. Some find it interesting to imagine that he could survive the war, but there is absolutely no evidence.

-Does every conspiracy theory follow a pattern?

-Yes. There is a tendency to say that nothing happens by chance, that everything is the result of a plot, that what we see hides the true causes of an event and that, in reality, it has been caused by those who benefit from it, as happened with the fire. of the Reichstag in 1933, which the Communists attributed to the Nazis themselves to facilitate their coming to power, although since the 1960s it has been known that it was the work of a single arsonist, a young leftist.

-Although they were not born in the 21st century, now conspiracies are expanding more …

-With each change in the media they do it faster. In 1349, during the Black Death in Europe, the Jews were said to have poisoned the world, but that was spread by word of mouth and it didn’t go very far. The printing press and then radio, television or cinema go one step further, and the internet has played an important role in its expansion because, unlike media in which there are editors who act as guardians, on the internet you can say whatever you want .

– Do you think they fulfill any function?

-The core of your belief – and I think it is part of the function of the conspiracy theory for those who propagate it – is “we know the truth and all the experts, historians, researchers, scientists and journalists are lying to us.” The official version of an event increases the self-esteem of the conspirator, who thinks that he is right and everyone else is wrong.

“In every conspiracy theory there is a pattern, a tendency to say that nothing happens by chance”


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-Do you usually need a scapegoat?

-Perhaps scapegoat is not the appropriate expression but it is true that conspiracy theorists, especially if they are in power, often have some figure who they accuse of being manipulating everything. For Stalin it was always Trotsky, his rival in the 1920s. For Trump it was George Soros and for the Turkish president, Erdogan, the cleric Gülen.

-Are there regimes more prone to conspiracy?

-In dictatorships or authoritarian states, where exercising legitimate opposition is not possible, the dictator suspects that everyone is conspiring against him, because the only way the opposition has to function is secretly. The more democracy, the greater the demand for openness and transparency. Of course, governments have to keep secrets, but they must explain what they do.

-Why does it seem easier to feed a machination than to dismantle it?

-Dismounting it is quite easy, although it takes time. The difficult thing is to convince the conspirators that they are wrong. If only I could see the reactions my book has provoked in England and the comments saying that it is rubbish! The world of conspirators tends to be a closed world, difficult to penetrate. One of his tactics is not to handle arguments and to discredit witnesses.

-Do they pose a danger to democracy?

-Of course, because they undermine confidence in the facts and evidence, and without that we cannot adequately plan for the future.

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