- A Fascist Baby Hawk in NurembergFive Swedish Fascists’ Road Trip to the Fourth Nazi Party Congress—and the Socialization of a Nazi Mind
Fascism is not defined by the number of its victims, but by the way it kills them.—Jean-Paul Sartre1
Northern Europe in the summer of 1929 was unusually stormy and turbulent. According to a national newspaper in Sweden, it was characterized by an “atmospheric anxiety,” and its unpleasant and worrying weather foreshadowed ominous times.2 Around the continent, economic structures were trembling; in October national stock markets started to crash one after another. The European upsurge of the 1920s would soon be replaced by a profound decline and social instability. Unemployment rose, and strikes and labor conflicts increased. In terms of politics, democracy and market liberalism were no longer seen as something credible or attractive by many Europeans. In the wake of this development, a variety of fascist groups and regimes grew strong and anti-intellectual and antidemocratic attitudes spread throughout society. These Europeans enthusiastically awaited the new, authoritarian, and radical political projects from the right and the transition to what was probably the most fateful decade of the twentieth century [End Page 1] came to be socially and politically dramatic with public protests, riots, terror, coups, and civil wars around the continent.3
Under these circumstances, five young, politically engaged, and radical right-wing Swedish men left their homes to take part in the spectacular annual Nazi rally in Nuremberg, 1–4 August 1929, which included the Fourth Nazi Party Congress. Having left Stockholm by car 28 July, they arrived in the medieval Bavarian town five days later after an eventful 1,500 km road trip—which included mechanical breakdowns, drunkenness, and fights—through northern Europe. Full of expectations and eager to take part in this massive Nazi-propaganda event, they registered at the accommodation bureau managed by the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP). During the following days they, together with tens of thousands of European fascists, ate, drank, sang, discussed, marched, and fought.
The primary aim of this article is to investigate the “fascist culture trip” of these Swedes. In particular, it addresses how they socialized with likeminded European fascists and how they intellectualized their experiences from the rally. I hypothesize that this trip was much more than a mere adventure for these men; rather, it was a key element in a process of political sensemaking and intellectual legitimization—a substantial process of fascist socialization. In Nuremberg, they came to conceptualize significant fascist manners, experiences, and ideological tropes from the transnational postwar European context where fascism in its pure essence was rooted. However, this was also where young fascist fledglings from Sweden took an active part in the conceptual establishment of generic European fascism during its formative years in the late 1920s.
In terms of theory, this article’s focus is on the processes of socialization that encompassed the Swedes on their trip to Nuremberg. Thus, this article emphasizes the radical and social aspects of fascism that Robert O. Paxton formulates as “a form of political behavior” in an emotional tension between a multifaceted ideology and a violent social context.4 Furthermore, I would like to explore the dimension of political sensemaking and intellectual legitimization as crucial and close to what Antonio Gramsci defines as “a collective intellectual.”5 According to Gramsci, this is a class-conscious and socially integrated activist that through social experiences comes to represent specific collective interests with the potential to challenge from below and formulate antagonistic thoughts.6 With this definition, Gramsci developed a critical challenge to the established bourgeois concept of an intellectual.7 [End Page 2]
This article is based on a critical reading of mainly two kinds of sources: diary notes and biographical texts from one of the traveling Swedes and various newspaper sources, among them a retrospective and serial travel report from a weekly newspaper from the contemporary fascist milieu in Sweden.8 When going inside fascists’ worldviews like this, I lean toward a phenomenological approach and investigate the individuals’ understanding of their experiences. Through that, I strive to understand more about fascism—and fascist masculinity—in depth. In relation to...