13 Jan 2005 Prince Harry: German Ancestry Does Not Make Him a Nazi Sympathizer
I noted a bit of unintentional irony in this New York Times article about Prince Harry wearing a swastika.
On the one hand, the piece notes some observers lamenting the possibility that history is not being properly taught to young people:
…the debate provoked some introspection about whether the memory of the death camps had endured across the generations.
In Jerusalem, Robert Rozett, the director of the library at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, said the photographs of Harry wearing a swastika showed that “the lessons of the Holocaust have not really entered deeply within his understanding and consciousness.”
On the other hand, it is reasonably clear that the author of the Times piece has scant familiarity with recent British history:
As The Evening Standard, among other newspapers, noted on Thursday, the royal family had an ambiguous relationship with Germany and the Nazis. The House of Windsor was formed in 1917 when the royal family changed its name from Saxe-Coburg Gotha, a name it acquired with the marriage in 1840 of Queen Victoria and Albert of Saxe-Coburg, which was then a duchy in central Germany.
In the 1930’s, moreover, some members were widely seen as openly sympathetic to the Nazis. In one iconic photograph, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, smiling broadly, were seen greeting Hitler.
If ever two paragraphs in a newspaper looked like padding in an essay being turned in for a high school history assignment, this is it.
Does the Times really need to quote the contemporary British press to know basic facts about British history? Is the ancestry of Queen Victoria’s prince consort of more significance than Queen Victoria’s own German ancestry (if so, a rare bout of overt sexism in the Times), or has the Times not heard of Victoria’s own House of Hanover (Germany)? (If so, the ignorance of the House of Hanover explains why the Times often doesn’t quite seem to understand the meaning of the Declaration of Independence as well.) And is the relationship between the Duke of Windsor and Hitler/top Nazis really best described by the fact that there exist photos of them cheerful together? One can say the same about Chamberlain, and Stalin. And probably some dufus from the New York Times, since the Times spent the 1930s parroting the Stalin line, and Stalin and Hitler carved up Poland together.
Someone (me, I guess) should tell the Times how misleading it is to say of the Windsors: “In the 1930’s, moreover, some members were widely seen as openly sympathetic to the Nazis.” Yes, the Duke and Duchess and Windsor were, but as a result, they were exiled in the Bahamas by his brother, King George VI, and Prime Minister Churchill during World War II. (The weather in the Bahamas might be nice, but the exile was a pointed insult, inasmuch as it was a location as far away from the action as the British government could find.) To tar the present House of Windsor with the sins of relatives they and their direct ancestors shunned because of those sins is hardly fair. Yet, the Times offers readers this line as if his great-grandfather’s brother’s political views tell us something about the thoughts of 20-year-old Prince Harry.
The House of Windsor is no more pro-Nazi than were German-Americans who fought in the U.S. Army during World War II. The patriotism of those men was not “ambiguous.” Having German ancestry does not make one think — even a tiny little bit — favorably toward the Nazis, and Prince Harry’s German ancestry, while more extensive than perhaps the Times realizes, is irrelevant in this case.