Harry Potter: The Most Powerful Series on Anti-Racism
In honor of International Harry Potter Day, let me share my two cents about what I believe J.K. Rowling actually attempted to accomplish when she wrote this series. It seems to me that ‘Harry Potter’ exactly mirrors the British fight against Nazi Germany. Voldermort’s supporters are just like the Nazis. Harry Potter’s allies compare to the Brits. Muggles are the Jews and gypsies. The whole struggle in the book is a lesson to us on how to prevent bigotry, fight evil governments, and be courageous and resilient enough to always stand up for what we know is right…even when it may be difficult or unpopular to do so. Don’t laugh until you finish reading this whole blog! Just hear me out.
Let’s begin with Voldermort himself, whom J.K. Rowling created out of Hitler’s likeness. There is ample evidence for this. First of all, Hitler may have been a quarter Jewish; Voldermont was a mud-blood, half wizard but half Muggle. Of course, none of their followers knew about this. Nevertheless, Hitler wanted to kill all Jews with at least one Jewish grandparent; Voldermort wanted to kill every Muggle or half-Muggle. Hitler despised Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, Communists, and many others; Voldermort despised Muggles, Mudbloods, and ideological opponents. Thus, it is quite ironic that both Hitler and Voldermort both had a ‘superior race’, which they technically did not even belong in, yet were so hell-bent on exterminating ‘inferior’ races. The similarities are just beginning, however. Both Hitler and Voldermort were highly intelligent men; Hitler was superior at giving stirring speeches, while Voldermort was one of the most deadly powerful wizards ever; in both cases, their talents helped them to attract followers. The similarities get even eerier, however. Hitler was called the “Fuhrer”; Voldermort, “The Dark Lord”. Hitler wanted to conquer the world, or at the very least, Europe; Voldermort, the most powerful wand in the world.
It isn’t just Hitler and Voldermort who share many parallels, however; their supporters do, too. Just as the Nazis wanted to “please” the fuhrer (by winning sporting events, looking “Aryan”, making healthy babies, gleefully responding to his speeches, etc,) Voldermort’s supporters went out of their way to “please” their ‘Dark Lord’,…by giving him their wands, their sons or friends, or even offering to capture or kill Harry Potter. The Nazis actively harassed, and even killed, Jews and other victims, even before the Holocaust, as did Voldermort’s supporters with Muggles. The brutal Brownshirts, who terrorized their opponents, are equivalent to the Death Eaters, who randomly committed atrocities against their victims for fun. Finally, the Nazis tortured people in horrible medical experiments; sometimes, like in Babi Yar, they just shot them on the spot. Voldermort’s pals too tortured people who disagreed with them, inventing painful murdering techniques, both parties killed and opponents for sport
As if these similarities were not enough, J.K. Rowling brilliantly compares the governments under both dictators. Under the Nazi regime, the whole education process was completely “reformed”. Certain books were banned. Teachers were scrutinized to toe the party line. Likewise, after Harry Potter and his friends left Hogwarts, and Dumbledore died, a “reeducation” process took place there. Professors, like those who taught “Muggle Studies”, were removed and even killed. Each professor had to be “reevaluated”, to make sure that the lectures were censored enough to fit neatly into the propaganda. Furthermore, In the Nazi regime, people who weren’t technically Jews, and just had even a single Jewish grandparent, or political opponents, were brought to courts, and usually rounded up and sent to the concentration camps. When Harry Potter and his friends sneak into the Ministry Department, they see witches and wizards who are accused of not being real witches and wizards being dragged into court. These unfortunate victims are given staged, pre-determined trials, with no chance to even defend themselves . Once their victims were in the concentration camps, the Nazis were notorious for inscribing tattoos onto the arms of their concentration camp prisoners. Likewise, in one of the books/movies, Hermione, when captured by the Malfoys, has the inscription “Mudblood” on her arm.
Interestingly, the bad guys are not the only ones who are mirrored…the Brits’ various forms of resistance closely parallel those of the enemies of Voldermort. First, just as the Allies naively did not believe, or refused believe, what Hitler was capable of before World War II, choosing instead to ignore or appease him, most anti-Voldermort witches and wizards, too, dismissed a resurrection of Voldermont as impossible, continually saying how it is impossible for him to regain power, even refusing to mention his name(He-who-must not-be named). However, the leaders, who would soon become central figures in the fight against evil, called the bluff of their future enemies immediately. Just as Wisnton Churchill saw Hitler’s dangerousness before anyone else dared to believe it, so did Dumbledore. Much like Churchill, Dumbledore gently prepared allies for the upcoming battle to get the world rid of an evil man by taking the appropriate precautions, without rushing to panic anyone. The facts of Britain’s battle against the Nazis and Harry Potter’s against Voldermort are closely related even during the conflict. For example, during the Holocaust, many people believed that reports about concentration camps were “exaggerated” by the Allies (just as they had been during WWI). Few people, too, believed Harry Potter’s first-hand accounts about his sightings of Voldermort and his allies, choosing instead to believe that he was merely exaggerating. In both cases, an evil tyrant was given time to become even more powerful, while numerous opportunities to stop him were naively ignored by the overwhelming majority of the unsuspecting public.
So what is the point of all of these parallels? Hitler was allowed to stay in power for too long, and as a consequence unleashed the Holocaust and a war, killing millions of people and wreaking much havoc.. J.K. Rowling clearly sent the message that people like Hitler need to be stopped BEFORE they can do too much damage. In the final book, after much suffering and fighting, Voldermort is finally defeated. No doubt that, like Hitler, the longer he had been untouched, the more powerful he would have become. Just as with Hitler, If Voldermort had won, the consequences would have been disastrous. Just as if the Nazis controlled the world, there would probably have been no Jews, gypsies, Communists, or homosexuals, Muggles and Mudbloods would be dying all over the place if Voldermort ruled the wizarding world. ‘The Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’ might as well be ‘The Final Solution to the ‘Muggle’ problem’!
J.K. Rowling is a genius. From the very first book, she knew we exactly what she was doing. First, she hooked pre-teen kids into Harry Potter through magic and lasting friendships and cool adventures of the protagonists. Then as these same kids got older, she gently and slowly exposed us to the evils in this world…the intolerance, the bigotry, the censorship, the propaganda…as well as the good….courage, friendship, loyalty, resilience, perseverance.
In reality, she was pleading with the future (kids) to take all necessary steps to avoid another Hitler. As we grew up and became first teenagers, and now adults, the books became more and more serious, the battles more and more important, Voldermort’s forces much more powerful and much more dangerous. As kids we were naïve about Voldermort’s power…just like our grandparents were naïve about Hitler during the 1920s and 1930s, but as we grew up, as Voldermort became more powerful, as more crimes against humanity began happening, we began waking up and we began understanding exactly how much danger we were really in…just like the Brits during World War II. In a way, J.K. Rowling, a Brit, is bragging about how her country stood up to evil, after almost succumbing to it due to its early naivety.
J.K. Rowling chose a brilliant and effective method to illustrate the evils of intolerance effective because Jew or Muslim, black or white, Communist or neo-Nazi, no matter which nationality, race, or religion, we all became one…Muggles…the victims of genocide by Voldermort’s plans. Our Muggle status allows us to sympathize and defend the victim because we ARE that very victim. making all of us the despised minority (as Muggles), J.K. Rowling is showing us how wrong and unfair it is to be racist, how unbridled xenophobia can ruin the world, and how we must stand up to these bigots, monitor their whereabouts and plans, and, if necessary, remove them in order to prevent them from harming society and to insure that “never again” will bigotry and hatred turn into something as ugly as genocide.
There are so many maniacs out there, and the scariest part is, we don’t even know how dangerous each of them is. But when and if we do find out, we must not hesitate to take those tyrants out, before they destroy the world. J.K. Rowling wanted to send a clear message to the world, and especially to kids that dangerous men need to be stopped at all costs, before they could do damage. “Never again” must we allow another Hitler to rise again.. To do so, she compared the rise of Hitler to that of Voldermort, the responses of others, and how stopping Hitler of Voldermort before they could do more damage should have been the number one focus and priority.