What Can Happen While Our Attention is Elsewhere – Mike Stuchbery

Gentle Reader – I need to explain a couple of things. Firstly, this started as a Health Blog and continues to be one. Yet as you can see from the Headers of the “Home” page, I define health rather broadly. In that context, I have posted, in the past, the UK Government’s analysis of the initiation of the War on Iraq, among other things.

Secondly, after the present occupant of the White House was elected, I initiated a section of the blog entitled “Survival Tools for a Fascist Era”. More than one person commented to me that use of the word “Fascist” in conjunction with the WH occupant was premature. I think and have written (see Post #5 in this section) that this is no longer the case, the Occupant fulfills the standard criteria for a fascist, even if our government does not, despite his best efforts. None-the-less, I have not been as active as I should have been at keeping this section up to date. While I will add my own pieces in future, I have “discovered”  – and on Twitter no less ! – a brilliant colleague whose work I will post – with his permission – going forward, that of Mike Stuchbery.

Mike is a former high school history teacher and professional researcher now based in Luton, England. He has a special interest in the Nazi era and resistance to authoritarian governments, as well as wider German history. He may be found at: @mikestuchbery_

Mike has a Patreon site at: https://www.patreon.com/mikestuchbery_

Here is a piece he posted on Twitter this morning 12 November, 2018.


This is going to be an angry thread. It’s angry, because of what I see, compared to what I’ve been spending the last few days researching. Let me tell you about what happened shortly after the Nazi Party were voted into office, and how your both-sides-are-bad inertia is criminally naive.

As early as 1921, Adolf Hitler had talked about the need to remove the ‘bacilli’ of the future regime’s enemies such as Bolsheviks, other left-wing agitators and, of course, the Jews. Even then, his solution was to be a series of camps that would contain them, modelled on POW camps. In the spring and summer of 1933, following the Nazi Party’s rise to power, the SA (the party’s early paramilitary) arrested thousands across Germany – partly in retribution for earlier attacks, partly to remove any opposition. These arrests were called ‘Schutzhalt’, or ‘Protective Custody’.

‘Protective Custody’, of course, was a euphemism. Nobody was being bloody protected. They were taken to one of hundreds of various locations across Germany that were used as makeshift concentration camps – prisons, children’s camps, even former SA clubhouses, with no judicial involvement. To begin with, these ‘camps’ were bounced between a number of agencies. The SA controlled some, the police, and others the SS. How you fared depended wildly on who was in control. Police custody could be no worse than normal prison. SA facilities, with untrained guards, was hell on earth. Did the population know what was happening? Of course they did – they may have seen some of the prisoners being paraded by SA units to their nearest place of incarceration, or heard the cries of prisoners, especially in some of the urban locations. This was no secret at all.


However, the population had been told for years via Nazi campaigning that those arrested were the enemies of Germany, and had to be pre-emptively detained for their own good. By the time that the population began to understand what they’d enabled, they were often too scared to protest. Early in the piece, being sent to one of the camps wasn’t a permanent thing. Many were released after a couple of months to bare the scars of their ordeal. In a way, this was a deterrent to those who would consider criticizing the regime. Many knew of a broken man who had returned from a camp.

Dachau would set the template for what was to come. Near Augsburg, it opened on the 22nd of March, 1933, and took in political opponents of the regime. At first, things weren’t too bad, but would later descend into a rather lawless state. The murder of several prisoners forced Himmler, head of the SS, to take action. Theodor Eicke, a fanatical, brutal Nazi, was placed as SS commandant of Dachau in 1934. He would be the one to regulate the use of violence and punishments. No longer would conditions be constantly changing – from this point, prisoners knew what to expect: prolonged suffering and humiliation.


Eicke would later become inspector of camps, and move around the country closing the smaller camps and managing the transition of prisoners to the larger ones, until the outbreak of war, when he was made the head of an SS combat division. He died in 1943.

Over time, the SS ‘Totenkopfverbände’ (‘Death’s Head Guards’) were placed in control of all the new ‘concentration camps’ in Germany. Detailed regulations were drawn up for guards, as were plans for standardised layouts and facilities across the country. All this occurred in less than 10 years. Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, Bergen-Belsen, Ravensbruck, Flossenburg and Lichtenburg were all built and populated before the outbreak of the Second World War. All had thousands of German opponents of the regime pass through them, before Jews began in large numbers following Kristallnacht. The Nazis would continue building camps in the occupied territories. Each owed their structure and organization to the work that had been done throughout the 1930s by Eicke and Himmler, learning from mistakes and challenges that they’d been confronted with along the way.

It’s important to understand that these camps were not designed to kill people. Extermination camps would follow as a direct result of the Final Solution, agreed at Wannsee in early 1942.  While camps saw many deaths, they were by no means their purpose – only incarceration and punishment. It’s also very important to note that the rest of the world knew about the Nazi concentration camps long before 1945. Very few prisoners had escaped, but a few that had wrote accounts and lobbied foreign governments to press the Nazi regime. There were a few inquiries, but they were toothless. Even when pressed, the Nazi regime had their answers prepared – their usual line that the camps that they had created were no better or worse than the ones the British had used in South Africa, or French POW camps of WW1. ‘Whataboutism’ was the standard defence.

My point is this – long before we say the ‘industrialization’ of killing that we now call the Holocaust, the Nazis were perfecting their techniques on those it considered the enemies of the state within its borders. For much of that time, it did not have the appearance of what it would become. Things didn’t get worse along some sort of predictable trajectory. Conditions in camps and on the streets seemed to improve to many, and outwardly, it might have seemed like ‘schutzhaft’ was a necessary step to many Germans – especially after 1934. Germans were not confronted with industrial killing floors in their backyard – not at first, at least. They simply thought that the camps were places where a threat was being contained, not eliminated. So when you hear stories about ‘tent cities’ on the US border, or militias and ICE working together, think of those first few months of 1933. When someone calls for ‘Antifa’ crackdowns, think about what happened only weeks after the Nazi’s rise to power.

Europeans, when some pissant demagogue in a tie starts railing against the enemies of your less-than-200-year-old-nation, understand exactly what the endgame of that bullshit is – mindless violence, transforming into a machinery of death.

No one is your fucking enemy. No one is out to get you. The enemies of freedom are every jumped-up shit that parrots the same lines about ‘invasion’ or ‘purity’ that the Nazis were using when they paraded bewildered men through city streets towards beatings and floggings. Educate yourself. Understand that the Nazi state didn’t spring into existence suddenly. There had to be buy in, there had to be a population agreeing that some people, purely because of what they believed, needed to be placed in extra-judicial prisons. Read this book, for instance.

And before anybody starts in on gulags, I don’t see any fucking Stalinists about, do you? So quit with that absolute garbage. The Far Right is on the march, the Far Left is having trouble putting its boots on. Turn off that dickhead propagandist YouTuber. Stop making excuses for those among you that call for others to be removed, silenced or worse. Stop being so goddamned scared. Fear is what gave us the horrors of Dachau.

Fear is what will kill millions more, if we’re not careful.

About AJ Layon

AJ Layon was, for 28 years, at the University of Florida College of Medicine, in the Division of Critical Care Medicine, in Gainesville, FL. For the approximately 10 years until September 2011, he was Professor and Chief of Critical Care Medicine at UF; In September of 2011 he became System Director and Co-Chairman of Critical Care Medicine in PA; this ended in 2017. He served as a Physician in the Surgical Group with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors without Borders) through 2018 and is presently an intensivist in Florida, struggling through the SARS-CoV-2 crisis. While his interests are primarily related to health care, health care reform, and ethical issues, as a citizen of our United States and our world, he will occasionally opine on issues of our "time and destiny". Follow on Twitter @ajlayon
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