Politics of Harry Potter - Racism, Ethnic Cleansing, and Nazism

Racism, Ethnic Cleansing, and Nazism

Analysts note the criticism of racism in J.K. Rowling's texts.

When asked about the theme of racism and if her books have changed how people think, Rowling said, "I do not think I am pessimistic but I think I am realistic about how much you can change deeply entrenched prejudice, so my feeling would be that if someone were a committed racist, possibly Harry Potter is not going to have an effect."

When asked in a post-Deathly Hallows webchat about Hermione's future, Rowling said, "Hermione began her post-Hogwarts career at the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures where she was instrumental in greatly improving life for house-elves and their ilk. She then moved to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement where she was a progressive voice who ensured the eradication of oppressive, pro-pureblood laws."

After the publication of Deathly Hallows, Rowling responded to queries about metaphors in the books for ethnic cleansing: "Well, it is a political metaphor. But... I didn't sit down and think, 'I want to recreate Nazi Germany', in the—in the wizarding world. Because—although there are—quite consciously overtones of Nazi Germany, there are also associations with other political situations. So I can't really single one out." Rowling also compared her character Voldemort to paranoid megalomaniacs like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

In her 2007 book tour Rowling further discussed the parallels to Nazism, stating "It wasn't really exclusively that. I think you can see in the Ministry even before it's taken over, there are parallels to regimes we all know and love." She prefaced the remark, saying "People like to think themselves superior and that if they can pride themselves in nothing else they can pride themselves on perceived purity."

Rowling stated on her website that the Harry Potter phrases 'pure-blood', 'half-blood' and 'Muggle-born' compared to "some of the real charts the Nazis used to show what constituted 'Aryan' or 'Jewish' blood. I saw one in the Holocaust Museum in Washington when I had already devised the 'pure-blood', 'half-blood' and 'Muggle-born' definitions, and was chilled to see that the Nazis used precisely the same warped logic as the Death Eaters. A single Jewish grandparent 'polluted' the blood, according to their propaganda."

Christopher Hitchens noted in The New York Times that the lightning bolt—the shape of the scar which Harry received as a result of Voldemort's curse, now considered to be emblematic of the series—is also the symbol of Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists, a prominent group of Nazi sympathisers during the 1930s and 1940s. The Nazis themselves, in their SS, made use of the symbol too.

J.K. Rowling mentions in an article that Mosley was married to Diana Mitford, sister of her heroine, Jessica Mitford. Jessica, after whom Rowling named her daughter, never forgave Diana's Nazi sympathies. Oswald and Diana married in 1936, in the Berlin home of Nazi chief Joseph Goebbels with Adolf Hitler as a guest. J.K. Rowling also noted that Mitford's other sister Unity, to whom Jessica was closest in youth, became an arch-fascist and favourite of Adolf Hitler's.

Jessica's story may have thus inspired a part of Harry's story: Narcissa Black (analogue to Diana Mosley) married a Death Eater, Lucius Malfoy (Oswald Mosley). Her sister, Bellatrix (Unity Mitford), was herself a Death Eater, and a favourite of Lord Voldemort (Adolf Hitler). Andromeda (Jessica Mitford) married the Muggle-born Ted Tonks against her family's wishes (as Jessica eloped with her cousin Esmond Romilly) and was blasted out of the family-tree tapestry. These parallels were noted in the American communist newspaper People's Weekly World.

In a New York event hosted by MSNBC news anchor Keith Olbermann, Rowling confirmed the intentional similarities between Voldemort and Hitler.

In an act commemorating the Holocaust, actor Daniel Radcliffe, whose mother is Jewish, donated his first pair of Harry Potter glasses to an art exhibition inspired by a famous World War II photo of a mangled mountain of spectacles of victims of ethnic cleansing. Radcliffe's Potter co-star Jason Isaacs, who played Lucius Malfoy in the films, himself a Jewish Briton, was due to participate in the commemorations on National Holocaust Memorial Day, leading a service at Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall.

Aviva Chomsky (daughter of famed academic Noam Chomsky) in the Providence Journal suggests that Harry Potter is a parable on immigration rights, noting that US "immigration, citizenship and naturalization laws are based explicitly on discrimination on the basis of national origin. Where you were born, and what passport you carry, determine whether you have the right to come here, to visit, to work, or to live here."

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