Earlier today I walked past a branch of the Agenda bookshops and there on the Melitensia shelves I saw glare back at me a photo of Adolf Hitler. A new book with Adolf Hitler on its cover is not remarkable, though it will be a very good book that exceeds Ian Kershaw’s two-volume biography from 1998. What dragged me inside the shop was my fastidiousness. Why was a Hitler biography in the “Melitensia” section? I’m the sort of pedant that tells them to put a mistake like that right.
As I got closer, I saw, written in pre-war Gothic, the book’s title in German “Mein Führer Adolf Hitler”. And then when I got closer still, in smaller pre-war Gothic the subtitle in Maltese “L-Istorja u l-Bijografija.” My fury rages at things that leave most people indifferent. How bold of anyone to claim they have written the history of Adolf Hitler. And why would anyone, let alone his biographer, call Adolf Hitler “their” Führer?
The name of the author was unfamiliar. One Ronald Bugeja. I flicked through the book, and I found no publisher identified which means the book must be self-published. I went to the last page to find the bibliography and there was none.
Instead, I found this written on the last page and I first transcribe it in the original Maltese and German:
Nixtieq nispiċċa bi kwotazzjoni li ktibt apposta għal dan il-ktieb rigward Adolf Hitler innifsu.
‘Uħud jippreferu jiftakru f’Hitler, fl-imwiet u għaliex għamel dik il-ħruxija! Iżda ħafna jippreferu jiftakru f’Hitler, kif għex u xi rnexxielu jagħmel għal pajjiżu.’
It’s confusing. The quote appears to be a reference to something the author himself is saying. He’s quoting himself (though the book transcribes and translates entire speeches of Adolf Hitler and his henchmen). Ronald Bugeja says that few choose to remember Hitler for the deaths and his cruelty. But many prefer to remember Hitler for how he lived and what he managed to do for his country.
The author then appears to address his Führer, in German, with the Nazi salute, Seig Heil.
I read this in the bookshop shaking. I turned on the poor Filipina shop attendant and shouted at her, asking why her shop was selling such drivel. I stopped myself remembering she is innocent of the decisions of her employers. I paid €30 and bought the book hiding it in my bag furtively like I had hidden my first Playboy magazine when I was 14 and was definitely not allowed to buy it.
I didn’t buy the book to review it. I bought it to denounce it.
The content of the book confirms the tone of its obsequious conclusion. In his introduction the author mocks those who “are still offended when they hear Hitler being named after 85 years since his death.” “Do you think,” the author challenges the reader, “that all you have been indoctrinated with since you were young is true?”
“The aim of this book,” the author goes on, “is to explain history in a different way – through a different lens – from what we normally read and hear on Adolf Hitler and the philosophy he believed in. I’m saying this because you normally only hear how he has been described for a long time. You only hear bad things about him. They always try to make you forget or destroy the good to take away the credit this Great man deserves.” (‘Great’, ‘Kbir’, is capitalised in the text).
Here’s another chestnut from Ronald Bugeja’s introduction. “Nazism is not racism.” He follows that with his first chapter headlined “since the beginning of history” which is a revolting Nazi revision of history grounded in unmitigated anti-Semitism. It is the drivel of pre-war propaganda that bred Hitler’s willing executioners, the train drivers who ferried millions to death camps. Of course, this revised history of “Jews in the world” does not include the bit where they were nearly exterminated by order of the Nazis.
In page 293, the author asks rhetorically “you say again, is it possible this human, Hitler, did nothing right?” That’s in the chapter where he describes how Hitler loved his dog and had a mistress, irrefutable evidence of his führer’s admirable qualities.
Speaking of qualities, the book has a chapter headlined “Kisbiet Glorjużi”, ‘triumphal successes,’ which refers to the road building and corporatist mass-employment in the pre-war years. There’s nothing there about the criminal aggression, the racial discrimination laws, the killings of political opponents, and the forced euthanasia of “defectives”. It’s like they never happened for Ronald Bugeja.
This book is a lie, a lie we’ve heard since before, during, and after the Second World War which directly killed nearly 60 million people and 30 million others indirectly.
Why am I making such a fuss? Why, some like-minded people would say, am I giving it such publicity?
Here are my reasons:
Firstly, the only way to deal with lies is to denounce them. Silence in the face of lies confirms them.
Secondly, if people are happy to believe covid was a hoax, and the government is poising children in school meals, they will be happy to believe Hitler was a good person, and anyone who loves their country as much as he did, deserves to be placed in power. There are 10,000 Ronald Bugejas in our midst who think Norman Lowell should be dictator for life. This is madness, I grant you. But it is not rare or exceptional.
Thirdly, because while I shut up about this antisemitic, holocaust-denying, Adolf Hitler-worshipping filth, Ronald Bugeja is still helped by others. He shouldn’t be helped.
I will be taunted by Nazi sympathisers that I am inconsistent about freedom of speech. They can fuck right off. I am not the state so what I say or what I do can never have the effect of depriving them of their right to hate and to revise history to justify their hatred.
So, I’m perfectly entitled to say that Agenda Bookshop or any other bookshop should refuse to stock this material which in some countries, perhaps because of their specific history, would be illegal and in itself evidence of serious crimes against democracy.
The book itself acknowledges in its “special thanks” section the National Book Council. I am literally shaking at the notion that this author may have been given tax-payer’s money to subsidise its writing and publication. This is unconscionable. It is treason to the victims of Adolf Hitler, Jews, Maltese, German, all. Nazi propaganda and historical apologies and revisionism that justify the Nazis and the discrimination and extermination of Jews and all their many other victims should not get funded, even in part, by the state.
I googled Ronald Bugeja and to my horror I found that he was guest just a few days ago on the literary program broadcast by the national TV. He was interviewed by John Demanuele. In the interview Ronald Bugeja justifies the Nazi’s treatment of the Jews. He does more than that. He praises Hitler for reversing the reality of when he took office that “Germany belonged to the foreigner.”
He glosses over the Holocaust protecting Adolf Hitler from responsibility for “occurrences” in Poland saying that generals there exceeded his orders.
These were lies, given a platform on National TV. John Demanuele does not challenge them in the interview. Blood-curdlingly he commends the book to the viewers seemingly welcoming the “alternative” view on Adolf Hitler.
I’m sorry but this is just not acceptable. The normalisation of Nazism, the idea, sanctioned by officialdom, that Hitler brought “springtime for Germany”, to coin a phrase, the very idea that the discrimination and exile explicitly, and extermination implicitly, of a minority is justified by “love of country”, has no legitimate space in a democracy.
In page 231 Ronald Bugeja tells the story of that horrific night when the Nazis burnt “degenerate” books in a square just off the Unter den Linden. He justifies the burning of books in the way the Nazis did. The books were “Jewish” and as such put pressure on Germans to accept their “foreign” culture. Burning these books, Ronald Bugeja says, “allowed the Germans to embrace the true culture of their country.”
The Nazis that night burnt the books of HG Wells and Romain Rolland. They burnt Marxist literature. They burnt pacificist writings. They burnt Thomas Mann and Walther Rathenau. They burnt German histories disproving the false myths of the “Volk”. They burnt the works of Grosz, Dix, and Mendelssohn. They burnt Bauhaus. They burnt research in sex. They burnt Zweig, Blei, and Graf. They burnt anything remotely erotic, any challenge to the false notion of German “purity”, any popular entertainment set in a bourgeois context, and anything written by anyone Jewish, including scientific and medical research.
Any book that justifies this deserves itself to be burnt. I say it again. There is no space in a democracy for the idea that democracy should be replaced by an ideology of discrimination and murder.
You can choose to ignore this or laugh at it but before you know it your freedom will be on another bonfire hateful hating Nazis like Ronald Bugeja kindle while they stab the air.