Freedom of Speech and the Holocaust

If someone divulges in the media that blacks must be killed, that gays must be exterminated, that Jews must be destroyed, that gypsies deserve to burn in the oven , that someone – for want of a more proper qualification for a category below animals – will become famous, to the greater contempt of what they call fame in these hellish days whose name is Bolsonaro.

That is the reason why a bicycle branded individual has become the subject of such a spotlight this week. He will pass, or has passed, but he left the sad echo of a thing when he sounded that “there should be a legalized Nazi party in Brazil” and that “if the guy is anti-Jewish he has the right to be anti-Jewish”. On the same occasion, another deputy bellowed that Nazism should not have been criminalized in Germany after World War II.

In response to this, the German Embassy in Brazil published a note stating that “defending Nazism is not freedom of speech. It was spot on. From a legal point of view, jurists have already demonstrated to exhaustion that the Federal Constitution does not shelter aggressions, insults to the human being under the cloak of freedom of opinion or expression. In its Article 5, subsection XLI, it is determined that the law will punish any discrimination that violates fundamental rights and freedoms.

And more: in Brazil, the Federal Constitution is aligned with international pacts in order to protect the freedom of expression and the dignity of the human person, always defending the idea that there is no absolute right. The Constitution provides, in its Article 3, item IV, that “the fundamental objectives of the Federative Republic of Brazil are to promote the welfare of all, without prejudice of origin, race, sex, color, age, and any other forms of discrimination.

What matters most here, besides its legal punishment, is the anti-civilizing character of those who open their jaws to utter support or applause for Nazism. Karl Marx, in defending the freedom of the press, wrote that flowers grow even in the swamp. But here, we all know, the young Marx was not defending the swamp of the 20th century, whose political and ideological name is Nazism, which buries all democratic freedoms. This swamp, which exterminates the conquests of humanity, was the object of Karl Marx’s absolute opposition, even though in his time the monster did not show its face.

But in an unfortunate coincidence we arrive a week later on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The destruction of the Nazi war machine that the Red Army accomplished, with a human sacrifice of crowds and Soviet soldiers never seen before, finds one of its greatest memories in one of those liberated by the Red Army from the Auschwitz death camp. Primo Levi, one of those men made free, forever bequeathed to us in “Is This a Man?” these lines:

“voiding selection for death, for gas, is quite difficult. Those who cannot, try to defend themselves in other ways. In the latrines, in the washbasins, we show each other our chests, our buttocks, our thighs, and our companions encourage us: “Don’t worry, it won’t be your turn… Nobody denies the others this alms; nobody is so sure of his own fate that he can encourage himself to condemn the others.” I also blatantly lied to old Wertheimer; I told him that if they questioned him, he should answer that he was 45 years old and that he should not fail to shave the night before, even if it cost him a quarter of his bread ration. (A little piece of razor blade exchanged for a piece of bread)….

Pannwitz is tall, thin, blond; he has eyes, hair, nose as every German should have them, and he sits formidable behind a desk full of papers. I, Häftling 174517, am standing in his office, which is really an office, shiny, clean, neat, and tidy; I have the feeling that if I touched anything, it would leave a dirt mark.

Dr. Pannwitz finishes writing and looks at me….

When I became a free man again, I longed to meet him again, not out of revenge, just out of a curiosity of my own as to the human soul. Because that look was not crossed between two men. If I could explain in depth the nature of that look, exchanged as through the glass of an aquarium between two beings inhabiting two different environments, I could explain the essence of the great madness of the Third Reich.

In the face of such greatness and truth of literature, all mud is silence.

Urariano Mota is the author of Never-Ending Youth.