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Samantha Raup

Mary Broussard

Independent Study

7 December 2015

Historical Parallelism in Harry Potter

Introduction

“Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize

that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and

strikes back!” (Half-Blood Prince 310). In this quote, J.K. Rowling beautifully illustrates the

idea of historical parallelism in the Harry Potter series. Similarity to real historic events is not

the only subject that Albus Dumbledore alludes to in this explanation to Harry Potter: it also

involves the ideas of the nature of evil, good triumphing over evil, and a hero emerging from the

oppressed. A very powerful tool for a fiction writer is history, as it offers plentiful allusions,

themes, characters, and events that can be transmuted into a universally appealing story. One of

the richest historical events to use for a fictional comparison is World War II, which is the most

well-known representation of evil in the modern era. Themes and motifs related to the Holocaust

specifically are myriad, but the most common are the human embodiment of evil (Hitler), the

realization of a goal shared by a group of people (the Final Solution), an atmosphere of terror,

and of course cultural genocide. Through the use of fictional characters and events, authors are

able to safely educate young readers about such dark themes and motifs, while keeping these

very real concepts at a distance. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series echoes the World War II era

in its key characters: the ideological dictator, the regime supporters, and the resistance

movements.

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Ideological Dictators

Hitler’s ideology is largely paralleled in Voldemort’s. Each despot’s system of beliefs

focused on the “exploitation and exclusion of people on the basis of race” (Curthoys 16). The

ideology behind the Nazi regime in World War II and consequently the Holocaust, masterminded

by Adolf Hitler, inspired the destruction of over six million Jewish lives alone and countless

others. Superficially, Hitler blamed the Jews for the conditions in Germany after World War I.

Under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, the country was made to pay reparations, lost its colonies

and territories, was forced to reduce its military, and was even geographically divided. Germans

were extremely poor and living conditions were awful, so when Hitler stepped in and promised a

better life, he was supported by the people. Beneath this prejudice, however, laid an even more

deeply-rooted European issue with Jews. Hitler, an Austrian native, was raised in a society that

had long practiced anti-Semitisma belief that originated with “an irrational fear of outsiders

with noticeably different ways” (McKale 11).

Hitler considered eliminating the Jews more important than the war: in his own words,

“The Jewish question takes priority over all other matters” (Victor 197). One’s Jewish heritage

was defined by Nazis as having any Jewish family member, no matter how distant. J.K. Rowling

stated on her author webpage, in reference to blood classification systems, that “a single Jewish

grandparent ‘polluted’ the blood, according to [Nazi] propaganda.According to Bryan Rigg,

author of Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish

Descent in the German Military, a child is considered Jewish by birth; the parents pass on their

Jewish identity to any offspring, regardless of the child’s opinion on the matter (7). Interestingly,

the term “Mischling” was used to identify people as partially Jewish, and the rights of these so-

called half-breeds were taken away under the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 (Rigg 20-23). Hitler’s

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overarching ideology of ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer (translated as “one people, one land, one

leader”) was the driving motivation behind his actions during World War II. The Volk in this

case refers to the Aryan people, a race of “superior” beings who had blond hair and blue eyes,

and were tall and muscular. Indeed, Hitler’s ultimate goal was to exterminate all those who did

not align with his Aryan ideal, which included other populations such as gypsies, homosexuals,

the handicapped, Romanians, and Poles. In the Führer’s mind, the elimination of all non-Aryans

and the systematic takeover of nations bordering Germany were necessary steps in achieving

what can be considered a plan for world domination.

In many important ways, Voldemort’s ideology is strikingly similar to Hitler’s. Both the

superficial scapegoating of and the deep-rooted historical prejudice against a certain people

appear in Voldemort’s pro-Pure-Blood regime. The classification of blood status in Harry Potter

is important to note. A magical child born to an entirely magical lineage is considered a “Pure-

Blood”; a magical child born to a lineage that includes even one Muggle, or non-magical person,

is considered a “Half-Blood”; a magical child born to a lineage that is entirely Muggle is a

“Muggle-Born”, or pejoratively a “Mudblood”; and a non-magical child born to a magical

lineage is called a “Squib.” Voldemort’s regime was directed against both Muggle-Borns and

Half-Bloods, but does not specifically target Squibs, although they are considered disgraceful.

Just as Hitler grew up in an anti-Semitic atmosphere, so did Voldemort experience a

similar atmosphere of hatred when at school. As a student known by his birth name, Tom Riddle,

Voldemort was sorted into Slytherin house, a house with a reputation for cultivating cunning, sly

witches and wizards. In Chamber of Secrets, a professor explains that Salazar Slytherin, the

founder of Slytherin House and one of the founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and

Wizardry, wanted to exclude all pupils that were not of pure blood. Professor Binns states that

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the school was “founded over a thousand years ago,” putting the founding date before 990 AD

(Chamber of Secrets 150). Binns goes on to explain that Slytherin “believed that magical

learning should be kept within all-magical families. He disliked admitting students of Muggle

parentage, believing them to be untrustworthy” (Chamber of Secrets 150). In the same speech,

Binns shares the myth that Slytherin left a hidden chamber in the school that held a monster that

would, when freed by his heir, “purge the school of all who were unworthy to study magic”

(Chamber of Secrets 151). This myth could easily be compared to the European anti-Semitism

that culminated in the Holocaust, which was certainly an attempt to “purge” the world of the

“unworthy.”

After having lived with a group of students who shared this mindset of racial superiority

for several years, Voldemort’s hatred for those not of pure blood became more focused when he

discovered who his parents were. As an abandoned child, Voldemort believed that his father had

been a powerful wizard and his mother a weak Muggle, because if his mother had been of

magical descent, she would not have done something as weak as dying. Later, upon discovering

the truth, he kills his Muggle father and grandfather in a furious rage. Thus, Voldemort’s

personal connection with his public ideology comes from both his time at school and his

childhood.

Voldemort’s prejudice also has additional historical roots outside of the Chamber of

Secrets. An invented sixteenth-century myth entitled “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,”

published in a supplementary text called Tales of Beedle the Bard, involves prejudice against

Muggles. In this magical myth, a wizard inherits a pot after his father’s death. As the father was

well-known for helping the townspeople using magic, the son is approached for the same type of

aid. He refuses, and the pot sprouts a foot. The pot annoys the son night and day with the noise it

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makes by hopping, until finally the son provides the magical aid requested. The most salient line

from the tale itself is thus: “Those who could not work magic were, to the son’s mind, worthless,

and he had often quarreled with his father’s habit of dispensing magical aid to their neighbors”

(Tales 2). The fact that this myth was published in the magical world hundreds of years in the

past clearly points to a history of anti-Muggle sentiment, much like Europe’s long-standing anti-

Semitism. Patient and Street concisely summarize the effect of this myth on the magical world:

an allusion to a racial consciousness that problematises the purity of wizarding blood and

informs the ideology of racial purity promoted by Voldemort and his Death Eaters” (222).

Hitler and Voldemort share an important life experience: the death of a parent early in

life. The loss of their respective mothers also deeply affected each despot. Hitler’s mother died

when he was eighteen, and her death devastated him; he never got along well with his father,

which certainly complicated Adolf’s reaction to his mother’s death (“Adolf Hitler”).

Voldemort’s discovery of his parentage led him to hone his hatred of Muggles because he found

that his father, a presence that he had lamented as a young orphan, was a Muggle who did not

know that he, Voldemort, existed. Voldemort also discovered that his mother had died after

giving birth to him. It is explained that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named never felt the love of a

mother’s touch and consequently did not develop or even experience any empathy, compassion,

or love his entire life (Deathly Hallows 709-10). These two mothers’ deaths affected their

totalitarian sons’ regimes by altering the sons’ personalities and outlooks on life.

Neither Hitler nor Voldemort fit their own ideal, but both were very physically

memorable. Hitler, a dark-haired, brown-eyed man of average height, was not the blond, blue-

eyed, tall Aryan, and Voldemort, a Half-Blood by his Muggle father, was not a Pure-blood. In a

2000 interview with Evan Solomon, J.K. Rowling said of this similarity that Voldemort’s “zeal

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for Mudbloods…is ‘like Hitler and the Aryan ideal, to which he did not conform at all

himself…He attempts to exterminate in [others] what he hates in himself.’” Additionally, both

dictators possessed a unique physical appearance that made them instantly identifiable. Hitler’s

moustache and hair part can be attributed to him at first glance, and Voldemort’s snake-like

features, including his eyes and lack of nose and hair, would instantaneously call him to mind.

Both also possessed a “charismatic dimension”: Hitler was able to charm an entire nation into

voting him into office with his believable promises, while Voldemort was able to charm people

into doing what he wanted both with his handsome features and with his well-chosen words

(Patient and Street 208).

Both namesAdolf Hitler and Lord Voldemortalso serve as a kind of separate

character from the actual person. The name “Hitler” began to take on a new connotation after

World War II that it has to this day: it is practically synonymous with “evil.” Again, in

Voldemort’s case, the same sort of phenomenon occurred, but in a more intense way.

“Voldemort” is an invented name; the real character’s name is Tom Riddle. He came up with the

name while a student at Hogwarts. Riddle hated his birth name, as it reminded him of his non-

magical father, and sought to create a new persona for himself with which he could gain power.

In fact, the name “Voldemort” can be separated into three French words: vol de mort, meaning

either “theft of death” or “flight of death.” Both meanings signify an escape from death, which

was one of Voldemort’s goals: to become immortal. By creating Horcruxes, a process which

involves committing heinous crimes in order to split the soul and binding the parts of the soul to

an object, Voldemort pushed the limits of humanity and became an inhuman embodiment of evil

in the eyes of the wizarding community, much like Hitler’s heinous crimes made him the same in

the eyes of the modern world.

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Both Hitler and Voldemort were known by a single moniker, and one that people were

afraid to mention. To use Hitler’s name in Nazi Germany in any context other than praise or

agreement was to invite punishment, as a citizen could never really be sure if they were being

overheard or not. The use of Voldemort’s name followed the same set of rules, but to an even

more extreme degree. In the earlier books, most characters do not dare speak Voldemort’s name,

whether out of fear of calling up awful memories or out of conjuring the Dark wizard himself.

Indeed, nearly every young witch or wizard raised in a magical environment flinches when they

hear the name Voldemort, sometimes reacting in such an exaggerated way as to break whatever

they are holding. To avoid having to use this name, several euphemisms were created, such as

“You-Know-Who,” “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,” and “the Dark Lord.”

Under both Hitler and Voldemort, the respective totalitarian regime inspired an

atmosphere of terror. Citizens were petrified for their lives and their families’ lives, and it

seemed that no one was safe; society was fundamentally changed. As stated by Patient and

Street, the following instances in the Harry Potter series reflect Nazi Germany: “a growing sense

of a new order…a totalist ideology, society in crisis, monopolistic controls, a loss of individual

and democratic rights, the persecution of those who did not comply, and a secret police” (207).

The societies were indeed in crisis due to the new totalitarian governments that stripped citizens

of their rights. In World War II, these were the Nuremberg Laws that stripped the so-called

“Mischlinge” (partial Jews) of many rights and activities, such as “certain university studies

[and] specific civilian and military occupations” (Rigg 23). In Deathly Hallows, Muggle-borns

are forced to identify themselves and give up their wands under what is called the “Muggle-Born

Registration Commission.” A wand is the the singular most important thing that a witch or

wizard possesses. These supposed inferiors are to fill out questionnaires about their family

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history and are subject to a hearing, much like Jews, especially those in German military employ

during World War II (Rigg 200). One wizard went so far as to fake his family tree in order to

escape the intended punishment of being of non-magical descent (Deathly Hallows 255). Of

course, these Ministry of Magic hearings are stacked against the accused; in the one hearing that

appears in Deathly Hallows, the accuser directly states, “you are not a witch. I have your

responses to the questionnaire that was sent to you here […] ‘Parents’ professions:

greengrocers’” (261). Here, the accuser belittles and undermines the victim for no other reason

than her own savage pleasure. Such was the procedure for many of the historical hearings that

Jews underwent in Nazi Germany to be granted an exception from the Nuremberg Laws; if the

Jew in question did not have an ‘in’ with anyone involved in the trial, they could expect to be

ridiculed and convicted (Rigg 98). The people forced to undergo these trialsnon-Aryans and

non-Pure-Bloodswere harmless, thus rendering the hearings a form of cruel, unnecessary

punishmentyet another cruel, unnecessary punishment laid upon the innocent in World War II

and the war between Voldemort and the magical world.

Voldemort’s stance on Half-Bloodsthose of mixed magical and Muggle blood

parallels Hitler’s stance on half-Jews. Bernhard Lösener, an employee of the Reich Ministry of

the Interior, stated:

I may point out that the Führer has, in addition to normal acts of grace, granted the status

of racial Germans to a large number of officers and officers’ wives who were [half-Jews]

and that he’d promised to a large number of [half-Jews]…the same status after the war, if

they proved their worth during the war. (Holocaust 215-217)

This historical evidence clearly parallels the case of Severus Snape, who was a Half-Blood in

Voldemort’s employ. Snape implored the Dark Lord to spare Lily Potter, a Muggle-born witch

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he had loved since childhood, from death. Although Lily was not Snape’s wife, at first,

Voldemort agreed to spare her, but ultimately kills her to achieve his own ends. After his original

downfall the night he killed Lily Potter, Voldemort needed to use much more stealth for his

second rising. Interestingly, Hitler knowingly employed several people of Jewish descent in his

inner circle. Perhaps the most notable case of a potentially Jewish Nazi was that of Reinhard

Heydrich, a high-ranking official in Hitler’s regime. Despite the fact that it was never proven that

Heydrich was of Jewish descent, the rumor that he was persisted (Rigg 176-177). Hitler

ultimately decided that “Heydrich’s ability to forward his movement outweighed [his] offensive

characteristic of being…of Jewish descent” (Rigg 200). Like Hitler, Voldemort also knowingly

employed a person who belonged to the hated race: Severus Snape, the “Half-Blood Prince.”

Snape was part of a group of Death Eaters while a student at Hogwarts, and later became one of

Voldemort’s right-hand men. Perhaps not surprisingly, Snape is portrayed as stereotypically

Jewish: “cunning, greasy-haired, and sallow-skinned” (Nel 34) and with a “hooked nose”

(Acocella 77). As each dictator gained power, despite the racial backgrounds of their followers,

political domination was the logical next step.

The takeover of government was not difficult for either ruler. Hitler legally but

dishonestly obtained power after being named Chancellor by Hindenburg in 1933, then

becoming the full-fledged Führer after Hindenburg’s death a year later (Le Faou). Hitler’s

platform was largely based on creating scapegoats out of the Jews, as well as providing food and

work to Germans; however, he never mentioned his ultimate plan, which would become known

as the “Final Solution.” Once installed in office, the self-appointed title Führer (leader) lent him

a superhuman air, much like Voldemort’s self-appointed title “Lord.” Voldemort’s takeover of

the Ministry of Magic was not as legal as Hitler’s, but was “virtually silent” (Deathly Hallows

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207). In Order of the Phoenix, Remus Lupin explains the aftermath of Voldemort’s return,

before overtaking the government:

While the Ministry insists there is nothing to fear from Voldemort, it’s hard to convince

people he’s back, especially as they don’t really want to believe it in the first place.

What’s more, the Ministry’s leaning heavily on the Daily Prophet not to report any of

what they’re calling Dumbledore’s rumor-mongering, so most of the Wizarding

community are completely unaware anything’s happened, and that makes them easy

targets for the Death Eaters… (94)

Much of the public opinion about Voldemort’s return parallels the reaction to the beginning of

the Holocaust, when people were desperate not to believe the evil that was happening. Like in

Harry Potter, the government attempted to deny the charges. However, after slowly infiltrating

the government with well-placed operatives through a series of murky mind games over the

course of two books, Voldemort is able to secretly overtake the Ministry of Magic. This basic

difference in rise to power is perhaps due to the fact that Voldemort was much more notorious

than Hitler in the timeframe of the Harry Potter series; he had already led a totalitarian regime

that had ended some thirteen years prior to the series. Voldemort coming back into power was

the magical equivalent of Hitler coming back into power in 1958. Imagine the terror that such an

event would have caused around the world! Thus, it was quite necessary for Voldemort to

silently infiltrate the government rather than outright taking it over.

The myriad parallels between Hitler and Voldemort clearly indicate volition on the

author’s part to make the connection strong. Drawing characteristics from one of history’s most

notorious dictators, J.K. Rowling ensured that the magical world’s reaction to Voldemort would

be as strong as our world’s reaction to Hitler. The echoes of World War II in the magical war of

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the Harry Potter series culminates in these two players, but exists in other domains as well,

notably those underneath the dictatorsthe loyal followersand those fighting against the

regime: the resistance.

Loyal Followers

Under each of these dictators was of course a group of loyal followers. For Hitler, this

group was broadly known as the Nazis, and for Voldemort, the Death Eaters. Both groups have

outward symbols that represent fear and death: for the Nazis, the swastika, and for the Death

Eaters, the Dark Mark—an image of a snake protruding from a skull’s mouth. The names of the

groups symbolize the ideology behind their respective movements. According to Google

Dictionary, the word ‘Nazi’ is a German “abbreviation representing the pronunciation of Nati- in

Nationalsozialist[, meaning] ‘national socialist.’” In Harry Potter, the term ‘Death Eater’ implies

that these people “eat death,” which is Voldemort’s ultimate personal goal: to be immortal. This

term also implies a certain lack of respect for death, which is certainly true of many of these

sadistic followers who seem to enjoy torturing and killing.

Many citizens supported these regimes in different ways. Of course, not all people

actively sought roles in the movements, but a large number of Europeans and magical citizens

complied with Nazi and Dark rule. To not comply was, in many people’s minds, to sacrifice their

lives and their loved ones’ lives. In Nazi Europe, many citizens collaborated by compliance,

especially in France. Some French citizens considered themselves above active participation in

either side, and decided to take no action whatsoever (Le Faou). Not being of Jewish descent did

not seem to have a great deal of influence on whether or not a French citizen made the decision

to act. Thus, compliance was prevalent amongst French citizens. Blood status in Harry Potter

interestingly did not have as much of a polarizing effect on supporting or not supporting

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Voldemort as one might expect. Although all Death Eaters (except Snape) were presumably

Pure-bloods, not all Pure-bloods were Death Eaters; the most visible Pure-bloods that were not

Death Eaters were the Longbottoms, the Weasleys, and Sirius Black. However, many Pure-

bloods were Death Eaters, or at least sympathized with their cause. The Malfoy family is a prime

example of Pure-bloods supporting Voldemort’s regime. Lucius, the father, is a Death Eater in

Voldemort’s inner circle; Narcissa, the mother, supports the regime; Bellatrix, Narcissa’s sister,

sycophantically supports Voldemort’s every move; and Draco, the son, is raised in this

environment and unsurprisingly joins the Death Eaters at a young age. The male Malfoys possess

“pale skin and fair hair—an Aryan-like appearance” (Park 184).

Each group recruits those who follow their ideology and plays mind games to both enlist

and trick people into turning in their friends and neighbors. For Nazis, many of these mind

games were found in the indoctrination taught in German schools. According to Voigtländer and

Voth, German youth had “compulsory school attendance [and] had to join the Hitler Youth, [an

extracurricular activity] where indoctrination continued” (7931). Additionally, “propaganda

messages embedded in books and films reinforced indoctrination (Voigtländer and Voth 7931).

Not only did the Nazis brainwash children into sharing their beliefs, but they also identified

specific ways in which to appeal to large groups of citizens. Haig Bosmajian states that Hitler

and his fellow Nazis “presented speeches and symbols that appealed to the ‘crowd mentality’”

(68). Such targeting allowed the Nazis to manipulate the German people into supporting his

totalitarian regime.

Manipulation is more accessible for the Death Eaters due to their magical powers. Death

Eaters often manipulate others using one of the Unforgivable Curses: Imperio, a spell that allows

the caster to control the mind of the victim; Crucio, a spell that causes intense pain; and Avada

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Kedavra, the Killing Curse. Although there are few scenes in which the reader is shown the

process of Death Eaters extracting information, it is sufficiently hinted at offstage enough that

the reader is aware that it happens. In Deathly Hallows specifically, the Death Eaters put a

“Taboo” on Voldemort’s name such that if the name is spoken, any Death Eater can appear

where the speaker is. As Ron explains, “[T]he name’s been jinxed…that’s how [the Death

Eaters] track people…It was only the people who were serious about standing up to him…who

ever dared use it. Now [the Death Eaters] have put a Taboo on it, anyone who says it is

trackable” (Deathly Hallows 389-390). Such an ingenious manner of tracking was probably a

Death Eaters’ idea of making their job easier; like Nazis, Death Eaters seemed to enjoy what

their job entailed.

The Death Eaters can be compared to other groups within the Nazi regime, notably the

Waffen SS and the Gestapo. The Waffen SS was comprised of multiple subgroups of the overall

Schutzstaffel, or ‘SS,’ meaning “protective echelon” (“Corps of Nazi Party”). Their duties

included protecting Hitler, completing missions mandated by Hitler, policing concentration

camps, and “[serving] as elite combat troops” (“Corps of Nazi Party”). The Gestapo, which is an

abbreviation for Geheime Staatspolizei, or “secret state police,” was in charge of “eliminat[ing]

opposition to the Nazis within Germany…[and] was responsible for the roundup of Jews

throughout Europe for deportation to extermination camps” (“Nazi Political Police”). Donald

McKale explains that the Gestapo “had considerable freedom to charge the victims and

recommend punishments, and most embraced their role in persecution to murder ‘cruelly,

efficiently, and willfully’” (McKale 432; Johnson 21). Thus, Voldemort’s Death Eaters are

comparable to these Nazi subgroups in terms of not only responsibilities and duties, but also

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attitude towards said responsibilities and duties. Each group took a sadistic pleasure in their

duties and earned their title underneath their respective dictator.

Propaganda is used by each totalitarian regime, presumably directed by the dictator and

carried out by the followers. In Deathly Hallows, Harry discovers a propaganda pamphlet that

could easily have been an anti-Jewish pamphlet in 1940s Germany:

“Its pink cover was emblazoned with a golden title: MUDBLOODS and the Dangers

They Pose to a Peaceful Pure-Blood Society. Beneath the title was a picture of a red rose

with a simpering face in the middle of its petals, being strangled by a green weed with

fangs and a scowl.” (249).

This description is eerily similar to Nazi propaganda pamphlets and film posters in World War

II. An excerpt from an anti-Jewish pamphlet in 1934 reads “The goal of the Jew is to make

himself the ruler of humanity. Wherever he comes, he destroys works of culture” (Patient and

Street 219). A bit further on in their article “Holocaust History Amongst the Hallows,” Patient

and Street mention the 1940 propaganda film The Eternal Jew. The posters for this film depict a

stereotypical Jew with a long, hooked nose and payot (long ringlets of hair) by his ears, his head

tilted slightly forward and his eyes staring menacingly out at the onlooker. Variations of this

poster show basically the same man, but without payot and with the addition of a sneer and a

Star of David superimposed over the man’s forehead. These stereotypical, cartoonish images of

Jews are meant to inspire hatred in the onlooker, as well as to aesthetically destabilize any

feeling of sympathy: after all, how could one sympathize with this monstrous creature?

In terms of specific events, the events of November 9, 1938 (Kristallnacht, or the “Night

of Broken Glass”) are quite similar to the events of the Quidditch World Cup in terms of logic

and effects. During Kristallnacht, Nazis and various other groups “destroyed, burned, and

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plundered more than one thousand synagogues and over seven thousand Jewish businesses”

(McKale 109). This night of violence led to even more “vandalizing of Jewish…private homes,

and in the abuse, torturing, and arbitrary arrests of Jews” (McKale 106). At the Quidditch World

Cup, a sports-related gathering of magical peoples from around the world, a group of masked

Death Eaters tortures and embarrasses a Muggle family by suspending them upside-down several

feet in the air. People and things are trampled and set ablaze in the mass exodus from the area.

Like Kristallnacht, debris and fire are symbolic of these horrifically violent events. When Harry

asks the reason the Death Eaters would do such a thing, Arthur Weasley responds “[T]hat’s their

idea of fun…I suppose they…couldn’t resist reminding us all that lots of them are still at large”

(Goblet of Fire 143).

The Dark Mark, Voldemort’s symbol that is projected into the sky at the Quidditch

World Cup, is much like the swastika in that it represents the dictator’s regime better than words;

the mere sight of the symbol invokes a strong reaction. Each symbol is left at the scene of crimes

committed by the group: in World War II, “party members defaced Jewish stores with signs

bearing swastikas [and] marked clinics and lawyer’s offices” (McKale 106). In Goblet of Fire,

Arthur Weasley explains that “[Voldemort] and his followers sent the Dark Mark into the air

whenever they killed” (142). Thus, these symbols were not only associated with the regime, but

with the violent crimes committed in the name of the dictator.

Such ties of violence would theoretically bind the supporters to their leader, but human

nature sometimes forces people to act in their own interests, and the greater regime be damned.

In the cases of Hitler and Voldemort, the ties binding the followers to the leader were not strong

enough to inspire loyalty after the dictator’s fall. After the fall of their dictator, each group of

followers dispersed. To escape conviction, many of these supporters claimed either new

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identities or that they had been brainwashed. Many Nazis fled to South America, where it is

estimated over 9,000 war criminals adopted new personas and many lived out the remainder of

their lives (“How 9,000 Nazis Fled”). The Death Eaters mainly claimed that they had been

hoodwinked or blackmailed into participating. Bill Weasley explains, “[Death Eaters] worked

very hard to keep out of Azkaban [prison] when You-Know-Who lost power, and told all sorts of

lies about him forcing them to kill and torture people” (Goblet of Fire 143). The escape of these

once-devoted followers undermines their previous reassurances of support for their dictator; both

groups turned introspective and selfish after the fall of their regime. Each member acted in his or

her own best interests at the time instead of rallying and electing a new leader. In this way, Hitler

and Voldemort can be seen as the main connectors between the followers and the ideology.

Without these heads of state, the regimes likely either would not have taken place or would have

proceeded at a much slower pace.

Resistance Fighters

Fighting against the Nazis and Death Eaters were the Resistance and the Order of the

Phoenix, respectively. The Order of the Phoenix is a magical resistance group that was active in

the war that occurred prior to the Harry Potter series’ timeframe and which was resurrected in

the war that begins at the end of Goblet of Fire. The choice of name for the fictional organization

is top notch: the phoenix is a mythical creature that is reborn from the ashes, which is a powerful

image for a resistance movement that arises from an oppressed people, as well as for a war,

calling to mind the rubble and ashes of destroyed lives. Society is born out of the ashes of the

previous war, falls into war again, and returns to the state of rubble. Both of these organizations

had brave, dedicated members willing to risk their lives for the cause and various means of

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resistance, and were so wide-spread and secretive that one could not hope to know all the

members.

Both organizations encapsulated many different means of resistance, including

clandestine newspapers and radio broadcasts. During World War II, Jewish newspapers were

banned in 1939, but “until their ban […] frequently printed material that their readers knew to

read between the lines because it protested, in disguised fashion, the regime’s anti-Semitism”

(McKale 66). Indeed, those newspapers that openly criticized the regime were immediately

banned and their editors “severely” punished (McKale 66). Resistance broadcasters bravely

communicated information over the radio, but constantly had to move around and each broadcast

had a life expectancy of only two months (Le Faou). These examples of resistance movements

against the totalitarian regime are echoed in Harry Potter. In Order of the Phoenix, Harry gives

an interview about Voldemort’s return to The Quibbler, an independently-owned magazine that

is subsequently banned from the school due to the nature of the interview. In Deathly Hallows,

the Order puts on a radio broadcast named “Potterwatch,” in which they announce recent deaths

and disappearances, share any updates in the resistance or the regime, and encourage to the other

resistance fighters. Like the radio broadcasters during World War II, the Order had to move

around quite a bit to avoid capture, and added an additional layer of security: a required

password to listen, told only by word of mouth. These resistance movements against the

totalitarian regimes represent the “handful of people [that] actively and courageously opposed”

the dictators (McKale 437).

Two very similar incidences of resistance fighters tortured in the line of duty are notable:

in World War II, Jean Moulin, and in Harry Potter, Frank and Alice Longbottom. Moulin was

captured by the Gestapo and tortured, but never gave away any information about the Resistance.

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In the same way, the Longbottoms were tortured to insanity but never said a word. Both sets of

victims were survived by family, on whose shoulders resided the legacy of these brave people. In

regards to Moulin’s death, his sister Laure states that it was “at the limits of human suffering,

without revealing a single secret, and he knew them all” (Clinton). Frank and Alice Longbottom

are survived by their son, Neville, and Frank’s mother, Augusta. Dumbledore explains the attack

on the Longbottoms to Harry in Goblet of Fire: “[they] were tortured for information about

Voldemort’s whereabouts after he lost his powers” (602). It is interesting that Voldemort’s

supporters would think that resistance fighters had information about his whereabouts, as if they

suspected their leader had been captured and was a prisoner of war. Rowling adds another tragic

element to the Longbottoms’ story: they were driven insane by the attack and no longer

recognize their son, Neville. Later on in the Harry Potter series, the trio sees the Longbottoms at

St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, at which time Augusta Longbottom

reprimands Neville for not having announced who his parents were: “ ‘You should be proud,

Neville, proud! They didn’t give their health and their sanity so their only son would be ashamed

of them, you know!’” (Order of the Phoenix 314). These heroic individuals that were tortured for

their cause exemplify the ideals of any resistance: courage and bravery in the face of evil and

loyalty to the cause.

A specific movement during World War II that is mirrored in Harry Potter is organized

educational resistance. As education was in the 1940s, as it is today, a valued part of raising a

child, many people took it upon themselves to educate Jewish children in secret. Such

clandestine schools were found in ghettos and even concentration camps, proving the utmost

value of education to these Jewish people. Interestingly, some students reported enjoying

learning in the ghetto schools more than in regular schools. In a 1999 interview, an individual

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who had attended a clandestine Jewish school and who did not wish to publish their name stated

that they “learn[ing] more in [a] few months than in [the rest of] my school years” (Kardos 59).

Such increased enjoyment of learning could be due to more innovative teachers, a lack of strict

curriculum guides, or the clandestine setting, which lends an air of secretiveness to the activity

that is not found in a normal school. The learning in concentration camps is described by Rabbi

Bernard Maza as “strengthen[ing]…[the victims] gained new power to withstand their

sufferings” (qtd. in Kardos 60). Additionally, the effect of the secret schooling is “a spark of self-

confidence, which leads [to] greater self-control and self-discipline” (Jehoshuah Eibeshitz qtd. in

Kardos 61). This message is very telling about the nature of learning: it is something that is

instinctual, something that can act as an attainable goal despite even the most unimaginable

circumstances, and something that can function as a talisman to guide people through the very

worst of times.

The secret Jewish educational meetings were much like the meetings of the group called

“Dumbledore’s Army” in Order of the Phoenix. This group was formed in what can be

considered an occupied Hogwarts, as the magical school was under the totalitarian rule of

Dolores Umbridge at the time. Umbridge’s role at Hogwarts was mainly one of control:

controlling the subject matter taught to students, the manner in which the content was taught, and

students’ free activities as well. Upon learning that Umbridge expects young witches and wizards

to learn magic from theory onlythe equivalent of expecting a painter to be able to master a

technique having only read theoretical material about itHermione decides to take matters into

her own hands and creates Dumbledore’s Army, a student group dedicated to teaching practical

defensive skills. The group is in direct violation of one of Umbridge’s decrees, and thus must

meet discreetly. This secret organization continues to exist even after Umbridge leaves the

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school, and becomes very important to the student body in Deathly Hallows, when the school is

occupied by Death Eaters. The conditions are atrocious under this regime; students are tortured

for the even the smallest offense. As the occupation of the school changed, so did Dumbledore’s

Army: under Umbridge, it was a means of passive resistance and education, but under the Death

Eaters, it acts as a channel for active resistance. Both Dumbledore’s Army and the clandestine

Jewish schools are alike in their need for secrecy, passion for educating students about necessary

topics, and lasting impact on students.

The Effect of These Similarities on Readers

As many great orators have put it, it is important to understand the past to understand the

present and future. Reading literature benefits us in many ways, but in the case of historical

fiction especially, it provides the reader with a viewpoint through which they can experience

historical events. World War II is an enormous, complex topic that cannot easily be understood,

especially by children and even adolescents. To truly comprehend the reasoning behind

something like the Holocaust is not easy, especially when one is confronted with it directly in a

class or museum. This tailoring of the telling is partly why Anne Frank’s diary is so often used to

teach the Holocaust: it provides an individual’s story through which we see parts of the whole. It

also allows readers to connect emotionally with the story. Without a name or face to attach to a

person undergoing such a persecution, the millions of Jews killed are just that: a number. The

allusions to World War II, the Holocaust, and Hitler in Harry Potter take this idea one step

further. The individual in this case is fictional, as are the events. A reader does not need to know

about Hitler to see Voldemort as the epitome of human evil, and then when that reader learns

about World War II, they realize that they have already encountered large parts of the story

through a beloved children’s book series. Harry Potter allows readers to experience systematic

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genocide not only from a distance, but (for the most part) through the eyes of the hero, thus

putting the reader in the hero’s position. The emotional connection with a book series like Harry

Potter allows readers to more deeply understand the complex historical themes at play.

Part of the reason the Harry Potter books are so popular is that they exist within their

own very real world. A child Harry Potter fan would not hesitate to explain the difference

between a Hufflepuff and a Gryffindor, the rules of Quidditch, or the way to get into Diagon

Alley. The universally appealing story of good triumphing over evil and love winning out adds to

this appeal, of course. Another aspect of the series that contributes to its popularity is its

maturation. The “Harry Potter generation”—the generation of kids that read the Harry Potter

books as they were publishedhad the unique advantage of maturing with the novels, so that

they were roughly the same age as the protagonists in the story. Regardless, no matter when in

his or her life a reader picks up the Harry Potter series, it becomes more complex and dark

towards the final installment, finally culminating in self-sacrifice and an epic battle scene

perhaps reminiscent of Stalingrad. The use of World War II and Holocaust imagery and

parallelism in Harry Potter adds a historically educational aspect as well. After all, as said by

Dumbledore, “it [is] important…to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then [can]

evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated” (Half-Blood Prince 645).

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