Raíssa Alonso Presents on Anti-Nazi Resistance on the American Continent

On March 21, 2023, the 2022-2023 Margee and Douglas Greenberg Research Fellow at the USC Dornsife Center for Advanced Genocide Research, presented on her research in a lecture entitled “Anti-Nazi Resistance on the American Continent: Artists, Intellectuals, and the ‘Other Germany.’” Drawing upon research conducted with unique research resources at USC, Alonso explored the active roles German refugees in the Americas played in anti-Nazi organizations. Alonso further analyzed the transnational nature of these resistance groups and their impact for refugees.

Many members of the German intellectual elite fled Nazi Germany to escape persecution under the Nazi regime. Alonso’s lecture focused on German refugees in Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil. Many of the German intellectuals were concerned with the Nazis’ redefinition of German culture and felt that Nazification was a defilement of German culture. This perspective led to the anti-Nazi resistance groups having a distinct cultural component. Anti-Nazi movements developed separately in Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil, and in her comparative approach, Alonso studies how divergences between the groups made the dream of a united resistance front on the American continent impossible.

Alonso presented three case studies of anti-Nazi resistance movements: Das Andere Deutschland (The Other Germany) in Argentina, Freies Deutschland (Free Germany) in Mexico, and Movimento dos Alemães Livres (the Free German Movement) in Brazil. A central component of each of these anti-Nazi movements was the idea of “das andere Deutschland” or “the other Germany.” The phrase “the other Germany” was not unique to the German intellectual refugees who fled the country, but the term gained an anti-Nazi connotation in 1934. The new meaning of the term represented the idea that the Nazis’ version of Germany was a sharp departure from the real morals and ideals of Germans. All three resistance movements had the primary and shared goal to emphasize that not all Germans were Nazis, fascism was not a geographically bound phenomenon (and could develop anywhere, including the United States), and that “true” German culture must be preserved so that in the post-Nazi world, Germany could be restored. To spread the word, these resistance movements published newspapers, hosted cultural events in the German language, and promoted German literature, language, and music.

Operating in very different contexts and having different ideas about how to achieve their shared goals shaped the divergences between these movements that ultimately prevented the creation of a united resistance front. In her lecture, Alonso discussed many of these differences and the difficulties all three resistance movements faced, which included anti-German sentiments driven by the ongoing Second World War. In Brazil and Argentina, there were authoritarian regimes and restrictive laws that censored foreigners’ rights to political expression. She detailed how the groups differed in the extent of their connections to local Jewish groups, to exiled German artists and intellectuals in Los Angeles, and to each other.

Some movements such as Freies Deutschland in Mexico had close relationships with local Jewish groups. Haktiva Menorah was a Jewish resistance group based in Mexico City and is a group that Alonso explored in the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive. While the movements in Mexico and Argentina were not affiliated with each other, both were affiliated with the Brazilian movement.

The Brazilian case is complicated by the pro-Nazi sympathies of the Brazilian President and the fact Brazil entered the war on the side of the Allies in August 1942. Overcoming ideological divides in Brazil, the Movimento dos Alemães Livres in São Paulo, led by Karl Lustig-Prean, united communists, socialists, and liberals.

Publications produced by these movements created an ideal forum to discuss the cultural future of Germany. The various publications written by the different resistance groups engaged the wider intellectual community, such as German refugees in Los Angeles. Lustig-Prean advocated for a coalition in the anti-Nazi resistance movements, and while his dream was never realized due to a police raid in 1943, Alonso’s deep investigation into the Movimento dos Alemães Livres reveals the rich history of anti-Nazi resistance movements in Brazil.

A vibrant Q&A followed Alonso’s lecture. There were discussions about how other German and Austrian immigrant communities aided German refugees and what happened to the anti-Nazi resistance after 1945. Alonso also addressed the accessibility of testimonies and the other resources she found in USC Libraries. More questions followed about how these anti-Nazi movements operated within the larger sphere of anti-fascist movements and other fascism refugees from Franco’s Spain and Mussolini’s Italy.

Read more about Raíssa Alonso here.

Read Raíssa Alonso’s blog post where she discusses the roots of her research here.