I wrote this post because it intersects my thesis that was to have been on representations of albinism and my preparation for my Critical Health Studies Conference presentation in June 2018. All of this was before the University of Canberra suspended me for asking not to be assaulted again then expelled me for talking about their unlawful conduct. I’m now picking up my shattered self and finding a new path.
Storytellers make characters with albinism into Nazis, like Silas in the Da Vinci Code and Malekith in Thor: The Dark World. They use imagery to do this, especially in movies. Nazi flags, storm troopers and the like.
However, the ‘true’ Aryan is not the tall slim blond depicted in media. In Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All The Light We Cannot See, character Neumann One says, “The true Aryan is as blond as Hitler, as slim as Göring, and as tall as Goebbels—” Thus Doerr spoofs the tropes using real-world examples from the Nazi leadership and yet he misappropriates albinism for his protagonist Werner.
People with albinism are not Nazis
Doerr omitted these critical points in his novel despite depicting Werner as having albinism.
- Nazis killed Germans with disabilities as part of their ‘useless mouths’ campaign that began with political spin. Nazis would have sent Doerr’s character Frederik to the ovens after his classmates injured him, physically disabling him and causing brain injury. Also, protagonist Marie-Laure’s friends and family would have worried that the Nazis would send her off to the ovens after Germany invaded France.
- Albinism always affects eyesight, reducing visual acuity in proportion to the degree of albinism. Protagonist Werner’s off-the-charts pale hair and blue eyes are indicators of albinism, which is why Tweeps brought this book to my attention. With Extraordinarily pale skin, hair and eye color, Werner would have failed the eye test he took to get into the elite Nazi school. However, he passed while his friend Frederik cheated by memorising eye charts. As another ‘useless mouth’ and an orphan to boot, Nazis would have sent Werner to the ovens. That would have made for a short book, but could have been overcome by giving Werner a normal degree of blond-ness instead of being über-white.
The Nazis murdered people with albinism for being visually impaired, so linking albinism to Nazism is highly offensive.
Perks says in ‘The Evil Albino’ (2008)that people with albinism have been ‘othered’ to reinforce the virtue and supremacy of ‘normal’ whites by positioning people with albinism as Nazis or Nazi-types, thereby scapegoating people with albinism while alleviating normative white guilt. If you’d like to read more about this, I highly recommend Snyder and Mitchell’s Cultural Locations of Disability.
These days there seems to be less and less guilt attached to being a Nazi; for many it’s a point of pride. Pass me an egg, will you?
The ‘albino’ as Aryan Nazi is a trope that should be burned. In a dumpster fire.
I have more to say on Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See and his misappropriation of blindness and albinism, but that will come later.