14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Valencia, 30 September 2019 — The Spanish newspaper ABC dedicated an interesting report to tourism during the third German Reich, and how Hitler fooled millions of tourists in World War II. All this comes from a book by Julia Boyd entitled Travelers in the Third Reich from the Atico Libros publishing house, filled with letters, documents and testimonies recovered from the summer of 1936, when nothing seemed to indicate that the atmosphere in Nazi Germany was going to be poisoned as much as it would be three years later.
The chronicle allows us to establish a striking parallel between tourism to Nazi Germany in those years and tourists traveling to communist Cuba in recent years. In those years there were no signs of war in Germany, the capital was preparing to host the Olympic Games and the National Socialist Party received massive support from citizens. Thus, tourists arrived in the country without worrying too much about what was already happening, but things were going downhill.
The book makes reference to the testimony of two travelers, Alice and her husband, who were surprised during their honeymoon when they arrived in Frankfurt, to see a woman who stopped their car, in which had a sticker that identified them as foreigners, to ask them a favor.
After talking with the newlyweds about the persecution of the Jews and the barbarities perpetrated by Hitler, she begged them to take her daughter to Britain. What would you have done? They, despite their perplexity, accepted. The testimony of this couple is one of many included in the book by the author Julia Boyd (aresearcher and member, among many other associations, of the Winston Churchill Memorial Foundation).
Germany under the reins of Adolf Hitler was a destination for tourists from all over Europe who, in many cases, ignored what was happening. it is more or less the same in Cuba, where tourists claim not to know the acts of repression that the authorities maintain over a population subject to the power of the single party, which has no respect for human rights. Two periods distant in time and seemingly different, but not so much.
It is interesting to interview the author of the book, who emphasizes, for example, a “certain solidarity” among tourists arriving in Germany, and a feeling of guilt over the consequences of the Treaty of Versailles and the harsh conditions that had been imposed on Germany.
She says that “believing in the Führer allowed them to avoid remorse.” A feeling shared by tourists who have been traveling to Cuba since Fidel Castro authorized the development of this activity during the Special Period, despite the “embargo or blockade” to which the Castro authorities continually refer, while showing a “solidarity” with the paradise of “the revolution of the poor.”
Similar to what happened in Germany, many types of foreigners, tourists, businessmen, journalists, diplomats arrive every year in Cuba. And each one finds a different type of country based on their preferences and objectives. Above all, because there is a government apartheid so that they do not experience the harsh living conditions of Cubans. A few days ago one could see how the long lines at CUPET gas stations do not include foreigners and diplomats who carry ministerial letters, but only ordinary Cubans.
The information that foreign travelers receive about the situation in Cuba is different as soon as they arrive in the country. They are not worried. There are few tourists and travelers committed to the cause of the freedoms of a people fighting against oppression. Strolling through a street with once-stately buildings, destroyed by neglect in downtown Havana, is even a reason for souvenir photographs.
As with Germany, where the Nazis offered tourists “many things,” the Castro regime tries to do the same, although with notable difficulties because of the absolute, inefficient control exercised by the communist state over this activity over companies dependent on members of the army and police security. In Nazi Germany, onthe contrary, it was the private sector that led tourism.
Tourists arriving in Nazi Germany found newspapers on the left and on the right. The author says that “some emphasized the most horrible aspects of Nazism. Others concentrated on the good and talked about the resurgence that Germany had experienced or the new structures that had been built (for example, the highways).”
In Cuba this situation is impossible, since freedom of the press is outlawed and there is only an authorized public voice, although it is curious that travelers who arrived in Nazi Germany “preferred to believe the official version and ignore the rumors of torture, persecutions or imprisonment without trial. However, one party was simply confused and did not know which version to believe.”
In the interview, reference is made to what the tourists who came to Germany thought about Hitler, something similar to what travelers thought of Fidel Castro, admired and hated in equal parts, and certainly with much more of an image than his brother and, light years from what Díaz-Canel currently represents.
The author says that “some tourists in Germany came to witness unfortunate displays of Nazism such as book burning and policies against Jews and yet, in the book testimonies of the” Führer as if he was Jesus Christ” are collected. Something similar to Fidel Castro, who was granted a prestige and relevance completely alien to the reality of the character, hidden behind the propaganda of the media under state control.
The author refers to the fact that the Nazis even deceived several leaders and African Americans civil rights activists from the United States, who, far from having a negative opinion of Hitler, showed favorable impressions. They admired the “achievements of Nazism” in the education taught in the country, or the music of Wagner. Something similar to what happens with European Democrats who travel to Cuba and end up exalting the advantages of “single party democracy,” or the “Education and Health” of the achievements of the Revolution.
The Nazis came to invite tourists to visit the Dachau concentration camp, “justifying that they were reeducating the worst people in society (murderers, pedophiles …), while in other countries they would have shot them. The propaganda presented a positive approach. Travelers were impressed in a positive way.” However, from 1935 on they stopped those visits.
In Cuba, visits to communist projects of the types such as the “schools in the countryside” have been arranged for tourists, and although the UMAP camps were canceled long ago, they received some attention as instruments of communist reeducation of those disaffected with the regime.
Tourism trips to that rotten Germany continued until a few weeks before the Second World War, as the author says in her book. It is still curious that the newly-defunct Thomas Cook agency organized trips until 1939 to places like Oberammergau, cosidered of religious importance. But after the “night of broken glass” tourism to Germany fell dramatically.
In a special way, the Olympic Games marked a point of reference in that tourist boom of the Third Reich, which took the opportunity to present itself to the world as a kind regime that only sought peace.
Cuba does not emphasize its religious tourist destinations, nor does it have Olympic Games in its tourism offer. Perhaps this is the most important difference with Nazi Germany.
Finally, the author concludes that the income from tourism to Germany was very important and the money received was dedicated to investments in armaments, the absolute priority of Nazism, so that the income of foreign tourism had a vital importance.
In Cuba, tourism has been planned by the authorities with the same objective of serving the communist state: financing a structure of insolvent and unsustainable public spending. There are so many similarities that it makes an impression.
Note: This text was originally published on the Cubaeconomics blog and is reproduced here with the author’s permission
The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.