Nazi rise in Germany was linked with 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, reveals federal study

The paper, written by a bank economist, has sparked fears over a comparison between 1918 Germany and the Covid-19-hit US of 2020


                            Nazi rise in Germany was linked with 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, reveals federal study
(Getty Images)

A pandemic may not only cause an impact in terms of deaths and economic devastation. Its social consequences can also see a political ramification. For example, the Spanish flu of 1918 had a terrible repercussion in the form of the rise of the Nazis -- as a federal paper has revealed -- and it has sparked fears that the US could be divided over its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than 1.2 million people have been hit by the disease in the country and over 71,000 have lost their lives. 

In the research paper penned by bank economist Kristian Blickle and published by the Federal Reserve Bank, New York, the Nazi party’s rise to power in Germany was propelled, among other factors, by the fall-out from the pandemic that infected nearly 500 million people on the planet (a third of the total population then) and killed between 20 to 50 million people. Over 670,000 of the dead were Americans. The ongoing pandemic has so far affected more than 3.6 million people in the world and killed over 257,000. 

The paper, which came out on Monday, May 4, assessed the municipal spending levels and the voter extremism in Germany from the earlier phase of the outbreak till 1933 when Adolf Hitler became the chancellor. It showed “areas which experienced a greater relative population decline” because of the pandemic spent “less, per capita, on their inhabitants in the following decade.”

The research work also came up with the findings that the deaths caused by the flu in 1918 were correlated with a rise in the vote shares of right-wing extremists, like the National Socialist Workers Party, in Germany’s elections of 1932 and 1933. It was another reason that fuelled the brittle situation in Germany and the Nazi ambitions plunged the world into another world war in another two decades. The rise of the Nazis also saw the elimination of around six million Jews in the Holocaust.

German Chancellor Adolf Hitler (Getty Images)

Social and economic situations in US now are worrying

The revelations have raised concerns over the situation which is prevailing in the US in the wake of the pandemic currently. Tension is rising between the far-right and liberals and deep divisions are visible in American society. The Trump administration is frequently clashing with Democratic senators and state governors over the response to the pandemic. Besides, right-wing protesters have gone out on the streets in various states to violate the lockdown imposed.

The purchase of guns has also gone up alarmingly. Civil unrest is also looking large as millions of Americans have lost their jobs in the pandemic. President Trump has also played his part in widening the division by supporting the anti-lockdown protesters and attacking Democratic governors while praising their Republican counterparts for reopening states.

According to Blickle, the findings of the study are likely the consequences of ‘changes in societal preferences’ and that the Spanish flu hit the young more than the old, opposite to the case of Covid-19. 

Although known as Spanish flu, the 20th-century pandemic likely started from a military base in Kansas and spread worldwide. Germany saw more than 285,000 deaths between 1918 and 1920, Blickle wrote. 

The paper said the situation could have created anger among the survivors against foreigners and drove voters towards parties that encouraged such sentiments. The rise of the Nazi power post-pandemic was driven by the voters who grew in areas where sentiments against Jews and minorities already had a deep existence. The paper said the correlation between deaths caused by influenza and the vote share won by the right-wing extremists was found to be strong in regions that historically held the minorities, particularly Jews, responsible for medieval plagues.