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World War II. Influence on the Harry Potter Series

Copyright: Warner Bros Entertainment (left)/ Bundesarchiv Deutschland (right) Credits: Lena Sperger

Harry Potter, the seven-book series, written by J.K. Rowling has become a well-loved fiction since it was first published in 1997. For those who have only watched the movies and never read a single book, it might appear that the villains shown are completely evil and the heroes only good. However, they might not be as black and white as you think they are. As history shows, there has hardly ever been a person walking on the surface of the earth being absolutely one or the other. Throughout the series, we can draw many comparisons to events and persons in history, especially World War II. For a fact, J. K. Rowling even mentioned in an interview that she ‘..wanted Harry to leave our world and find exactly the same problems in the wizarding world. So you have the intent to impose a hierarchy, you have bigotry, and this notion of purity, which is this great fallacy, but it crops up all over the world. People like to think themselves superior and that if they can pride themselves in nothing else they can pride themselves on perceived purity..’

Credits: Warner Bros Entertainment

First of all, it needs to be said that neither Adolf Hitler in Germany nor Voldemort in the Wizarding World came up with the idea of pure blood or the superior race. They both benefitted from the long-lasting Anti-Semitism history. In Germany, this was at least to some historians just a ‘logical continuation of German history’. 

As for the wizarding world, before Voldemort, Gellert Grindelwald and even before him Salazar Slytherin, born more than a millennium ago, encouraged strong racist beliefs. As one of the four founders of Hogwarts, he was the only one believing that the school should only take in pure-blood wizards and witches. He hoped that one day his true heir would come to purify the school. He slowly increased his racial hatred from denying Muggles (a person not born into a magical family) education to not providing them accommodation, to later refuse them the right to live. This can also be seen in the second world war when the Jewish continually lost their rights one by one until sentenced to death. 

‘I fashioned myself a new name, a name I knew wizards everywhere would one day fear to speak when I became the greatest sorcerer in the world’ (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)

Copyright: Warner Bros Entertainment (left)/ Bundesarchiv Deutschland (right)
Credits: Lena Sperger

Whatever wrong idea both of these leaders had in their head, we must acknowledge they both had excellent leadership skills. To gather such a massive amount of followers (The Nazis and The Death Eaters) simply placing fear in their head will not work in the long run. At least, there must be a certain level of admiration, might even love. May it be false love, however, it builds a connection. The followers share the same views as their leader. Religious, political or general views which then cause a bonding amongst them, believing in the pureblood agenda in both the Third Reich as well as the Wizarding World.

Growing up both of them had a somewhat save childhood. They were looked after and taken care of. However, it can be argued that it was of no sort a happy childhood. They were both confronted with their future enemies at an early stage. Hitler being abused as a child and living in a predominantly Jewish area started to blame the loss of the First World War and the harshness of the Treaty of Versailles on the Jews.

Voldemort, on the other hand, was abandoned by his family, born and raised in a muggle orphanage. Feeling superior to the other muggle kids, his desire to exterminate them was based in the feeling of them being not worthy enough.  This obviously influenced and shaped them into the men they finally became.

To create and maintain loyalty both established a mark or a symbol to identify their followers and beliefs. With The Dark Mark, Voldemort is able to call his followers at any time. The Deathly Hallows, the German Eagle and The Swastika align closely with each other, both in a symbolic way as well as their origin.

Copyright: Warner Bros Entertainment (left)/ NSDAP- Parteizeichen (right)
Credits: Lena Sperger

Voldemort truly understood the power and importance of loyalty and was cruel to the ones obeying his orders. There was a common understanding by the Death Eaters that betrayal or disobedience will lead to death.

Similar to that, Adolf Hitler also understood the ability to be loved and feared at the same time. This lead to situations by the Nazis who acted in Hitler’s approval. After the fall of both the Nazi Regime and Voldemort, many admitted that they acted solely because of fear rather than in a sense of belonging, love or loyalty. They blamed their actions on others instead of themselves in order to avoid being executed or sent to prison for their criminal acts.

It can also be detected that either of the leaders belonged to the superior race. The Aryan Race which Hitler described as his idea of a ‘pure German race’ or ‘Herrenvolk’, had ideally pale skin, blond hair, and blue eyes. However, Hitler was neither pale skinned nor had he blond hair.  Originally the word Aryan meant something completely different. It originates from the Indian language and means ‘noble’, describing an upper-class society in Indian culture. In the Harry Potter series the Malfoy family, a truly pure-blood family is being described with sleek platinum blonde hair and very pale skin. On the other hand Hemione, a Muggle-born witch, representing the complete opposite of the Malfoys is pictured with bushy brown hair and with a high tolerance of all ethical being, such as house-elves and giants.

Copyright: Pottermore (left)/ LeMO (left)
Credit: Lena Sperger

From the very first till the last book of the Harry Potter series there are even more similarities that can be found, such as motherhood significance, propaganda, ancestry, Dumbledore as Churchill, resistance and many more.

Rowling was without a doubt inspired by the historical events and the political regime of the second world war. However, the reader is not overwhelmed by the topic while reading it, she mainly uses the parallels to add depths to the storyline. She expresses her own interpretations and opinions in many ways of one of the biggest historical events of all time. We can see that Harry lives in a fictional world, which still maintains all aspects of the real world.

Would you agree or do you think all of this is just fan fiction interpretation?

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