Born in May of 1944, in Modesto, California, George Lucas lived a world away from the horrors of Fascist Germany. Yet its imprint is more than evident in Lucas’ life’s work and creative brainchild, the Star Wars Saga. Admitting that the Galactic Empire was based on Germany’s Third Reich, Lucas drew from history the characters and imagery needed to paint his evil regime. While some parallels are obvious””such as the robotic white soldiers Lucas named “storm troopers,” the same name Hitler gave his personal bodyguards during World War II, other comparisons require a little digging. These comparisons make for a fascinating study.
Senator Palpatine and Adolf Hitler:
The story of Senator Palpatine as fleshed out in Episodes I, II, and III bears remarkable resemblance to Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. Both men rose from obscurity to power, outwardly embracing democracy and the republic, while behind the scenes they worked for its ruin. In Episode II Senator Palpatine faces the dissolution of the senate with, “I love democracy”¦I love the republic,” while reluctantly accepting supreme power. It is unknown that he is also the Sith Lord, orchestrating the downfall of democracy. This echoes the history of Hitler, who also outwardly supported democracy, promising to play by its rules, all along forming a shadow government and an army among the ranks of his Nazi party. The similarity is most striking in the burning of the Jedi temple and the 1933 burning of the Reichstag which effectively dissolved the German senate. These spectacles were both masterminded to bring Palpatine and Hitler into power. Afterwards, Palpatine installs himself as Emperor, while Hitler declared himself “Fuhrer,” or supreme leader.
The leadership style of Palpatine continues to be modeled after Hitler, who then withdrew from the public eye and surrounded himself with only those whom he knew to be his loyal followers. While Hitler formed the SS””a black-coated protection squad which protected him day and night and publicly carried out his orders, Palpatine as emperor created Darth Vader””his black robed crony whose obedience to the Emperor extended to destroying whole planets. Hitler is remembered as evil embodied, and as such, Lucas could not have chosen a better figure to model Palpatine after.
Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker Parallels:
In German, vater means “father.” Thus, Vader is a most interesting and deliberate choice for a character who is the father of the spiritual Star Wars hero. This father-son relationship finds its parallel in the relationship between the German poet and political rebel Albrecht Haushofer and his father, Karl. Karl’s frequent travels to Japan greatly influenced his life and thinking. He was particularly entranced by the samurai–the Japanese military aristocracy which Lucas drew on heavily for inspiration for the Jedi. In the 1920s Karl became involved with Hitler through his close student, Rudolf Hess (who later was considered Hitler’s #3 man after Goring). Karl became instrumental in forming the alliance between Germany and Japan. An additional interesting side note is that a geopolitical contemporary named Maull existed at this time. Maul was a contemporary sith of Anakin Skywalker.
Young Albrecht, in a poem entitled Der Vater, alludes to an evil that shows itself once every thousand years. When Star Wars begins the sith had not been seen for that long. The poem continues by saying that Albrecht’s father had power to stop this evil but instead he unleashed it, a power and choice that Anakin Skywalker made before becoming Darth Vader. While Albrecht worked alongside his father at first, attempting to bring peace to Europe through a treaty with England and France, he later saw the futility of his actions and joined the Bomb plot to assassinate Hitler and restore balance and peace in Germany. Here George Lucas departs from history; for while Luke succeeds in overcoming the evil that his father embraced, Albrecht was not as fortunate. He was arrested for his treasonous involvement and shot by an SS commando as Russian troops entered Berlin. Karl was also imprisoned after the war. Perhaps the remembrance of his son prompted his death in 1946. Before his death, Darth Vader redeemed himself by throwing off the Emperor’s influence and restoring balance to the universe. He is last seen taking his place among Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, thus becoming the Jedi he once was. Karl’s last act in life also resembled the Jedi when he committed suicide by seppuku, the traditional Samurai method.
The discerning eye recognizes the overt Nazi overtones apparent in the Galactic Empire. This is no accident. George Lucas reportedly told costume designer and military historian John Mollo that he wanted the “baddies” to look Fascist. The atmosphere of rigid control and dehumanization was the ideal of Hitler, whose armies marched in stiff procession, going beyond the description of disciplined to robotic. The uniforms and caps worn by imperial officers in Star Wars were modernized versions of 1915 Bavarian Chevaulgers. The throne room scene in Episode IV is reminiscent of a Nazi propaganda film, further painting the image that history repeats itself. In this way watchers of Star Wars gain a lesson in history.
About the Author
Francesca Black has always enjoyed Science Fiction and she manages the content at: Science Fiction Corner http://www.science-fiction-corner.com