Genghis Khan gets a bad rap

Neo-Nazi Mongolians claim Hitler was inspired by the great conqueror

By Andrew Leonard

Published January 12, 2009 6:16PM (EST)

While I work my way through the second withering report on the Troubled Asset Relief Program issued by Elizabeth Warren's Congressional Oversight Panel (released on Friday), here's an update on the rise of Mongolian neo-Nazism. (Thanks to Peking Duck for the link.)

According to the Ulan Bator Post, no fewer than three separate organized groups spouting racist, nationalist, anti-Chinese hate are growing in popularity in Mongolia. One can understand fears of getting swallowed up economically by Mongolia's southern neighbor, but the tantrums against blood-mixing between Mongolians and foreigners just don't wash. Genghis Khan alone was responsible for a fair amount of cross-fertilization -- one estimate holds that the great conqueror spread his DNA so far and wide that as many as 16 million people alive today are his descendants.

The Mongolian neo-Nazis, however, don't seem to mind adopting the trappings of other cultures when it suits them. The UBPost's Kirril Shields reports that Murgun-Erdene, the head of the Mongolian National Association,

...arrives at an interview wearing an Iron Cross, a hat with the SS Death's Head pinned to its front and military fatigues; he has not donned anything that resembles traditional Mongolian attire, nor do the two "minders" who accompany him...

One justification or explanation, states Murgun-Erdene when asked about the correlation between Mongolia and Hitler's despotic Germany, is that he believes Hitler was, in many ways, a student of Chinggis Khaan. "Historically, when Hitler was reading the history of Chinggis Khaan in prison, he enjoyed the book and chose this sign as his symbol." He also adds that the way Hitler conquered the world with his blitzkrieg was reminiscent of Chinggis Khaan's art-of-war. Jack Weatherford, author of the best-selling history "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World," does not agree. "'The Secret History of the Mongols' was not available in Germany until the 1940s, nearly two decades after Hitler's imprisonment," Weatherford said. On the similarity of ethos between the two rulers, he again disputes any similarity. "Chinggis Khaan believed in the unity of all people under heaven and in respect for all religions. In this regard I see no similarity between him and Hitler."

Shields has one more great nugget from Weatherford:

In another great irony, Weatherford noted, "The Germans [...] considered the Mongols as the opposite to the Germans. They taught that the existence of retarded children among the Germans was a result of the rape of pure German women by Mongols during the invasion of the thirteenth century."

Unfortunately, neither irony nor logic ever seem to work too well when arguing with neo-Nazis. Too bad Genghis Khan isn't around to knock some sense into them.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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