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Judaism and Whiteness in Wolfenstein

Judaism and Whiteness in Wolfenstein


The Jew in Germany is regarded as only a guest of the people. He has offended by trying to turn himself into the host. Thoughtful Germans hold that it is impossible for a Jew to be a patriot. What will happen in Germany is not now known, but the Germans will doubtless prove themselves equal to the situation by devising methods of control at once unobjectionable and effective. Although it quickly shifts into an alt-history, MachineGames’ Wolfenstein series doesn’t exist in a vacuum. As much as the games work as a cathartic Nazi killing romp, they also make efforts to contextualize a fictional reich takeover in the real history of oppressive race science and white supremacy. To do so, Wolfenstein: The New Order and The New Colossus give their stories to the marginalized. Grace, Caroline, Set, Tekla, J, Bombate. Each of these characters holds some quality that makes them unacceptable to the Nazis. And as such, each of their continued existence is in itself a challenge to Nazi ideology. This resistance by survival makes the story intimate, despite the constant presence of a global faceless evil. We’re committed to these people and we gradually learn how their histories with oppression have affected who they are today. Some of the most complex character work comes from the game’s protagonist, BJ Blazkowicz. But as interesting and nuanced as BJ is, there was the opportunity for his personal history with Judaism and marginalization to further inform his character. By looking at the history of how Jews were categorized in the United States, particularly their history with the concept of whiteness, we can learn a lot about BJ Blazkowicz- and also see where he could have grown further. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First things first. BJ Blazkowicz, the main character of every Wolfenstein game from 1992 until today, is in most ways a perfect Aryan. He’s a brick wall of a man. 6’3, 245 pounds. His hair is blond and his eyes are blue and there is not a thing he’s met that he cannot kill. In many ways he fits right in with the violent white supremacist Nazi regime that rules the world in the alternate history of these games. And his features are a frequent topic of praise in this new world order- “Very Aryan face too – are you out of station one?” When he’s spoken to by Nazis, there’s an almost palpable sense of pride. “We must be the superior race,” you can feel unspoken in their admiration. “Look at the specimen. He’s the Ubermensch. The highest evolution of man.” But Blazkowicz, for all his anatomical perfection, is not the Nazi ideal. He’s a Jew. He’s the son of a Jewish polish mother and a Polish father, he’s a half-breed who could never meet the Aryan criteria the Nazis have built a world around. And Blazkowicz’s existence is implicitly a challenge to more than just Nazism. By being who he is, he not only defies Nazis but a long history of American racial ideology as well. His attitude, his empathy, his identity- this forms the core of his motivation for resistance. And the fundamentals of his character, and the potential for his future growth, lie in his childhood BJ Blazkowicz was born and raised in Mesquite, Texas. The complexities of his characters start to raise their head almost immediately. He’s an all-american boy, Texas strong, committed to the red white and blue. He’s a scared kid who spends his waking hours hiding from his abusive father and sleeps only to be tormented by night terrors. He learned to use a gun as a boy, and as soon as he was able, he joined the army to fight for our freedom. He was forced to shoot his dog by his father, and then left his abused mother when he enlisted. He’s practically invincible! He’s incredibly vulnerable. His childhood isn’t devoid of kindness, thankfully. His mother, Zofia, does her best to shield BJ from his father’s rage. She speaks to him gently, she tells him about her family, she gives him a ring passed down through eight generations to someday give to a person he loves. When he’s injured, she says the birkat hagomel at his bedside- a Jewish prayer to be said after someone survives a life-threatening situation. She’s held on to her Judaism and she uses it to care for her boy. But she hides it from her husband. Rip Blazkowicz, father and husband, is a businessman. At least that’s what he sees himself as. In reality, he just represents the worst of the country he’s determined to succeed in. He thinks he knows the reasons he’s failed thus far. “All manner of scum and sickly minds and dirty bodies, cockroaches doing everything in their power to rob the white man of what he’s earned. It’s on us to straighten out the queer.” He blames everyone but himself for his lack of success. He hits his son for spending time with a girl who’s black, he hits his wife for not letting him hit his son, and he would have faded into fitful obscurity, an abusive nothing of a man with nothing to show for it. But something else changed first. Something that made the world perfectly fit Rip Blazkowicz’s style of cruelty. Woops!!! BJ Blazkowicz has been two things in his adult life- a soldier, and comatose. The first time we meet him, he’s on a mission to kill the Nazi leader “Deathshead” in 1946. He fails. Failure doesn’t quite get across what happens, actually. In the middle of a Nazi fortress, he’s trapped with several other soldiers. Deathshead forces BJ to choose one of his squad mates to die, a Sophie’s Choice that will haunt him for the rest of his life. He escapes, barely, and is rescued by a Polish mental hospital that takes care of him for sixteen years. When the hospital is ransacked by Nazis, he un-vegetablizes himself, kills every fascist in sight, and then finds out some really bad news. “It’s 1960.” “1960? I have to find a way to contact the US military, I gotta find my unit, let them know I’m alive.” “There’s no more war, it’s over.” “No no the war ain’t over, look at all these Nazis walking around!” “They won, it’s over, the Nazis rule the world now, they’re everywhere, everywhere.” “What about the U.S.?” “USA what’s the word, poddac sie.” “They surrendered?” But he won’t take a defeat lying down, no way. So over the course of two games and a mounting pile of Nazi scalps, Blazko and a growing resistance fight to take back the world. And one of the most surprising things we find out during this time is that BJ Blazkowicz is more than a soldier. He is, kinda surprisingly given his meathead looks, a good man! And I mean that even without taking into account his ethical removal of fascism. BJ shows a refreshing amount of deference for other people, their personhood and their talents. Despite Klaus’ labeling, he’s not a Johnny Cowboy. “No worries, Johnny Cowboy.” He learns from others and will accept that he’s wrong. He doesn’t question taking orders from women, disabled, black or otherwise. He goes out of his way to show small kindnesses to people. He falls in love with Anya, a woman who took care of him all those years in the institution. She’s sharper than him, and probably as capable with a gun. He trusts her. In the second game, she’s pregnant. That fact doesn’t remotely limit her, but from the moment Blazko finds out, his whole world changes. “I got kids on the way! And I’ll be damned if I’m gonna raise him in a world run by these Nazi assholes!” No matter what happens to him, no matter the suffering he endures, it’s worth it to make a better future for his coming children. He is an embodiment of what he feels is the American Way. He is strong, considerate, self-sacrificing. And of course, he fucking hates Nazis. [Music] Both The New Order and The New Colossus are smart games. These are games that have done their research, that really put in time to imagine this horrifying alternate history. And the first point I want to talk about that these games highlight is that race science and eugenics are just straight garbage. Early on in Wolfenstein: The New Order, you’re forced to play a card game with high-ranking officer Irene Engel. She doesn’t know who BJ is but says her game is designed to test if someone is a true Aryan or not. You pick between two pictures again and again. Which one makes you most excited? Which one is more frightening? At the end of the test, no matter your choices, she reaches down, picks up her gun, and aims it right at you. And then she laughs. “If you were not Aryan you would have gone for the gun.” She says that the game is unnecessary, that she can just pick out the impure with her naked eye. But she’s wrong, of course. BJ’s family is about as impure as it gets. He’s a Jewish American who is currently on a quest to free imprisoned resistance fighters! If Engle’s test if it had any legitimacy, any backing in actual science, it should have been able to pick this up easily. But the lines that the Nazis have used to define personhood have nothing but hate to prop them up. Blazkowicz is a paradox in their ideology, a wrench in the system. He is, put simply, a superior Jew. It is no accident that the resistance in Wolfenstein is led by people who are black, disabled, Jewish- all the populations the Nazis have defined as lesser. Each victory over the reich proves again and again that the idea of Aryan superiority is just absurd. It also makes clear that fascism just doesn’t work. Yes, this alt-reich has temporarily taken over the world. But even without the actions of our main characters, that grip is tenuous. The concrete they’ve built their cities with is rotting from the inside, their Fuhrer is a disgusting shell of a man, a walking corpse that everyone still treats with utter deference. In a mission in Roswell you overhear a conversation between a Nazi and a couple Klan members who now serve the Reich. The Nazi can barely disguise his scorn. “Have you taken your German lessons?” “Oh yes sir.” Good! You. How do you say thank you?” “Oh course sir. Let me see it’s um.” “yes out with it” “Dank- Dankey?” “Mein got, no that was terrible. You’re butchering my beautiful language. Tt’s danke shein, say it!” “Dankey-Shoe?” The implication is clear. These “dumb hicks” are only allies so long as they have another scapegoat. Their dictatorship itself only survives by finding new enemies to stomp out, and once the blacks and the Jews and the queers are dealt with, the Nazi will turn their gaze on to someone else. Sooner or later, Nazis will need a new population to demonstrate their superiority over, and when that happens, these backwater Americans who can’t even say “Danke Shein” correctly will be first on the chopping block. “bBcause the time will come when the wheat detaches from the chaff.” Fascism is a snake that eats itself, and Wolfenstein makes that crystal clear. Also clear is that pre-war America was no utopia either. We hear about the racism present in the U.S. from before the war. We hear about it from the racists- “This is a white man’s world now, white man’s got to keep it Christian.” And we hear about it from the people that racism was perpetrated against. “That’s not the America I fought for.” “Really? I was little, my mother wanted to take me to the picture show but we had to go in through the fucking colored entrance. I wanted a hot dog and lemonade, but the sign says ‘we don’t serve Negroes in this establishment'”. We learn how easy it was for America to flip into full-on white supremacy. Sure there was a hostile takeover but the game makes clear that it wasn’t particularly hard to win over white Americans. “White America? they done packed up and given in, see I guess they don’t have the fighting spirit no more. Nah they just do whatever the fuckin Fuhrer tells them to.” Most simply accepted that things would be better if they just went along with it. Slavery exists again now, but for moms and kids getting milkshakes in New Mexico, that’s not so pressing of a concern. And this American apathy, this is where BJ Blazkowicz runs into a little cognitive dissonance. Because Blazko has, in many ways, defined himself against Nazi ideology. The Nazis are uncaring but he’s empathetic. They are white supremacists and he’s an egalitarian. They’re German and so he leans hard into his American identity. But an American identity is complicated, really complicated, and ultimately this is where BJ’s self-identifying falls short. Because what he doesn’t fully understand is that the America of his youth isn’t a refutation of Nazism. Not at all. If Blazkowicz was to return to that America, his Jewish heritage would make him lesser by definition. In fact, the Aryan supremacy that fuels the worldwide Reich is directly inspired by the country that BJ calls home. [Music] We’ve got to go back to BJ’s childhood and before for a second here, and while I’ll be mentioning characters from the game for reference points this isn’t Wolfenstein’s fictional universe anymore. This is just straight-up history. So what kind of America was BJ raised in? Well, Zofia BJ’s polish-jewish mother, would have been part of America’s largest wave of Jewish migration. From 1880 to 1914, more than 2 million Jews, mostly Russian and polish, immigrated to the US. This quadrupled the Jewish population in the United States basically overnight. And this did not go over super well with white Americans. There had been Jews in the States before then, of course, and they managed to live pretty quietly and drama-free. In other countries like France or Germany, pre-existing institutions stopped Jews from being seen as authentic citizens of those countries. Anti-semitism in Europe has a pretty extensive history. But in the relatively new country of America, these delineations didn’t really exist! So Jews were able to immigrate in small numbers and face little prejudice. They mostly lived in isolated groups by choice, maintaining a level of self definition despite their growing secularity. But what would they call their group? Judaism, especially then, was a religion with a pretty clear bloodline. The most fitting name might be “ethnicity” but that concept didn’t really exist yet. Jews had previously called themselves a nation, but that didn’t work either- they were Americans! And they actually really wanted to fit in with that national identity. A separate nation implies not being part of the whole. So they landed on another word that they used to describe themselves. [Music] As much as commander Engle and the white supremacists of the world like to think they have it nailed down, race is a really slippery concept. It’s socially constructed of course, but even within the individual societies that construct it, it’s never really pinned down. Check out some censuses. Scrolling back through America’s history of “how many people are there and what are they like” paints a wildly varying portrait of how we’ve tried to group the other. Because there’s always been a checkbox for white people. But everyone else has been faced with a form that changes radically depending on the decade. Do you define if you’re a “quadroon” or “octoroon?” If you’re an Asian immigrant, can you pick the country you’re actually from? Or are you just stuck with “Chinese”? So Jews decided they were a race, but the white people in charge, the ones who made institutions and decided census categories, didn’t really care. Let them do whatever they want- there are only a handful of them anyway. They’re not black, they’re not Chinese, so they can be white. In fact, Jews were sometimes used as an example of outstanding white achievement. Some white Americans even cited the continued survival of the Jewish people as proof that they exemplified white power and superiority. The argument went that “so many people tried to kill the Jews but no one had done it successfully. They must be smart to survive all that hardship, and if they’re smart, they must be white.” But this luxury of acceptance didn’t last forever. It ended with the arrival of two million plus more Jews around the turn of the century, including Zofia, BJ’s Jewish mother. [Music] Jews moved into New York hard, and because they typically held industrial positions back in their home countries, Jews started work in various skilled industry positions pretty much immediately. And suddenly, a full half of New York’s industrial workforce was Jewish. Suddenly, Jews were the face of American modernization. And this was a concept that the old white guard of America wasn’t particularly comfortable with. A changing world is scary if you controlled the old one. With this flood of new people, white Americans panicked. What if this new population of Jews upset the racial hierarchy? What if white people lost their throne at the top? And so white Americans started pushing back against this Jewish assimilation. And to do so, they used the same strategies they had used to successfully oppress other racial minorities. The swing was as quick as it was complete. Whereas just years ago, Jews had exemplified white power and superiority, now they were cast as “rough and hairy tribes who lived in the most disgusting areas of cities.” Jews began running into roadblocks they had never met in the US before. For the first time, they were barred from unions and housing because “whiteness was a prerequisite for membership.” To emphasize their inferiority, whites made strong efforts to align Jews with Black Americans, who of course were experiencing their own oppression at the hands of white Americans. Anti-semitic comics started to draw Jews with larger lips and kinky hair. In 1913, a mob in Georgia broke into a prison and lynched a Jewish man imprisoned there. The next day, the local newspaper headline read “The Next Jew Who Does What Frank Did Is Going To Get Exactly The Same Thing We Give To Negro Rapists.” The turn against Jews wasn’t just social- it was backed up by the bullshit race science of the day. The Passing of the Great Race was an extremely widely read book by an American writer named Madison Grant. It got four editions and was translated into several languages, and notably it roped Jews into existing thoughts about miscegenation. “The cross between a white man and an Indian is an Indian, the cross between a white man and a Negro is a negro, and the cross between any of the three European races and a Jew is a Jew.” [Music] This is the world that BJ grew up in, one where his mom was strongly other, a disgusting breed poisoning cities a sneaky intellectual trying to upset the racial hierarchy. He grew up in a white supremacist world where his mom was not white, and as Grant stipulated so clearly, that meant that BJ wasn’t either. And even though they lived in Mesquite, well away from the embattled urban centers on the coast, BJ’s father was well aware of the existing racial structure of the United States. Rip Blazkowicz is a bigot who built a fortune only after profiting from the imprisonment and murder of other people. He sold out his neighbors, he sold out his wife. But Rip wasn’t an outlier, not an aberration in the American Way. He was America. A white supremacist who rose to power only through subjugation and dehumanization. “Before all this, before the Germans, before the war, back home man you were the Nazis.” How much of America’s infrastructure was built on the back of slave labor? How many of the country’s cities rest on lands conquered through the genocide of native people? An often neglected fact about World War II is that the Nazis drew direct inspiration from the United States system of racial hierarchy. It was so clean, so effectively used to create hatred. Nazis studied how the United States suppressed non-white immigrants and consigned minorities to second-class citizenship. In private hearings, they discussed how the US model for white supremacy in the Jim Crow South could be transposed to Germany and inflicted on the Jews. The Nazis were keenly influenced by America’s laws forbidding interracial marriage. The harsh criminalization of mixed-race marriages in America set an example for the Nazis, as they created their law for the protection of German blood and German honor, a law that forbade German Jews from marrying non-jews, invalidated existing mixed marriages, and sent offenders to prison labor camps. What functionally is the difference between this- “any of the three European races and a Jew is a Jew,” and this? Nothing! Nothing except America did it first. Did this change? Sure, but only because America, like BJ, defined itself in opposition to its enemy. Only after fighting the Nazis, only after positioning itself against them, did the U.S. change its ideology to match. Suddenly, all the pro-eugenics literature regarding Jews was forgotten in the U.S. replaced by studies that proved their whiteness. In 1943, Jews moving to the U.S. stopped being marked as Hebrew on their immigration documents, and this was no fluke. It was done by naturalization services for the express purpose of distancing government classification schemes from those used by the Nazis. The U.S. welcomed Jews into whiteness because if it didn’t, it would actually have to come to terms with its own history of anti-semitism. White America fell all over themselves to distance their ideology from the Nazis, to create a clear distinction that fell in line with the actions of America’s military. But consider this: World War 2 and the Holocaust are the first time in American history that the mass criminalization and killing of a non-white population actually went against the interests of the United States. It took fighting on the other side of a holocaust for white Americans to change their ideology. But there was no reconciliation, no apology. We can see what a flexible construction whiteness is here. White Americans just suddenly developed a sort of cultural amnesia about the worst of their anti-semitism. Jews weren’t white before the war, now we are. Or more accurately, Jews are white until it’s beneficial to code them- code us- as the other again. What swings one way can easily swing the other. This game showed us that even the Klan’s purity isn’t guaranteed under a fascist gaze. The concept of whiteness, in America, in Germany, has never been about skin color. It’s about exerting power. Blazkowicz isn’t fighting for that America, no way. That America has found its home on the Nazi-choked streets of Roswell, in the irradiated shell of New York, and in the desperate American actors begging to participate in Nazi propaganda films. Him and the resistance are fighting for an America that has never existed, but one that could. That’s what makes the revolution of these games so electrifying, it’s why, despite happening in an alternate history, it feels like it speaks so clearly to today’s struggles. There is no regression in Wolfenstein resistance no longing to go back to the good old days it’s hard to think of anyone in their group who would have had full rights in the world before Glasgow has to fight for a new reality if he wants to truly succeed. Him, his friends, his future daughters- they’re depending on it. But does he know this? I’m not really sure. He certainly knows what he’s fighting against, but the full scale of his resistance, I think, eludes him. And I think there’s an easy fix for this. [Music] I mentioned before that BJ’s resolve is strongly rooted in his self-identity and much of that comes from being an American, but as we’ve learned, this American identity of Blazko really doesn’t oppose the Nazis as much as he’d like it to. But he does have an identity that he could draw strength from, and surprise! Its Judaism. Here’s the thing: BJ Blazkowicz is Jewish. It’s almost non-negotiable. His mom was Jewish, Judaism is matrilineal, I doubt he’s found time to convert to anything else. But does he, and I’m sorry for the simplification, feel Jewish? To me, no. I’m not asking for him to look like the Bear Jew, I actually love that he looks so video-game-dude. I’ve talked about what a clever subversion it is for him to be a perfect Aryan. But I want to see that his Jewish identity like, means something to him. I want him to be fighting for himself. I want BJ to realize that he’s the latest in a long long line of Jewish fighters. there’s a reason that Purim, Passover, Hanukkah- basically every Jewish holiday can be summed up by the refrain “they tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.” BJ is living through one of these near- extinction events, just like so many have before him. I want some recognition from BJ that he’s part of this chain, and I’ll be honest, some recognition that he’s connected to…me. There aren’t many Jewish game characters. Almost none. Despite all the oppression I’ve talked about thus far, despite the history of people doing things to the Jews, there are so many ways of expressing Judaism outside of trauma. Maybe BJ could take an interest in learning Hebrew from Set, or learn potato pancake recipes with the chefs, or discover and incorporate the ideas of Tikkun Olam into his worldview. He could even fight alongside embattled Jews across the world. Brazil has a pretty huge Jewish population, Argentina does too. Despite the stereotypes, Jews live everywhere, and look every kind of way. Under the oppression depicted in these games, everything is resistance, every small human action, every act of kindness, every effort to set yourself apart from the reich’s cultural zeitgeist makes you less of a Nazi and more of a person. This is a game about individuals fighting to stay individuals, and Blazkowicz leaning into his Jewish heritage is about as big of a “fuck you” to the Nazis as he could possibly deliver. He doesn’t have to be particularly knowledgeable- with the home he grew up in, it would be a shock if he was. But BJ learning about and embracing that heritage, making this part of his political resistance in accompaniment with his physical resistance, it would just plain make his character even stronger. And also, it would mean the world to me. [Music] So originally I was going to release this video a couple days ago. And then, on that day 49 people were murdered by a white supremacist in mosques in New Zealand. And so putting this out a video that discusses a different religious group and is just full of horrifyingly violent imagery, it felt grotesque. To be honest, it still kind of does, but here we are. I talked about Judaism in this video because that’s what I know, that’s what I’ve spent years researching and experiencing and learning about, but the process of racialization, letting groups assimilate or making them other, that’s not unique to Judaism at all. And the levels of Islamophobia across the world are a fucking nightmare. And the way people talk about it, how immigration bans are “necessary for our safety” or how the Western Christian civilizations are more “civilized” it’s exactly the same shit I’ve been talking about for half an hour here. I don’t know how to wrap this up, I’m keeping my original outro which will be a very different tone than this because I’m adding this part later. But be aware of the dog whistles people used to dehumanize others, and actively work the deplatform the people that are spewing hate. Use your privilege to protect those who don’t have the same protections as you. And now, here’s past Jacob with some happier things to say. Wow okay I want to sincerely thank everyone who made it to the end here. This is the most ambitious project I’ve ever done on this channel, so for you to actually watch and interact with it is hugely meaningful. Thank you. There was a lot of history and research that went into this. I’m putting all my sources on the screen now, but if I had to recommend one book to start with, it’d be Eric Goldstein’s book “The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity.” A ton of the background for this video came straight out of that. And finally I want to thank Zach Frazier. He provided the voices for both Henry Ford and Madison Grant, and honestly they blew me away. I didn’t even know if I wanted to do the voices thing but he sent me those, and oh my god. He has his own channel which I’ve linked below- maybe hire him for your next project? I don’t know, talk to him about that. That’s- that’s it. That’s all I’ve got to say here, this video is too long already. Shabbat Shalom, y’all! Good night

77 comments on “Judaism and Whiteness in Wolfenstein

  1. This was great. Very impressed with your thorough research, and very pleased to see criticism of media from a Jewish perspective. It's very strange to be jewish in the world. Especially in Ireland, where the jewish population is like three thousand jews. And so then I also am aware of the shifted definitions of Whiteness around being Irish too. Two distinct diasporas with different histories.

    But this was really good, man. While I've always kinda been uncomfortable around Nazis in media, I basically swore off any Nazi films (moon nazis, zombie nazis, not actual nazis but they have uniforms and red armband nazis) after, like, Charlottesville. So this was nice to see a piece of media that had actual stuff to say about fascism instead of just using it to have the bad guys be super bad, you see. (Looking at you, A New Hope.) And your research and personal approach was really good. I really connected with it, and suddenly I care about this videogame character I'd never heard about before. I hope he discovers his jewishness and finds it meaningful and wants to learn more about it.

    Anyway. Keep up the good work. <3 <3 Shabbat Shalom (on a Monday :D).

  2. "Despite his meathead looks, he's a good man."

    Who determines the character of someone based on their looks?

    "There's always been a checklist for white people."

    Tell that to the Irish.

  3. I don't know man, why can't games just be fun, why does everything have to be so political all the time?

    But seriously, this is phenomenally fantastic and definitely your best video yet.

  4. This is absolutely phenomenal work. Really does a great job explaining and examining why 'whiteness' is such a moldable concept that can and has been used almost arbitrarily to marginalize or 'humanize' groups for any and all reasons. While all race science is bullshit from the ground up, 'whiteness' as a concept is specifically so transparently a political category more than a racial category, especially once you look at the history of it. Would be really nice to see a game tackle that directly in some way, and Wolfenstein as a franchise right now seems uniquely situated to do that. It's pulled so few punches on basically every front so far, I sincerely hope they go that extra mile and talk about things the sort of things from that pre-war period.

    I can't and won't speak to what should be done specifically with BJ and his heritage as that's not really my place, but I sincerely hope that they do something with it, both because I think that it would be narratively amazing to see and because hot damn now that you mention it, I cannot think of a single Jewish character in gaming who isn't a historical or religious figure. Cliche as it may be, representation matters, and I find odd (to say the least) that in a post-Overwatch world, there still seems to be a willful aversion to it. Either way, hopefully someone will bring themselves to do it soon.

    Also holy shit I am so sorry in advance for the comments you're about to get.

  5. First off, Great Video and keep up the great work.
    I have to disagree with your end conclusion though, or at least to the some of the reasoning behind it. If he leaned into his Jewish Identity it'd undermine the notion that race/ethinicity is only a social construct. He is almost naive in the nature of his vision of America, one where your character and actions determine how you're defined. He's trying to run away from the old system, the system that the Nazis used to suppress and conquer the world with. Through "divine racial" birthrights they subjugate and execute lesser races. In my humble opinion he'd be playing into the Nazi's view if he presented himself as a Jewish Warrior fighting for his people. Yes a Jew bringing down the Nazi's exposes the Aryan myth but it sort of acknowledges the idea that there is a racial war going on. Instead he's trying to flip the entire board over by putting the individual first and their racial identity as auxiliary/fabricated. Or we could be over analyzing this "decision" and it could be that this was just a decision to keep his relatability broader for the audience. Either way I'm loving the videos and hope you keep it up!

  6. Incredibly insightful video, also in that it provided me with insight that I previously lacked. I especially appreciated the historical context and sources you've provided as I never could grasp why American nationalists would adopt nazi symbolism and ideology as America was one of the main driving forces behind stopping the national socialist onslaught (if you need something to be proud of as a nation…). The concept of moldeable whiteness makes a lot clear for me.

  7. Look up Abba Kovner, Mordechai Anielewicz, Zivia Lubetkin, Chana Szenes, gd I can think of so many others but there’s a start I guess, dam yehudi nakam, am yisroel chai

  8. Great video brother! Love to see a well-sourced video, particularly when we are talking about something as significant as hate and definitions of "other" that seem all too pervasive and resilient in human history.

  9. This is really great stuff and I hope you make more content like this x
    These games have such strong characters I find and the wee side stories with them are also fantastic.

  10. the fact that this only has 1000 views is a crime.

    (Also what's the song that you play in the introduction?)

  11. This is a fantastic breakdown of Wolfenstein's new and powerful plot. I love the series as it is. It also speaks powerfully about how vulnerable classes of people all make up the resistance- and how everyone is vulnerable sometimes, a trait fascism detests.

  12. Great video. An inspirational treatment of the subject matter.

    Do you have a citation for the 1943 removal of the "Hebrew" category from immigration/naturalization forms?

  13. for everyone else who is Jewish: let's just take a look at the fact that when BJ's mother says birkat hagomel, she doesn't even speak actual Hebrew

  14. A bit late to the party, but I wanted to throw in my hat. The reason Bj isn't further representing Judaism other than being half is because his representation is a zero sum. If he was more Jewish, he'd have to be less American (to which I do think you have a point in the fact that America at the time was a terrible place for anyone else but white people), or less Polish. In the latter case, it almost seems like that part is neglected in the analysis, as if it doesn't matter. Polish people were oppressed as well, for at least some 200 years before WWII. Surely I could use that argument to say that it would have been meaningful to paint him more Polish because of that.

    But, while he does reveal a slight polish side, it is never something that is picked up on or reinforced in the game in any way. And I think that is exactly for the reason that if it was the one thing that he championed, it would overshadow his other identities. In order for him to be a man of the people, he has to relinquish his previous bonds and identity. And I think in many ways that sacrifice just adds to his character. In the end, his war is not for any particular cause other than the liberation of the people from the Nazis.

    I do understand that it would probably be a personal catharsis for you as a player, but I think the game deals with greater themes here than individual identity, and it is up to BJ's character to deliver on those themes first.

  15. Even worth mentioning that Fredrick the Great, the Prussian king, called Poles savages by comparing to Iroquois in the North America. American genocide of Ingenious people gave then-Prussia and their descendants an idea for white supremacy.

  16. The quality of all your videos is astounding. One of the few channels I’ve actually hit the notification bell on.

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  18. This video was great, and it really helped articulate my one major gripe with BJ's character. The fact that they explicitly confirmed his Judaism is great, but the fact it's never really explored outside his mother and how it effected her was a bit of a disappointment. Who knows what the plans are for the next game what with that time jump into Youngblood, but anything resembling your suggestions would be great.

  19. As a Jewish person, thanks for a respectful and interesting analysis! I can’t remember the last time I saw a video that combined gaming and Judaism.

  20. This video is way too good to not have under 1mil views imo. You killed it man. I hope more people see this and take a closer look at their history and strive to be better people. At the very very least, I hope the writing team at MachineGames sees this and takes into account what you've said. It wouldn't only just be fantastic character work, but it would be even more inclusivity in a series that already does such an excellent job at it.

  21. Bj B is not jew. His mother is and that's all. He is just jew with her and for her.

    He is just a violent white man for anybody. Like his dad was.

    His Jewish ness is just added as a plot trick to motivate him against the nazis.

    Marriage with non jews is bad in most jewish community.

  22. I've never played this video game but I watched three of your other videos and was just hooked. I cannot give you enough praises for this powerful look at race, religion, and anti-fascism. Sending you strength and solidarity.

  23. This is easily one of the best video game analyses I've ever seen and it made me reconsider my views on The New Colossus, which I initially found underwhelming but might go back to now and try out with the new mindset. Keep doing what you're doing, man.

  24. Stumbling across this video via finding your channel by pure, random chance feels like such a blessing. I'm jewish, and seeing such a well made, informative video on this topic felt… I'm struggling to find the right words, but it was impactful and great in ways that I feel are going to stick with me. Thank you for making this video.

  25. You keep saying he is Jewish but in fact he is probadly 90% Polish in origin, hence his ''aryan'' look. Also, it's ironic that non-whites were deemed sub-humans on the basis of appearance, yet the exception was made for Polish people, who are pretty much indistinguishable from Germans (like BJ) both in appearance and genetics, so they were deemed sub-human on the basis of nationality.

  26. I feel kinda troubled about the last part of the video and how BJ should lean more onto his self-identification as a Jew. I feel that, when fighting fascism, we should emphasize more the fluidity of ethnicity rather than embracing your own. This because it makes it really difficult for people of certain groups to partake in the antifa cause, when your own group has been the one to make the actual fascism. I am Italian, and although I am somehow proud of the culture of my country, I find it really difficult to lean onto my roots when discussing anti-fascism, considering especially how it's most likely to be happening again, seeing how things are going. How can I distance myself from fascists by embracing my own culture when so many tendencies in it led to actual fascism. I think the same can be said of people from Germany. I hope I've explained the reason why I can't see myself agreeing with the last part of the video.

    In any case, really great analysis, well done!

  27. Greetings from Germany ! I Loved the Video and the Part about Identity, and how Importend it is. There are more and more People here who say: I havend lifed in that Time so therefore i dont give a damn" But being German means to look at the terrible pain we caused to millions of People and remember them while we Keep fight to Never ever give racism fashism and sexism a Chance.

  28. antifa is a different face of the same coin, you speak about a swinging pendulum, we can already see where people who have nothing to do with white supremacy get attacked because they "look" it…tribalism is a human condition you will never escape…Being "American" is the closest thing you can get to forcing the distinction to something else….with out it you see what we already have, an oppression olympics…you should listen to me because Im more oppressed….its why I think racism is pointless, because at the end of the day we all would be the prison guard rather then the prisoner….africas history shows this, asias history shows this, and the middle east history shows this…europe just got lucky with resources and was able to step on them first

  29. Fight Nationalism with Nationalism oh but wait is Jewish Nationalism and I'm Jewish so it's okay ? What a weird message

  30. I spend so much time listening to shiurs from rabbis who take their religion seriously and they talk on subjects like the holocaust(s) and marriage and sex crimes and i wonder what they would think of these games and this video.

  31. After watching the American Krogans video on the last Wolfenstein game I was worried this would be another video discussing how Jews are terrible people and that the Nazis were okay but I was pleasantly surprised. Thanks.

  32. this is amazing. please keep dealing with issues like you do. in a word where politics and their discussion are restricted to those with the least to risk, it is amazing to see someone honestly and intelligently discussing historical and political issues. rock on.

  33. the alt right has not temporarily taken over the world. they barely exist. you lose a point for unionically using the term "whiteness"

  34. That opening monologue gave me chills, "unobjectionable and effective" is nearly the exact language used by today's political extremes.

    We really are doomed to repeat the past, aren't we?

  35. You can say that it's not surprising for BJ to be removed from Judaism because of his background… but he's not a real person. That background was deliberately crafted to avoid making him "feel" Jewish. BJ is meant to represent an idealized American… that is why he looks like an idealized Aryan: they're the same thing. And you know what else the idealized American is? Not Jewish. I think it's less a clever subversion and more the developers/publishers/marketers cynically leaning hard on the antisemitism of their principal consumer demographic.

  36. I have read the book by Krzysztof Kłopotowski called.. "Geniusz Żydów na polski rozum " wich can be translated for "Jewish genius for polish minds" ? There was tons of praise for Jewish culture. I hope that some day it will be translated because I believe it tacles not only polish state of mind but it's kinda universal I wish to see what Jew thinks about that.

  37. No, no, I'm sorry, they have not done their research, not in the slightest. No, they have failed in various ways concerning their research. About the war, about history in general, about Fascist ideology, about the Nazi brand of that Facism and why it was a failure as a system of belief and governence. The fact they keep this regime in power for as long as it has been, the methods use to justify it and everything else make these games incredibly fucking stupid. And it is not in the least bit fair that you seem to be ignoring that the story given here with this BJ is incredibly divorced from previous entries. The fact BJ is blonde beefcake jew in this world is not what's different, save for the fact it is more emphasized. But he has been sapped of any interesting character traits in favor of bland, boring, meathead bullshit generic hero garbage video game characters, no different than the millions of dime a dozen CoD characters we've been forced to suffer.

    The game fetishizes Nazism in various, how it's able to function, how it is able to create similar media and by products to our modern world when in reality it would be devoid of any substance of any kind and divorced entirely from our own reality. The Beatles and their brand of music would not exist in this world for Germanic parodies to be written and listened to. Hell, the way the Nazis win the war makes no sense and is demonstrably forcefully false. Worse yet is how it seems to praise Nazi ingenuity and capability by presenting a world where not only have they colonized the Moon, but Venus as well. And why because they are somehow more capable and smarter at using ancient technology crafted by Crazy Impossibly smart Jewish Scientists, than said Ancient Jewish Scientists ever were. The idea that the Nazi could ever be intellectually capable, creative enough or in any way resourceful enough to build the things they do in this game while the Allies have access to the actual people who made this shit, including ANTI-GRAVITY Technology is ludicrous!

    The fact this series starts on July 16 1946 should tell you everything. It is narrative shorthand for telling you the war should already be over and somehow the Allies don't have the bomb. And the idea that they do not have one and the Germans have not yet beat them to it is laughable. The idea that the Nazis beat the Allies at Normandy without this advanced technology, even more idiotic. The fact they only found this Dat'Yichud tech in February 1946 and have rapidly reverse engineered enough of it to outpace the United Fucking States in terms of military technological power with it despite the Americans having access as we later learn to BUILDING FUCKING FLYING SAUCERS is insanely stupid world building. And it baffles my mind why they didn't just have the game start in 1944 before or on D-Day and have the war end the same year before the Americans make a bomb.

    The second game provided the answer, one because they want to force this game to fit into the events of previous games in the franchise, even though it can't because BJ's character and that of Deathshead are completely different and various events in this game along with the removal of the supernatural contradict the previous entries' stories. But also, two, because they wanted to involve Roswell's UFO Crash from 1947 in their story but just not involve aliens in it. Which makes it pointless to include, as it's another fun paranormal thing they've denied us, Aliens helping the Nazis, and only serves to hype up the fucking Dat'Yichud and their idiotic technology even more. Because for some reason America is, again, unable to create fucking Flying Saucers to defeat the Nazis despite having access to the technology to make it AND directly working with the people who made it! The game fucks itself both ways just to involve a flacid piece of Americana history in their shitty sequel.

    The game hates Nazis but somehow makes them intellectual superpowers. It does so by making them cheat using Jewish tech, yes, but the fact they are more capable at using this tech to an insane degree so quickly makes them look insanely capable when they fucking weren't. The game is suggesting that a society that rid itself of its most brilliant minds because they weren't racially pure enough were somehow still capable of creating awesome killer robots that wiped out the most powerful armies on the planet, and defeat Soviet Russia with robot dogs that play fetch with grenades on command! Do you understand how fucking stupid that is? How dangerously offensive that is to suggest the Nazis are smart enough to pull this shit off?

    TNO and TNC ape Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds to the point of ripping the movie off, remove the supernatural from the franchise which served as a cornerstone of it since the original game, and all to service a bunch of bland boring characters who die as I shrug, bored out of my mind with the dull generic level settings and even more vapid CoD copying gameplay. The only difference being you're forced to pick up ammo with X instead of just running over it like every other shooter ever made! Which doesn't make the game harder, only more tedious. And it only achieves in ruining its own message with its garbage history and worse world building.

    RtCW was and is the superior Nazi killing game. And it is sickening how many people disrespect it for no good reason. Return to Castle Wolfenstein was fucking awesome and revealed the Nazis as irrational, moronic idiots who kept pursuing ideas of their supposed cultural heritage, only to be revealed wanting in various areas, dangerous to themselves and all those around them. The Nazis in that game are revealed as a self-destructive cult of death that perverts even its own science with concepts of racial purity, aryan birthright and Romanticized Germanic pseudo-History, that in the end they are incapable of harnessing to their benefit and only cause themselves and their own people more harm than good. The Nazi in RtCW is revealed as what they truly are, idiotic LARPing Dickheads badly playing at Teutonic Knights and repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot as they try to search for their version of a Holy Grail.

    RtCW reveals Nazis as the loser ideology, not TNO and its sequel. They are trying to do the same thing… and failing, mostly because of the very set up I just laid out.

  38. Hey man! Just found this video through my recommendations and I just want to say – what a fantastic video essay you've made!!! Hearing your perspective on this video game and how much it touches you (and would even more if they incorporated BJ's judaism) really hit me.

    Kind of a non-sequitur but – I'm a European guy who's doing a bachelor in American Studies. We've talked at length about WW2 and its aftermath, yet Jewish-American identity has never really come up. I have to say that this video was massively entertaining, thoughtful, and it taught me something new that I will definitely look into more. I honestly cannot believe this has so little views for how high the quality is.

    Please keep up the good work! Only if you want to of course, haha. You've definitely just gotten a knew subscriber.

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