For centuries, authors have used historical references as a base for their work, including J.K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter. One of the things that make her stand out as a writer is the complexity of the world she created. So, it’s no wonder that much of her work is derived from allusions to the past. The most common and recognizable references are those to the Holocaust. Rowling confirmed only a few of the parallels. However, by studying both subjects, one can see that the Holocaust is a prime component to the development of the Harry Potter series.
Beyond the basic comparisons of both Lord Voldemort, formerly known as Tom Riddle, and Adolf Hitler being evil and powerful dictators, there are many more connections that link the two. Many German women, and even young girls, were madly in love with Hitler. Although never clearly stated, it is a common argument that Bellatrix Lestrange is very much infatuated with Voldemort. Maybe women admire the seemingly endless power of Hitler and Voldemort, or maybe their personalities drew women to them. Their personalities show yet another connection. Both were described as being remarkably intelligent, persuasive, and manipulative from an early age. Horace Slughorn says to young Tom Riddle, “What with your uncanny ability to know things you shouldn’t, and your careful flattery of the people who matter… I confidently expect you to rise to Minister of Magic within twenty years.” (Half-Blood Prince, 495). Even Voldemort refers to himself as “poor but brilliant, parentless but so brave, school prefect, model student…” (Chamber of Secrets, 204).
The most interesting and undeniably purposeful link is the lineage of both men. Hitler is suspected to have Jewish descent while Voldemort is the product of a muggle and witch, making him a half-blood. Both men are very ashamed of their ancestry and go to great lengths to hide of these parts of their lives. While in the chamber, Voldemort says to Harry, “You think I was going to use my filthy Muggle father’s name forever? I, in whose veins runs the blood of Salazar Slytherin himself, through my mother’s side? I, keep the name of a foul, common Muggle…” (Chamber of Secrets, 206). Voldemort hates his muggle father so much that he changes his name so he wouldn’t be associated with his father and murders him out of pure hatred of being non-magical.
Despite having the same backgrounds to those which they were fighting against, Hitler doesn’t stop from his vendetta against the Jews, and Voldemort against those of non-magical descent. The environment a child is raised in has a lot of affect on who they become, so their desire to do harm may be partially due to their troubled childhoods. Hitler was abused by his father and lived in a predominately Jewish neighborhood. He aspired to be a professional artist but was rejected both times he applied to art school in 1907 and 1908. Similarly, Voldemort lived in a muggle orphanage until his time at Hogwarts. After his time in school, he applied multiple times unsuccessfully to be a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. The similarities are not only who they were, but also how they died. Hitler was trying to avoid being captured by the Allied Powers and Voldemort’s killing curse rebounds because the Elder Wand’s allegiance didn’t lie with him. In the end, Hitler killed himself, as does Voldemort, but neither of them meant to.
Nazis considered themselves to be a part of the “superior” race just as purebloods, people with only magical families, think themselves to be superior to those born to one or two non-magical parents, almost to the point of royalty. Both groups have an unwavering devotion to their leaders. For Death Eaters, their loyalty is symbolically shown through the Dark Mark engraved into their skin; for Nazis, it is the swastika they proudly bear. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Albus Dumbledore says, “They were a motley collection; a mixture of the weak seeking protection, the ambitious seeking some shared glory, and the thuggish gravitating toward a leader who could show them more refined forms of cruelty. In other words, they were the forerunners of the Death Eaters, and indeed some of them became the first Death Eaters after leaving Hogwarts." There is a comparison between the Death Eaters and Hitler’s top followers, such as Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Goering, in the way that both groups sought leadership in troubling times.
Throughout the Holocaust and the Harry Potter series, Jews and muggles held very similar positions. They were the scapegoats of society’s problems. Because of this, the goal of purebloods and Aryans was to rid the world of those they thought to be inferior in order to “purify” the race. In doing so, the victims of these ideologies lost many of their rights, and were tortured, even killed. Although muggleborns weren’t put in concentration camps, they were watched by the government and dementors, but this didn’t happen all at once. The lives of Jews and muggle-borns were stolen from them little by little. The first injustice was being classified by the degrees of mixed blood. The less Aryan or magical blood you possessed, the less humanity you had. Most people of the “dominant” race didn’t even consider Jews human or muggles to be worth humanity. On her official website, J.K. Rowling said, "If you think this is far-fetched, look at some of the real charts the Nazis used to show what constituted ‘Aryan’ or ‘Jewish’ blood. I saw one in the Holocaust Museum in Washington when I had already devised the ‘pure-blood’, ‘half-blood’ and ‘muggle-born’ definitions and was chilled to see that the Nazis used precisely the same warped logic as the Death Eaters. A single Jewish grandparent ‘polluted’ the blood, according to their propaganda."
After being classified and stripped of their rights, the final solution was enacted by the Nazis between 1942 and 1944. At that same time, the Chamber of Secrets is first opened by Tom Riddle in 1943. Muggleborns and Jews were the main, but not the only groups targeted. In the eyes of the opposing groups, Gypsies, gays, mentally and physically handicapped people, and blood traitors were also tainted by inferior blood.
Anti-Semitism did not begin with the Hitler; just as pureblood supremacy doesn’t begin with Voldemort. The earliest record of Jewish prosecution dates back for centuries. Professor Binns says to his second-year students, “[Salazar] Slytherin, according to the legend, sealed the Chamber of Secrets so that none would be able to open it until his own true heir arrived at the school. The heir alone would be able to unseal the Chamber of Secrets, unleash the horror within, and use it to purge the school of all who were unworthy to study magic” (Chamber of Secrets, 151). This quote references the intolerance non-pure bloods faced when Hogwarts was being built in the tenth century.
Gellert Grindelwald is a key component to the connection between the plot line of Harry Potter to the Holocaust. He is considered the most powerful dark wizard of all time, only to be topped by Voldemort himself. Although he wasn’t a main character in the Harry Potter series, he has some of the clearest connections to the Holocaust. Grindelwald is defeated in 1945, the year of Hitler's death.
Nurmengard is the prison build on the orders on Grindelwald to hold his enemies but he ends up being imprisoned there after his defeat. “For the greater good” is engraved in the front gate of Nurmengard, this references that it would be beneficial to the “greater good” to control the less “pure” wizards and enslave the Muggles. Hermione explains to Harry, “‘For the Greater Good’ became Grindelwald’s slogan, his justification for all the atrocities he committed later” (Deathly Hallows, 360). Similarly, "arbeit macht frei" is a German phrase engraved in the concentration camps, meaning "work sets you free." Both of these phrases are lies, of course, but they reflect and justify their ideologies. Nurmengard is also believed to be located in Germany. The name of the prison is a reference to Nuremberg, a city where many Nazi rallies were held, the Nuremburg laws were made known to the public, the site of the Nuremburg Trails, and where notorious Nazi war criminals were held. Both Nurmengard and Nuremberg are symbolic of the rise and fall of the Nazis and Grindelwald.
The charismatic personalities of Hitler and Voldemort played a huge role in how they rose to and held their power. They played on the public’s fear, but in different ways. Hitler used the fear and anger of the public to further his agenda. By saying things such as, “The art of leadership. . . consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention,” Hitler made the people of Germany respect him and believe that he had Germany’s best interest at heart. Voldemort, on the other hand, uses fear and often show how powerful he is so no one would dare rise against him. Even the use of his name strikes fear into the hearts of other wizards. Then during the Second Wizarding War, Voldemort implements the Taboo curse. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ron explains to Harry "...the name's been jinxed, Harry, that's how they track people! Using his name breaks protective enchantments, it causes some kind of magical disturbance” (Deathly Hallows, 389). The terrorist events at the Quidditch World Cup by Voldemort’s followers and Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, in which German soldiers destroyed Jewish neighborhoods, also show comparisons of how they used terrorism to keep hold on their power.
The circumstances were just right for Hitler and Lord Voldemort to take advantage of the strife in the governments and rise to power. Along with the right timing and personalities, the German and wizard governments were failing. The British Prime Minister during the Holocaust, Neville Chamberlain, and the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, were both very weak leaders. Each man avoided conflict with the opposing group, which was ultimately one of the main causes of Hitler’s and Voldemort’s rises to power. Because of the weak political officials, they had an easy time infiltrating the German government and Ministry of Magic. After a year of desperately denying Voldemort’s return to maintain grip on his position as Minister of Magic, he releases a statement to the Daily Prophet saying, “It is with great regret that I must confirm that the wizard styling himself Lord — well, you know who I mean — is alive and among us again,” said Fudge, looking tired and flustered as he addressed reporters. “It is with almost equal regret that we report the mass revolt of the dementors of Azkaban, who have shown themselves averse to continuing in the Ministry’s employ. We believe that the dementors are currently taking direction from Lord — Thingy” (Order of the Phoenix, 845). Perhaps if he didn’t wait so long to announce Voldemort’s return, Voldemort wouldn’t have had time to rise back to power.
Winning over the public was vital to attaining ultimate power. Because they had so much political influence, Voldemort and Hitler had no problem gaining full control over the press to spread propaganda, which was hardly ever truthful. Hitler himself said, “By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise”. With control of the media, they could sway the thoughts and feelings of the public and create a false sense of security. By pushing the problems of society on the minority, it created a sense of community within the ruling faction. At the peak of the Second Wizarding War the Daily Prophet wrote, “Recent research undertaken by the Department of Mysteries reveals that magic can only be passed from person to person when wizards reproduce. Where no proven wizarding ancestry exists, therefore, the so-called Muggle-born is likely to have obtained magical power by theft or force. The Ministry is determined to root out such usurpers of magical power, and to this end has issued an invitation to every so-called Muggle-born to present themselves for interview by the newly appointed Muggle-born Registration Commission" (Deathly Hallows, 181). This article is written to convince other wizards that Muggle-borns are stealing magic and are potentially dangerous.
It may not seem as if there was not much resistance against the Nazi Party and the Death Eaters, but there were actually many groups who tried to stop their unethical actions. The United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union formed the Allied Powers to fight the Axis Powers. Comparably, the Order of the Phoenix was developed during the First Wizarding War then re-emerged as Dumbledore’s Army in the Second Wizarding War to combat Voldemort’s second reign. Just as some people compare Neville Chamberlain and Cornelius Fudge, many theories suggest Dumbledore was based on the U.K. Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Churchill helped to defeat the Nazis, similar to how Dumbledore helped to defeat the Death Eaters.
Between the leaders, followers, events, methods of attaining powers, the evidence between Harry Potter and the Holocaust is undeniable. There are too many evident connections to not believe that, in at least some respect, Rowling’s work is associated with the Holocaust, both unconscious and in text. "I 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. So yeah that follows a parallel [to Nazism]."