Post-WWII America: benignant but dismissive of Nazis (just like Antifa, right?)

(I never knew Downfall had other scenes!)

A couple weeks back I posted a YouTube comment where I noted that the generation who best knew the Nazis also had no problem depicting them as cuddly or goofy (click to view full size):

I don't know if you happened to notice, but in the 25 years after the Second World War when most of the people who fought or were otherwise impacted by the Second World War were still alive, Nazis could be depicted regularly without much fuss.

Star Trek put its two lead (Jewish) actors in Nazi uniforms in one episode where they backhand praised the Nazis for running such a tight ship (shame about some of the other stuff though). Hogan's Heroes took place in a Nazi POW camp where both Klink and Schultz were portrayed as affable buffoons you just wanted to hug whenever their schemes went south (and 2/3rds of the episodes were Hogan and company enacting a scheme to keep the two in charge of the Nazi prison camp so things stayed light and fun). McHale's Navy was jovially sparring with the Nazis on such missions as retrieving a bottle of wine or competing in a swimsuit pageant. Hell, Springtime for Hitler. Except for the last one, all were geared as family entertainment.
I'm hardly the first to notice this, and it's something that's been floating in my brain for years. However it's been more common in my head when you notice social media is full of violent Antifa thugs who are convinced they are part of a 80 year program to destroy Nazis.

But here's the thing that makes you wonder: back in the late 70s when neo-Nazism was basically unveiled to the world (it was so invisible before about 1976 nobody even knew it was a thing), and World War Two veterans were common, why wasn't "antifa" a thing? Like, at all. Until the late 1980s it didn't even remotely exist. So if these antifa losers seem to think they've always been part of the group "fighting the Nazis" this whole time, why do they think it died out?

I think a big clue comes from the 1960s media referred to above. Nazis weren't really that big a deal. They were the other side that the war was fought against, but so what? Outside of the lineage of the Franco-Prussian war (France vs German), World War I (Triple Alliance including France vs Central Powers including Germany), and kinda World War II (Allies trying to liberate France vs Germany which had mostly conquered France), most wars featured countries you were expected to be friendly with to some degree half a generation later. Italy pivoted within the Second World War. Even though non-Nazi Germany was the ally after 1945, I don't think you'd find most soldiers thinking they were still that horrible thing we fought and had to keep on fighting. In general though the war you fought against a power one conflict was your ally the next. It was 1911 before Britain stopped supporting the rail link between Berlin and Baghdad that was part of the German-Ottoman alliance, for example. Russia and Germany were full-on allies in 1890, but by 1908 were adversaries.

If, for example, Chile elected a Nazi government in 1959 it's not like all the WWII soldiers in Canada and Russia would travel across the globe to declare war on them again. Sure we'd worry about the Jewish population, but Chile did end up implementing a military dictatorship in the 1970s which chased the Jews out anyways (though to be fair Pinochet had no anti-Semitic intentions). I don't think if an American GI got a knock on his door in 1963 asking for signatures or money to support the American Nazi Party it would motivate him to get his gun or punch the guy or any other antifa fantasies. Indeed no small number of American soldiers sympathized with some if not all of Hitler's goals...after all, a statistically significant number of them also supported the other large socialist government. Most former WWII soldiers who embraced communism disapproved of the pogroms and the purges in the same way the former WWII soldiers who sympathized with the Nazis also objected to gassing six million Jews. That generation understood war, understood soldiering, and most critically could separate positive and negative aspects of the regimes they fought with.

British troops much respected the German soldiers for their skills, American troops for their bravery (especially in the Russian campaign). They could watch shows where a Nazi officer was shown not to be in any way evil and nobody fretted over it: Wilhelm Klink after all was also a WWI veteran as many German soldiers were, it's not like he was committed to the Nazi cause in 1943 anymore than he was committed to the Social Democratic cause in 1914 (they were nominally the German government, though the Empire's political structure is a little Byzantine to our eyes. von Bethmann-Hollweg was not an SPD man).
Oh yes, heil Hitler.
- Col. Wilhelm Klink
You could ask most anybody in Britain, America, even France to a limited extent and possibly even in Russia and find people who would tell you without any trace that most "Nazis" were generally good people just stuck working for a crooked regime. This modern rise of "Nazis are the worst thing ever", closely tied with "everybody I don't like is a Nazi", would be alien to these WWII vets. To paraphrase Stephanie McLeans' nonsensical tweet above, nobody in the Canadian Armed Forces in 1944 thought they were part of an "anti-fascist organization", they were part of the Canadian Government currently at war with Nazi Germany (which itself wasn't "fascist", that phrase was really only used to describe Italy and later the Italian Social Republic). In fact, there was a fascist government in Spain that the Canadian Armed Forces left totally alone. Next time you see a big Antifa rally ask them if they will agree to leave alone the Pegida rally down the street that has a non-belligerence policy in place?

So the next time Antifa tries claiming any consistency with the anti-Hitler communists of WWII Germany, remind them that it was mysteriously when the Greatest Generation started dying out before Antifa ever dared to show their face in public again, and only once the Greatest Generation was essentially gone before they tried retroactively including them in the membership.