This image of a smartly dressed, clean cut, young man comes from a documentary I was watching last night. Filmed in 1940s in Belgium I could not help noticing how like Tintin this man appears. Tintin was already very successful in Belgium at the time so has this young man’s appearance been influenced by Tintin? Or is that many young men looked liked this during the 1930s & 40s and Herge just based Tintin’s appearance on what he saw around him?
The still comes from a documentary series called Nazis: A Warning from History. This young Tintin look-a-like is signing up to fight for the Germams in the Flemish Regiment of the Waffen-SS, the 27th SS Volunteer Division Langemarck.
One of the lesser known facts about the SS is that they recruited in all the countries occupied by the Germans. Volunteers were attracted by not only the prestige and pay of the Waffen-SS but by the anti-communist propaganda. One only has to look at Tintin in the Land of the Soviets to see the right wing, anti-communist stance of many in Belgium around that time.
The documentary, Nazis: A Warning from History, is heartily recommended. Made by the BBC it is the best work on Hitler and explains how he rose to power and why, despite of everything, the Germans fought to the bitter end. You can watch the series on You Tube and the image above comes from this episode (at 4:03). The series includes many interviews with people on all sides who were involved in the war including a Flemish SS volunteer who was involved in war crimes.
The racism and colonialism found in the early works of Herge and his work for a German controlled paper during the war casts a long shadow over Tintin. But to me, this is not something Tintin fans should hide or shy away from. The important story of Herge’s life is that is that he recognized how blinkered and distasteful his worldview was and that he changed. Once having made that change, he then spent the rest of his life to educating and informing children of how humans around the world can be simultaneously very different and yet very much the same.