A highly persistent rumor uses a photograph that allegedly shows a young George Soros in a Nazi uniform to bolster claims that he served in the National Socialist German Workers Party before he became a wealthy businessman and champion of progressive causes.
However, the young man pictured in a Nazi uniform in this photo is not George Soros. This particular post apparently began circulating on social media in late November 2016, but claims that George Soros, a billionaire philanthropist and supporter of progressive causes, was a Nazi or a Nazi sympathizer have persisted for years.
The post shows a young man in an SS uniform, who is incorrectly described as George Soros. In some versions, a caption incorrectly claimed that Hillary Clinton would have been a more dangerous president than Donald Trump because one of her primary backers was “a Nazi”:
I give you George Soros. A SS in the National Socialist German workers party. Nazi party. He served under Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler. He said it was the best time of his life. The destruction and agony around him was euphoric to him. This man was making policy with Hillary Clinton. And some of you think Trump is dangerous. Wow!
George Soros was born into a Jewish family in Budapest, Hungry, in 1930. That would have made him twelve years old when the United States entered World War II, and fifteen years old when the war ended in 1945. That means that Soros was far too young to wear an SS uniform before the fall of the Nazi party.
It has been reported that Hitler forced boys as young as twelve into combat, particularly in the waning days of the war. Still, it is very easy to find out that Soros was not the young man pictured in the Nazi uniform. A simple Google image search reveals that the undated photo from the Auschwitz Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland shows Oskar Gröning, the so-called “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz” who was prosecuted for war crimes at the age of 94. In July 2015, Gröning was sentenced to prison for his role in the death of hundreds of thousands of Jewish people at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944. (He died before serving his sentence.)
Claims about George Soros’ purported, nonexistent ties to the Nazi party have been circulating for years, pushed along by known disinformation purveyors. Most are fueled by a 1998 interview with Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes, in which Soros recounted how, as a young teen, he accompanied an adult guardian who was confiscating property from Jews in Hungary.
Portions of the interview in which Soros said he did not regret confiscating property and that it was not difficult for him have long been used to smear him, arguing that Soros is a sociopath or a Nazi sympathizer by his critics. However, those accounts intentionally leave out comments in which Soros explains why he doesn’t regret his actions or feel guilt for his long-ago experiences:
I could be on the other side or I could be the one from whom the thing is being taken away. But there was no sense that I shouldn’t be there, because… (If) I wasn’t doing it, somebody else would – would — would be taking it away anyhow. And it was the — whether I was there or not, I was only a spectator, the property was being taken away. So the — I had no role in taking away that property. So I had no sense of guilt.
The situation in Hungary at that time was one of deep tension and uncertainty for its Jewish populations:
….Ernő Munkácsi, the head of one of Hungary’s largest Jewish communities, put it in his postwar memoirs, “… the leaders of the Jews … lulled themselves into the unfounded optimism that we would be the exceptions, the tiny island in the sea of the destruction of European Jews.”
It was for the Jewish Council that 13-year-old George Soros worked for all of two days. He was asked to deliver messages across the city. When his father read one of the messages, he saw that they were in fact summonses, orders for Jewish individuals to report to a rabbinical seminar with food for two days and blankets. In an interview with the New Yorker, Soros said:
This was a profoundly important experience for me. My father said, “You should go ahead and deliver [the summonses], but tell the people that if they report they will be deported.” The reply from one man was “I am a law-abiding citizen. They can’t do anything to me.” I told my father, and that was an occasion for a lecture that there are times when you have laws that are immoral, and if you obey them you perish.
Recipients of those summonses were deported — to concentration camps across Eastern Europe, including Auschwitz, a concentration camp and death camp in Poland where more than half a million Hungarian Jews were murdered by 1945.
This particular narrative, as with many others, was also kept alive by Hungary’s far-right leader, Viktor Orbán, a onetime recipient of Soros’s philanthropy who now vilifies his former mentor and ally. The tenor of the rhetoric attacks seem to reveal an underlying motive that has little to do with Soros as an individual:
Orbán even won a Soros-funded scholarship to study for a year at Oxford University in 1989. Three decades on, the Hungarian prime minister’s media outlets refer to a “Soros plan” to ship millions of refugees to Europe and destroy the continent; last year, his parliament passed a “Stop Soros” bill that, among other things, imposes a 25% tax on any organisation providing assistance to migrants. The Soros-founded Central European University has been forced to move much of its operations from Budapest to Vienna.
Like many of Soros’s rightwing critics, Orbán often employs barely concealed antisemitism in his attacks. Last spring, I watched the prime minister give a speech outside the ornately beautiful parliament building, on the same square where Soros lived as a child. “We are fighting an enemy that is different from us,” Orbán told a flag-waving crowd. “Not open, but hiding. Not straightforward, but crafty. Not honest, but base. Not national, but international. It does not believe in working but speculates with money; it does not have its own homeland, but feels it owns the whole world.” This succinct summation of antisemitic tropes was delivered just a few hundred metres from a monument marking the place where hundreds of Jews were executed by fascists during the second world war.
These attacks, including the antisemitic components, have been enthusiastically seized upon by Orbán’s American counterparts over the years and those who support them, mainly in the service of claiming that there is some sort of vast conspiracy against them. In fact, he is often used as a face for anti-Jewish disinformation and conspiracism:
Criticizing Soros or his politics and actions is not antisemitic. Indeed, those who have suggested that any criticism is antisemitic do real disservice to the cause of fighting Jew hatred. However, when Soros is used as a symbol for Jewish control, wealth, and power, the criticism may be an updated version of traditional antisemitic tropes (see conspiracy theory, control, Jewish figures).
Unfortunately, hatred of George Soros has not remained solely on the Internet. In October 2018, a far-right agitator sent a bomb to his house, as part of a string of bomb threats against prominent Democrats.
On September 14 2022, as his second damages trial in the Sandy Hook defamation lawsuits got underway, American disinformation purveyor Alex Jones invoked George Soros in the latest phase of a long-running tactic; he claimed that the judge in the case was a “Soros operative,” and thus biased against him:
ALEX JONES (GUEST): Well now what they do is they do a default. So they sue you in one of these key jurisdictions that they control, if you’re dumb enough to live in one of them — still, they’ll just do it in DC and make you go there. They’ll sue you in the jurisdiction with a judge assigned that they control, and who’s a political operative — this lady is a Soros operative, admits she is on her own, you know, Facebook.
STEVEN CROWDER (HOST): You said Soros operative, she admits it on her Facebook. That’s the kind of stuff where people will say, well, she doesn’t say I’m a Soros operative. What do you mean by that? ‘Cause that’s the kind of stuff the media will take out of context and say Alex Jones says that she said on her Facebook that she’s a Soros operative and that’s not true, therefore everything else he said is a lie.
JONES: Well, if you go there she’s got purple blue hair and has all these Soros-funded PACs on the site. And she gets money out of the PACs that are funded by Soros, just like the Austin DA is famous for letting people that shoot people out of jail the next day.
(This is not a new claim for Jones.)
In Chicago right now, taxpayers are more likely to be the victims of crime than criminals are to be punished for it. So, the question is, “Why would anyone in Chicago pay taxes?” You’d have to be a masochist to do that, and pretty soon only the masochists will be.
So, how did this happen? Well, it’s no mystery, there are many threads, but George Soros is a big one. Soros paid for this to happen. Soros backed a prosecutor, Kim Fox, who turned Chicago over to the most vicious people who live there. Not the decent, good people in all neighborhoods, the most vicious. The ones who truly don’t care about others, who want to kill people for their shoes or their car. The worst people. And they run things now.
All of these rumors should be regarded as an interrelated network of narratives designed to degrade and smear the legacy of a liberal philanthropist; none of them, given the number of times these exact narratives have been debunked over the years, should be considered to be uttered in good faith.
September 14 2022, 10:15am: This article has been updated. You can view the original here. -bb