John P. Wardle
The myth about Nordic “barbarism” which finds its modern form in the hatewaves unleashed against the Germans is in no way a new phenomenon. In times of yore, our kinsmen in Scandinavia also had to face the same scathing hate from Christianized Anglo-Saxons and Franks. The deeds of the Vikings, harsh as they often were, became twice as grim in the eyes of the others because they were the work of “heathens,” whereas the same deeds done by Christian people were done in the name of a divine mission, by the “grace of God,” and thus forgivable. But perhaps the greatest lie ever told was the one fatefully linked with the word “vandalism.”
Here truth is only valuable insofar as it vindicates the Great Hate, but as truth seldom fulfils this unworthy function, it is the methodical lie which takes over – and is mistaken for truth by our feeble-minded brethren. Oddly enough, the word “vandalism” did not arise until the year 1794, when it was coined by the French Bishop Gregoire de Blois in describing the inhuman goriness and cultural savagery of the French Revolution. This then is the murky well from which a great lie oozed out into the world to poison newspapers, journals, speeches and history books ever since.
The historical happening that allegedly gave rise to the smear word “vandalism” was the so-called “sacking” of Rome by the Vandals under their king Genseric in the year 455 A.D. Let us first examine the facts:
The Vandals did, together with their Berber friends, strike out at Rome from their kingdoms in North Africa. They did plunder Rome for fourteen days. They did carry off gold, silver and jewels from the emperor’s palace and from the houses of the rich – but these spoils were mainly the booty taken by the Romans themselves in former conquests. It was laden onto Vandal galleys and shipped to Africa. The Vandals transported also a few thousand slaves back to Africa, as was the custom in those days, and took back with them the empress and her two daughters, one of which, Eudoxia, was married to King Genseric’s son, Hunneric.
On the other hand, the Vandals did not create a bloodbath and did not treat the Roman citizens cruelly, since rape was forbidden on pain of death. Not a single public building or holy place is known to have been laid to waste by them. The great works of art, which the Vandals and Goths respected, had already either been defaced or were to be scored and shattered later by degenerate descendants of the once-Nordic Romans themselves. I hardly need to remind the reader of the “musical genius,” Nero, who fiddled as Rome burned beneath his hand, or of Vespasia, who made a barricade of sculptured columns (mainly Greek) as a defense against Vitellius. Gregoire the Teuton-hater described both of these events as early examples of “vandalism.”
How mild the Vandal sojourn in Rome really was can be checked by the fact that barely a week after the plunderers had left for home, the Romans were again enjoying their circus, in all its splendid barbarity. What the Vandals had done was fully in keeping with the unwritten rights of every victor: they bore off booty just as the victors of 1918 and 1945 did in Germany. And what the Vandals did not do is to their lasting credit. They strongly forbade any cruelty toward the civilian population, especially toward women and children. They forbade the desecration of shrines and temples and destruction of cultural monuments.
This short thesis may best be borne out by the words of the Catholic Bishop Salvianus of Marseille, who wrote around 450 A.D.: “If anyone under the Goths and Vandals leads a debauched life, it is a Roman. For the Goths and Vandals set such example by moral cleanliness and uprightness that not only are they chaste – and here I say something new and unheard of – they have chastened the Romans too. Shame on you, Roman people, shame on your way of life, for only those of your towns are free from vice where the barbarians rule.” On another occasion, he wrote: “Where Goths are ruling, only the Romans are depraved, but where Vandals rule, the Romans too are allowed to practice vice.”
It is psychologically understandable that the Germans, who have inherited much of the Vandal and Gothic spirit, should have been in a keener way beset with the stigma of “vandalism” and “barbarism,” but let no one think that the British, Scandinavians and Dutch are unaffected. In order to split the German folkdoms and goad them to war against each other, the Teuton-haters pretend to see in the British a “civilized” nation, whereas only the Germans are “barbarians.” This dishonest flattery, coupled with a boundless hatred of Germany, is something of which all Northlanders should be keenly aware. Especially the Italians and French, who are now often honest enough to admit the deep and lasting influence of the German blood on their Renaissance, nurture this envy of the Goths and Vandals. This sneaking malevolence has been rightly condemned by the greatest German men of letters, particularly Friedrich Schiller.
It is high time that the Latin people realize what a great debt they owe to their Germanic neighbors. Even their language has been widely enriched by the German Frankish tongue. The wonderful Gothic churches of France are Germanic in every way, and even their so-called Roman art is mainly of Germanic root, but that is material enough for a booklet or an essay.
To sum up: The smear word “vandalism” must be either stricken from our vocabulary or given a new and noble meaning. Vandalism is disciplined behavior and correctness at war, respect for art and holy things, respect for womanhood, chivalry toward the weak and young, and personal integrity.
Let us restore the good name of the Nordic Vandals once and for all.
Translated & reprinted from: The Northlander,
Postbus 1796, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2/1966, No. 1
SOURCE: The Liberty Bell, June 1983