1918 Pandemic Linked to Rise of Nazis, Study Shows

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In a warning for the potential political implications of coronavirus, a New York Federal Reserve paper has shown a link between the 1918 flu pandemic and the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany.

The study shows that cities with the greatest fatalities saw a reduction in social expenditure and that “influenza deaths of 1918 are correlated with an increase in the share of votes won by right-wing extremists.”

“This holds even when we control for a city’s ethnic and religious makeup, regional unemployment, past right-wing voting, and other local characteristics assumed to drive the extremist vote share,” economist Kristian Blicklewrote. “The deaths brought about by the influenza pandemic of 1918-1920 profoundly shaped German society.”

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With the global economy facing its deepest peacetime recession in almost a century -- since the depression era in which the Nazis came to power -- as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the report highlights the risk of enduring social effects if governments don’t do enough.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva has urged countries tospend all they can to curb virus fallout.

The New York Fed paper argues that the 1918 pandemic may have especially changed “societal preferences” in younger people, as well as spurring resentment of foreigners.

“We are cautious about the interpretation of our results,” the author wrote. “Nevertheless, the study offers a novel contribution to the discussion surrounding the long-term effects of pandemics.”

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— With assistance by Zoe Schneeweiss

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