Why Is “Soap” Used as a Slur?

Yet again, it all comes back to the Nazis

Martina Petkova

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Image by Tori A from Pixabay

InIn 2016, two cars crossed paths on a central road of the Bulgarian town Radnevo. A group of four men emerged from one car, a group of three men emerged from the other. They locked into a physical fight. The group of four severely beat up the group of three. Lungs were punctured, skulls were fractured.

Once ambulances and authorities got involved, it became clear that the group of four were Roma and the group of three were white Bulgarians. The Roma were rushed to jail, the Bulgarians to the hospital.

But this was far from over. News of this case spread like a forest fire across the country.

The citizens of Radnevo immediately rallied together and scheduled a protest at the doors of the Roma community. Policemen were dispatched to prevent anyone from getting into the neighborhood. Was that necessary? Yes. There is a centuries-long history of Roma communities being burned down and eradicated as punishment for a single transgression.

And the police didn’t have just the citizens of Radnevo pressing against them. Motor-bikers, rockers, and soccer fans from all over Bulgaria descended upon the small town and tried to cut through the police guards.

On the day after the incident, a crowd of 2,000 had gathered to demand revenge on the Roma community.

And they were chanting an old and tired mantra.

“The Gypsies into soap.”

Another blueprint from the Nazis

What does soap have to do with genocidal racism?

Everything.

First, let’s look at it symbolically. White supremacists are obsessed with “purity.” Darker skin is perceived as “dirty,” white skin as pure and angelic. They see people of color as “dirt” — something to be removed, scrubbed off, sterilized.

But we can drop the musings of symbolism because the Nazis, true to form, took things to a very literal level.

For decades, it was “rumored” that human fat from concentration camp victims was used by the Nazis to produce bars of soap. The so-called “Soap Myth” paints a picture of industrial-level production.

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Martina Petkova

In my Medium writing, I explore the human psyche, our many contradictions, mental health, & the signs and causes of abuse. I also write about racism.