Nazis in Valhalla?

Today on facebook I saw an image that had an heroic looking warrior on it and the words ‘There are no Nazis in Valhalla.’ I stopped and looked at the image for a very long time. I do appreciate where the artist is coming from – the rise of political insanity (both right and left I might add) of late is terrifying and bodes ill for our future as a cohesive nation. I understanding wanting to reclaim space from anything smacking of neo-nazism. That being said, from a theological perspective, I think the image is, at best, misguided. It might make us feel good now, pointing out that Heathenry is nota haven for white supremacy and that most of us find neo-nazism disgusting and vile but if one looks at the purpose of Valhalla theologically, I’m afraid I would have to make the argument that yes, there probably are those who were Nazis in life, in Valhalla. The question is why?

Valhalla is the hall of Odin. Its name literally means ‘Hall of the Slain.” Staffed by Valkyries and peopled by warriors slain in battle, it is where Odin collects the best of the best [fighters] in preparation for the inevitable battle of Ragnarok. That preparation is to battle and stave off the destruction and unmaking of the order the Gods have carefully created, a destruction far worse than anything of which humanity can quite conceive. That is Odin’s primary goal: protecting the order of creation. That is His primary agenda and nearly everything He does throughout our mythos is designed to further His ultimate success. In furthering that particular agenda, Odin is absolutely ruthless, as His particular stories clearly show.

To fill His hall, Odin sends His Valkyries out to collect those skilled and brave fighters who fall in combat. Half the slain goes to Odin and half to Freya (the result of an agreement the two of Them made – note that Freya has nothing whatsoever to do with the Valkyries). To think that this God would put any political affiliation ahead of fulfilling His goals goes against both common sense and His essential nature. There is no specification given in anything written about Valhalla in the surviving lore that points to Odin excluding valiant fighters on the basis of their political affiliation. It would be foolish, in light of the purpose of Valhalla, to do so and one thing Odin is not, is foolish.  

Given Odin’s goals and the nature of Valhalla, it may be expected that He will snatch up anywarrior of mettle regardless of that warrior’s living allegiance. Death is, after all, a great equalizer. There is no reason whatsoever to think that Valhalla is peopled only by soldiers who share our favored political stances. The only point of discrimination indicated in stories of Valhalla, is that of skill in battle. The only requirement, that one die in combat.

To assume, moreover, that the Gods share our political affiliations is incredibly narrow minded and naïve. It might help motivate us to become involved politically, it might allow us to feel a certain connection to whatever Gods we venerate, it might even make us feel better but it is a terribly humanizing view of Powers that are well beyond our factiousness, or the limitations of temporality and human foolishness. It’s really a shame that we insist on bringing our Gods down to our short-sighted level (and I think we all do this at times).

The purpose of Valhalla is to prepare for a war beyond the scope of human imagining. Death relieves those warriors there of any political allegiances they may have had in life and they become part of the Einherjar, the warriors of Odin, ever-training to protect that which the Gods have wrought: creation. A God as ruthless and far-seeing as the All-Father would be, I think, unlikely to pass up an able addition to this group solely on the basis of politics.  Everyone has the right to honor the Gods, and I think it’s a grave mistake to project onto those Gods a political litmus test, or to use Their stories to further our agendas. We can fight for what is good and right, I think, without doing that.

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Posted on October 15, 2018, in theology, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 42 Comments.

  1. thetinfoilhatsociety

    Bless you. I’m going to repost this because this needs to be spread far and wide. I can’t tell you how many arguments this is going to stop in their tracks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tinfoilhat, i think the argument is one of nuance that most people just don’t want to see. it’s so much more comforting and self indulgent to believe that the Gods fully support our political position (or in fact, any). it allow for so much more self-righteousness. I appreciate you sharing the post though. Keep on fighting the good fight, my friend.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. “To assume, moreover, that the Gods share our political affiliations is incredibly narrow minded and naïve…. It’s really a shame that we insist on bringing our Gods down to our short-sighted level (and I think we all do this at times).”

    Weren’t you uncritically platforming white nationalist Heathen blog posts a year or two ago? I realize he scrubbed his blog but come on. Your readers have memories.

    Also, does an infatuation with sacral kingship and a desire to set up a religious monarchist commune count as political?

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    • This is where we differ. I don’t think the blogs I was sharing were “white nationalist.” They didn’t buy into the whole progressive platform and they were conservative, but you’ll note that I was encouraging people to read so they could form their own opinions. Funny how no one complains when I give equal time to the liberal side. We as humans can have whatever politics we want. you’ll notice I never said “Odin is a conservative” or “Liberal.” Also note, I wasn’t posting those peoples’ political views, but rather their relevant commentary on community issues. Everyone who disagrees with the left is not actually a white supremacist.

      As to monarchy…lots of people in the world are. I happen to be one of them. I would never advocate for a ‘commune.’ I”m not a hippy. What I do want to see are functioning, insular communities dedicated to passing on and nourishing our traditions. If you don’t share the values and goals of mine, establish your own.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Edward P. Butler

    It’s absolutely true that political sloganeering is no substitute for the kind of careful theological thought required in such a case. However, wouldn’t we say that inasmuch as this is not a mundane battle which is to be fought, but one waged on a transcendent plane, and fought not just with the body, or with some sort of virtual body, but with the entire spirit, that the All-Father would not be seeking merely those who were the most skilled warriors in a narrow, mundane sense, but who were also just and honorable warriors? And so certain other considerations would come into play.

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    • Edward, you know i love you, but with Odin, I really don’t think our ideas of ‘honor’ come into play. For Odin, it is very likely (and lore would support this) competent and skilled warriors. I really don’t think there’s any reason to suppose that He would care beyond that, after all, once in Valhalla, they are His, and become one might assume, emanations of His will. Honor doesn’t win a fight.

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      • Edward P. Butler

        Honor doesn’t win a purely physical fight, but is that definitely the kind of fight this is? Isn’t that potentially anthropomorphizing?

        Liked by 1 person

    • You know, there are good, honourable soldiers and dishonorable soldiers on all sides of war and political spectrums. As for the Nazis, one could be in he Waffen SS not for political reasons, but because they were compelled to fight, and people can also be misled by propaganda into believing they are fighting on he side of right. Not everyone who is your enemy is a bad person. So, if your speculation is indeed correct, it still doesn’t rule out former Nazi soldiers from potentially going to Valhöll.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I think the stories of Odin’s interactions with the warriors He chooses clearly demonstrates that what we call ‘honor’ isn’t really a consideration. Also His general behavior throughout His corpus.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. you’re also assuming that a German soldier, even a Nazi soldier, couldn’t have honor. I don’t think that’s the case. We’re talking about soldiers, not the generals first of all, and soldiers enlist (or are drafted) for a variety of reasons. (Part of what made Nazism so vile was how it preyed on these men’s best instincts).

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    • Edward P. Butler

      Certainly individual soldiers could have had honor in an unjust war; I wasn’t claiming otherwise. I was merely wondering whether a narrow definition of combat prowess alone, absent any other considerations, would be an appropriate interpretation here. But I defer, as always, to knowledge of the lore.

      Liked by 2 people

      • if i were to speculate on what other than combat skill were required, it would seem the personality traits perhaps that lead to the discipline and willingess to move through fear…the things that make one emotionally and psychologically ready for combat and able to endure it as well — but this is my speculation.

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      • Edward P. Butler

        This notion of what it takes to move through fear opens the door, I think, to a more profound consideration. Socrates might say that it is justice in the soul that permits us to master fear. I recognize that one must not distort the properly martial virtues, and this means respecting their alterity from virtues which are purely life-affirming. But I still suspect that there is something more to martial virtue itself which leads us around to the other virtues if we follow it out.

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  6. I understand the subtlety of the theological point you’re making here.

    I would add, however, that it isn’t “impossible” for some Deities to have an interest, and often a very direct one, in the particular ways certain things are going politically, or having favor for one side of an issue more than another. The question is never, in my mind, “Is XYZ Deity in favor of this political stance because I am?” it is instead “Why not ask XYZ Deity what Their political stance on this issue happens to be, if They have one at all?” Just as is the case with humans, some of Them aren’t shy in saying whether They’re in favor of something or not if one does Them the courtesy of asking rather than assuming…!

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    • Nothing is impossible where our Gods are concerned but I find it highly unlikely and with Odin simply unbelievable. I also question why it’s so important for us to have our Gods agree with our political positions — are there no other human ways for legitimacy? The Gods are there to augment not provide virtue. Some things we really ought to be doing ourselves, lest we poison ourselves with our own self-righteousness.

      also, I CAN see one going to a Deity and asking how one should act with re. to politics, but assuming that the answer that God gives one person is how that God feels about politics on the whole is…naive. (I’ve seen too many instances of the same God inspiring different people in opposite ways). Assuming that the Gods share our politics is simply misguided on so many levels.

      we’re always trying to make humanity so much more important in the grand scheme of things than it actually is.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I’m not suggesting that a particular Deity suggesting to one person that their views should be in alignment with the Deity’s views, or–perhaps more pertinently–with that Deity’s views of what is best for Their devotee (which is the specific case I’m thinking of) therefore means that said Deity therefore believes that about that political issue, politics in general, etc. Two people consulting the same Deity might get told exactly opposite things because those two people are meant to be on opposite sides of a particular issue, and there’s nothing wrong with that…there is nothing wrong with oppositions of those sorts at all, particularly since Deities have them amongst Themselves all the time and it doesn’t seem to be much of an impediment (e.g. the various Norse Deities making fun of Loki in one case and then relying upon Him to do things for them in another; or Set being the “bad guy” in the Osiris situation while otherwise He’s utterly necessary for the sunrise to occur each morning, etc.). So, that really isn’t the issue at all, and I wasn’t suggesting it is.

        But, I am also not of the same opinion as you that anything “merely human” is petty, meaningless, or unimportant in the eyes of the Deities. Yes, on a cosmic scale each one of us is relatively unimportant, insignificant, and so forth, and no matter if we are an unmarried street sweeper with no surviving relatives and no friends or the President of a country who commands hundreds of millions of soldiers, every one of us is relatively unimportant in the grander scheme of things most certainly.

        AND YET, each one of us who has been touched by devotion to one or more Deities has important work to do in the human world in relation to that Deity, and while other humans might be called to similar, or different, or the same sorts of things (each to their own according to their own fates and abilities!), there is an importance in that which is inherent to the fact of that devotion and its exchange of khakis which is consequential beyond any of our imaginations to fathom at the greatest heights of our ecstasy.

        Human life and action is relatively unimportant, and yet it is also superlatively important and is the only thing that has ever meant anything in the universe as far as we’re aware…and there is nothing inherently contradictory about this, though it seems a paradox.

        I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by simply dismissing all of human activity in the fashion you have as being without significance to the Deities. But this is something we can differ on and it need not be anything more than that, as far as I’m concerned. No, what I have for breakfast might not be important to Hermes, but it might be important to Antinous for some inscrutable reason due to particular prohibitions or requirements He has put on me in such a situation (though that doesn’t apply to me, I’m just using a random example), and the fact that initiation into particular traditions often involves such prohibitions or requirements (the Irish term gessi is useful in this regard!) shows that these relatively small and unimportant things might mean a lot to a particular Deity or divine power in terms of our own devotion to Them.

        Anyway, there’s many dimensions of these questions that can be considered historically and practically.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Politics and Gods seem to crop up in the modern Pagan sphere. I wonder if it is because people are human centered and the Gods are a prop in a play. Also, Christianity and Islam mixes the two with no qualms at all. So, it seems that many Pagans still have Christianity in their DNA. I wonder if that will continue?

    On another note, I have several friends, core shamans, who are calling the Wild Hunt to be rid of Trump and the Republicans. They believe that things need to be shaken up so that the U.S. they know will not be destroyed. From all of my reading of the Wild Hunt, it is not something to be involved in at all. Avoided at all costs. So I am wondering if these people really understand Polytheism or do they think that their magic will convince Odin to do what they want?

    Liked by 4 people

    • i think these people have remarkably poor understanding of polytheism, the Gods, and the Hunt and probably aren’t considering the Gods are all.

      Liked by 2 people

    • But the Deities got involved in politics in the ancient world all the time, as is made clear in a variety of the historians who were writing history rather than mythology, and if one takes the mythology seriously then even more so…so, I don’t think it is a symptom of either modernism or of Christianity/Islam influencing modern pagans.

      Liked by 2 people

      • and They get involved for THEIR reasons, not ours. That to me, is a huge, huge difference.

        Liked by 3 people

      • I certainly didn’t deny that Their reasons are Their own for Their involvement; but, that doesn’t discount the possibility that those reasons might align with some of ours, nor that some of us might align ourselves with Their reasons deliberately and intentionally by finding out what Their reasons are and how we might fit into those reasons.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Just to add a few further ideas to my general statement previously: what about all of the temples in the Roman world that were vowed to Deities if a particular general was successful in battle? That sounds like the Deities being involved in politics to me to some degree…and what about the entire Roman ritual of evocation? That is inherently political. The intertwining of state and religion in the ancient world, in almost every society, and in some indigenous societies to this day, in which kingship is not remotely divorced from the ability of the person in that position to intercede for their people to the Deities and on behalf of the Deities to their people, throws a big monkey wrench into this entire discussion…if modern people are getting it wrong, that implies they should do it as it was done before, and how it was done before was to have politics and religion, including the direct involvement of Deities and Their support of some office-holders over others (Celtic cultures are full of rulers falling into and out of favor of the Sovereignty Goddess, for example, from Ireland to Galatia and elsewhere besides!)…well, what does that then say about any hard-and-fast generalizations about these matters?

      While I would (and do!) question certain equations that are made in politics in regard to some of these things related to modern people and the various Deities and religions, nonetheless the separation of religiosity and politics has only existed since 1792, and even since then, it’s barely separate, and while that does favor one particular set of religions over others, nonetheless just because those religions carried on as humans had done for ages before doesn’t mean the concept itself is without merit, or at least without the possibility for consideration.

      Sending the Wild Hunt against anyone, and in particular imagining that one can “send” the Wild Hunt at all, seems pretty inadvisable, though, and I think most of us can agree on that! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • that was a quid pro quo…in Rome, you see the Gods involved in government, a microcosm of the divine order, and yes, in battle, but you don’t ever see Them involved in Roman political factions. You don’t have reports of the Gods supporting the Populares over the Optimates or vice versa and I think that’s significant.

        Liked by 3 people

      • I think it can be argued that both day-to-day government, as well as warfare, are both “political” in the broadest sense, i.e. affairs of the polis and of groups of people in general (in the way that there are “office politics” at peoples’ workplaces and “departmental politics” in academia, etc.), even if the Deities in the ancient world didn’t seem to get involved in factional conflicts between different “parties.”

        Quid pro quo with Deities involved as the result of human affairs/concerns/conflicts going one way or another can exist as a result of anything…”If You can just make the traffic clear for me today, Hermes, I owe you a chicken” can be done as much today as (in the famous Socratic phrase) owing a cock to Asklepios, up to and including how political issues and votes might go and the results which occur.

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  8. edward, i think that the martial values are ultimately life affirming if we look at them as protecting space and land in which life may flourish. Still, I think the piece being left out here is Odin’s nature. That alone should point to a very utilitarian selection process for Valhalla. I’m thinking within a martial context and Norse context how one would overcome fear: training, disclpline, but also inspiration by Odin or berserkergang…sitting in a class now so can’t go too deepy. lol.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Edward P. Butler

      Precisely: they are life-affirming in that one fights *for something*, and it must be something with a value that transcends the intrinsic value of the life one is going to destroy. We need to know what exactly it is for which They fight at Ragnarok. Utilitarianism is merely a term for the situation in which we are completely confident that we grasp the ends, and therefore may focus purely on the means.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I think once a warrior becomes an Einherjar, their belonging to Odin would overwhelm any previous allegiance, especially one as fickle and human as politics. Also, if Odin were to tell me “the way you think about (insert subject) is wrong” then I would change it to whatever He said is correct. I think anyone in Valhalla would be smart enough to do the same, because Odin does not strike me as a commander who would tolerate any dissension in the ranks.

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  10. Reblogged this on Temple of Athena the Savior and commented:
    Well said. I have nothing to add.

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  11. As a side-note, but one that nonetheless strikes me as being in a similar theological stream regarding afterlives and the characteristics and actions of this life in relation to them where particular Deities are concerned…

    I had a very uncomfortable discussion with Antinous several years back, about which I wrote a story (which was supposed to be published in an anthology which seems to have fallen by the wayside now, but it will get out there at some stage, probably in one of my own collections), that had to do with the fact that one of the long-standing Sancti of Antinous is Montague Summers, who was a very problematic person for all sorts of reasons. He was, amongst many other things, an accused pedophile who fled the authorities out of England when he was accused. When I found out some of the further details of this matter, I had to sit down and ask what the story was, and whether or not someone like Summers might nonetheless be on the Boat of Millions of Years with Antinous, and the answer that I got was unexpected (what else should one assume where the Deities are concerned?) but very appropriate indeed, to wit: there are “places of punishment” on the Boat of Millions of Years just as there are places of splendor and pleasure and (semi-) eternal reward (as there are battles yet to come that are not entirely clear, but anyway…!?!).

    To even have this conversation with Antinous would make many people, including Antinoan devotees, very uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. But, I don’t think we should ever avoid hard questions, with ourselves or with our Deities, and as devotees we must always be prepared to live with the hard answers which sometimes follow them, whatever they may be.

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  12. I have a thought regard in the daily fighting, dying and springing back to life in time for feasting in Odin’s hall. Supposing it is an example of reincarnation, under special conditions. Maybe those chosen will join the living live and die as warriors and return to their true lord, Odin, where they will feast in Valhöll and boast of their feats in battle. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate test of strength, skill, and endurance? To fight and die over and over, until the fear of death becomes a triviality and the courage to fight at Ragnarok is gained? Just the feeling I have about the subject, making all our pettiness seem all the more petty. 😉

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  13. PSVL, yeah, but in those examples, do the Gods give a shit about our petty affairs, or does Hermes just want the chicken? lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • To follow this up from my last reply:

      Yes, if Hermes does just want that chicken, then He’d better take an interest in whatever petty thing it is that will make sure He gets the chicken! He may not have any “ultimate” interest in it (whatever that might mean), but if its outcome serves His motives, then He’d better take an interest in it, and do what is possible to make it come out correctly, if all He’s got His eyes on is that chicken!

      And while I know you’re not entirely serious with this question, nonetheless, I think it can potentially illustrate the point all the same. 😉

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  14. there may be times when our goals and Their perceived goals align, but what then when that alignment happens on both sides of a human equation?

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    • One would have to ask the particular Deity in question what was going on (if, indeed, They decided to reveal it!), whereupon the answer might be something down the road for each person that had nothing to do with the original situation in question–say, being on one side of something then causes someone to fall in with a person whose cousin then turns out to be a polytheist and then the two meet and something good comes of that meeting for the Deity, while another person on the opposite side might end up having something occur that also benefits the Deity, and ultimately these separate benefits have nothing to do with the original situation…

      Or, in some cases, perhaps that’s just how that Deity rolls…humans often call them “tricksters,” but I think that’s a generalization that, like the archaeologist’s phrase “ritual usage” means “we really don’t understand what is going on here.” 😉

      In situations like this, where the Deities may be playing twenty moves ahead of us, the key thing is that in order for all to go right for those successful outcomes twenty moves ahead, every move before that has to go right as well to lead to the next one, and as such the rules and the situations and the importance of them happening a certain way are utterly necessary meanwhile. If I want to be the president of my college, and have a twelve-step plan that will get me there, it doesn’t matter if I don’t care much about some of the steps on the way to it–if I want to get to that twelfth step, then I’d bloody well better do the eleven steps preceding it correctly or else it isn’t going to work out! So, I’d surmise something similar must be going on in these situations.

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  15. This is an extremely interesting discussion because it relates to many others. These are some underlying questions and additional points:
    a) Galina’s reasoning about Odin’s condition for entry into Valhalla being mainly slain warriors is a traditional view and it matches with the Homeric Elysium where Greek Heroes went, without regard to their particular actions. Isn’t it probable that, if any reproach was necessary for past misdeeds, the host of the hall (in this case Odin) would bring it up in conversation there accordingly?
    b) There doesn’t seem to be a Norse parallel to the Orphic tradition about Elysium (that arose later in Greece) being for those who are chosen for their good deeds. The idea must have come from Egypt through the theology of Osiris, who was known as the God of judgment–and whose death is the basis for that of the Orphic Dionysos-Zagreus. In this case, shouldn’t the Norse Valhalla be considered as merely different rather than amoral and in need of transcendental moralization and dualism? I think yes.
    c) Regarding the moral point about the Nazis in general, which is a very important consideration –as Jessica put it, we need to distinguish between the leadership and the soldiery. During war & instability, the masses (including soldiers) are easily misled and “herded” by ambitious men (also cowards in this case) at the top. Odin is and was well aware of this. He was also well aware that the evil Nazi leadership mostly committed suicide in hiding or attempted escape & surrender rather than joining in the actual fighting they vehemently promoted (how different from ancient kings & nobles!). Besides, the differences between the world of polytheism and that of modernism needs to be considered also–something absolutely horrible like the massacre & subjugation of millions would never have occurred within a nation that venerated Odin and the ancestors who worshipped him. World War 2 was a modern war, not at all inspired by polytheism (in the true sense), Norse or otherwise.
    d) This leads me to the indispensable question, not yet considered, of whether believers in Odin and Norse polytheism only are qualified to go to Valhalla. There isn’t anything in the Eddas to answer it directly, because nobody expected their would be atheism. I am more inclined to say that Valhalla is for polytheists only, even as someone who promotes ethnic polytheism—the basic principle of “do ut des” must apply here at the very least. And to my understanding, there was some considerable interest in Germanic polytheism during those days, but without belief or cultic practice.
    e) This leads me to the final question, which is the degree to which a God or Goddess participates in the affairs of the population that worships him or her, including those of a “political” character. It’s a general topic of great importance, but very complex. In ancient times, the political mixed with the religious, and it was only Protestantism that made a dichotomy of such a notion. Nevertheless, as Galina mentioned, the dichotomy of the modern left & right guiding theological discourse is dangerous–I allude here to the general, opposing dualism and not the particular contents of those philosophies and worldviews, which are very often beneficial (and necessary) to use in arriving at what is just & reasonable & needed.

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  16. Uncomfortable concept, but great discussion, thank you.

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  17. I feel like this is a non-issue because ultimately it wouldn’t matter who is in Valhalla for the following reasons: if being in Valhalla means that you become a part of Odin and are a tool used as an extension of His will and if Odin is a “good guy” then ultimately anyone who enters Valhalla would take on that status of being a “good guy”. If there are Nazis in Valhalla then it doesn’t matter. They work for Odin now. They fight for what Odin fights for. It’s not like those former Nazis are going to be able to mutiny and fight for Nazism. Their former allegiances no longer matter because they serve a different master. Their past as far as we are concerned is a non-issue and is purely for Odin to consider if He truly has an opinion on it

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