I grew up in the shadow of my family’s dark collective memory of the Holocaust. Even as a kid, I always knew not to make Hitler or Nazi comparisons.
A grammar Nazi criticizes your punctuation, a real Nazi sent my mom’s young cousins to the gas chamber, my grandpa to a concentration camp and my great grandmother to a firing squad.
Donald Trump writes out Twitter rants, Adolf Hitler wrote the authorization for the murder of 6 million Jews.
Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.
While President-elect Trump may bear little resemblance to the sociopathic chancellor of the Third Reich, he bears an overwhelming resemblance to the young Hitler who spent 1920 whipping up a fervor of anti-semitic resentment throughout Bavaria.”
The young Hitler whose first serious proposal was simply a ban on Jewish immigration.
The young Hitler who said that the Jewish belief system was an existential threat to Germany.
The young Hitler who could bring crowds into a seething fury at the global elites who were robbing their country.
The young Hitler who vowed to restore law and order.
The young Hitler who criticized their democratic government as corrupt and in need of a strong leader to restore their former greatness.
The young Hitler who was dismissed as a narcissistic entertainer.
The young Hitler who wrote:
“Effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan. As soon as you sacrifice this slogan and try to be many-sided, the effect will piddle away, for the crowd can neither digest nor retain the material offered.”
Now take a look at Trump’s Twitter feed.
To be clear, I’m not saying that everyone who voted for Trump is a racist or a fascist. Not even close. I know many Trump supporters, and nearly all of them are really good people.
A New York Times article in 1922 noted that “well-informed sources” thought Hitler’s anti-Semitism was more of a political ploy than an actual call to deadly action.
But a lot of good people were among the 44 percent of the German population that voted the Nazi Party into power in 1933. They voted because they were frustrated with political gridlock, because they felt that the political elite didn’t represent them, and because they felt they needed a strong leader to clean out the corruption.
And yes, many of them also hated Jews.
Switch Jewish with Muslim, and the political campaigns were built out of the same emotional foundation of fear, anger and resentment.
My grandfather always said that most Jews never left Germany because “we lived in the most civilized country on Earth. We never imagined it could get that bad.”
Right now we live in the most civilized nation on Earth. And I don’t think it will ever get that bad. But, we do know that this is how fascism starts.
Hitler won over Germans through fear, scapegoating, fervent nationalism and a promise that he alone could restore their greatness. And that simple formula has repeated itself for every dictator in the history of democracy.
Now Donald Trump has won the presidency through a campaign of fear, scapegoating, fervent nationalism and a promise that he alone can restore our greatness.
I don’t know what happens next. Nobody knows. But, with every ounce of my soul, I hope that President Donald Trump is not the same as candidate Donald Trump.
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