by Shannon Hanson
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
— George Santayana
The Fourth Reich
When General Eisenhower entered Ohrdruf a subcamp of Buchenwald Concentration Camp, what he found was appallingly grim.
Piles of dead bodies, some partially burned others covered in lime. A few days later he sent a cable to Washington saying “The things I saw beggar description.” And that “The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick.”
Eisenhower sent another cable days later. This time he implored Washington to send Members of Congress and journalists to see first hand the atrocity of the death camps and the crimes committed by the German people.
The General invited Americans to visit the camps for the same reason he himself initially went. Eisenhower said: “I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.'”
What has happened since then is even worse than Eisenhower feared. Not only has the Holocaust been chalked up to propaganda, but it has also been trivialized, obfuscated, outright denied and sadly, forgotten. A 2018 survey by the Claims Conference found important gaps in both awareness of basic facts and in detailed knowledge of the Holocaust.
Even more troubling though, is that the details of how the Nazis rose to power and how it was the people of Germany came to commit genocide are also being forgotten or were never learned. Because so many people aren’t aware of the horrible mistakes of the past, they don’t recognize the history which is being repeated right before their eyes.
The Final Solution – An End to a Means
The history of the Third Reich doesn’t begin with the Holocaust it ends there. The atrocities at Auschwitz and the numerous other extermination camps were a gruesome exclamation point, not an opening paragraph. Officially the Wannsee Conference in early 1942 is when the Nazi leadership passed The Final Solution and Industrial-scale genocide began.
Hitler first came to international attention almost twenty years earlier and was made Fuhrer eight years before the Holocaust. Initially, the strategy of the Nazis was persecution, nullification of rights, boycotts, and ostracization in hopes that Jews would all emigrate from Germany and Nazi-occupied land.
Hitler hated the Jewish people with a passion; he expressed his intent to kill them all as early as 1922. But he realized he couldn’t do it alone. So, slowly but steadily he convinced the people of Germany not only to consent but to commit barbarity.
We are experiencing the beginnings of what could be a similar brutal end, this time in America.
The Nazis did intend to keep the murderous machinations from the people. When Heinrich Himmler spoke to the other SS Leaders about the Final Solution he said, “This is a glorious page in our history that has never been written and shall never be written.”
Hitler’s regime also had complete control of the press. It is tempting perhaps to excuse those who were not directly involved in the gassing and burning, but it is a temptation that is unwarranted and should be shunned.
The Holocaust could have been avoided, however, had the people of Germany rejected Hitler and his hateful rhetoric from the beginning. The coming American atrocities may be unavoidable because millions of Americans have embraced hate in much the same way.
People more charitable toward hatred than myself have tried to excuse the role of the German people in the Holocaust by claiming that Hitler seized power but was never elected. This is not a completely accurate telling.
It is true that Hitler came in second in the presidential election of 1931 with a little less than 37 percent of the votes cast. Even so, more than 13 million people, one-fifth of the population of Germany and thirty percent of all eligible voters cast a ballot favoring Hitler to be the president.
This electoral showing, as well as a parliamentary election in which Hitler’s Nazi party obtained 230 seats in the Reichstag (German Parliament). led other leaders to implore President Hindenburg to appoint Hitler to be Chancellor.
When President Hindenburg died in 1934, the people resoundingly approved of Hitler’s ascension to Supreme Leader. How resoundingly? 95 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot on a plebiscite to combine the positions of Chancellor and President and make Hitler Fuhrer. Almost 90 percent voted yes.
Historians agree that even factoring in massive election diddling, most Germans loved and approved of Hitler and the policies of his Nazi party.
It’s true, Germans do not elect Hitler, but they didn’t reject him either and to say they did not know what he was is ignorant of history. They knew full well because he told them what he was.
“If I am ever really in power, the destruction of the Jews will be my first and most important job. As soon as I have power, I shall have gallows after gallows erected, …Then the Jews will be hanged one after another, and they will stay hanging until they stink.
In 1923 Hitler’s fledgling right-wing political party The National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP known as the Nazis) was only a few thousand members strong. Inspired by Mussolini and his Fascist’s March On Rome the Nazis made a farcical attempt at a coup. Alcohol was likely a factor in what become known as the Beer Hall Putsch.
During his subsequent trial for treason, a pressman for one of the many international papers wrote that Hitler “… seemed like a little man in an old waterproof coat” Many people thought he talked funny and he was called a buffoon. Still, he managed to capture international attention and win the hearts of many Germans.
During the trial, Hitler, who was allowed to give speeches wherein he said that Germany was betrayed and lost the first World War due to a “stab in the back” He claimed that those holding the knife were the Socialists and Marxists and what he called “the racial tuberculosis of the people in the international Jews.”
Germany at the time was in a state of deep disillusionment. The loss of World War I combined with high unemployment and hyperinflation had many people feeling disconnected and left behind. Whether Hitler knew his own anti-semitism would resonate or not is unclear, but he successfully played to a heavy mistrust toward Jews that was common at the time.
Hitler presenting himself as the leader of the new right-wing movement, tore at the structure of the Weimar Republic as ineffective. Most importantly he provided a ready enemy in the Jewish people.
Hitler was found guilty of Treason. His ranting brought sympathy from the judges, however, and they agreed to a guilty verdict only on assurances he would receive early parole. He served less than nine months of his sentence in a spacious private cell. It was there that he dictated Mein Kampf to Rudolph Hess the personal secretary provided to him by the prison.
In 1931 more than 13 million Germans cast a ballot for a foreign-born traitor. They didn’t cast those votes despite the fact that he was authoritarian and unapologetically racist, they did it because he was those things. Anti-Semitism was the dish du jour in post World War I Europe and people in Germany liked the way Hitler prepared it. Finally, someone was going to do something about the Jews.
A few years later, the people of Germany gave Hitler a clear cut mandate to ascend to an untouchable dictator. By then he and the Nazis had already opened concentration camps and passed laws disallowing Jews from owning land, getting legal qualifications, owning newspapers, participating in the national health care system and several other things.
The people of Germany could have rejected Hitler, instead, they embraced him over and over. They owned the hatred, they owned the lies, they owned the Holocaust.
Making a good Fuhrer Impression
If fascism comes it will not be identified with any shirt movement, nor with an insignia, but it will probably be wrapped up in the American flag and heralded as a plea for liberty and preservation of the constitution.
— James Waterman Wise, Jr
I’ve heard many times that Donald Trump is a student of the writings of Adolph Hitler. His actions bear that out.
During the announcement of his presidential campaign in 2015, Donald Trump said “They are not our friend, believe me, They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Of course, he was speaking of Mexicans, in particular, Mexican Immigrants.
Trump had been fostering a following for years among the Alt-Right. Although even he knew better than to say a person was unfit to be president because he was black, he didn’t need to. His claim that Barack Obama was foreign-born and (gasp) possibly Muslim served as the perfect dog whistle. Since he had the racist vote locked up early on, why did he go after Mexicans?
Though the widely held and longstanding claim that Mexicans were taking American jobs had lost some of its power as unemployment numbers decreased, Trump knew it was still a prevalent thought among the disillusioned, so he invoked that frame and ramped up the rhetoric.
Mexicans were not only taking our jobs, he implied, but they were also running all around the country assaulting and raping and committing all sorts of other crimes. Both Hitler and Goebbels would have been proud.
Hitler had decided to run for president after the economy soured due to the collapse of the American
house of cards stock market. Trump’s problem was the economy was not doing so badly and at his age, he couldn’t wait until it turned, so he lied. In 2015 when the unemployment rate was around 5 percent trump said “ … I’ve seen numbers of 24%, I actually saw a number of 42% unemployment.”
Trump employed a propaganda trick directly from “The Big Book of Hitler” called The Big Lie. Hitler coined the term for a propaganda technique wherein the person tells a lie so big that any reasonable person would assume no one could have possibly made it up. Or, as Hitler said, no one “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously” Trump famously distorted the truth quite infamously. He distorted it bigly and he distorted it often, and it worked.
There was a hitch though, in Trumps’ plan to ride the art of the fib all the way to the White House. Lies have no effect on people with even a partially developed sense of logic or any desire to fact check. The media realized early on that virtually everything Trump said needed to be fact-checked and they rose to the occasion.
Even Hitler knew that lies only had any real effect so long as people were not confronted by the reality of truth and so he moved quickly to gain control of Germany’s press. Trump couldn’t do that. Hitler had only newspapers, radio and eventually a few televisions to worry about. Plus, the press has a place in the US constitution.
Since Trump couldn’t control the media he went to his second favorite tactic, vilification. Anything that was not fawning was “fake news.” Trump went so far as to call the press “the enemy of the people.”
In an interview after he was elected, Donald Trump admitted that the reason he tears down the press is so that people will not believe negative stories about him, and that worked too. Trump’s cult-like following believe that anything the media says is a lie and anything Trump says is the truth.
Hitler was correct when he wrote that “The grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down.”
Americans could have rejected Trump’s lies and hatefulness the day he cast Mexicans as rapists, or perhaps years earlier when he said of women “You have to treat ’em like shit.” We could have rejected him when he mocked the disability of a reporter, or when he claimed that people should be barred from entry to the country because they are Muslim, or when he insulted the honorable service of former POW Senator John McCain, or …..
Take your pick, there are dozens of reasons that we could have, and should have rejected Trump. Instead, with each new attack, with each new big lie, his popularity grew especially among those on the right.
Like Hitler, Trump understands that authoritarianism sits well in the gut of right-wingers. Besides, straight white Christians who stayed within the clearly defined moral lanes did okay in the Third Reich. Plus, companies made huge profits supplying the materials to construct the gas chambers, the trucks and railcars used to haul people to the death camps, and the Zyklon B used to gas them.
When the votes were counted Trump came in second place just as Hitler had. Still, almost 63 million people – 1 in 4 members of the voting-age population of the U.S. – cast a ballot for a known liar, racist and scoundrel, not despite his hate but because of it.
Unlike the rest of the world, however, vote count doesn’t matter in the U.S. and so Trump was made President. That may have been the point of no return for the USA.
This time the carnage will be televised
The coming American atrocities won’t be State-sponsored as they were in Nazi Germany, nor will they be carried by a paramilitary unit of a political party. We’re Americans dammit and we don’t count on the government to do anything we can’t do ourselves. Unsuccessful bomber Cesar Sayoc and unrepentant Mexican hater Patrick Crusius give us the best glimpse of how the coming American tragedy will be fought.
Things could never play out in the same secretive way that they did under Hitler’s watch ever again; not outside a third world country leastwise. The documentation created by the Jewish people in Nazi Germany was mostly left behind for rescuers to find after the fact. The coming American civil war will be broadcast in near real-time.
High definition videos of neighbors shooting neighbors and family members killing family members will compete for likes. Comments such as “I filled my limit on Mesicans today, lol” and “Libtards wanted my guns so I gave the bullets!!!” will be typed in all caps above father-and-son selfies with piles of bodies in the background.
Maybe I’m being hyperbolic. I hope so, but already we see violence by Americans on Americans in the news almost every day. Americans are being slaughtered in schools, in churches, at work, and at play. In 2019 alone there were a gruesome record 41 mass killings (defined in this case a four or more dead not including perpetrator(s).
Trump’s Fourth Reich
Certainly, I am not saying that Trump is to blame for all this? Well, he did praise the Congressperson who won his election by physically assaulting a journalist. He has called reporters “scum” and “sick people” and said that neither they nor the Democrats are patriotic. He does keep known White Nationalists as advisers and has said he himself is a nationalist.
He recently pardoned a killer whose fellow soldiers called a psychopath and stripped medals from those who put the killer on trial.
Trump verbally attacks Democrats, immigrants, Muslims, Latinos, women – really anyone who dares criticize him because that is how he crafts a violent collation from among the resentful.
Despite Trump’s racist rhetoric, it is not the Mexicans or the Muslims doing the killing. Between 1982 and Dec of 2019 white people have been responsible for more mass shootings than all others combined.
This article at The Guardian catalogs dozens of violent acts over the past 4 years which have been done in Trump’s name. This one shows the massive uptick in anti-muslim activity since 2015. From 2009 to 2018, 73 percent of domestic extremist-related fatalities have come from the far-right.
In an interview in late 2018, President Trump claimed he wants to unify America. Never mind that nothing he does bears this out. Despite that he lies all the time, there is some truth to his desire for unity, just not in the way we would hope.
Hitler didn’t set out to kill the Jews, he initially just wanted them out of his site and turned to murder when the laws he made and the bigotry of the people weren’t enough to get him his way. Trump wants the people to unify all right, as long as that unification is around his hateful ideas. Trump is using the right-wing the same way that Hitler did.
In that same interview, Trump claimed he wants this unification to come about without a “major event.” This is not a wish it’s a warning.
What he is really saying is If the Mexicans and Muslims don’t see fit to leave the country, If the black people continue to protest racism, If the women don’t stop telling on men for sexual assault, if the press continues to report on his hateful rhetoric and lies, if the Democrats continue to use procedures set out in the constitution to hold him accountable, if the poor don’t stop asking for a more equitable economy then there will be a major event.
Hitler used the Reichstag Fire to begin his consolidation of power. The murder of a German Diplomat in Paris was exploited by Hitler to move the policy toward Jews from primarily non-violent to murderous and brought about Kristallnacht. What major event will trump use to send his disciples into a murderous rage?