There are few Americans alive today who remember Hitler, the details are lost to the mists of time. But Donald Trump is bringing it all back to us with a fresh, stark splash of reality…
Thank you Thom, for a very informative and thorough discussion of the similarities between Hitler and Trump. It isn't just one man, though. It's a base of wannabe Hitlers and that is the real problem. I personally think his followers over sixty-five are in early (or later) stage dementia. They never got to have the power they thought they should have in their lives, so they bask in Trump's reflected image. Also, in my experience, most of the hard-core MAGA are drunks. Again, my experience; others may have different views. All of it is a reactionary movement against the equality gains for women, gays and POC of the '60s that was accompanied by the rise of the fundamentalist evangelicals who never accepted equality. Authoritarianism and religious extremism always go hand in hand. And somehow hatred of Jews also seems to be comorbid with this authoritarian disease. Something I just don't get is why they hate Jews so much. They've contributed a lot to the world.
I will tell the story of my first husband’s parents. We were married in 1978. I was 21 he was 25.
His parents, Zbignew and Sofia emigrated to the United States from Poland after WWII. They both came from well to do Polish families from Krakow. They were educated, one as an engineer and one an attorney. When the war broke out, Z became an officer in the Polish army. Sofia was married and an attorney at her father’s law firm. Sofia’s husband was a fighter pilot. When the Germans invaded Poland, they went to Sofia’s parents home where the family lived. They shot her father and brother in the street and forced Sofia and her 3 sisters into German work camps where they built roads for the German Army for 7 years. Through brutal winters with thin clothing and shoes, they were marched to the work sites, build roads and marched back in the darkness to little warmth or food. Sofia’s husband had been shot down, she was never able to find much information on him, only that he’d been killed. When the Americans liberated the work camps, Sofia was near death and was transported to an English hospital being the only member of her family to make out of Poland.
Zibignew spent several years as an intelligence officer before being captured and placed in a POW camp. He was treated precious little better than Sofia being an officer. He did continue working on getting information to counteract the Germans at the daily risk of being found out and executed. When the POW camps were liberated, he also ended up in a English Hospital.
They both booked passage on the same ship headed to America as they had friends sponsorship already American citizens from Krakow. They met on the voyage and found work in New York City where they married. They were headed to Chicago where their friends were waiting for them. Zbignew became senior design engineer for US Steel and Sofia an interpreter at the University of Chicago. They had 2 sons later in life than what was social norm at the time.
I met my first husband in Pittsburgh as his father was transferred here from Chicago.
There are many parts of their story I didn’t include to avoid my post becoming a novel, but I remember everything they told me about their experiences with fascism, antisemitism and cruelty. Everything that happened to them can happen right here. I promise you all it most definitely can.
The false belief that is can’t has been debunked.
Hitler's crowds cheered then. Trump's crowds cheer now.
They are among us.
I was born 2 weeks after Pearl Harbor. I vaguely remember a man bringing my father a gas mask and how frighten I was seeing my dad turned into an alien monster and ran crying out of the room. I collected stamps for buying cups and other things from the market. We saved all kinds of things. My father the youngest son was the fire chief of our small mainly Jewish town in Woodridge,NY his older brother was in the army fighting for our freedom. Make no mistake about it our democracy is hanging by a thread! The situation in Israel is further pulling us apart. The Jews once again are the scape goats of choice. Our privileged young people are having the wool pulled over their eyes by operatives and Bannon inspired operatives. We must not let them deter Israel from destroying Hamas, forcing a surrender, returning the hostages and finally recognizing that the state of Israel is not going away and, as we do, has the right to defend its existence. Here at home as you point out creeping fascism is a real threat to our democracy and Trump is its figure head and no joke. My generation understand this, you understand this, will there be enough of us to hold the line is the only question left? Can we get a fair election?
Ignored by history is the meeting on February 20, 1933 of Hitler with the 25 richest men in Europe and the agreement that they would provide financial support of 2 million Reichmakrs, and that these men would take a portion of each of their workers' paychecks and give the money to the Nazi leadership slush fund, so long as Hitler agreed to ban unions when he was placed in power. Hitler did exactly that once elected to be the chancellor.
His election to chancellor depended on the support of the roughly 30% of the members of the German parliament who were Catholics. He received their support as a result of being supported by Pope Pius XI. The pope feared that "communists" would take control of the German government in the same manner as they had done in Russia and the closure of the churches. The pope decided that the Nazi were the best option for the Catholic churches and being anti-Semitic was the icing on the cake.
It took the German elites and the religious extremists in the Catholic church to put Hitler in power. It took the American billionaires and right wing Christian evangelists to put Trump into power so history continues to be repeated. Few appreciate that the elites favor fascist states over a democracy and that is why the American military has been used to exterminate democracies around the world for the past 300 plus years. This has taken place in the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East, eastern Europe, and anywhere that governments arise that put the welfare of their people above that of the elites, internal and external.
What? The pro-life party wants to kill millions of Americans? Why, that is not logical. The emotional thinkers and instinctual thinkers have never been very good at connecting the dots especially when they are to blame for Reaganomic neoliberalism. This fascist movement is just the rich trying to avoid paying taxes. Which will cause a huge amount of poverty which causes crime. Very few hungry or starving adults will be able to go by a grocery store and not shoplift. The thugs and greedy capitalists just want all of your stuff. While Russia, Saudi Arabia and China don't really care about that, just as long as they destroy America and the idea of a happy middle class that is sustainable. Leaving capitalistic Christians which is an oxymoron to defend freedom was not very bright. Thom is a true Christian so he wouldn't pass the religious test that Mike Johnson is handing out. You must be able to lie, be narcissistic and have no humanity to pass that religious test.
So many parallels of awful history repeating itself. It is so helpful to see these patterns laid out.
Thank you Thom Hartmann. You deserve a medal.
I have made this comparison and got my head bitten off by a German immigrant who felt I was trivializing the holocaust by doing this. As a student of history, I see the parallels too. I have worried how the amount of time people spend on social media and streaming has a drugging effect of making them complacent. Thank you for laying the parallels out there.
Thom--A compelling comparison!
Like you have known people who grew up and lived through the Nazi times. One dear friend grew up on Lahr. His stories of daily life were chilling.
Even more chilling are the narratives of a neighbor who lived in Berlin during the final years of the war. When the Russians were shelling and bombing the city, the civil protection authorities were often hapless at helping the general population. She ultimately was able to flee to the U.S. Zone.
My neighbor bought into MAGA but now tells me she is terrified of what she is seeing in the U.S.
Don’t let DeSantis off the hook. He also wants to shred up the country. Look to Florida for the damage authoritarians do. We have extreme high property insurance, no prep for future climate issues, over 92,000 Floridians dead from COVID, and distorted information on vaccines and COVID. Infighting with Disney and tons of lawsuits. America is lost its marbles under these clowns.
Franklin Roosevelt in his 1944 State of the Union address recognized the role of financial insecurity in laying the basis for a dictator:
":Necessitous men are not free men. People who are hungry, people who are out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made”.
Mr. Hartman. Mark Twain said "History never repeats itself but it does often rhyme."
Excellent piece. However, there are important historical differences between Germany and the U.S. So there is room for hope today. I agree the similarities are enough to be frightening.
1) There is however, no equivalent situation here in the U.S. At the cessation of fighting of World War one there was not one foreign soldier with their foot on German soil. Which made it easy for the Fascists to claim the political class had sold out the brave German soldiers: "stabbed them in the back." There is no parallel in the U.S today. American Right Wingers tried to claim the same thing after Vietnam. But failed.
2) After WWl Germany had seriously deficient industrial capacity because of the Versailles Treaty, as you point out. The German economy was devastated beyond American comprehension after WWl. Russia sent trains into Germany to literally transport German factory machinery into Russia. The parallel in the U.S. is the out-sourcing of American manufacturing since "The Reagan Revolution," which has been a significantly similar series of historical events as Germany's post WWl experience. But not quite the same thing. Especially since the Americans have given birth to the semiconductor revolution which has swept, and also shaken, the world and partly made up for the lost industrial jobs in the Midwest and limited the decline in America's international prestige. This American-generated semiconductor revolution has provided many Americans, as well as Asians and Europeans with employment.
3) It is true that American prestige, power and influence have wained in the wake of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and other military failures. But this is not the same as Germany's colossal failure of WWl.
I do not believe history is repeating itself. So there is hope. But we are hearing a warning rhyme.
Thank you for pointing this out.
Might I add, Hitler came to power with financing provided by financiers (like Prescott Bush, grandfather of Dubya,) and industrialists (capitalists) like Fritz Thyssen, the corporations IG Farben and Bayer (which made Zyklon B), Willy Messerschmidt for using slave labor, the list goes on.
Trump has been bankrolled by our own Plutocrats, financiers, industrialists and even foreign corporations like Deutsche Bank, and the Saudi Sovereign fund.
Thanks Thom a good read.
Obviously Trump doesn't have ideas of his own!
His paternal grandad was a German draft dodger and multiple whore-house owner.
Yet and still, some 58.8 % of the majority-race voted for Donald Drumpf (his real surname) incompetent though he is.
OMG -- I'm passing this essay along to others! My fingers are not typing fast enough!