When current events became too depressing, I turned to history for possible reassurance. It came from what might seem an unlikely source, Volker Ullrich’s excellent 2016 biography, “Hitler Ascent 1889-1939” published in translation by Alfred A. Knopf.
There are sound reasons to hope that what happened there won’t happen here, as even though it threatens to.
There are of course many similarities between the Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump phenomena, starting with the basic facts that neither new ruler had any prior experience in public service, did not win a majority vote in a fair election, and would sooner lie than speak a truth. Hitler’s megalomania, craving for adulation and contempt for criticism were rooted, as Trump’s seem to be, in a deeply rooted personal insecurity. Hitler had no respect for independent courts or a free press.
Neither does Trump.
Both campaigned as demagogues, owed their success largely to bigotry, promised to make their countries great again, claimed they alone could “fix it,” and gave clear warning that they would attack civil rights. Both harbored worldviews that could — and in Hitler’s case did — lead their countries into massive cruelty and war. With Hitler, it was his determination to rid Germany and then Europe of all Jews and to wage a “decisive” battle against Bolshevism. With Trump it’s the demonization of Mexican immigrants and a craving to do battle with Islam, as whetted by his personal Darth Vader, Steven Bannon.
Trump doesn’t have an organized army of brownshirt thugs, as Hitler did. But he does have followers who don’t need orders to harass Jews, Muslims and foreigners, desecrate cemeteries and commit occasional murders. The list goes on.
But it’s in the dissimilarities that I found strong basis for hope that America won’t go the way the Third Reich did.
Organized dissent virtually disappeared in Germany as