Trump’s Rise To Power Is Most Alarming To Me
The comparisons of Trump and his followers to the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party are many. The similarities have become more indurate with each passing day. The rise in incidents of hate and violence and harmful speech done in his name – not at his request but also not yet renounced by him – are alarming.
I have been accused of overreacting but history’s lesson on this issue is not one I am able to ignore, not at this time. It provides the background to my anxiety about where this country may be headed. I do not think we have reached a level of participation that the Nazi party held even leading up to their victory in 1933. However, that level followed more than a decade of the type of campaigning we have seen from Trump and his most ardent supporters.
What does history reveal about this? In February 2015 the New York Times opened up its archives for everyone to access and read the first article that ever appeared in that paper that mentioned Hitler. It was November 21, 1922 in a piece titled, New Popular Idol Rises In Bavaria. Reading it this past election year has made it more weighty in my mind. The article paints Hitler and his movement in a most unflattering light yet concludes with prose that leads the reader to conclude that it is all for show and won’t amount to much. This is precisely what I have heard from many others today regarding Trump. The last three paragraphs of the piece are the most troublesome in light of how far off the mark they were.
But several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch messes of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes.
A sophisticated politician credited Hitler with peculiar political cleverness for laying emphasis and over-emphasis on anti-Semitism, saying: “You can’t expect the masses to understand or appreciate your finer real aims. You must feed the masses with cruder morsels and ideas like anti-Semitism. It would be politically all wrong to tell them the truth about where you really are leading them.”
The Hitler movement is not of mere local or picturesque interest. It is bound to bring Bavaria into renewed clash with the Berlin Government as long as the German Republic goes even through the motions of trying to live up to the Versailles Treaty. For it is certain the Allies will take umbrage at the Hitler organization as a violation of the military clauses of the treaty and demand disbandment, even as in the case of its predecessor, the Orgesch.
This band of misfits grew and increased in both numbers and influence all while being mostly ignored by the German press. There are several reasons for this. For starters, people then as now were given to complacency and failed to hear the alarm bells going off. The economy was depressed and people suffered following WWI and the reparations that Germany was on the hook to make. Then as now the people so much wanted an outsider to take control that they ignored everything else that surrounded the man. And as a newly minted meme making the rounds states, “It didn’t start with gas chambers. It started with politicians playing on the prejudices of a Christian nation. It started with a message of ‘Us versus Them’. It started with intolerance and hate speech.”
Other reasons for lack of press coverage are that the press, itself, was viciously attacked for any slight they may have given the Nazis. Following the 1933 election and the coming into power of Hitler and the Nazi Party, many writers fled the country in fear. Many newspapers were closed outright and those that weren’t were controlled by the party, itself. After a time you only read what the Party wanted you to know.
Some journalists did call Hitler out for who he was and for what his Party was doing. Carl von Ossietzky was a magazine editor who eventually gave his life to alerting the Germans and the world as to what was happening. In a series of articles in the late 1920s and early 1930s he revealed the re-armament efforts then taking place under the old German Republic, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. He would receive the 1935 Nobel Peace Prize for this work. As the Nazi Party grew in influence and size he turned his attention to the violence and insanity surrounding it. In articles he referred to Hitler as a “half-insane rascal,” a “pathetic dunderhead,” a “nowhere fool,” a “big mouth” but one who will create great upheaval and possibly lead to Germany’s downfall. He was eventually arrested by the Gestapo in 1935, maltreated and malnourished in prison where he contracted tuberculosis, and eventually died in a hospital in 1938, under Gestapo supervision.
Thinking about this in light of Trump’s gathering of journalists for an off record shaming and beat-down this past Monday (11/21/2016) makes me cringe. Trump’s appointment of a white-nationalist propaganda leader (Stephen Bannon of Breitbart) as his chief White House advisor is all the more reason to think that Trump will never distance himself from the hateful rhetoric of his campaign. Breitbart has announced that they will be doubling the size of their Washington office. They will be opening new offices across the world. They may very well be on their way to being the only “press” outfit that will have the new president’s ear. He has named a known racist, Jeff Sessions, to be the incoming US Attorney General. And lest we forget, he chose an ardent anti-LGBT Governor of Indiana as his running mate.
This is why I am presently alarmed and cautious. I can handle being called out for it. I will continue following this administration with a keen eye and hoping that everyone else does the same. We need to keep pressure on Trump to ensure that lines of communication remain open. We need to continue to ask of him to renounce hateful speech and the acts of violence that have been done in his name. He needs to reassure all of us that he will protect human rights for every single one of us. He must do these things if I am to give him any consideration at all as far as being my president is concerned.
 The Orgesch was a short-lived precursor to Hitler and the Nazi party. It’s founder, Georg Escherich (1870-1941) was a forester and eventual politician, a representative of the Bavarian People’s Party. In 1919 he became head of the Bavarian Einwohnerwehren, an armed band similar to our “patriot” groups. In 1920 Escherich organized his supporters into the “Organization Escherich”, Orgesch for short. This group was an anti-Semitic and anti-communist paramilitary group. This action violated the Versailles Treaty limit on the size of the German army (100,000 troops max).