Trump's America and the rise of the Nazis in Germany - analogous?

The analogies are frightening (to me at least) between Trump's America and the takeover by the Nazis of the more-or-or-less democratic Weimar republic. "Let's make Germany great again" they said then, just before the Weimar republic was swamped by violence.

My attention was drawn to this by a BBC documentary series The Rise of the Nazis shown in Australia (on SBS) and USA (on PBS) the last weeks of the Trump presidency , but I a year or so earlier in Britain.

The series featured old newsreels interspersed by commentary by respected British and German historians (all of whom had written biographies of one or more of the main players). One of them was Richard Evans, whose book I am now reading. The Coming of the Third Reich is the first of a trilogy , and is is subtitled "how the Nazis destroyed democracy and seized power in Germany". Here is a short quotes from the book to re-inforce the analogy:

“By 1929, the Nazi movement had evolved a way of diverting legal responsibility for acts of violence and lawlessness committed by brownshirts and other elements within the movement. For Hitler, Goebbels and the rest only gave orders couched in rhetoric that while violent was also vague; their subordinates would understand clearly what was being hinted at and go into action straight away.”

Sound familiar? Do other shipmates see this analogy as revealing? Perhaps it is instructive that while they were showing their hand in 1929, the Nazis did not succeed in seizing power until 4 years later.

Comments

  • With all respect, I'm thinking you're maybe just a bit late to the party. I've heard/thought that any time these past five years. But yes, you're right.
  • What LC said.
  • Counterargument - in 1929 the Weimar Republic was all of 10 years old and many in Germany openly despised democracy even before the rise of the Nazis. There were relatively few real friends of the Republic.

    I think democracy has considerably deeper roots in the USA than that. The mass of the population genuinely believe in democratic ideals even if some (many?) of their other beliefs and actions are inconsistent with that. I am hopeful.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    Hitler exhibited great physical courage or at least indifference to physical danger, while the only courage Trump has shown is in avoiding sexually transmitted diseases. Aside from that they are remarkably similar. However, the wider society around them is quite different. The Nazis had established a dictatorship after four years.
  • Tukai wrote: »
    The analogies are frightening (to me at least) between Trump's America and the takeover by the Nazis of the more-or-or-less democratic Weimar republic. "Let's make Germany great again" they said then, just before the Weimar republic was swamped by violence.

    My attention was drawn to this by a BBC documentary series The Rise of the Nazis shown in Australia (on SBS) and USA (on PBS) the last weeks of the Trump presidency , but I a year or so earlier in Britain.

    The series featured old newsreels interspersed by commentary by respected British and German historians (all of whom had written biographies of one or more of the main players). One of them was Richard Evans, whose book I am now reading. The Coming of the Third Reich is the first of a trilogy , and is is subtitled "how the Nazis destroyed democracy and seized power in Germany". Here is a short quotes from the book to re-inforce the analogy:

    “By 1929, the Nazi movement had evolved a way of diverting legal responsibility for acts of violence and lawlessness committed by brownshirts and other elements within the movement. For Hitler, Goebbels and the rest only gave orders couched in rhetoric that while violent was also vague; their subordinates would understand clearly what was being hinted at and go into action straight away.”

    Sound familiar? Do other shipmates see this analogy as revealing? Perhaps it is instructive that while they were showing their hand in 1929, the Nazis did not succeed in seizing power until 4 years later.

    That's what Arnie Schwarz. said too.
  • Dafyd wrote: »
    Hitler exhibited great physical courage or at least indifference to physical danger, while the only courage Trump has shown is in avoiding sexually transmitted diseases. Aside from that they are remarkably similar. However, the wider society around them is quite different. The Nazis had established a dictatorship after four years.

    Trump shows courage for his age. By completing a round of golf. That's enviable in my view.
  • Whilst I respect Trump for what he .....no that's wrong....whilst I respect Hitler for his ...no that's not it...on the other hand.....don't get me wrong....at the risk of sitting on the fence....I might break it.
  • It's an over simplification. To understand that Nazis, you have to understand the Freikorps (mostly WW1 veterans) who were in chaotic pitched battles with the communists in the streets of most cities, amid crippling sanctions by the victorious Allies (France more than anyone else) which caused incredible inflation, shortages of everything from food to work. The Freikorps fought also in the east with the hope that if they controlled territory that the Allies wouldn't have the stomach for renewing war. The Nazis managed to re-channel the veterans into within-Germany uniformed militias until they weren't needed and Hitler destroyed the Brown Shirts. Some of the outcomes before WW2 were anti-Semitic, authoritarian gov'ts governments in the east with Poland the worst.

    The parallels do include the fascist tropes of victimhood and racism but the causes are entirely different. America has done it to themselves. There was no defeat and it's still the richest country in the world.
  • Yes, I was trying to think of a parallel to the stab in the back image, which seemed powerful for the Nazis. Well, Trump has manufactured one for himself, and a number of people have lined up with it, but the US has not been defeated. However, none of this is rational, and Americans may have a sense of victimhood, rage, and revenge. So do some English people. I have a fear that fascism is waiting in the wings.
  • Aye, it always is, taking up the slack, filling in the void of democratic deficit.

    “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” John Stuart Mill, 1867

    “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.” John Philpot Curran, 1813
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    For those interested in this topic I recommend The Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town, 1922-1945 by William Sheridan Allen.
  • That looks like a perfect companion to Len Deighton's beautiful Winter.
  • TelfordTelford Ship-mate
    Martin54 wrote: »
    That looks like a perfect companion to Len Deighton's beautiful Winter.

    What a magnificent book that is
    with such a sad ending
  • wabalewabale Shipmate
    I have read Ian Keershaw's 2 volumes on Hitler recently. All the way through I was thinking about Donald Trump - and whether it was happening all over again. I remain a mugwump, firmly sitting on the fence. While there are very striking similarities, there are some important differences.

    Similarities: Both men were initially widely regarded as a joke; both men can be fairly described as racists, but Hitler's racism was genocidal, initially in word and later in deed; both operated, broadly speaking, within the rules, but were prepared if the opportunity arose to break them; both, I would argue, have had their Munich Putsche; both, in power, were extreme nationalists who withdrew from international norms; both were dedicated showmen, making full use of the most up-to-date media, and traditional ones like parades; both loved simple often offensive slogans.

    As has been pointed out both men repeated a big lie. Hitler blamed the Jews and the Communists for Germany's 'stab in the back' which brought about her defeat and humiliation by the Allies. Trump's big lie was to claim he had been robbed of victory in the election - and with him his millions of supporters had a right to believe they were unfairly treated. That claim (which Donald Trump had to invent) was indeed a chilling parallel to the belief that the German army had been 'stabbed in the back'.

    Many other parallels are noteable, without necessarily implying Trump is going to be just like Hitler. There are important differences. Both men stand out as effective orators, particularly at rallies of the faithful. But Hitler had a much greater range in voice and in words, and the types of people he appealed to.

    Once Hitler got to a certain point there was no stopping him. I think this is rightly the fear people have of where Trump might go if he were to wield power again - basically, almost anywhere.

    This is why I think it's important to remember the profound differences between these two men. Hitler's relationship with the Friekorps has been mentioned. Hitler always saw himself as a soldier. In the early years of the Nazis he was able to strike deals with other paramilitary groups as well as acquiring weapons. As has been pointed out he turned against the SA as a political force once he was in power. Hitler then managed to get the High Command of the army on his side to the point where the entire army took an oath to him personally. He also probably thought of himself as the greatest soldier in the world.

    Trump, on the other hand, enjoyed missile rattling, but seemed to pull back when faced with the reality of military action. Despite his use of generals in his cabinet it appears he was a very long way from subverting the armed forces' independence.

    Some more differences: both men aimed to exploit the 'peculiar' constitutions of their respective countries, but Hitler did it successfully; Hitler aimed to appeal to the widest possible electorate and was very successful in this; but Trump appealed to particular groups, and has sought to disenfranchise groups he doesn't like; both men invoked the Almighty, but Hitler planned to destroy the church when the war was over.

    Looking and listening to one of Donald Trump's speeches reminded me of a History lecturer telling me his reaction to hearing the Nuremberg rallies on the radio: no one worried too much when Mussolini came to power. But Germany, a major industrial power ...

    Yes, obviously, Nazism is a 'warning from History'. But Trumpism needs to be fought not for being 'Nazi' but for being whatever Trumpism is.

    Sorry, that was a long one. Back to reading 'War and Peace'...
  • I don't need a book. I have my father's passport from the 1930s with an eagle holding a wreath with a swastika in the middle of it, pictures of his cousins in black and brown uniforms with swastika armbands, and pictures. I'm also related to this dude: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Günther_von_Kluge
  • Hitler was a lot smarter.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    edited February 24
    I am SO grateful for Trump’s idiocy.
  • I am SO grateful for Trump’s idiocy.

    Yes. We dodged a bullet. Next dictator-wannabe will be much smarter. And we're not prepared.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    Hitler was a lot smarter.
    Hitler had more cunning people around him. But Trump didn't start a land war in Asia.

  • Dafyd wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    Hitler was a lot smarter.
    Hitler had more cunning people around him. But Trump didn't start a land war in Asia.

    But did he go up against a Sicilian when death was on the line?
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    I wondered about the media point. Was radio a big new thing in 1920/30s Germany ? Were potential supporters radicalised by the new sense of connection with the leader that the new medium gave them ?
  • TurquoiseTasticTurquoiseTastic Shipmate
    edited February 25
    Russ wrote: »
    I wondered about the media point. Was radio a big new thing in 1920/30s Germany ? Were potential supporters radicalised by the new sense of connection with the leader that the new medium gave them ?

    I think yes: Hitler was very aware of the new technologies and leveraged them to his own advantage (he was also keen on the aeroplane, making flying tours to speak to as many large gatherings as possible).

    Radio is a very different technology to the internet however - it is "one-to-many" rather than "many-to-many", so I think the social dynamic is different.

    Also this was not the only way in which radio was put to use. FDR was famous for his "fireside chats" if I am not mistaken?
  • Also this was not the only way in which radio was put to use. FDR was famous for his "fireside chats" if I am not mistaken?

    FDR realised that it wasn't "one to many", but the illusion of "one to one" that was important. When he spoke on the radio, he knew he was addressing the individual listener, directly, in their own home.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Counterargument - in 1929 the Weimar Republic was all of 10 years old and many in Germany openly despised democracy even before the rise of the Nazis. There were relatively few real friends of the Republic.

    I think democracy has considerably deeper roots in the USA than that. The mass of the population genuinely believe in democratic ideals even if some (many?) of their other beliefs and actions are inconsistent with that. I am hopeful.

    Counter-counterargument: While national-level democracy was relatively new in Germany, in many places there was a tradition of local self-government going back to the Middle Ages. Most of these places had limitations based on gender and property ownership, but then again so did the United States for a lot of its history.

    Also to be remembered is that, contrary to American self-image, in a lot of the United States actual democracy only dates back to the 1960s or 1970s. In fact one of the things that seems to be fueling Trump's support is white Americans having to deal with real democracy for the first time and not liking it very much.
  • edited February 25
    Russ wrote: »
    I wondered about the media point. Was radio a big new thing in 1920/30s Germany ? Were potential supporters radicalised by the new sense of connection with the leader that the new medium gave them ?

    March 1938 featured the first trans-Atlantic radio broadcast by CBS from Europe to North America. This was shortwave rebroadcast on medium wave (AM radio) William Shirer writes about it in The Nightmare Years. He's also the author of Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. They had correspondents in Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Rome, and London. This allowed broadcasts from both sides of the invasion of France for example. (Shirer was later blacklisted, Edgar R. Murrow did not behave well. Shirer's A Native's Return is worth reading. It shows the insanity of the 1950s into the 60s, which parallels, rhymes with the Nixon and Trump idiocy in many ways.)

    Radio started in the mid-1920s in Germany. Radio was a big thing everywhere. Germany was broadcasting mostly in medium wave (AM) in the Hitler and war era, with quite specific instructions about when because British bombers could use the radio signals as directional beacons. Germany did broadcast specifically to the UK, just as the British did into mainland Europe.

    I've been a radio nut since the 1960s.
  • Hitler and Goebbels certainly grasped the immense potential of mass media. The were very impressed by Metropolis, and it provided Hitler with some inspiration and encouragement. Thea von Harbou, who wrote the scenario for Metropolis, had a rather active career in Nazi Germany, after her divorce from Fritz Lang (who was a bit of a cad) in 1933. The Nazis were ahead of the curve even for television.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    wabale wrote: »

    Yes, obviously, Nazism is a 'warning from History'. But Trumpism needs to be fought not for being 'Nazi' but for being whatever Trumpism is.


    No need to apologise for the length of the post - it was all interesting although I'm only quoting this brief paragraph. I think that's right. Lots of similarities between the 2 but essential differences as well, starting with the different nations.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Gee D wrote: »
    wabale wrote: »
    Yes, obviously, Nazism is a 'warning from History'. But Trumpism needs to be fought not for being 'Nazi' but for being whatever Trumpism is.
    No need to apologise for the length of the post - it was all interesting although I'm only quoting this brief paragraph. I think that's right. Lots of similarities between the 2 but essential differences as well, starting with the different nations.

    Fascism is inherently nationalistic, so there are always variations based on culture. An American fascism will be different than a German fascism and both will be different from Italian or Spanish fascism. Fascism does have some common features, however, that distinguish it from other forms of authoritarianism. Umberto Eco's essay Ur-Fascism outlines what he sees as fascism's defining features. A summarized list is available from Wikipedia for those who don't want to deal with the NYRB paywall. Robert Paxton's list of fascist earmarks is also useful.
  • I thought the notion of grievance is interesting, although it applies beyond fascism to populism at large. Thus, Brexit builds on mass grievance, along with victimhood, rage, and revenge. It has no goal really, except to magnify itself. But I assume this is proto-fascism.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    Fascism does have some common features, however, that distinguish it from other forms of authoritarianism.
    I'm really not sure that distinguishing fascism from other forms of right-wing authoritarianism is a worthwhile exercise. Right-wing authoritarianism is a threat to liberal democracy regardless; concentration on the marks of fascism seems to me to distract attention from forms that don't actually meet the criteria, or lead to long debates over whether a given ideology actually meets the checklist.

    In any case, fascism isn't a natural kind, nor is it an ideology with an internal normative standard like Marxism or Saint-Simonism or Christianity. Citing Mussolini as an authority is not one of Eco's points. Any definition of fascism with a small f is therefore to some extent arbitrary. Identifying particular things as marks of fascism is not a purely descriptive act.

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    Gee D wrote: »
    wabale wrote: »
    Yes, obviously, Nazism is a 'warning from History'. But Trumpism needs to be fought not for being 'Nazi' but for being whatever Trumpism is.
    No need to apologise for the length of the post - it was all interesting although I'm only quoting this brief paragraph. I think that's right. Lots of similarities between the 2 but essential differences as well, starting with the different nations.

    Fascism is inherently nationalistic, so there are always variations based on culture. An American fascism will be different than a German fascism and both will be different from Italian or Spanish fascism. Fascism does have some common features, however, that distinguish it from other forms of authoritarianism. Umberto Eco's essay Ur-Fascism outlines what he sees as fascism's defining features. A summarized list is available from Wikipedia for those who don't want to deal with the NYRB paywall. Robert Paxton's list of fascist earmarks is also useful.

    I find Paxton's list very good. It's years since I read Eco's essay, was impressed with it then and must see if I can find it again. Your observations about nationalisms and their different contributions is very useful.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    edited February 26
    Fascism in Europe Edited by S. J. Woolf is a good examination of how fascism manifested itself in various European countries. https://www.routledge.com/Fascism-in-Europe/Woolf/p/book/9781138938465
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Thanks - it's on its way here now.
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