People Who Lived Through Nazism Say What's Happening in the United States Seems Familiar
The customers always write. I get about 400 e-mails in response to my columns
every week, which might explain why I didn't answer yours. Here, slightly
edited, is one of the more interesting ones from last week. It's from Herr
Moellers in Germany:
"Dear Mr. Sorensen,
"I have many American friends and used to go on business travel to the U.S. a lot (I stopped doing that after even our European governments have given in to Uncle Sam's appetite for information about individuals traveling to God's Own Country), and I am shocked by the deterioration of democracy in a country that I used to love. This administration is a shame and the destabilization they have brought to the world is scaring the s** out of me.
"My father was a Nazi soldier and he realized during the war what he and most of his generation was led into. I have learned from him that a nation can be guilty and that we must stop the arrogance of the powers at the very beginning. To me, America is becoming truly scary and the parallels to the development in Germany of the thirties (although the reason behind it are totally different) are sickening.
"Thank you for writing about this development. The world is waiting for signs of opposition in the Unilateral States of America!"
Herr Moellers' e-mail is typical of a half dozen or so I've received over the past year from people with intimate knowledge of Nazi Germany.
I respect experience, so I'm inclined to believe what these people are telling me. Perhaps their memories help explain the attitude of Germans toward the Bush administration these days.
They've been there, they've done that. They know what a corrupt government smells like.
But are they "over the top"? Are they overreacting to a normal swing of the pendulum in American politics?
To make a comparison between Germany in the 1930s and America now, I relied on a Web site called "A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust." The passages in quotations below are taken from the site.
"With Adolf Hitler's ascendancy to the chancellorship, the Nazi Party quickly consolidated its power. Hitler managed to maintain a posture of legality throughout the Nazification process."
Whether by chance or design, George W. Bush is the most powerful American president in modern history. Not only does he have both houses of Congress beholden to him, but the majority of the Supreme Court is acting like a quintet of Bush lapdogs. And it all appears legal.
"Domestically, during the next six years, Hitler completely transformed Germany into a police state."
Civil libertarians insist that this is happening here now, with the USA Patriot Act in force and Patriot II on the table.
"Hitler engaged in a 'diplomatic revolution' by negotiating with other European countries and publicly expressing his strong desire for peace."
Nobody can accuse Bush of being overly diplomatic, but, like all political leaders, he is an apostle for peace, even while starting two wars during his brief tenure.
In 1933, the Reichstag, Germany's parliament building, was burned to the ground. Nobody knows for sure who set the fire. The Nazis blamed communists. "This incident prompted Hitler[,then Germany's chancellor,] to convince [German President Paul von] Hindenburg to issue a Decree for the Protection of People and State that granted Nazis sweeping power to deal with the so-called emergency."
The Reichstag fire parallels the Sept. 11 attacks here, and Hindenburg's
decree parallels our USA Patriot Act.