From The Forward: http://forward.com/culture/363173/why-we-must-beware-trumps-willing-executioners/
is a disgrace which gets worse with every day that passes,” one
observer wrote of the deteriorating political scene we know all too
well. “Politics everywhere and everywhere the terrorism of the Right….
It is astounding how easily everything collapses.” He added, “It is
shocking how day after day naked acts of violence, breaches of law,
barbaric opinions appear quite undisguised as official decree. Each new
decree, he said, was “more shameful than the previous one….. The
Liberals tremble.” And finally: “I for my part will never again have
faith in Germany.” Thus wrote Victor Klemperer, a Jewish German scholar,
in the first months of Hitler’s ascension. Historians have spent
decades examining how Germany, an allegedly rational and highly cultured
society, became unhinged. Future historians will no doubt be examining
how America, the paragon of liberty, became unhinged. The simple answers
are, respectively, Adolf Hitler and his acolytes, and Donald Trump and
his parade of right-wing enablers, from the FBI to border patrol agents
to white nationalists to plutocrats. But there are deeper answers, and
they are far more frightening, with far-wider implications than the
They are answers that we Jews understand.
course, Jews don’t have to be told to be suspicious of analogies to
Nazi Germany. We know they are usually facile, overwrought and
wrong-headed, and that they can trivialize the greatest tragedy in the
history of humankind. America is not Nazi Germany, Trump is not Hitler.
are not headed for the genocide of refugees, only for their ban or
deportation, to protect us, Trump says, from possible saboteurs, even if
that echoes Hitler’s “indignant denial,” according to Klemperer, that
he was accusing all Jews of threatening the state: “No harm will come to
loyal Jews.” And however much the language of “round up” and
“deportation” has a terrifyingly reminiscent ring for Jews, Trump has no
real interest in political power or programs, only in personal
adulation. He is our panderer-in-chief.
Still, one shouldn’t deny
that there are situations in which historical antecedents can be
instructive, not because, in this case, Trump is analogous to Hitler,
but because the underlying political dynamics of Trumpism to those of
Hitlerism may be so. Unfortunately, we Jews know an awful lot, too much,
about unhinged societies.
We understand cause and effect, which
is why Klemperer’s diaries, published as “I Will Bear Witness,” and
Harvard scholar Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s now-famous analysis of
grassroots Nazism, “Hitler’s Willing Executioners,” ought to be required
reading in America now. Because whether or not Trumpism is a latter-day
incarnation of Hitlerism, both are predicated on something similar,
something we would rather not face, but something that is important to
discuss, especially as Jews, as Trumpism barrels forward: Hitler and
Trump are not the causes of a national movement of hatred; they are its
So how did Germany become unhinged?
According to Goldhagen’s analysis, it wasn’t all that “hinged” to begin
with. If you think, he says, of political life as a national
conversation, then one of the primary subjects of that conversation in
Germany, hundreds of years before Hitler rose to power, was
anti-Semitism. And just about every German participated in the dialogue.
As one woman in the oral history, “What We Knew,” put it, “There was
never any particular sympathy for the Jews,” which, of course, is
putting it lightly. This was the sentiment that Hitler exploited.
Continue reading at: http://forward.com/culture/363173/why-we-must-beware-trumps-willing-executioners/