Trump and the Alt-Right: it can Happen Here

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am writing this before the final debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I will blog my comments about the debate later and those observations will be posted tomorrow morning. 

But tonight I have just a thought. Most of my readers know my background in history and the history of the Weimar and Nazi eras, and some know that my primary history professor when I was an undergraduate was an interpreter at the Nuremberg trials. As such I have spent much of my life studying those eras as well as the trials themselves. When teaching ethics at the Staff College I spend a good amount of time on the subject in order that the men and women who will be advising leaders at the operational and strategic levels of warfare and national security strategy will understand just how important it is not just to follow orders, and to weigh ethics, morality, and international law when they propose a course of action to our civilian and military policy makers. 

I just finished reading Robert E. Conot’s book Justice at Nuremberg which was published in my junior year of college back in 1981. That was an era when the people that now refer to themselves as the Alt Right were in full Holocaust denial mode. Not only that the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party were riding a temporary wave of popularity. Conot wrote this as he ended his masterpiece about the Nuremberg trials:

“The begetters of the ultra-right-wing movement that denies the Holocaust and sanitize the Nazi regime and sugarcoat the culpability of its leaders are the successors to the proponents of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In place of the fiction that the Jews are conspiring to dominate the world, they proposed the Big Lie that the Holocaust is a myth, designed by the Jews for ulterior purposes. The new anti-Semites use the same techniques as the old, and their goal is also the same. To denigrate and discredit not only the Jewish faith but all men of liberal and democratic persuasion, so as to pave the way for a rescrudivence of persecution and tyranny…

In lockstep with these pernicious propagandists March new-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating for “Aryan” supremacy, urging the deportation of Jews and blacks, employing Hitlerian euphemisms, and manipulating democratic processes and guarantees in the same manner as Hitler a century ago. Never let it be forgotten thatHitler exploited the freedom granted him by the Weimar constitution to destroy the republic. The rise of a new Hitler in an industrial nation may be remote, but it is not impossible. Given the proper combination of circumstances, no country, including the United States, is immune.” 

That is where we stand today. Donald Trump makes the same threats against political opponents as did Hitler. He singles out liberal Jews, hispanics, Muslims, African Americans, women, Gays, Democrats, and even Republican opponents as he launches his vitriolic Twitter tirades at all hours of the day. His strongest supporters seem to be the members of what is now called the “Alt-Right” which is little more than a polite and politically correct term for Nazis and Kansmen including the former head of the KKK, David Duke. Armed Alt-Right Trump supporters are already menacing Democratic offices, threatening all opponents, and preparing to create havoc at polling places. 

Like Hitler before him, Trump is working to discredit the democratic process from within, and providing his most strident and potentially violent and already hate-filled supporters with the argument that the election is fixed and that he is opposed by the liberal media. It is an old and tired argument, not at all dissimilar to those of Hitler and Goebbels in the 1932 German Presidential election which Hitler lost to Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, and which they used to destroy their political opponents after Hitler was appointed Chancellor in January 1933. 

Trump and his Alt-Right supporters are truly dangerous, and not just to those who oppose them today. They are equally dangerous to those who for whatever reason chose to support him now, just as they were to the German conservatives who initially supported Hitler and then found out that they had supported a criminal. 

We can never forger the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller, who wrote:

“I found myself wondering about that too.I wonder about it as much as I regret it. Still, it is true Hitler betrayed me. I had an audience with him, as a representative of the Protestant Church, shortly before he became chancellor in 1932. Hitler promised me on his word of honor, to protect the church, and not to issue any anti-Church laws. He also agreeed not to allow programs against the Jews, assuring me as follows: “There will be restrictions against the Jews, but no ghettos, no programs, in Germany, at that time… I hated the growing atheistic movement, which was fostered and promoted by the Social Democrats and Communists. Their hostility toward the church made me pin my hopes on Hitler for a while. I am paying for that mistake now; and not mine alone, but thousands of other persons like me.” 

Unlike so many of the “conservative Christians” who now wholeheartedly support Trump, I will not be deceived. I know the price. I have been to Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. I have been to Nuremberg. As a historian I know exactly who Trump is and what he promises, and I will not stop speaking out. 

Until tomorrow, or maybe even later tonight, 

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, holocaust, nazi germany, News and current events, Political Commentary

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