Yesterday on H2 (History Channel 2) I viewed the documentary "The Rise of the Third Reich." The narrator described it not as the story how Adolf Hitler came to power, but how and why the German people allowed him to do so. I was not surprised to hear about some cultural and political dynamics that, to me at least, parallel the situation in our own day.
The comparisons between the rise of the Nazis in Germany and certain contemporary political powers is not precise, of course. History does not exactly repeat itself, but it does seem that those who do not learn from history are doomed to suffer similar consequences as did their predecessors.
Below is a brief list of some parallels derived from the documentary. Many of the statements below are not my own ideas, but directly quoted:
- Berlin had become a swamp of depravity. Everything and everyone was for sale.
- Things were chaotic. Money was worthless. The atmosphere has become revolutionary. Apocalyptic. Not only money, but all standards have lost their value. Saviors appear everywhere, claiming they have been sent by God to save the world. In German, there is no plural word for Savior. There can be only one.
- Hitler was a socialist, the leader of the National German Social Workers Party. Socialism has the inherent power of drawing the allegiance of the people to the state.
- Politically, there were only two viable options for those who wanted to facilitate change: the communist party and the socialist party. No one of substance stood on the side of individual liberties.
- On February 28, 1933, someone set fire to Germany's parliament building, the Reichstag. Hitler blamed the communists. The middle class, which had been repulsed by some of the tactics of the Nazi's, became frightened by the burning. The press, in lockstep with Hitler, said that the fire was meant to be a signal to all communists throughout the country to begin destroying property, life, and values throughout the land. Through the use of a false flag, Hitler had invented a threat, and now he would use it to crush his opposition.
- The people gave up their liberties for the sake of security. They did not object to their telephones being tapped, their letters opened, and their desks broken into. People accepted it in order to "clean up" society and rid their land of the communists.
- By March 23, the communists were all jailed. Hitler became dictator after only 52 days of being named Chancellor.
- Often for many months parades marched and church bells rang. The idea was to condition the people to cheer, even when there was no reason for it. It is reminiscent of television comedies using laugh tracks for shows that are not funny. It is human nature to go along with the crowd and mimic others. Hitler knew this and manipulated the emotions of the people.
- The government began officially declaring who was good and who was bad. Undesirable members of society included Jews, disabled people, minorities, and dissenters. Prisoner camps were established for "bad" members of society. Adults that did not use a "Heil Hitler" greeting faced the possibility of being sent to a concentration camp. The result and intent was to make people live in fear. Within 10 months of Hitler's rise to power, 100,000 Germans had been arrested.
- Children were indoctrinated with Nazi propaganda. The movie "Triumph of the Will" was required viewing in all German schools. Children's hearts were turned against their parents. They were taught that the Führer (and by extension, the Fatherland) was first and family was second. Children were told to turn their parents in to the Gestapo (the secret state police) if their parents insisted that family came first.
- In the end, Hitler betrayed, impoverished, and destroyed the country that he sought to lead.