Wednesday, August 12, 2009
There were two separate roads taken by German citizens. Most Germans took the road supporting their government in time of deep crisis. A few Germans took the road opposing their government despite the deep crisis facing their nation.
Why the difference? Why did some Germans support the Hitler regime while others opposed it?
What we often forget is that many Germans did not support Hitler and the Nazis at the start of the 1930s. Keep in mind that in the 1932 presidential election, Hitler received only 30.1 percent of the national vote. In the subsequent run-off election, he received only 36.8 percent of the vote. It wasn’t until President Hindenburg appointed him as chancellor in 1933 that Hitler began consolidating power.
Among the major factors that motivated Germans to support Hitler during the 1930s was the tremendous economic crisis known as the Great Depression, which had struck Germany as hard as it had the United States and other parts of the world. What did many Germans do in response to the Great Depression? They did the same thing that many Americans did — they looked for a strong leader to get them out of the economic crisis.
In fact, there is a remarkable similarity between the economic policies that Hitler implemented and those that Franklin Roosevelt enacted. Keep in mind, first of all, that the German National Socialists were strong believers in Social Security, which Roosevelt introduced to the United States as part of his New Deal. Keep in mind also that the Nazis were strong believers in such other socialist schemes as public (i.e., government) schooling and national health care. In fact, my hunch is that very few Americans realize that Social Security, public schooling, Medicare, and Medicaid have their ideological roots in German socialism.
Hitler and Roosevelt also shared a common commitment to such programs as government-business partnerships. In fact, until the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional, Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which cartelized American industry, along with his “Blue Eagle” propaganda campaign, was the type of economic fascism that Hitler himself was embracing in Germany (as fascist ruler Benito Mussolini was also doing in Italy).
As Srdja Trifkovic, foreign-affairs editor for Chronicles magazine, stated in his article “FDR and Mussolini: A Tale of Two Fascists”, Roosevelt and his ‘Brain Trust,’ the architects of the New Deal, were fascinated by Italy’s fascism — a term which was not pejorative at the time. In America, it was seen as a form of economic nationalism built around consensus planning by the established elites in government, business, and labor.
Both Hitler and Roosevelt also believed in massive injections of government spending in both the social-welfare sector and the military-industrial sector as a way to bring economic prosperity to their respective nations.
By the latter part of the 1930s, many Germans had the same perception about Hitler that many Americans had about Roosevelt. They honestly believed that Hitler was bringing Germany out of the Depression. For the first time since the Treaty of Versailles, the treaty that had ended World War I with humiliating terms for Germany, the German people were regaining a sense of pride in themselves and in their nation, and they were giving the credit to Hitler’s strong leadership in time of deep national crisis.
Hitler was a strong believer in national service, especially for German young people. That was what the Hitler Youth was all about — inculcating in young people the notion that they owed a duty to devote at least part of their lives to society. It was an idea also resonating in the collectivist atmosphere that was permeating the United States during the 1930s.
While U.S. officials today never cease to remind us that Hitler was evil incarnate, the question is: Was he so easily recognized as such during the 1930s, not only by German citizens but also by other people around the world, especially those who believed in the idea of a strong political leader in times of crisis? Keep in mind that while Hitler and his cohorts were harassing, abusing, and periodically arresting German Jews as the 1930s progressed, culminating in Kristallnacht, the “night of the broken glass,” when tens of thousands of Jews were beaten and taken to concentration camps, it was not exactly the type of thing that aroused major moral outrage among U.S. officials, many of whom themselves had a strong sense of anti-Semitism.
The Great Depression was not the only factor that was leading people to support Hitler. There was also the ever-present fear of communism among the German people. In fact, throughout the 1930s it could be said that Germany was facing the same type of Cold War against the Soviet Union that the United States faced from 1945 to 1989. Ever since the chaos of World War I had given rise to the Russian Revolution, Germany faced the distinct possibility of being taken over by the communists (a threat that materialized into reality for East Germans at the end of World War II). It was a threat that Hitler, like later American presidents, used as a justification for ever-increasing spending on the military-industrial complex. The ever-present danger of Soviet communism led many Germans to gravitate to the support of their government, just as it later moved many Americans to support big government and a strong military-industrial complex in their country throughout the Cold War.
One of the most searing events in German history occurred soon after Hitler took office. On February 27, 1933, in what easily could be termed the 9/11 terrorist attack of that time, German terrorists fire-bombed the German parliament building. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Adolf Hitler, one of the strongest political leaders in history, would declare war on terrorism and ask the German parliament (the Reichstag) to give him temporary emergency powers to fight the terrorists. Passionately claiming that such powers were necessary to protect the freedom and well-being of the German people, Hitler persuaded the German legislators to give him the emergency powers he needed to confront the terrorist crisis. What became known as the Enabling Act allowed Hitler to suspend civil liberties “temporarily,” that is, until the crisis had passed. Not surprisingly, however, the threat of terrorism never subsided and Hitler’s “temporary” emergency powers, which were periodically renewed by the Reichstag, were still in effect when he took his own life some 12 years later.
Is it so surprising that ordinary German citizens were willing to support their government’s suspension of civil liberties in response to the threat of terrorism, especially after the terrorist strike on the Reichstag?
While the American people faced these three crises — the Great Depression, the communist threat, and the war on terrorism at three separate times, the German people during the Hitler regime faced the same three crises all within a short span of time. Given that, why would it surprise anyone that many Germans would gravitate toward the support of their government just as many Americans gravitated toward the support of their government during each of those crises?
Today the US government manufactured economic crisis and the real war on terrorism have made many Americans gravitate toward supporting obama during a perceived "crisis".
Some might argue that Germans, unlike people in other nations, should not have trusted and supported their government officials during the war because it was obvious that Hitler and his henchmen were evil. The problem with that argument, however, is that throughout the 1930s many Germans and many foreigners did not automatically come to the conclusion that Hitler was evil. On the contrary, as we saw in part one of this article, many of them saw Hitler as exercising the same kind of strong leadership that Franklin Roosevelt was exercising to bring the United States out of the Great Depression and, in fact, as implementing many of the same kinds of programs that Roosevelt was implementing in the United States.
Keep in mind also that the Nazis were strong believers in such other socialist schemes as public (i.e., government) schooling and national health care. In fact, my hunch is that very few Americans realize that Social Security, public schooling, Medicare, and Medicaid have their ideological roots in German socialism.
This is the factual record. The Nazis and obama believe in the same exact ideological programs. Obama knows that national health care is just a means to an end. The end being his complete control of America just like hitler. Obama Care is being repeated and recycled just like hitlers program of hational health care.