In modern times, Adolf Hitler is seen as a dangerous and hateful madman who was responsible for the deaths of millions. However, it is important to realize that his rise to power went virtually unchecked because no one realized how harmful his anti-Jewish rhetoric could be. The original reaction to Hitler in the 1920s carries concerning parallels to the course that politics seems to currently be running.
The first time that popular newspaper, New York Times, wrote about Hitler was in 1922. The article claims that Hitler is just a clever politician who is saying whatever appeals to his voter base. According to the first article discussing Hitler, “several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as bait to catch messes of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic, and in line.” The article goes on to say that Hitler has “peculiar political cleverness” that uses anti-Semitism to distract voters from his true aims.
In the current presidential election, there are many parallels between Donald Trump’s surprising bid for power and Hitler’s meteoric rise in German politics. The 1920s was a time of great turmoil for Germany, since their economy was in shambles after an unpopular war. Massive surges in inflation made everything difficult to buy, and the Germans had lost faith in their politicians. Hitler capitalized on this mistrust by blaming foreigners and Jewish people for all of Germany’s problems. At first, he just proposed putting more limitations on what Jewish people could do, but he ultimately escalated this anti-Semitism until it reached the levels of the Holocaust.
This is quite similar to the current political climate of the United States, where we are still struggling with the unpopular wars in the Middle East. The nation is trying to recover from the economic collapse of 2008, but poverty and homelessness is still rampant. Trump seems to be following similar tactics as Hitler by constantly suggesting that most of the nation’s problems are due to bad immigration policies. Trump demonizes refugees and immigrants, despite the United States’ proud history of being an immigrant nation, and he is inciting a great deal of hatred from people who are fed up with the current state of affairs.
Of course, no one thinks Trump is going to start any sort of mass genocide. However, there are already many concerning trends of his hateful rhetoric encouraging violence. At Trump rallies, his supporters have tackled, kicked, and punched black protesters who dare to speak out against Trump’s policies. Immigration activists have been knocked down and dragged around Trump rallies as the crowd chants “USA! USA! USA!” In the background of some of these attacks, Trump can be heard encouraging the actions of his supporters. At yet another rally, an immigration activist was screamed at and spit on by an enraged crowd.
Fortunately, no one has been seriously injured by Trump supporters yet, but this increasing violence is a concerning trend. Trump’s constant demonizing of anyone who does not fit in his narrow and bigoted ideas of a “true American” is having a harmful effect on the United States populace. It is highly unlikely that Donald Trump will become the next Hitler, but it is important to keep in mind that hateful politics can easily end in people getting hurt or even killed. Nationalist speeches designed to incite and inflame hatred are a shameful thing that should not have any place in American politics.