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Comparisons To Hitler Are Close But Wrong

If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.
Adolf Hitler

By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise.
Adolf Hitler

How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think.
Adolf Hitler

I saw two posts cross my timeline today. They referenced Adolf Hitler and drew comparisons to Barak Obama. It’s not the first time I’ve seen Hitler used as a comparison to some contemporary politicians. Stephen Harper, Pauline Marois, Justin Trudeau have also been compared to Hitler in one form or another which is patently absurd.

Regardless of whom you support or don’t, none of today’s current political leaders have anything in common with Adolf Hitler – but many of us have very much in common with those who helped him rise to power.

Adolf Hitler was an exceptional orator and a canny student of human nature which basically made him a consummate politician. Ethics – he had none. Principles – he none of those either. He espoused them, spoke about them at great length but the words were meaningless. It was power he craved. He had the singular vision of the megalomaniac – power for power’s sake with him exercising absolute power.

The lives of others were meaningless to him and his delusion led him to war and mass murder.

In the end, however, he was just one man so how did he obtain so much power and cause so much horrendous harm to the world?

It was the people who gave it to him; people just like you and I. The German people weren’t some barbarian hoard that swept down from the steppes to rape, murder and plunder; they were a democratic, educated and industrious people. They had families just like ours. They attended church just like many of us and they wanted a stable society with a prosperous economy just like we do.

They were also a people living under the oppressive weight of reparations imposed on them by the allies after WWI. It caused runaway inflation and rampant poverty. The military was restricted both in terms of size and weaponry. The democratic governments of the new republic were weak and crumbled almost as soon as they were elected and a proud people were humiliated and shamed. There was considerable fear, anger and unrest in an impoverished society.

And along came Adolf Hitler with promises of a better future.

He ripped up the Versailles Treaty and started rearming the military. That appealed to the military’s pride and they supported him. His military buildup created jobs for the unemployed and new contracts for industry and both were pleased to support him. It didn’t happen overnight. It took a few years for Hitler to rise to complete power. During that time, he provided spectacles and if his tactics were sometimes rough and even violent, the people were mostly silent because the economy was improving and life was returning to normal – at least on the surface.

Best of all, Hitler gave the Germans someone to blame for their defeat in the war and the crushing weight of their failed economy – the Jews.

He started to impose sanctions and restrictions on political enemies like the communists and the socialists and economic enemies like the Jews. The German people supported his ideas and remained silent about his excesses even as the rule of law was being perverted with new laws that discriminated against Jews, gypsies (Roma), the mentally infirm and convicted criminals.

Life was improving for most Germans and if some had to pay a price for that – well – that was just the way it was and besides, it was their own fault. Many bought the argument that their former neighbours, professors, shop keepers and politicians were the enemy. Propaganda was the order of the day and the illusion of an Aryan nation was the new religion.

The SA, or Brownshirts, held mass rallies and marched in the streets carrying torches providing displays of martial order and strength. They bullied and assaulted ‘the enemies’ of the state and basically enforced Hitler’s will until they became too powerful and a political liability that stood in the way of obtaining power. Hitler didn’t merely throw them under a bus, he had the SS, his personal body guard, arrest and execute the leadership of the SA in what is now called the Night of the Long Knives.

In 1933, he dispensed with the Weimar Republic and created the Third Reich based on a totalitarian, single-state government. Democracy was dead and still the German people remained silent. The economy was improving.

The media were first demonized then censored.

Then people started to be rounded up and sent to concentration camps; first they were demonized then they were arrested. It started with the political enemies – communists and socialists; then the Jews and the mentally infirm and finally anyone who criticized the regime. It was all made possible by a careful and orchestrated vilification of each group by the Nazi propaganda machine and the people remained silent because they allowed themselves to listen to and believe it rather than to their own values and morality.

The economy was improving and there was prosperity again. Both had become more important than decency, civility and the rule of law. As each democratic freedom was restricted or violated by the Nazis, the people continued to remain silent.

When Hitler started his campaign of Lebensraum, living space for the German people, the people remained silent. They were proud to be German. When he marched into Austria, then Czechoslovakia and finally Poland, they were proud. When the allies entered the war, they blamed the allies.

And the bodies started to mount.

The eastern front resulted in devastating losses for the German army. There were rumours of death camps and an increasing number of officers in the military who had supported Hitler, now turned on him. There were failed plots to assonate him; all ending in failure. The nightmare that cost so many their lives and that devastated much of Europe including Germany only ended when the allies defeated the remnants of the German army and took Berlin. Hitler committed suicide and the Cold War was born.

In the end, this one little man – a former corporal in the German infantry had led a nation into world war and into committing some of the most brutal and horrendous acts in history. A civilized, modern democracy had been transformed and many of its people drawn to commit genocide and mass slaughter because of their blind faith in one man and his promises.

More than 13 million people died because of him, including more than 6 million Jews. It didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow, steady process of erosion of morality, principle and values. It was a desperate desire to believe in easy solutions to challenging issues, fear of the unknown and willingness to blame others for Germany’s problems.

In the end, Hitler only rose to power because so many traded common sense and decency for economic stability and ideology.

He was able to achieve that because people like you and I refused to stand up and criticize and oppose him when he violated the moral standards by which most Germans lived and most of us believe in today. They remained silent when he eroded their rights and their democratic institutions because he gave them bread and circuses and by the time they realized they had traded away their freedom to make a bargain with the devil – it was too late and hell was upon them.

There are no Adolf Hitlers in our politics today. Stephen Harper is not a fascist nor is Barack Obama. Some, like Dalton McGuinty are corrupt and others like Kathleen Wynne are inept. In the end, none of them rise to a comparison with Hitler. They are merely politicians who put winning power ahead of all else. They are politicians too willing to trade their values for what is politically expedient.

But, if they can’t be compared to Hitler, too many of us can be compared to the people of Germany prior to 1933. We are angry and too quick to blame others. We are polarized, divided and more than willing to demonize others for the very sins those we support are committing.

In the end, the people of Germany learned that you cannot fight injustice by being unjust. You will not create a free and open society by restricting the freedom and rights of fellow citizens and intolerance will not be defeated by intolerance. Anger is a poor substitute for reasoned debate and knee-jerk emotional reactions that violate the rights and dignity of others demeans us and our society.

In the end, it was the people of Germany who made Hitler possible and in the end; it is us who make failed politicians and their governments possible. If a civilized society could empower the sheer evil that was Adolf Hitler, imagine how much easier it is to empower politicians who are merely corrupt, dishonest or inept.  It is we the people who are the authors of our own misfortune when we refuse to stand on principle by compromising our values and demonizing each other to defend those who denigrate our institutions, our governments and our societies.

When ideology trumps truth and our fellow citizens are seen as our enemies, we provide fertile ground for those who crave power at the expense of our rights, our freedoms and a civilized, descent society. The German people learned where that leads but we, it seems, have continually failed to learn the lessons of history.

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© 2013 Maggie’s Bear

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  • Guffman

    I think everyone who adds their voice to any political blogs, comments sections, call-in talk shows, etc., is speaking up. But speaking up can come in the form of criticism OR praise OR indifference – as long as you’re making your voice heard, and as you say, not quietly letting your rights and freedoms be trampled on and eroded.
    Yesterday I wasn’t critical enough for your liking Bear, of our prime minister – I was actually, truly supportive of what he’s doing regarding the senate. But you didn’t seem to like my criticism of *your* views, and labelled me a conservative ideologue, refusing to let anyone speak ill of our ‘dear leader’. Just because I don’t criticize Stephen Harper in this particular case, does not mean I don’t have other criticisms of both he and his government at other times – I have had plenty.
    You’ve mentioned a couple of times the line “winning above all else” like it’s a bad thing. Taken to an (illegal or immoral) extreme, yes. But a successful politician has to put winning above all else, because if he/she doesn’t, they will be sitting across the room, unable to make the changes they want to (hopefully) move our country in the right direction. I understood this principle better when I read Eric Clapton’s biography. Towards the end, he says that he values his sobriety above all else in his life – ahead of his wife, his children, his career, and everything else. At first I thought that was a little callous to not place your wife and children as the most important things in your life. But he then when on to say, if he didn’t value his sobriety above all else, he would lose all of those other things so important to him.
    I personally believe that Stephen Harper wants to move our country in the right direction, and that he has been doing that. There have certainly been stumbles along the way, and you can bet there’ll be many more, but overall I support him as I see him doing far more good than bad. And no, I don’t want to criticize him at every step – God knows we have the media party, opposition, and loud-mouth lefties doing that 24/7/365. When I support someone I pick my battles, much like in a marriage. I don’t like badmouthing someone all the time that I support… occasionally, yes. And if I speak up, it’s because of something i believe in. I’m not trying to recruit more people to vote Liberal and NDP, who I see, at this point anyways, as the real danger to freedom in this country.

    • MaggiesBear

      I didn’t label you, I took umbrage with you accusation that it was people like me who were the reason the conservatives might lose the next election. There are too many people in our ranks putting the blame everywhere but where it belongs. The media, all things considered, have given Harper far more respect than he has shown them. There has been fairly balanced coverage of the Senate scandal and extremely positive coverage of the signing of CETA but it doesn’t stop the conservative mythology that the media are out to get Harper. I’m writing a more comprehensive post on all of this now so I won’t get it into here now but I’ll agree with you on this point.

      More people are commenting on blogs and media articles and that is a good thing although there are many who are posting that really don’t have anything to say. It’s one thing to debate an issue but when it is a comment that is merely accusation or blind support for a leader like we see with some Liberals following Justin Trudeau, that isn’t much better than remaining silent.

      I don’t classify you in that category. You and I don’t agree but that is not important to me. All that is important to me is that we can discuss and debate issues with mutual civility. You do which is why you are always welcome to post your comments here whether you agree with me or not.

      • Guffman

        Those of us supporting the conservatives are generally, with exceptions of course, a quiet bunch. Many people I work with and many of my own family, relatives and friends are very anti-conservative, and take every opportunity to loudly trash all things conservative, Canadian or US, and mostly without being solicited for their opinion. Harper, Hudak, Romney… any conservative really, there’s not a single one they don’t despise with every fibre of their being – seriously… they get loud and red in the face about it. According to them conservatives are all apparently on the sole, intentional mission to destroy our countries, and line the their pockets, and those of their friends, with cash.
        If you don’t think conservative bashing has become far more prevalent and acceptable since George Bush was in office – both by the majority of the MSM, and just the population in general – I think you and I are living in different universes. The media party hasn’t liked Harper or his government from day one, and certainly don’t do a very good job of hiding it most of the time. The CETA coverage was indeed fairly positive, what I read of it, but a senate ‘scandal’ over a few hundred thousand dollars – which was paid back! – has been getting coverage at a rate of 20:1 over a multi-billion dollar trade deal that will bring great additional wealth and jobs to our country for years and decades to come… or the story of a BILLION-dollar-plus waste of taxpayers money by the Ontario Liberals trying to save a few seats in my province, in probably the mother of all scandals, $$$-wise, ever in this country. I’m not sure how you can write-off this unbalanced coverage as “conservative mythology”. Billions of dollars vs $0.00… turn on your tv or radio, which is getting more coverage?
        Because I hear, read and tire of this endless type of unbalanced trashing, forgive me if I struck out after reading the same stuff coming from those in our own ranks, so to speak. And I’m not talking about fair criticisms of the PM or the party, I’m talking about referring to conservatives as “thugs” and unnecessary, mean-spirited comments like these which imply corruption, etc. I personally think we get enough of that from the usual sources, without reading it on a conservative blog. I have yet to hear Harper use any derogatory term like this to describe anyone in the media… but by all means, correct me if I’m wrong.
        You think differently about all this obviously, so I won’t press on. Just thought I’d let you know why I made that comment/accusation about the next election, that you referred to in the first place. Thanks again for your open forum.

        • MaggiesBear

          I believe they are acting like thugs. This entire mess in the Senate is an arbitrary abuse of power for no other reason than political expediency. It tramples the right to presumption of innocence and due process. It is also hypocritical. Today, Brazeau was offered a deal for a ‘lesser sentence”. It never stops. and I am bloody angry about it. We’re conservatives and we’re supposed to be better than this. It’s stuff like this that causes the folks in your life (and mine) to think so poorly of conservatives. This is the kind of dishonest, mean-spirited and viscious politics that most Canadians despise. Yesterday’s latest poll shows the Conservatives bleeding support to the Liberals. Justin Trudeau now has a 9 point lead on Stephen Harper and the poll was done after the CETA was signed. How’s that for shooting yourself in the foot simply to beat up three senators before they’ve even been charged with anything?

          You probably won’t want to read my next post — I’m on a bit of tare after what happened today. :-)

  • Randy

    I would love to comment but between Bear and Gerry, everything is pretty
    much covered. We are an indifferent society with nothing to say or do about
    anything that does not affect us directly. We go along with the crowd, not
    realizing that everyone else in the crowd is doing the same. We are losing
    our rights and democracy, little bits by little bits. Once these little pieces are
    gone and not missed by the majority, we never get them back. Death by a
    thousand cuts. Voter turn out is dropping and will continue to drop due to
    apathy. Each time the voter turnout is lower, a little piece of democracy is
    lost. I would love to have a solution other than mandatory voting, but I do not.
    When times are good, no one cares. When times are bad, it is just a little
    too late.

    • MaggiesBear

      For someone who didn’t feel they had anything to add, I think you’ve raised some good points.

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  • Gerry

    Excellent analysis. It was the inevitable result of the combination of “going along to get along” coupled with the promulgation of the theme of undeserved victim-hood imposed by undeservedly victorious, and vengeful, WW1 Allies. When the price of speaking up is deemed too high simple economics dictates that no one will speak up. Which is why it is often the student class that does the speaking up – albeit unfortunately often controlled by Machiavellian puppet masters – as for them ideals trump practicalities. After years of programming in leftist ideology and the ‘hopey changey’ crap for more government involvement in our daily lives I don’t think there is much hope for any large awakening movement from that front. Perhaps churches will awaken from their doldrums and fascination with leveraging government to achieve their ‘moral’ ends but I doubt that as well.

    In our case I think it is simply way too much of “going along to get along” and not rocking the boat or becoming a target of whatever group is the favorite of the month. Speak up and be targeted by both the legal and paralegal human rights commissions. If the story of the Emperor’s new clothes was written today the little boy who spoke up would be soundly denounced as unpatriotic and slapped with a court injunction to stay silent and subjected to extensive education interventions and obviously removed from his family for his own good.

    • MaggiesBear

      As usual Gerry, you raise pertinent points. I fully agree with you.