How Did the Nazis Lead to Trump?

Since Trump’s election in November of 2016, there has been a steady stream (nearly daily) of Nazi allegories. I thought I’ve seen them all, but this one from the NYT might just take the cake (“How Did the Nazis Gain Power in Germany?”):

Although Benjamin Carter Hett makes no comparisons between Germany then and the United States now in “The Death of Democracy,” his extremely fine study of the end of constitutional rule in Germany, he dissolves those comforting assumptions….

[Hett] presents Hitler’s rise as an element of the collapse of a republic confronting dilemmas of globalization…

The Nazis, in Hett’s account, were above all “a nationalist protest movement against globalization.”

The Nazis, in Hett’s account, were above all “a nationalist protest movement against globalization.” Even before the Great Depression brought huge unemployment to Germany, the caprice of the global economy offered an opportunity to politicians who had simple answers. In their 1920 program, the Nazis proclaimed that “members of foreign nations (noncitizens) are to be expelled from Germany.” Next would come autarky: Germans would conquer the territory they needed to be self-sufficient, and then create their own economy in isolation from that of the rest of the world. As Goebbels put it, “We want to build a wall, a protective wall.” Hitler maintained that the vicissitudes of globalization were not the result of economic forces but of a Jewish international conspiracy.

President Hindenburg is attributed with creating the preconditions:

He was famous as the victor in a battle on the Eastern Front of World War I, even though the credit was not fully deserved. Hindenburg could not face the reality of defeat on the Western Front in 1918, and so spread the lie that the German Army had been “stabbed in the back” by Jews and Socialists. This moral weakness of one man radiated outward.

Are you getting the message yet?

He believed that only he could save Germany, but would not put himself forward to do so, for fear of damaging his image. Without Hindenburg’s founding fiction and odd posturing, it is unlikely that Hitler would have come to power.

Is it any clearer? We are just awaiting our Damien from The Omen.

As Hett capably shows, the Nazis were the great artists of victimhood fiction. Hitler, who had served with German Jews in the war, spread the idea that Jews had been the enemy within, proposing that the German Army would have won had some of them been gassed to death. Goebbels had Nazi storm troopers attack leftists precisely so that he could claim that the Nazis were victims of Communist violence. Hitler believed in telling lies so big that their very scale left some residue of credibility. The Nazi program foresaw that newspapers would serve the “general good” rather than reporting, and promised “legal warfare” against opponents who spread information they did not like. They opposed what they called “the system” by rejecting its basis in the factual world. Germans were not rational individuals with interests, the reasoning went, but members of a tribe that wanted to follow a leader (Führer).

The Alt Right are the ‘great artists of victimhood fiction’, and Trump is Hitler.

This message is reified in many, many ways:

The Nazis filled a void between the Catholic electorate of the Center Party and a working class that voted Socialist or Communist. Their core constituents, Hett indicates, were Protestants from the countryside or small towns who felt themselves to be the victims of globalization.


Constitutions break when ill-motivated leaders deliberately expose their vulnerabilities.

And so it goes.

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