News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Saturday, February 23, 2019

If you wonder how Nazis and the Holocaust happened, the American Reich is putting on a demonstration

Hitler had the Jews.  Trump has the Latinos.  Both men were supported by people who joined them in their racist manias to oppress and commit atrocities against a specific ethnic group.  Ultimately, their supporters and enablers are the ones to hold responsible.

The tendency for Americans who still value the principles that our democracy once professed is to regard Donald Trump as anomaly, an accident.  They assume that when he is no longer president, the daily news reports of malice, mendacity, stupidity, and incompetence will diminish and no longer dominate the country's attention.  They ignore the fact that the people who put Trump in power and have endorsed his fraudulent and iniquitous conduct will still be with us.  Trump is a symptom of a change and a deterioration of democratic values, not the cause.  The voters who put Trump in office and endorse him have gotten what they want and have reshaped the country.  The United States is experiencing the kind of moral and intellectual transformation that Germany did in the 1930s.  

I have written before about being a soldier in Germany shortly after the occupation.  We were coached in the attitude that the Nazis took over the country and the good people fell under their rule.  We were instructed to treat all the German people with respect and sympathy as survivors of an evil regime.  We were discouraged from asking questions about what the people thought of Hitler and what they did during the Nazi reign.   We had our doubts and our curiosity, but at the time our questions were unanswered.

A woman who read one of my blog posts on the subject responded.  She came from a military family, and her father had served in the Air Force in Germany.  She graduated from a military high school in Germany, and recalled that during exchange programs with students from German schools, the question of participation during the Nazi era came up.  She went to a U.S. college that required a thesis paper for the baccalaureate degree, and she did hers on how the German civilians reacted to the Nazi regime.  Her conclusion was that while many people were opposed to it, a majority of the people wanted the Nazi state and were in full agreement and participation with it.  This was demonstrated by their participation in the pogrom against the Jews.  The people who resisted and tried to help Jewish people were routinely betrayed by their friends and neighbors.  

Around the turn of the century, a number of books and films emerged which explored how the German people were the perpetrators of the Third Reich, not the hapless victims of it.  The younger generations of Germans have insisted on examining this aspect of their history and confronting the facts.  

The parallels of what the Germans did to the Jews and what Americans are doing to Latinos and other immigrants are striking.  A woman in Montana near the Canadian border ran into a friend in a convenience store.  She and her friend are Latina American citizens, but they were chatting to each other in Spanish and were overheard by a Custom and Border Protection agent, who detained them and asked for identification papers.  He said that speaking Spanish in that neck of the woods made them suspicious.  The women have received threatening and nasty messages, but also expressions of support.  The incident is illustrative of how some Americans have adopted the moral code of the Third Reich and how the political divisions in America are defined.

We now understand that Hitler had many collaborators in Germany and in the countries he invaded that desired the Holocaust and all the persecution of minorities that were part of it.

Trump's war against Latino immigrants parallels the early stages of the Nazi pogrom against the Jews.  Although the purported objective of the Trump wall and the suppression of immigrants is to keep the criminal and terrorist elements out of the United States, many of the people who come to the southern border are refugees looking to escape violence and oppression and to find some opportunity to make a life.  It is Trump's pretext for the persecution and confinement in concentration camps of immigrants.  His administration came up with a policy of separating migrant children from their parents.  Some 7,000 kids were shuttled into custody and provided some kind of foster care.  1,475 of the kids were lost.  

Trump has a lot of help and approval in the Nazification of America.  One of his most effective henchmen is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  McConnell has been the most perfidious but effective destroyer of democratic comity to operate in a long time.  During the presidency of Barack Obama, he famously announced, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

Then this master of obstruction refused to submit legislation to end the government shutdown until he got a signal of approval from Trump.  Then when Trump issued his phony crisis emergency declaration, McConnell said it was caused by Democrat obstruction: "President Trump’s decision to announce emergency action is the predictable and understandable consequence of Democrats’ decision to put partisan obstruction ahead of the national interest." 

McConnell flaunts hypocrisy as a badge of power.  He is a dedicated enabler of Trump's destructive presidency because he understands that the chaos created sustains his own power, which he never exercises for the national good, but only for the purpose of retaining power.  

Lurking deep in McConnell is the racial history of McConnell's home state.  Kentucky has a double history regarding racism.  In some regions, it has made strides toward equality, but in others it has a record of vicious racist acts.  McConnell aligns himself with those latter regions, as his treatment of President Obama indicates.  McConnell is in fact the antithesis of democratic equality. He is a perpetrator of the neo-Nazism that has taken hold in America.  He has sold the Senate out to Trump and protects those programs of discrimination and oppression that Trump is waging against Latinos and other minorities.

Just as Hitler put Jews into concentration camps and  separated them from their children, Trump is doing the same to Latino migrants and some, such as the two women in Montana, who are, in fact, citizens.  It's the same playbook administered with the help of Americans who want to deny the rights of democracy to groups that they hate.

If you want to understand how the Holocaust happened, just look around you and see what is happening right now in America.  


larry kurtz said...

"Let’s take a close look at some of South Dakota’s more nefarious history because this part of it is synonymous with Hitler’s efforts at genocide. Think about it: He, just like Adolph Hitler, called for the genocide of a race of people. Now what is the difference to what Hitler wrote and what L. Frank Baum wrote? There is none. But then keep in mind that Hitler was just writing about Jews and Baum about Indians, totally inconsequential to the Master Race and the white settlers." Tim Giago

Unknown said...

I know it's a controversial book, but Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners has stuck with me for about 20 years now.

One hopes his thesis that a whole society can be corrupted is wrong, but the older I'm getting, the more I fear it's not

Porter Lansing said...

Great article, Prof. Newquist.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States