Sunday, March 06, 2016

The Trump-Hitler comparison

It is socially unacceptable, generally speaking, to compare people to Hitler.

Despite this, Trump is starting to be compared off and on to Hitler. This seems excessive if you think of Hitler as the leader of Germany in WWII.

But if you think of him as Hitler, circa 1931, the comparison is rather apt. Both are polarizing characters that are gifted speakers who are collecting hurting, angry, hungry people and promising to solve all their problems if they would give in to their basest desires, accept hate, and follow him. Then, as now, there were hundreds of people whose lives were crushed under economic disaster that the governments wouldn't or couldn't fix, and those people were angry and desperate for change. A person who could sweep in and propose a solution was magical to them. Trump is not the result of decades of polarization, like people claim. Trump is the result of a single decade of economic ruin that the government has failed to fix despite their assurances that the economy is better and things are looking up. Trump is promising to stop lying to the people and fix things for them, so they aren't stuck in economic stagnation. Why wouldn't they follow him no matter how vile he is? It was the same for Hitler.

Watching Trump's rise to power this year has reminded me distinctly of an article I read in one of the old magazines in my antique book collection. A young man in 1931 met Hitler, listened to him speak, and reported on it for the LDS Church. In 1931, Hitler was not in power yet. He was in exactly the same position as Trump is, traveling the country and collecting followers.

The article is not easy to access anymore, but you can read it here:

Go to "Adolf Hitler: The Man and His Ideas," on page 15 (pdf page, not magazine page, and finishing up on page 56-7, also pdf page, not magazine page).

In case you can't read it, here is the text: "Adolf Hitler The Man and His Ideas By Wendell C. Irvine

" PICTURE a crowd of some four thousand people assembled in a huge auditorium in Oldenburg, Germany, on a Saturday afternoon of October, 1930. Women, and many of them wearing costly apparel, are in the majority, but well-built young men in their early twenties are also strongly represented. Most of the latter are dressed in the inevitable brown shirts, sand-brown belts and corduroy breeches of the German Fascisti. Four thousand people sitting eager and tense with expectation, four thousand pairs of eyes trained on the speakers' platform, and four thousand figures rising to their feet with one accord as the next speaker is introduced and making the large hall reverberate with the thunderous salutation, "Hoch! — Hoch! — Hocht" A man not much over forty years, of slender build and pleasing countenance stands before the vast assemblage, raises his right hand in the Fascist salute, and with a penetrating voice speaks: "Germans! I give you greeting!" It is the voice of the "magician," of the German "hypnotist," and its every tone and shade of quality seem to say—"Introducing Adolf Hitler, spell-binder, par excellence, orator unexcelled, and Napoleon of oral conflict!"

"It was on this occasion that I saw Hitler for the first time, and during the half hour that he spoke I formed my first impressions of him and the organization over which he presides. I believe I was the only American in the audience, and I had come there prompted more by idle curiosity than personal interest, but inhaling the highly intensified atmosphere of hero worship radjiated by those around me, and,—my knowledge of German permitting—listening to the man himself, I, too, succumbed to his magic, fell under the spell of his wand, and felt almost forced to agree with my neighbor in saying that a new and brighter star had appeared in the political constellation of the world. A few hours later in my hotel room, where I was able to think reasonably once more, I gave myself up to analytical thought, and concluded that Adolf Hitler wasn't as great as Bismarck after all, that the content of his speech that afternoon was inclined to border on radicalism, and that his speech was greatly enhanced by the ideal conditions under which he spoke. However, even in the face of my sudden return to saneness, I was forced to admit that he was the greatest orator I had ever heard, and that while his personality was not akin to greatness, it was a dominating, compelling force that would play a salient role in the unfolding of the new German history. Whether for good or evil, it was a power that would be felt.

"GOING down to dinner that evening I was somewhat surprised to see an unusually large crowd in the lobby, and on making inquiry as to the cause of the congestion I was informed that Hitler and his contingent were staying at this hotel. I jokingly remarked to the hotel attendant with whom I was talking that I would like to meet this Herr Hitler. Without a moment's hesitation he told me that he thought it might be arranged, and not leaving me time to protest, made his way over to a group of Fascist leaders, brought one of them over to where I was standing, and told him I was an American student who was desirous of meeting Hitler if it could be arranged conveniently. The Fascist lieutenant greeted me with the precise military bow so often seen in Germany, and seemed to think it his duty to entertain me for the moment. He gave me a short outline of the political situation, and although his ideas were decidedly a la Hitler, I gleaned information that was of great interest to me inasmuch as I had now resolved to at least gain an understanding of Fascism and what it meant to the German nation. We had not been talking more than a very few minutes when Hitler himself, accompanied by his various aides and body guards, left the elevator and strode across the lobby. My newly made friend interrupted him in his march, saluted, and with marked deference and respect asked if he could be permitted to introduce "a young American scholar." (I take my bow.) And before I was aware of just what was happening, I was shaking the hand of Adolf Hitler, the would-be Dictator of Germany, and answering the casual questions which he politely asked. This whole incident did not take more than three minutes, but in that short time I availed myself of the limited opportunity of studying the man at close range and tried, funny as it may sound, to get an insight into his character.

"HITLER is a very handsome man. Of medium height and slender physique he does not make an imposing figure, but his confident carriage, and the manner in which he holds his head up in the air discount whatever physical faults he might have. He has straight black hair, a clear, browned skin, and dark eyes that seem to betray his every emotion. His thin-lipped mouth is bordered by a bristling Charlie Chaplin moustache, and his jaw, which seems out of proportion to the rest of his features, is alone evidence of the power, determination and resolution of the man. Had I not known to whom I was being introduced, I would have thought the man before me to be a mild-mannered, intelligent member of the upper middle classes, or perhaps a fairly successful business man. But instead of that, I had met "Handsome Adolf,'5" the super-romantic hero of Germany's innumerable romantic women, the recipient of countless "mash" notes and gifts from ladies of noble birth, all of whom, meaning women in general, he is said to detest. And while he is a delightful figure of romance to the opposite sex, the men find in him the consummate genius of leadership, hail him as their champion, boast of his great courage, and hold his methods of discipline in great respect. It is certainly an interesting paradox that the man who awakens the romantic hero love in women, as exemplified in the movie-star worship of the members of the fair sex, should at the same time arouse men from the bitterness of despair and hopelessness and cause them to recognize him as a dominant leader for whom they would gladly go to war. Hitler, being a subtle artist, fully understands the strings which he must pull to bring about the desired movements of his marionettes. His greatest instrument and almost never failing friend is his remarkable gift of oratory, and in discussions of a political nature he is almost invincible. A well-known German military official has said of him:' "If you are hostile to him you Continued from page 1 3 feel physically exhausted after resisting his talk. He takes control of the conversation from the instant it begins and never lets up.'' We have considered the man more or less from a human angle, now let us regard the facts of his life which led up to his prominence.

"ADOLF HITLER was born in 1889, in the small border town of Braunau in upper Austria of humble parents, and spent the early part of his life there following the trades of sign painting and carpentry, until, as a young man, he moved to Munich, a distance of one hundred miles from his home, where he began the study of architecture. At the advent of the world war, in 1914, he enlisted as a private, and served with distinction during the following four years, being once gassed and once wounded. At the conclusion of the struggle he made his headquarters in Munich once more, and in 1922 his political career began. Capitalizing upon his oratorical powers, he made impromptu speeches in the beer-halls of Munich, denouncing the post-war political regime and painting a picture of a futuristic Utopia. He also told his beer garden clientelle that American banks are controlled 99% by Jews (Attention Messrs. Morgan!), flayed the Monarchists, derided the Catholics, and treated the Socialists and Republicans with equally eloquent contempt. It was not long before the name of Hitler was well known throughout Bavaria, and it was a year later, that Hitler, with the backing of the beloved General LudendorfF, walked into a huge beer hall where a mass meeting was being held by several town officials, fired a couple of shots into the ceiling to gain silence, and proclaimed the National Revolution. He guaranteed safety for von Kahr, the presiding official, if he would accompany them from the hall, and within a few minutes talked him into joining the movement of the revolutionists. Hitler's forces filled the streets, but the next day von Kahr was visited by two decidedly anti-Hitler men in the persons of the Archbishop of Munich and Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, who succeeded in bringing him back to his senses. As a result, the city police were called out to clear the streets.  and a sharp machine gun skirmish ensued between them and a detachment of Hitler's forces commanded by LudendorfF himself. The Hitlerites were routed, and Hitler and Ludendorff forced to flee from Munich. They were both apprehended however, and brought back for trial. Hitler made a speech to the jury, and for the first time his oratory was futile. He was sentenced to five years in prison by a weeping judge, and Ludendorff, because of his great war record was acquitted. Upon hearing the verdict, Ludendorff, arrayed in a colorful uniform, and bearing all his decorations, arose to his feet and said: "I consider that verdict an insult to the uniform I wear and a disgrace to the decorations of valor which the Fatherland has given me." The verdict remained as given, and Hitler went to prison while Ludendorff was freed. It is said that the prison officials wanted to give Hitler deaf prison guards for fear he would make a speech to them and gain his freedom.

"THE second and greatest stage of Hitler's political career began immediately after his release from prison, his sentence having been commuted after one year's servitude. Beginning in Thuringia,—the only province in which he was still allowed to make a public address,—and aided by the conditions of the times, he began to sow his political seed once more. After his conviction in Munich the world had laughed and proceeded to forget the pretentious "fanatic," who had caused such a stir, but in 1930, when, aided by one of the most serious depressions of all time, Hitler again came before the public eye, worldly opinion stopped to ponder and consider his case.

"In 1928 Hitler's party won 12 seats in the Reichstag, or less than 3 % of the seats in that body. In the September elections of 1930 the same party won 107 seats, or 20% of the total number, and became the second strongest party in the land. Hitler, who because of his service in the German army had lost his Austrian citizenship, and who had been refused German citizenship, was unable to have a seat in the Reichstag, but he controlled the movements of his party nevertheless. The speaking ban having been lifted, he, being unable to take part in the sessions of the Reichstag, now spends his time going from one city to the other framing his political ideas in gilt-edged words, and arousing the admiring shout of the poor, unemployed and desperate German citizen. He still preaches his pet sermon, but his powers of speech aid him in altering the form but not the structure of his theories.

"AND so today, this "man without a country" goes eternally "stumping," expounding his doctrines of anti-everything except the Dictatorshp of Adolf Hitler. He has 5,000,000 followers in Germany, who, when they are not occupied in having street brawls with Communists, are aiding in the furtherance of the Hitler program. Hitler says: "Disenfranchise the Jews; execute the profiteers; expel the dirty alien; repudiate Versailles and reparations; abolish department stores and force trade back to the small merchants; wipe away parasitical unearned incomes; BE GERMANS!"—and these thoughts are echoed throughout all of Germany by the five million adherents of the Hitler faith. Hunger and depression stimulate them, and the silver tongue of a political fanatic acts as a drug upon their confused minds and bodies.

"IN testifying at the trial of three Reichswehr officers in Leipzig, Hitler took the opportunity boldly to outline his plans for the future. He stated that there would be a revolution, the Republic over-thrown, treaties repudiated, Dictatorship set up, and that when a tribunal of the people was formed to judge those who were responsible for the formation of the Republic in 1918, "Germany would see heads rolling in the sand!"

"Thus is the house of Hitler constructed. But it is a house founded on depression and hard times, a house that the first wind of prosperity will topple over, for even now it's foundation trembles under the load above it. And its master? He too will fall where he has dominated, but he will leave his impression on the entire world as a leader, as an organizer, as a fighter. The greatest thing that could be said about him, however, might well be inscribed on his tombstone —

"Adolf Hitler—Orator." "

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