Is Trump Hitler Lite?

We Are living In Dangerous Times

Is Trump Hitler Lite?

Since at least August 2017 after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville I have been feeling a queasy familiarity between Donald Trump and Adolph Hitler. After marchers chanted, “The Jews will not replace us” and Trump saying,” there were good people on both sides” the idea has constantly resonated within me.

It is not something I shared widely or loudly. I feared I may be exaggerating. Maybe it was personal histrionics? Was it just my visceral dislike of the man that was leading me down this pathway?

When others even hinted at his fascistic tendencies, we would hear his apologists in the community at large and in the Jewish community remind us that he had Jewish grandchildren. Other defenders shook it off as theater. “It is the way he speaks, but even he does not take it seriously. He is an entertainer, a tv star who knows how to put on a good show, but he really knows better.”

They ignored his dog whistles or denied that they were dog whistles. After all, how could the head of the United States be a racist?

Hangers on and sycophants grew in numbers as they sensed they could get closer to power through him, or could use him to enrich themselves. Giants were discarded and Lilliputians replaced them. The price of admission was blind loyalty to the man, and the rescinding of loyalty to the Constitution. Some thought they could serve as a brake on his idiocies for the sake of the country, but all of them left when they were no longer helpful or supportive of a deranged and very limited man.

There is a gentleman who has engaged me for four years in a heated debated of how wonderful Trump is for the Jews and especially for Israel, and as such overlooked his steady assault on our laws and civic values. Now is not the time to debate how good he really was for Israel in the end, though the Abrahamic accords are a major accomplishment, but as my 15 year old granddaughter said to me, “Zaydie I love Israel but I live in America and I can’t stand what he is doing to our country.” Out of the mouth of babes, and this was months ago, before she would see the national disgrace that was January 6, 2021.

So now it is time for me to share some of those Hitler echoes.

How did Hitler get into power?

It was the time of Weimar Republic and democracy. The loss of WW1 had left the country depressed and financially crippled. Conspiracy theories were circulating about how the government and the generals were responsible for losing. How else could the the great German army have lost?

Hitler was a third-rate local right wing leader who was looking for a way to get power. The country was terribly divided between the Communists on the left, the fascists on the right, but power was centralized in the middle.

In 1923 Hitler and his followers led an uprising in Munich called the Beer Hall Putsch . It was an attempt to take over the government of Bavaria. Hitler had led the Nazi Party since 1921, a fledgling party that was based on German Pride and Anti-Semitism.

He never said it this way, but he was basically promoting, Make Germany Great Again. Others had weakened Germany and could not be trusted. They had sold out their country in the Treaty of Versailles. This putsch or coup that he lead failed and Hitler was sentenced to 5 years in prison , but the fix was in and he spent only months in jail, just long enough to write Mein Kompf.

The putsch and the subsequent trial made Hitler into a national figure. After jail he worked at building the Nazi party and gaining power through political methods. In 1933 he was elected Chancellor of Germany, but with checks and balances that held him under control. Four weeks later a fire broke out in the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building. Hitler blamed a communist for setting the fire and though he would be found to have acted alone, Hitler used the fire to pass the Reichstag Fire Decree the next day. The decree nullified many civil liberties in Germany. With the communists not allowed to sit in the government Hitler had no checks left on him. He could legally imprison his enemies, and suppress publications he considered to be not friendly to the Nazi party and their agenda. From this emerged the one-party Nazi party rule.

To rephrase this into modern American parlance he closed fake news sources, used his judiciary to go after his personal and political enemies, and inflicted executive rulings on the public. He installed his personal party loyalists in power, and brought his personal troops who were all loyal to him into the military. Between fear and lust for power more and more people rejected all their previous history and values to pledge undying loyalty to him. You didn’t raise your arm in salute to the country, but rather Heil Hitler.

Whenever Trump had a rally, I kept seeing a Hitler rally redux. Switch the red MAGA hat for a black swastika arm band. Switch the orange but charismatic buffoon with a big chip on his shoulder and a big bag of grievances, lies and conspiracy theories, for a short man with a funny hair do and a unique moustache, shrieking out at massive crowds about how the country had been sold out by disloyal Germans, including the Jews, the communists and the Generals. Listen to both crowds yell over and over,” Zig Heil, or Lock Her Up”. Anything longer would have challenged either crowd’s intellectual capacities.

When I saw a man from the mob in Washington, ascend a scaffold to be raised to the flagpole at the Capitol building, and attempt to replace the stars and stripes with a Trump flag I knew I had been right all along. We were seeing another coming of Adolph Hitler.

When I saw a picture of a man in the capitol building wearing a shirt that said,” Camp Auschwitz” I knew that I has not been wrong. But there was one difference!

This was still the United States of America and not Nazi Germany. At least not yet. With half of the congressional Republicans voting to overturn Biden’s election we are no where near out of the woods.

What if another Trump type comes along to lead these people, but this time he is smart, strategic, successful, a historic winner and not a pathetic loser like Donald J Trump? Then what happens?

75 million people voted for Trump. They are not going away, and I am not sure they are prepared to hear anything objectively true. They are victims of the big lie; the lie you repeat over and over again until they believe it.

Trump is the best liar I have ever seen but he won’t be the last one. President Biden has a lot on his plate, and I don’t envy him one bit, but somewhere in his term he will have to find a way to bring us together, to make us trust again and to discern between a lie and the truth or we may well be headed down a dark and scary road. Perhaps the shame of yesterday may cause 50 million or more Trump supporters to pause for a moment and to ask themselves how while fundamentally disagreeing on political philosophy and positions, there might be a way for civil discourse and dialogue.

Our differences may seem chasm like but imagine how small they would be if the alternative was living under a fascistic government. We can only hope that our greater angels are stronger than our demonic capacity so that as we say on Passover in our prayer for dew,

“For life and not for death”.

Amen

I am a retired Conservative Rabbi. I was a pulpit Rabbi for 40 years. I supervise a chain of kosher Delis called Ben's .