customers always write. I get about 400 e-mails
in response to my columns every week, which might
explain why I didn't answer yours. Here, slightly
edited, is one of the more interesting ones from
last week. It's from Herr Moellers in Germany:
have many American friends and used to go on business
travel to the U.S. a lot (I stopped doing that
after even our European governments have given
in to Uncle Sam's appetite for information about
individuals traveling to God's Own Country), and
I am shocked by the deterioration of democracy
in a country that I used to love. This administration
is a shame and the destabilization they have brought
to the world is scaring the s** out of me.
father was a Nazi soldier and he realized during
the war what he and most of his generation was
led into. I have learned from him that a nation
can be guilty and that we must stop the arrogance
of the powers at the very beginning. To me, America
is becoming truly scary and the parallels to the
development in Germany of the thirties (although
the reason behind it are totally different) are
you for writing about this development. The world
is waiting for signs of opposition in the Unilateral
States of America!"
Moellers' e-mail is typical of a half dozen or
so I've received over the past year from people
with intimate knowledge of Nazi Germany.
respect experience, so I'm inclined to believe
what these people are telling me. Perhaps their
memories help explain the attitude of Germans
toward the Bush administration these days.
been there, they've done that. They know what
a corrupt government smells like.
are they "over the top"? Are they overreacting
to a normal swing of the pendulum in American
make a comparison between Germany in the 1930s
and America now, I relied on a Web site called
"A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust." The passages
in quotations below are taken from the site.
Adolf Hitler's ascendancy to the chancellorship,
the Nazi Party quickly consolidated its power.
Hitler managed to maintain a posture of legality
throughout the Nazification process."
by chance or design, George W. Bush is the most
powerful American president in modern history.
Not only does he have both houses of Congress
beholden to him, but the majority of the Supreme
Court is acting like a quintet of Bush lapdogs.
And it all appears legal.
during the next six years, Hitler completely transformed
Germany into a police state."
libertarians insist that this is happening here
now, with the USA Patriot Act in force and Patriot
II on the table.
engaged in a 'diplomatic revolution' by negotiating
with other European countries and publicly expressing
his strong desire for peace."
can accuse Bush of being overly diplomatic, but,
like all political leaders, he is an apostle for
peace, even while starting two wars during his
1933, the Reichstag, Germany's parliament building,
was burned to the ground. Nobody knows for sure
who set the fire. The Nazis blamed communists.
"This incident prompted Hitler[,then Germany's
chancellor,] to convince [German President Paul
von] Hindenburg to issue a Decree for the Protection
of People and State that granted Nazis sweeping
power to deal with the so-called emergency."
Reichstag fire parallels the Sept. 11 attacks
here, and Hindenburg's decree parallels our USA
after Hitler took power, the concentration camp
at Dachau was created and "the Nazis began arresting
Communists, Socialists and labor leaders ... .
Parliamentary democracy ended with the Reichstag
passage of the Enabling Act, which allowed the
government to issue laws without the Reichstag."
Bush leading all branches of government around
by the nose, there's a question whether parliamentary
democracy still exists here. Certainly, concentration
camps exist, if we're willing to call the lockup
at Guanténamo Bay what it really is. And the USA
Patriot Act allows the president to effectively
take citizenship rights from any American-born
anti-Semitic legislation and propaganda against
'Non-Aryans' was a thinly disguised attack against
anyone who had Jewish parents or grandparents.
Jews felt increasingly isolated from the rest
of German society."
comfortable do American-born Arabs feel in the
United States today?
the German concentration camps were being built
and Jews were being persecuted, in 1936 Nazi Germany
hosted the Olympic Games and put its best face
forward to the world. We have the Super Bowl.
the mid- to late 1930s, Germany was able to annex
nearby territories without firing a shot. That
was because of the threat of the German military,
the strongest in the world at the time. That might
be compared with the sudden flexibility of Iran,
Pakistan, Syria and Libya, all of whom are aware
that Bush will do more than just threaten; he'll
one is comparing then and now, I think the most
interesting factor is that most German Jews remained
in Germany until it was too late. They just couldn't
believe Hitler was as dangerous as some people
said he was. The more prescient Jews (most often
those who could afford to do so) got out, however.
came to power in 1933, but the killing of Jews
(and others) didn't begin until five years later,
in 1938, with the historic Kristallnacht ("Night
of Broken Glass") on Nov. 9. On that day, "nearly
1,000 synagogues were set on fire and 76 were
destroyed. More than 7,000 Jewish businesses and
homes were looted, about 100 Jews were killed,
and as many as 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent
to concentration camps to be tormented ... ."
haven't seen anything like that here, nor does
it appear to be one the horizon, yet one must
wonder about the hundreds shut away in Guanténamo
Bay and in other lockups in the United States
and throughout the world.
haven't space here to list all of the apparent
comparisons between then and now, but you can
see them for yourself by reading the teacher's
guide mentioned earlier.
conclusion is that some comparisons between modern
times and Nazi Germany are valid, and some are
not. Enough are valid, in my opinion, however,
for us to be wary, and as vigilant as humanly
happens in this year's election, I would hope
that Congress, the Supreme Court and the president
himself start reeling in the power of the presidency.
It has been expanding ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt,
if not before, and now it is way out of proportion
to what the Founding Fathers had in mind for our
system of checks and balances.
current president has the power to turn the world
into turmoil with a mere stroke of the pen. No
man should have that much power, no matter who
Sorensen is a longtime journalist. His column
appears Mondays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: January 27, 2004