One of the most frequently asked question asked is, “How come Hitler?” Looking back, from our perspective, it does seem a puzzle. Some of that is answered by as anti-Semitic as Germany was, it’s not like he ran on a, “let’s exterminate the Jews,” platform from the start. Another answer refers to how Nazism’s excesses, or the public’s awareness of them, came on slowly, the old “first they came for the…” and slow to boil frog analogies seem quite fitting here. Add to this how inspiring, upbeat, Hitler was. He did lift Germany up economically. He did fix infrastructure, build new roads, get big industry back on what eventually became fascistic feet. Who was impressed? Well. the British prime minister at the time was so impressed, when he visited, he proudly took away a signed portrait. Underneath all this the frog, of course, was getting hotter and hotter.
Unmentioned, however, is one of the most likely, most powerful, and very scary, explanations. Looked at uncritically, yet logically, it simply made sense economically. I’ll leave the more current comparisons; then the finger pointing, the inevitable framing, to my readers.
You have to look back at the nightmare that was the 1930s: a worldwide depression. Compared to post WWI Germany the rest of the world’s economic picture may have seemed slightly more rosy. Franklin Roosevelt winning was a bit of an anomaly if you only consider policy. In a time when businesses were dying, unemployment horribly high and Wall Street beyond panic, the idea of holding the “royalists” feet to the fire must have seemed counter intuitive. Spending a lot of money on public works programs certainly must have seemed like tossing good money at make work programs, and over taxing a public already in distress: just the opposite of what the situation required.
Whereas National Socialism, which offers a hand in hand, big business friendly, approach would seem quite attractive: more business therefore more jobs from the private sector.
Never you mind who was pushing it. That’s hindsight. A lot of his excesses were yet to be revealed. Like supporters assaulting someone who dares question the almighty Trump, just gloss over, or shrug at, the Brownshirt-like bullies beating on people. Just remember the fact that Hitler sucked Germany in with his upbeat approach at first. There were no,”let’s experiment on those with infirmities until they die horrible deaths,” slogans.
Helping to propel this: hate and blame. The Jews, those who were a “burden,” immigrants, the gays, Germans framed as unpatriotic; not really “true” Germans, they were to all to blame for the not so fine mess Germany was in. Hating them, getting rid of them, not letting them in, was legitimized. The economic hell that was Germany had become a nation-sized, nitroglycerin volatile, ammunition dump, hate the gasoline poured, politicians, like Hitler, were matches.
Meanwhile, back in America, there have been many predictions of economic hell coming soon, maybe as soon as this year. I tend to be skeptical. I find doomsayers tend to have almost the same poor record for accuracy as those who predict when Jesus will return riding his mythical Puff the Magic Dragon-like dinosaur.
But if they’re right, if the timing is just right, this could be the year we choose between a more Roosevelt-like direction, or more Hitler.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 40 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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