How America Is Becoming Nazi Germany

3 lessons from two books: Weimar Germany and Berlin In Lights

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A George Grosz drawing in the diary of Harry Kessler, 13 October 1930.

Germany faced a Nazi coup in 1923, tried to move on, and ended up completely decapitated by 1933. America has reacted to its coup even less than Weimar Germany and is somehow expecting different results. I say this not as a prediction but a warning. America today is in the calm before Der Stürmer.

It’s important to remember how much time passed between Adolf Hitler’s failed putsch and Germany’s failed democracy. Ten long years, some of them good. American is in those strange twilight years now. The fascists seem gone, the government seem good enough, things seem stable. But things are not stable. The reforms are not good enough. The fascists are not gone.

Instead, fascism is picking away at their democracy, chattering away across their media, and just waiting in the wings. One violent shock, one change of power is all it takes. When the other side decides they don’t want to take turns anymore, suddenly the game changes. Now the fascists only have to be lucky once. Now the forces of democracy have to be lucky every time.

Americans would be wise to learn from history, because it’s rhyming hard. These are three lessons from the books Weimar Germany by Eric D. Weitz (a history) and Berlin In Lights by Harry Kessler (a diary). The resonance is terrifying.

1) Antidemocracy

If your democracy includes people that want to destroy it, pretty soon it will be destroyed. In Weimar Germany, the forces of democracy tried to govern with antidemocrats. It did not work out well.

1.1) What is antidemocracy?

Note that I’m saying antidemocrats and not fascists. The historian Weitz doesn’t actually blame Hitler. He blames the entire right wing, including many of Germany’s military, industrial, and intellectual elites. These are people who worked within a democracy, but fundamentally didn’t believe in it. They came from an authoritarian tradition, and authoritarian they remained. In the end, these people handed the Republic to Hitler on a platter.

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indi.ca

Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at www.indi.ca, or just email me at indi@indi.ca.