What I learned from a friend who was a former German Nazi member is relevant to the current political situation in our country.

My father served in England and then in France and Belgium during World War II. After the war, he was stationed in Germany. My parents became friends with a German secretary, who worked in my dad’s office, and her husband. Years later, I met them when my dad was again stationed in Germany. Hans had joined the Nazi Party in order to obtain a job as an engineer. He shared with me that he felt that part of the reason that Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany was that the Germans were not able to discern the danger of his rhetoric until it was too late. Hans strongly advocated that kids be given an education encouraging questions and skepticism, taught the lessons, not just the facts of history, and to not ignore negative behavior by assuming that the leader knows best.

Whenever I listen to Donald Trump speak, I cringe at the similarities between him and Hitler. Hitler promised to make Germany great again. Hitler blamed minorities for the plight of their economy. Hitler stoked fear of people of a different religion. Hitler incited violence toward innocents and dissenters. Hitler had no sympathy for people with disabilities. You know where all this hatred led. Hitler did not make Germany great again.

It is understandable that the Germans were resentful, fearful and angry. Their economy was in shambles. Much of their country had been divvied up and ceded to other countries. They feared they could not recover. Hitler told them what they wanted to hear. He received 32 percent of the vote, and won the election.

So, what did I learn from a family friend who was a former Nazi? Hans taught me the importance of applying the lessons learned from history so that we can recognize the signs of a dangerous leader — narcissism, demagoguery, authoritarianism, easy detail-free answers, scapegoating ethnic and religious minorities, promoting violence (offering to pay legal expenses for supporters beating up American protesters, warning about riots if things don’t go his way at the convention), not taking responsibility for making untrue statements, “it wasn’t me” answers to wheedle out of responsibility, a history of playing people with lies and broken promises.

Hitler led his angry followers and his country into a disaster. Living in a free, open, democratic society takes courage. An authoritarian leader can assure people that their need for physical and economic security will be guaranteed, but the price is freedom. We have a choice. In our time, the Russian people have chosen security over freedom by electing Vladimir Putin. The Hitler/Putin/Trump security-over-freedom model is not the right path for our country. And it won’t ultimately lead to security or greatness.

Marguerite Wilson

writes from Braddock Heights.

(10) comments

Jim Hartley

Very well done, Ms. Wilson. Well reasoned and clearly written. Thank you, you do us an important service.

jerseygrl42

Marge, your description of a dangerous leader is an almost exact description of the JV living in our WH the past 7+ years ...well done and I'll bet you voted for him twice

b1sellers

That is a lie. Your blind support of Trump is scary.

threecents

Jersey, I picked one description at random from the LTE,"Hitler blamed minorities for the plight of their economy." So, Jersey, unless you are thinking of republicans as a majority, I think you misspoke, or perhaps B1 is correct.

threecents

Sorry, I meant republicans as a minority, not majority.

vicdavy

Great Letter! Trump has a complete collection of Hitler's speeches according to Ivana Trump,circa 1990. Trump suffers the same kind of megalomania that Hitler suffered from except Hitler was smarter.

gary4books

My favorite quote about Hitler came from Mad Magazine: "Hitler was popular in Germany because he lied to the people. What did he lie about? he said they would win the war."

Blueline

Marguerite - a few points to ponder. Hitler demonized a sector of the population for controlling the money. His mantra was that they had "stolen" money from the rest, and were responsible for others' plight. The German gov't came to control the education system, and children were raised by the state. Labor & unions were tied directly to the Party, so party members got the best jobs and came to control the state-based economy. Any opposing opinions were suppressed. As you say, we have history to show how this all worked out.

Dwasserba

So lucid and comprehensible. Thank you.

threecents

Unlike Hitler, Trump does not plan to conquer the world. The much better analogy is with Putin, though Putin actually had government experience prior to prior to trying to lead it.

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