Nazi Tactics in 1933

When the Nazis first came to power, they quickly needed to solidify their position. They had come to power due to populist uprisings, and their leader’s unconventional approach. Once in office, they moved quickly to find scapegoats for the plight of the people. Hitler had spent decades convincing himself that Germany’s problem were the Jews. In 1933, there were 522,000 Jews in Germany.

The government began publicly vilifying the Jews. At first, those who stood up for them were labeled “anti-German” and unpatriotic. After all, Hitler’s entire motive was to “make Germany great again” and if you spoke out against the legality of what he was doing, you were obviously working against the welfare of the German people.

While initially this went on simply as public bullying, it quickly became illegal, not by law, but by decree. Hitler simply ordered the police and other law enforcement authorities to start arresting those that spoke out for the Jews, or acted to help them.

The people went along with this, because after hearing often enough, loudly enough, publicly enough, and long enough, that the Jews were the problem, they believed it.

Pretty soon the people turned against those that spoke out, labeling them initially as unpatriotic, later as criminals, and finally as traitors.

This was all propagated by feeding targeted propaganda to the people. News media were criticized if they reported the facts and the truth. Eventually they were censored to fit the message of the state, and dissenting news was eventually banned. The government turned the people against the media.

And so it all started. We know how it ended. 50 million people dead worldwide.

The Big Lie

Make your lie big, and bold, and repeat it often, and people will believe it, because they can’t fathom that you might just make it all up.

The above is my paraphrasing of “Die Große Lüge” in Mein Kampf by Adolph Hitler. Read more about it here.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

I cannot state enough times how important it is for every citizen of the world to read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. It should be required reading for humanity.

— Norbert Haupt

After Hitler was democratically elected in January 1933, he quickly and illegally took dictatorial powers. His empire lasted only 12 years, from the illustrious and promising start, to the utter destruction of most of Europe, and especially Germany, the “fatherland” he wanted to make great again. He directly killed 11 million people in death camps and indirectly caused the deaths of 60 million people worldwide, about 3% of the world’s population in 1940.

Right now would be a great time to read Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I did so in 2012, and here is my review. It is a very long book, but worth every minute. It is the best history book I have ever read.

However, if you only have a couple of hours, rather than a couple of months, then you might like to read Jimmy Coca’s book instead. Quick and dirty, and all the facts you need.

Hitler’s Rise to Power

After Chancellor Papen left office, he secretly told Hitler that he still held considerable sway with President Hindenburg and that he would make Hitler chancellor as long as he, Papen, could be the vice chancellor.

On 30 January 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of a coalition government of the NSDAP-DNVP Party. The SA and SS led torchlight parades throughout Berlin. In the coalition government, three members of the cabinet were Nazis: Hitler, Wilhelm Frick (Minister of the Interior) and Hermann Göring (Minister Without Portfolio).

With Germans who opposed Nazism failing to unite against it, Hitler soon moved to consolidate absolute power.

Having become Chancellor, Hitler foiled all attempts by his opponents to gain a majority in parliament. Because no single party could gain a majority, Hitler persuaded President Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag again.

Elections were scheduled for early March, but on 27 February 1933, the Reichstag building was set on fire. Since a Dutch independent communist was found in the building, the fire was blamed on a communist plot.

The government reacted with the Reichstag Fire Decree of 28 February which suspended basic rights, including habeas corpus. Under the provisions of this decree, the German Communist Party (KPD) and other groups were suppressed, and Communist functionaries and deputies were arrested, forced to flee, or murdered.

Campaigning continued, with the Nazis making use of paramilitary violence, anti-communist hysteria, and the government’s resources for propaganda.

— Coca, Jimmy. Adolf Hitler Biography: The life and Death of The Führer of Germany (Kindle Locations 555-571).

As can be seen here, Hitler took power with a minority of the votes. He then used fear and hatred, had his thugs set fire to the Reichstag (the German equivalent of the U.S. Capitol) and blamed it on communists. This enabled him to move quickly and grab absolute power. In the background, his supporters campaigned, hassled minorities and created terror. The entire country was in fear.

Within a month of taking office, he held absolute power, all opposition was eliminated, arrested, killed or tyrannized. All was unconstitutional, but what did that matter to him at that point?


The Political Outsider’s Playbook

Position yourself as the outsider.

Pick a single scapegoat for all your country’s problems.

Give fiery, incendiary speeches, providing the solution of eliminating that scapegoat.

Keep telling the people it’s not about you, it’s about making your country great again.

Get yourself elected by telling the people what they want to hear, regardless of what you actually believe or stand for.

Once elected, immediately install strong ideologists in key positions of your government.

Once in power, create some terrorist event that gives you an excuse to usurp unconstitutional powers.

Start arresting your opponents in powerful positions.

Start arresting any people that disagree with you.

— the rise of Hitler, Germany 1933

Die Große Lüge -The Big Lie

Hitler is often credited with the saying that if you say a big enough lie, and you repeat it frequently, it will be believed.

Die Große Lüge ist eine Propagandatechnik, die in der Propagierung einer Lüge besteht, die aufgrund ihrer Größe und Unverschämtheit von vielen geglaubt wird, da „an die Möglichkeit einer so ungeheuren Frechheit der infamsten Verdrehung“[ nicht geglaubt werden kann.

— Metapedia

Here is the original source of this statement from Mein Kampf. For those of you that can’t read German, it’s rambling and convoluted.

„[…] daß in der Größe der Lüge immer ein gewisser Faktor des Geglaubtwerdens liegt, da die breite Masse eines Volkes im tiefsten Grunde ihres Herzens leichter verdorben als bewußt und absichtlich schlecht sein wird, mithin bei der primitiven Einfalt ihres Gemütes einer großen Lüge leichter zum Opfer fällt als einer kleinen, da sie selber ja wohl manchmal im kleinen lügt, jedoch vor zu großen Lügen sich doch zu sehr schämen würde. Eine solche Unwahrheit wird ihr gar nicht in den Kopf kommen, und sie wird an die Möglichkeit einer so ungeheuren Frechheit der infamsten Verdrehung auch bei anderen nicht glauben können, ja selbst bei Aufklärung darüber noch lange zweifeln und schwanken und wenigstens irgendeine Ursache doch noch als wahr annehmen; daher denn auch von der frechsten Lüge immer noch etwas übrig und hängen bleiben wird – eine Tatsache, die alle großen Lügenkünstler und Lügenvereine dieser Welt nur zu genau kennen und deshalb auch niederträchtig zur Anwendung bringen.“

— Metapedia

It says: Make your lie big, and bold, and repeat it often, and people will believe it, because they can’t fathom that you might just make it all up.

How Could Hitler Have Happened?

In 1933, Germany was a nation of 67 million people. It was one of the world’s most industrialized nations, with a highly educated population, and many renowned writers, philosophers, artists, industrialists and scientists.

Then they elected Hitler, a megalomaniac dictator with goofball pseudoscientific convictions and a definite mean streak, to the highest office in the land.

In only 12 years in power, he caused a world war that caused the deaths of between 50 and 80 million people, left Europe in ruins, and resulted in the total destruction of Germany, his own country.

How was it possible that such a nation voluntarily put such a man in power?

Now I know.

Parallels from History – It’s Called Holocaust

Trump said: There should be systems to track Muslims. He is suggesting that we issue ID cards to Muslims.

When WW II broke out, we imprisoned innocent Japanese people in the United States. Our leadership and our media are all frothing at the mouth because Muslim extremists have killed hundreds of people in France.

That is tragic. Out-of-control terrorism is tragic. But for our nation to get all worked up about one religious minority and lump them all in with terrorists is outrageous.

Hitler did just that in 1933. The German people were suffering economically. Hitler, pretty much on his own, decided that it was the fault of the Jews (a religious minority) and then he systematically started persecuting this minority.

Eventually they had to carry IDs (a yellow star on their clothing), just like Trump is now suggesting we do with Muslims (carry an ID). If I were a Muslim, I would be deeply, deeply offended, that a clown like Trump can accuse me on national TV of being suspicious of terrorism and introduce measures where I have to publicly identify myself as part of a religious or ethnic group.

Forming special badges or IDs for a religious group does not end well.

We call it Holocaust.

The Slippery Slide of How Fascism Starts

[Credit: Melina Mara/The Washington Post/Getty Images ]

So two yahoos from Southie in my hometown of Boston severely beat up a Hispanic homeless guy earlier this week. While being arrested, one of the brothers reportedly told police that “Donald Trump was right, all of these illegals need to be deported.”

Rolling Stone, Aug 21, 2015

Then, further in the article, here is what Trump is quoted as saying:

“I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country. They want this country to be great again. But they are very passionate. I will say that.”

Statements like these, and movements like these, have often in history been the beginnings of very bad eventual outcomes.

For example, in the 1920s, Germany was not doing very well. The economy was a disaster, people were hungry, humiliated from World War I, and hopeless. Decades of abuse by bad leadership had created a vacuum.

Then came an unlikely little man with a powerful speaking voice. Whenever he spoke, he incited passion in his listeners. He spoke of new hope, of national pride, of honor, of making his country great again. He also started to spread the seeds that much of the economic demise of the country was due to the Jews.

With his upbeat and passionate message, he gathered more and more followers and eventually he managed to get himself elected through crafty and actually illegal maneuverings.

Within weeks of being elected, he outlawed other political parties and systematically took over police and security. Suddenly, those that earlier were just blamed for the demise of the country, no longer had the protection of the system. The police had turned against them. Jews started to flee while they still could.

But the country was “becoming great again.” There were massive public works projects and everyone was employed. Industry boomed. The people were proud. The country hosted the 1936 Olympics. The people were passionately behind their leader, their Führer.

Pretty soon, Jews could openly be abused, beaten, robbed, raped and killed without any recourse. The German Third Reich was supposed to last 1000 years, yet it rose for only about six or eight, and then went down in a spectacular firestorm of world-wide disastrous proportions. As we so say, the rest is history.

But let’s remember how it all started.

There was a man who fired up his listeners. They came to listen to him to beer halls and stadiums by the hundreds first, then by the thousands, and always left with fire in their bellies.

There was a man who said he knew how to make the country great again, and he started cranking the economic engine unlike anything seen before. He kept saying he knew what he was doing.

There was a man who, probably with all good intention, thought he had figured it all out: It was the fault of the Jews. Too many of them were usurping the power and money from the country and its people.

Trump does all those things today. He says that 7.5% of all births in the United States are by illegal parents and he wants to take away the birthrights of those United States citizens. Note that he is already setting himself up to perform illegal acts, all in the name of the country. After all, we’re being “stupid, right?” And his listeners with fire in their bellies applaud.

By targeting illegals, he is creating an atmosphere of making them at least one of the scapegoats of our demise. It’s the Mexicans’ fault. Whether those “Mexicans” are illegal or legal, you can’t tell from the outside. So an entire class of our society is becoming a target of hate without any solid ground. When idiots like the guys in Boston (article above) beat up immigrants, Trump, rather than being outraged like any decent citizen would be, he dismisses it as “passionate” and thus we have it:

A leader is officially condoning violence against an arbitrary subset of the population that he has identified as being “the problem” of the country that we all must make great again. He is encouraging this behavior.

It’s beginnings like these that have paved the road for some of history’s greatest thugs, it’s beginnings like these that have resulted in entire countries of decent, hard-working, pious people being hijacked and forced to commit unspeakable crimes and atrocities, all in the name of country and leader.

This is how it starts.

Just saying.

Full disclosure: I am an immigrant.

Pretexts for Invading Sovereign Nations

Hitler invaded and annexed Austria on March 12, 1938. He told the country that it had to be done because Germans in Austria were in danger.

Between October 1 and October 10, 1938, German troops invaded the Sudetenland, the north-western border areas of Czechoslovakia. The pretext was that 3.5 million ethnic Germans suffered privations at the hands of the Czechs. Once in the country, he quickly advanced further and on March 15, 1939, Hitler moved into the balance of Czechoslovakia and the country ceased to exist.

Soon after, on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and that date was the official start of World War II. The pretext, again, was that there were Germans being discriminated against by the Poles. By that time, however, Hitler really didn’t worry so much about his rationalizations. He believed he needed Lebensraum (living space) and Poland was populated by the Slavs, who were, according to him, an inferior race and deserved being enslaved.

In March 2014, Russian troops invade the Crimea, a territory of the Ukraine. The pretext: There are ethnic Russians in the Ukraine who are being mistreated and abused by the Ukrainians.

Claiming this pretext seems like a really effective way to convince ones own country to support an invasion of a neighboring country. Putin is a good student of history.

No More Wars

The world has to listen to American saber-rattling once again. This time it’s Obama who has got himself into the unenviable position of having drawn a line in the sand which has subsequently been crossed. What to do?

We are not learning from history. We get involved in foreign countries that:

  1. We don’t understand
  2. Don’t respect us
  3. Don’t want us there
  4. See us as the imperialists which we obviously are.

Then we kill many innocent people by using massive and blunt weapons (of mass destruction).

Afterwards, we try to rebuild nations amidst enemies of all creeds.

Above all, we’re spending billions of dollars we don’t have, money you and I pay in taxes every month.

We did it in Korea, Vietnam, the Balkans, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya – and those are only the ones I can think of right now.

We just need to stop messing with the problems of other countries that we can’t fix and don’t understand.

Of course, to be fair, I have contradict myself here:

Hitler could easily have been stopped in the years between 1935  and 1939, when the British, the French and the U.S. were dilly-dallying, trying to stay out of a war that could easily have been prevented by ousting a dictator, a war that eventually cost over 50 million lives.

Is the right solution to oust another dictator?

Book Review: Winter of the World – by Ken Follett

Winter of the WorldDid you ever wonder how communism arose in the Soviet Union and how it became so compelling for so many people in so many countries for such a long time?

Did you ever want to learn how exactly East Germany came about? What was going on with the German people that caused them to split up the nation?

Did you ever wonder how Nazism could possibly arise in an educated, civilized country and how it came to corrupt the government, law enforcement, the judicial system, and eventually the military?

Reading Winter of the World, the second book of Follett’s Century Trilogy, answers these questions and many others. The book follows events that led up to World War II, and then guides the reader through the war and the first post-war years. It makes world history come to life in front of his eyes, just like Fall of Giants, the first book of the trilogy, did.

The characters in Winter of the World are in some cases the same as the protagonists we got to know in Fall of Giants. Earl Fitzherbert in England is still in charge of Ty Gwyn, and his sister Maud is living in Germany with her husband Walter. The elder Williamses are still alive. But they are no longer the main characters. Rather, the story is carried by their children. Boy Fitzherbert and his illegitimate brother Lloyd Williams are main characters from England.

The Buffalo Peshkov family, now led by the gangster-like Lev plays a pivotal role and connects the American contingent with the Russian roots. Lev’s daughter Daisy is a key contributor to the story. Lev’s illegitimate son Greg works for the United States government in intelligence, and his, unbeknownst to him, half-brother Volodya Peshkov is a Red Army Intelligence officer. Grigory Peshkov, his father, is a general and close adviser to Stalin. I found Volodya’s observation of communism, Stalin and his murderous regime, as well as his view of the American system most interesting. It helped me understand how the Soviet empire came about.

Then there is the American Dewar family, where Woody Dewar, Gus’ son, plays the most pivotal role. On the American side we learn about Pearl Harbor and how it forced America into the war.

In Germany, the van Ulrich family, particularly their younger daughter Carla, teach us about what life was like in Berlin, under the yoke of the Gestapo, behind the curtain of Germany, then the evil empire. Carla’s brother Eric illustrates how young German men could possibly be convinced to go to war and attack neighboring countries, looting and raping them until nothing was left.

Closing the loop back in England, there is also Ethel Leckwith, formerly Williams, Dai’s daughter and Billy’s sister. Both Ethel and Billy end up as English Members of Parliament.

The middle of the last century is spread wide open and through the actions and challenges of these six major families and their interconnections, Follett presents a history lesson as riveting as any epic novel.

He writes in a very simple language, which is easy to read and which makes it hard to put the book down, although it’s 940 tightly written pages in hardcover. This is like reading War and Peace or Count of Monte Cristo – or Follett’s own Pillars of the Earth – in other words: a massive reading undertaking.

But I never noticed, besides the experience that it took me a lot longer to read this than other books. When I was done, I was sorry I had to leave all the people I got to know so well. I can’t wait for the third book now.

Rating: ****

Book Review: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – by William Shirer

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is – by far – the longest book I have ever read. Longer than Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, longer than Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. It seems like I have been reading this book – FOREVER. And it’s a non-fiction book!

While it drowned out all my reading and occupied all my spare time, its 1143 pages of small print captivated my attention, spellbound me, drove me to google images of the key players, review historical accounts, look up other books on the subject and dig into fringe Internet sites like those of Holocaust denial movements. I collected enough materials to write many more blog posts on the subject.

Since I always read before going to sleep, sometimes my dreams were deeply disturbed. When I turned the last page today of Shirer’s afterword, I was relieved. This was hard work, it was consuming.

Shirer starts telling the story of Adolf Hitler, with that of his parents and grandparents in Austria in the latter part of the 1800s. All through the story, of course, I knew how it ends, but I never knew any of the details. Shirer was actually present in Germany during the early years of the Nazi regime and he was often in the room – or in the arena – when Hitler spoke. As he told the story of the Third Reich, he guided me through conversations and events, making me feel like the proverbial fly on the wall when momentous things were going on. He showed events from the perspective of the German perpetrators, every step of the way, memo for memo, order for order, phone call for phone call, speech for speech.

Reading Rise and Fall laid open for me how disastrous this period of history was for Germany and for the world. I always knew it was bad. However, it was much, much, much worse than my worst nightmares could have played out. I am now stunned, shocked, disturbed and astonished. Most importantly, I am motivated to learn more and to research and write further.

I regret only that I didn’t read this book when I was 18 years old. Why is it that as young people, with few exceptions, we are not very interested in politics and history? Somehow, for most of us, history does not captivate us until later in life.

When I was young, my paternal grandfather was still alive. He was born in Silesia 1905 and was in the war in Italy through 1945 as part of a German unit. He lived until 1987, and I am now kicking myself for not having talked to him – ever – about his views and his experiences of that terrible time. I was born only 11 years after the fall of Hitler, that’s a blink of an eye. That time of history affected me directly – and that’s another blog post.

I cannot state enough times how important it is for every citizen of the world to read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. It should be required reading for humanity.

Somebody should dictate that!

Rating - Four Stars