Fri Jan 9 20:10:09 2004

The Bush Hitler Thing
t r u t h o u t

Friday 09 January 2004

Dear Sir,

My family was one of Hitler's victims. We lost a lot
under the Nazi occupation, including an uncle who
died in the camps and a cousin killed by a booby

I was terrified when my father went ballistic after
finding my brother and me playing with a hand
grenade. (I was only 12 at the time, and my brother
insisted the grenade was safe.) I remember the
rubble and the hardships of 'austerity' - and the
bomb craters from Allied bombs. As late as the
1980s, I had to take detours while bombs were
being removed - they litter the countryside, buried
under parking lots,buildings, and in the canals and
rivers to this day. Believe me, I learned a lot about
Hitler while I was growing up, both in Europe and
here in the US - both my parents were in the war
and talked about it constantly, unlike most
American families. I spent my earliest years with
the second-hand fear that trickled down from their
PTSD - undiagnosed and untreated in those days.

I'm no expert on WWII - but I learned a lot about
what happened in Germany - and Europe - back in
those days. I always wondered how the wonderful
German people - so honest, decent, hard-working,
friendly, and generous - could ever allow such a
thing to happen. (There were camps near my
family's home - they still talk about them only in
hushed conspiratorial whispers.) I asked a lot of
questions - we were only a few kilometers from
the German border - and no one ever denied me.
My relatives had obviously spent a lot of time
thinking about the war - they still haven't forgotten
- I don't think anyone can forget such a horrible
nightmare. Among the questions I asked:

Why didn't you do anything about the people in the

Everyone was terrified. People 'disappeared' into
those camps. Sometimes the Nazis came and lined
everyone up, walking behind them - even school
children - with a cocked pistol. You never knew
when they would just shoot someone in the back
of the head. Everyone was terrified. Everyone was
disarmed - guns were registered, so all the Nazis
had to do was go from house to house and
demand the guns.

Didn't you see what was happening?

We saw. There was nothing we could do. Our
military had no modern weapons. The Nazis had
technology and resources - they just invaded and
took over - we were overwhelmed by their air
power. They had spies everywhere - people
spying on each other, just to have an 'ace in the
hole' in case they were accused - and anyone who
had a grudge against you could accuse you of
something - just an accusation meant you'd
disappear. Nobody dared ask where you had gone
- anyone who returned was considered suspicious
- what had they said, and who did they implicate?
It was a climate of fear - there's nothing anyone
can do when the government uses fear and
imprisonment to intimidate people. The
government was above the law - even in Germany,
it became 'every man for himself'. Advancement
was possible by exposing 'traitors' - anyone who
questioned the government. It didn't matter if the
people you accused were guilty or not - just the
accusation was enough.

Did anyone know what was going on?

We all knew. We imagined the worst because the
Nazis made 'examples' of a few people in every
town and village. Public torture and execution. The
most unspeakable atrocities were committed in
full view of everyone. If this is what happened in
public, can you imagine what might be going on in
the camps? Nobody wanted to know.

Why didn't the German people stop the Nazis?

Life was better, at first, under the Nazis. The war
machine invigorated the economy - men had jobs
again, and enough money to take care of their
family. New building projects were everywhere.
The shops were full again - and people could afford
good food, culture, and luxuries. Women could
stay home in comfort. Crime was reduced. Health
care improved. It was a rosy scenario - Hitler
brought order and prosperity. His policies won
widespread approval because life was better for
most Germans, after the misery of reparations and
inflation. The people liked the idea of removing the
worst elements of society - the gypsies, the
homosexuals, the petty criminals - it was easy to
elicit support for prosecuting the corrupt
'evil'people poisoning society. Every family was
proud of their hometown heroes - the
sharply-dressed soldiers they contributed to his
program - they were, after all,defending the
Fatherland. Continuing a proud tradition that had
been defeated and shamed after WWI, the soldiers
gave the feeling of power and success to the
proud families that showered them with praise and
support. Their early victories were reason to
celebrate - in spite of the fact that they faced
poorly armed inferior forces - further proof that
what they were doing was right, and the best thing
for the country. The news was full of stories about
their bravery and accomplishments against a vile
enemy. They were 'liberating' these countries from
their corrupt governments.

These are some of the answers I gleaned over the
years. As a child, I was fascinated with the Nazis. I
thought the German soldiers were really
something - that's how strong an impression they
made, even after the war. After all, they weren't
the ones committing war crimes - they were the
pride of their families and communities. It was just
the SS and Gestapo that were 'bad'. Now I know
better -but that pride in the military was a strong
factor for many years, only adding to the mystique
of military power - after all, my father had been a
soldier too, but in the American army. It took a
while to figure out the truth.

Every time I've gone back to Europe, someone has
taken me to the 'gardens of stone' - the Allied
cemeteries that dot the countryside. With great
sadness, my relatives would stand in abject
misery, remembering the nightmare, and asking
'Why?'. Maybe that's why they wouldn't support
the US invasion of Iraq. They knew war. They knew
occupation. And they knew resistance. I saw the
building where British flyers hid on their way back
to England - smuggled out by brave families that
risked the lives of everyone to help the Allies. As a
child, I had played in a basement, where the cow
lived under the house, as is common there. The
same place those flyers hid.

So why, now, when I hear GWB's speeches, do I
think of Hitler? Why have I drawn a parallel
between the Nazis and the present administration?
Just one small reason -the phrase 'Never forget'.
Never let this happen again. It is better to question
our government - because it really can happen
here - than to ignore the possibility.

So far, I've seen nothing to eliminate the
possibility that Bush is on the same course as
Hitler. And I've seen far too many analogies to
dismiss the possibility. The propaganda. The lies.
The rhetoric. The nationalism. The flag waving. The
pretext of 'preventive war'. The flaunting of
international law and international standards of
justice. The disappearances of 'undesirable' aliens.
The threats against protesters. The invasion of a
non-threatening sovereign nation. The occupation
of a hostile country. The promises of prosperity
and security. The spying on ordinary citizens. The
incitement to spy on one's neighbors - and report
them to the government. The arrogant triumphant
pride in military conquest. The honoring of
soldiers. The tributes to 'fallen warriors. The
diversion of money to the military. The
demonization of government appointed 'enemies'.
The establishment of 'Homeland Security'. The
dehumanization of 'foreigners'. The total lack of
interest in the victims of government policy. The
incarceration of the poor and mentally ill. The
growing prosperity from military ventures. The
illusion of 'goodness' and primacy. The new
einsatzgrupen forces. Assassination teams. Closed
extralegal internment camps. The militarization of
domestic police. Media blackout of non-approved
issues. Blacklisting of protesters - including the
no-fly lists and photographing dissenters at rallies.

There isn't much doubt in my mind - anyone who
compares the history of Hitler's rise to power and
the progression of recent events in the US cannot
avoid the parallels. It's incontrovertible. Is Bush
another Hitler? Maybe not, but with each
incriminating event, the parallel grows -it certainly
cannot be dismissed. There's too much evidence
already. Just as Hitler used American tactics to
plan and execute his reign, it looks as if Karl Rove
is reading Hitler's playbook to plan world
domination - and that is the stated intent of both.
From the Reichstag fire to the landing at
Nuremberg to the motto of "Gott Mit Uns" to the
unprovoked invasion and occupation of Iraq to the
insistence that peace was the ultimate goal, the
line is unbroken and unwavering.

I'm afraid now, that what may still come to pass is
a reign far more savage and barbaric than that of
the Nazis. Already, appeasement has been
fruitless - it only encourages the brazen to escalate
their arrogance and braggadocio. Americans
support Bush - by a generous majority - and mass
media sings his praises while indicting his
detractors - or silencing their opinions completely.
The American people seem to care only about the
domestic economic situation - and even in that,
they are in complete denial. They don't want to
hear about Iraq, and Afghanistan is already
forgotten. Even the Democratic opposition
supports the occupation of Iraq. Everyone seems
to agree that Saddam Hussein deserves to be
executed -with or without a trial. 'Visitors' are
fingerprinted. Guilty until proven innocent. Snipers
are on New York City rooftops. When do the
Stryker teams start appearing on American
streets? They're perfectly suited for 'Homeland
Security' - and they've had a trial run in Iraq. The
Constitution has been suspended - until further
notice. Dick Cheney just mentioned it may be for
decades - even a generation, as Rice asserts as
well. Is this the start of the 1000 year reign of this
new collection of thugs? So it would seem.

I can only hope that in the coming year there will
be some sign - some hint - that we are not
becoming that which we abhor. The Theory of the
Grotesque fares all too well these days. It may not
be Nazi Germany - it might be a lot worse.

SL | Wisconsin


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