Sunday, August 19, 2007

On this day 73 years ago, Hitler was elected Fuhrer by 90% of the electorate- how did this happen?

On August 19, 1934, the vast majority of German voters gave Adolph Hitler sweeping dictatorial powers, electing him as "Fuhrer," or absolute ruler.

The next day, The New York Times published an article about Hitler’s victory, with a view of the actual newspaper article available here.

I’m not attempting to compare President George W. Bush with Adolph Hitler. I’m interested in what was going on in Germany, in the early 1930's, when it had a democratic parlimentary republic, that prompted 9 out of 10 Germans to cast votes in support of a dictator.

Wikipedia, in the section Hitler's rise to power, states, “The political turning point for Hitler came when the Great Depression hit Germany in 1930…. The new Chancellor, Heinrich BrĂ¼ning of the Roman Catholic Centre Party, lacking a majority in parliament, had to implement his measures through the president's emergency decrees. Tolerated by the majority of parties, the exception soon became the rule and paved the way for authoritarian forms of government.” [bolding mine]

A national disaster, the Reichstag fire, helped consolidate Hitler’s power. From Hitler's rise to power, “…[O]n 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 to which the government reacted with the Reichstag Fire Decree of 28 February which suspended basic rights, including habeas corpus….”

I believe that Hitler was elected Fuhrer because of the rise of authoritarianism in Germany in the early 1930’s. I believe the United States is being dragged toward authoritarianism and away from a democratic future.

Two contemporary writers who share my opinion that about the rise of authoritarianism in the U.S. are Joe Conason and Scott Horton.

In Conason’s recently published book, IT CAN HAPPEN HERE - Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush, he quotes Sinclair Lewis, author of the well-known It Can't Happen Here, published in 1935: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.” I highly recommend that you read this book from cover to cover.

Scott Horton, a prolific blogger, posted The Gleichschaltung at Justice on May 1 of this year: “In the final days of the Weimar Republic, the party in power employed a conscious policy for the consolidation of their authority within the state bureaucracy and other social institutions. This policy was simple—it required silencing critics and ensuring that all positions of confidence were in the hands of persons who were true to the line of the party. For historians of the period, this process is known as the ‘Gleichschaltung’ or ‘synchronization.’ Is the process pursued by Alberto Gonzales and Karl Rove in the American Justice Department an American sort of Gleichschaltung”? Every day it seems that a stronger case can be made that it is.”

Horton was referring to the purging of US Attorneys by the Department of Justice, which is currently being investigated by Congress. Scott has been dogging this story for months, available at his Harper’s Magazine blog, No Comment.

(photo of Hitler at a Nazi rally in Nuremburg in 1928 - Wikipedia)


Jon Spitz said...

You shouldn't disclaim a comparison between Bush/Cheney and Hitlter since the comparison is diresct and obviopus. Bush/Cheney are Hitler's equal in terms of immorality and far more powerfull in terms of destructive capacity.

Gail Jonas said...

Jon, Thanks for the comment. My goal was not to distract people from my point, which was about the political climate that allowed a dictator to be elected, by focusing on Bush and Cheney as the current Hitlers.

My disclaimer was not intended to whitewash Bush and Cheney's actions, for which they need to be held accountable. I support impeachment of both of them as the proper process to expose their illegal and criminal actions.

Anonymous said...

Hitler was not elected. He was appointed Chancellor by Hindenburg. Soon after Hindenburg died and Hitler assumed power.