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The Hitler Analogy – when is it acceptable?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on July 30, 2007

The current president’s policies seem to be an extension of his grandfather’s thinking. Bush’s latest string of Executive Orders are so disconcertingly undemocratic and un-American that even the Right-wing is growing leery. Last week, Bush signed an order that would enable him to seize the financial assets of anti-war activists. And in his most troubling move to date, on May 9, Bush signed an order that states that in the event of another terror attack on U.S. soil, the legislative and judicial branches of government would become subservient to the executive. This move is precisely how Hitler concretized his power following the Reichstag fire.

The Blog – JewSchool – raised an interesting question: “When is it okay to call someone a Nazi.?”

It is interesting because the comparison to Hitler and Nazism is most often used when a debater has no arguments left for their position. It is considered bad form to use the comparison, and in most Discussion Forums it is a sure discussion killer. See Godwin’s Law.

It has also been used as a hyperbolic propagandist argument against f.i Israeli politics in regards to the Palestinians, especially by debaters on the Far Left, who somehow think they gain points by using it as an insult.

The interesting part appears when one is able to draw direct political lines between events today and those in the 1930’s and 1940’s Germany. Like the Blogger manages to do in the above quote.

The Question raises another Question – how are we to learn from history, if references to historical events cannot be made? If Hitler, the Third Reich and the Holocaust take on sacrosanct proportions in the minds of people, don’t we then loose an instrument that can and should be used for education and raising awareness of similar events taking place in our own times? What about historical, sociological and philosophical analysis – how can that be conducted if the books on certain parts of history are hermetically closed due to sensitivities of some of the victims? Isn’t that just another denial? It seems like the the slogan “Never again!” has come to mean, not that it must never happen again, but that we must never think or speak about it again. For sure, we must not point out that history is about to repeat itself in some variation.

It has been argued that the events leading up to and resulting in the Third Reich in the 1930’s were so unique that no events can be compared to them, not before and not after.

But were they? Really? The misuse of power, the political machinations, the targeting of political undesirables, followed by elimination any possible dissent – are they unique to the Rise of the Third Reich?

What about the Soviet Union? Or China? Uganda, Mozambique, Iran, Turkey, Iraq?

How about the Serbian Rise in Former Yugoslavia?

I know that Europe woke up to the plight of the Muslims in Serbia after images eerily resembling those from Bergen Belsen and Auschwitz were aired on TV – but that was long into the massacre, and for many the realization of what was happening came too late.

Could those events have been predicted and intercepted if we had been allowed to believe that this kind of evil is repeatable, because it is NOT unique, because human evil is in fact very predictable? Would we not then also have been allowed to analyze and draw parallels between events in the 1930’s and 40’s and events unfurling in our own times?

I believe that not only do we need to let go of the “sanctification” of the Holocaust and the events that led up to it as something unique, but we need to go of the permanent victimization, not just of the Jewish People and all other that perished then, but of our collective innocence. It cannot be repaired, so we might as well accept that it is gone, and live with it, learn from its demise and grow up.

2 Responses to “The Hitler Analogy – when is it acceptable?”

  1. The problem is the denial, both the one implied in making the Third Reich into something “sacrosanct and alien” to human nature, and the denial that similar events can and does occur again and again.

    As long as we choose to put Hitler and his henchmen, his politics and his methods above or beneath human reality – we are indeed doomed to repeat history, doomed to keep denying.

    Some honesty, some courage and some will to see things for what they are, rather than what we wish them to be, goes a long way. But as long as the historical, sociological and philosophical analysis of history in relation to our own times are forbidden through a silent consensus – much similar to that of survivors of the Holocaust, or other human trauma, those that speak up are like voices in the wilderness.


  2. A guy addressed the below comment in another discussion:
    “Bush signed an order that would enable him to seize the financial assets of anti-war activists.”

    By saying:

    That legislation said nothing of the sort. If you are tied with an organization that contributes either money, or activities to a known terrorist group then you are no longer an anti-war protestor, you are now an enemy. it said nothing about protestors, nothing, zilch, nada.

    To which I replied:

    The issue is not what happened in after the Reichtag fire – the issue is the element of abusing power to circumvent democratic process and institutions, such as the Constitution, and the use of acts of terror to rile up fear and aggression. Those are the similarities I and the other Blogger are addressing.

    To deny the similarities, and the possible continuation along the same lines of similarity is to deny reality or perhaps living in an alternate reality.

    The other thing being discussed here is the “consensus of silence” in regards to Hitler and the reality of the Third Reich that makes it impossible or rather “forbidden” to relate any current events to the events of the Third Reich, so that actual learning from history is made a matter of mere words, not a reality.

    He then said:

    “You want me to believe that because of the fact that we have rounded up 775 possible terrorist suspsects, during a war, and kept them detained in Gitmo, that this puts us in the category of the Nazi?”

    I replied:

    Let me remind you that the war you are refering to is illegal, thus the detention of those 775 (+plus the ones being held elsewhere – how many they are we can only guess at) illegal, however much they are suspected terrorists.

    Besides – the dentention of “undesirables” in the Third Reich started with those Socialists that were openly opposed to Hitler’s Machtübernahme – in the Reichtag at the time. He started with small measures, that made later measures possible and plausible – he didn’t start with 6 million Jews and 5 million others…

    He decided to skirt my point – and I decided to address the point he made earlier about the legislation not being what it seems:

    You are addressing a quote from a Blog that I quoted – now, please, what is the POINT of my Blog Entry? I think it is quite clear from what I wrote that I am NOT addressing the single points, but a general idea – namely that of When is the Hitler Analogy acceptable?

    But I’ll address your point: I can easily see how this legislation can (and probably will at some point) be used to shut up f.i anti-war protesters.

    I am basing this on what? On the fact that several Swedish Citizens had all their assets frozen, including their monthly salary for more than a year, because they were organizing collections of money that were to be sent home to their country of origin as aid to relatives and family there.

    Why were their assets frozen? Because the US demanded it, because they were Somalian Muslims – with no connections to Al-Qaeda. And when they finally got their assets released, it was because the US admin “gracefully” forgave them that they had wanted to help their Somalian people.

    So what is there to say that people who organize rallies against the war, run fund-raisers to help destitute Iraqis or Afghanis, or simply just happen to have dinner with someone that happens to be on Homeland Security’s radar – like a friend of mine’s husband, who got consistently thoroughly searched, simply because he was Pakistani…won’t one day have their assets frozen as suspected of “communing with terrorists”? Who is a terrorists is rather loosely defined, and it seems that the definition is adaptable to fit “current needs”. No-one has asked for the freezing of PLO, Hamas, Tamil Tigers, ETA or PKK assets – yet those are also “known terrorist organizations”. So it seems that what we have here is a legislation that is indeed intended to target specific people for specific activities, but what those activities are, are subject to adjustment as the need arises. Legislation that can be loosely interpreted to fit an agenda which is not specified is indeed the tool of a fascist state.

    Don’t forget that MUSLIMS in general are automatically suspected as terrorists in the US, regardless of whether they are Citizens or not – and THAT is a profiling (or to call a spade a spade – RACISM) the US Admin do have in common with the Third Reich – only the Third Reich did it to Jews, along with several legislative

    And it is this similarity between the two regimes, the silent consensus that the latter may not be used a measuring tape for other historical events.

    For a fresh idea about what is the general idea about Muslims, please read “Condemning Antisemitism, applauding Islamophobia…”



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