01 November 2019

history will teach us nothing

A picture from Berlin, 1 May 1932, the year anybody who wanted to could put two and two together about the rise of hitler's fan clubs.
This rally was organised by the Iron Front, a coalition of social democrats and various workers' and trade union groups who were in open in resistance to the growing nazi regime. They used their logo - three arrows pointing downwards - to strike through the swastika and symbolically destroy it. The Iron Front was not without enemies, on both sides, left and right, I am not sure what I'd made of them.
On that day, possibly most of the demonstrators felt they were exercising their freedom of speech, freedom to congregate and that their protest would open eyes, that they could show what is what.
For me, this picture expresses confidence and political awareness.
The Iron Front was banned about a year later, on May 2, 1933, the workers' movements and all unions forcefully disbanded. The nazi dictatorship took its course.

I wonder what happened to these same people who so openly marched in their thousands less than a year before the nazis came to power. Did they think it would blow over by the next election? Did they stay quiet, were they afraid, did they change their minds? How many were persecuted? How many played along? How many changed allegiance and followed the mob?
Remember: the nazi party was elected not by a majority, hitler was appointed after his party barely got in with about 43% of the votes. They had to juggle along with a shaky coalition based on false promises. But here is the catch: the election that brought hitler to power took place after months of massive campaigning with violent intimidation, repression, fake news and endless propaganda. Sounds familiar?

picture credit: © Carl Weinrother / bpk


Ms. Moon said...

It does seem pretty obvious that no, we do not learn from history.

am said...

With a little Googling, I find that there were 65,362,115 people in Germany in 1933.


It is sobering to know that those thousands who saw what was happening in Germany didn't add up to enough people to prevent the nazi party from coming into power through its violent intimidation, repression, fake news and endless propaganda. I am looking closely at those earnest faces in the crowd and wondering, too, what happened to all those people and what will happen in the U.S. in November 2020. What is going on now is not going to blow over any time soon, no matter who is elected. And yet millions may vote who may have thought their votes didn't matter in 2016. More than 40% of registered voters didn't vote in 2016. I wonder who they are and if they will come out for or against what has happened since our last election. I wonder what can teach us. There must be something.

My life so far said...

Sounds very familiar sadly.

Humans don't seem to learn very well it seems. Even myself, I don't learn the lessons the universe tries to teach me and multiply this by millions and you can see why bad things are possible.

I always reduce things to the personal because we are all people. Countries badly run by people who have their own demons, passed onto them by their parents and grandparents and so on, it's a wonder humans survive as a species. But in the end we are all the same, humans who want so desperately to be loved and to be like we belong. tRump and hitler are what happens when things go wrong from the start I think. All of us have that capacity to be cruel and hurtful, for whatever reasons, those two men/boys were allowed to nurture their cruel sides. Once they do a few awful things and get away with it, the next awful thing is worse, each iteration worse than the last.

In the US there is an expression made popular by a rapper, THUG LIFE, it stands for, the hate you give little infants fucks everyone and it's so true.

Colette said...

There are terrifying similarities.

Anonymous said...

I live in fear these days. I've never had a passport in my life and just the other day I started the process. If the worst things start to happen, we will run away to Canada and hope that the mess doesn't overwhelm things there. Will there be anyplace safe to hide?

ellen abbott said...

we are doomed to repeat. humans learn nothing. this worship of Trump by the evangelicals is scary and incomprehensible. and the self serving Republicans who support anything he does no matter how corrupt as long as money goes in their pockets.

37paddington said...

I wonder if our votes will matter in 2020, even though we will certainly cast them in droves. The electronic voting machines can be hacked by a teenager, and yet our government refuses to consider any bills to secure them. So yes, we will vote, but I have no confidence that it will matter. Sabine, your post is a chilling reminder that the forces of evil can mow down the forces of good, because there is no sense of conscience or morality to curb the most extreme displays of corruption and inhumanity. We see it happening again in real time.

Steve Reed said...

I am reminded of that Faulkner quote: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

Secret Agent Woman said...

Painfully familiar. I'm terrified.

Roderick Robinson said...

The similarity doesn't end there. The German nation had been on its knees for some time, due to the punitive terms of the Treaty of Versailles and subsequent hyper-inflation. Folk were desperate for someone - anyone - who might give them hope, whatever the price. Alas, they got what they most wished for.

The part of the electorate that gave DT his dubious victory were said to be those who had never been listened to in the past. People who had lost hope. It seems they don't share our view of their saviour.

Impeachment? Hey, it's just a crazy plot cooked up by what Governor Wallace used to call "pointy-headed intellectuals". How we laughed when the Governor said he would pitch them "with their brief-cases into the Potomac." The Governor didn't get his way. And now his admirer is abroad in the land. If I wasn't an atheist I'd be inclined to quote something depressing from Ecclesiastes.