The birth of the Third Reich: Amazing parallels…


Richard Moore

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From: Joe Vise <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Similarities to Germany's war on terrorism 50 years ago
To: misc...
Date: Thu, 20 Mar 2003 14:35:05 -0500 (EST)

Published on Sunday, March 16, 2003 by

"When Democracy Failed: The Warnings of History"
by Thom Hartmann

The 70th anniversary wasn't noticed in the United
States, and was barely reported in the corporate media.
But the Germans remembered well that fateful day
seventy years ago - February 27, 1933. They
commemorated the anniversary by joining in
demonstrations for peace that mobilized citizens all
across the world.

It started when the government, in the midst of a
worldwide economic crisis, received reports of an
imminent terrorist attack. A foreign ideologue had
launched feeble attacks on a few famous buildings, but
the media largely ignored his relatively small efforts.
The intelligence services knew, however, that the odds
were he would eventually succeed. (Historians are still
arguing whether or not rogue elements in the
intelligence service helped the terrorist; the most
recent research implies they did not.)

But the warnings of investigators were ignored at the
highest levels, in part because the government was
distracted; the man who claimed to be the nation's
leader had not been elected by a majority vote and the
majority of citizens claimed he had no right to the
powers he coveted. He was a simpleton, some said, a
cartoon character of a man who saw things in
black-and-white terms and didn't have the intellect to
understand the subtleties of running a nation in a
complex and internationalist world. His coarse use of
language - reflecting his political roots in a
southernmost state - and his simplistic and
often-inflammatory nationalistic rhetoric offended the
aristocrats, foreign leaders, and the well-educated
elite in the government and media. And, as a young man,
he'd joined a secret society with an occult-sounding
name and bizarre initiation rituals that involved
skulls and human bones.

Nonetheless, he knew the terrorist was going to strike
(although he didn't know where or when), and he had
already considered his response. When an aide brought
him word that the nation's most prestigious building
was ablaze, he verified it was the terrorist who had
struck and then rushed to the scene and called a press

"You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch
in history," he proclaimed, standing in front of the
burned-out building, surrounded by national media.
"This fire," he said, his voice trembling with emotion,
"is the beginning." He used the occasion - "a sign from
God," he called it - to declare an all-out war on
terrorism and its ideological sponsors, a people, he
said, who traced their origins to the Middle East and
found motivation for their evil deeds in their

Two weeks later, the first detention center for
terrorists was built in Oranianberg to hold the first
suspected allies of the infamous terrorist. In a
national outburst of patriotism, the leader's flag was
everywhere, even printed large in newspapers suitable
for window display.

Within four weeks of the terrorist attack, the nation's
now-popular leader had pushed through legislation - in
the name of combating terrorism and fighting the
philosophy he said spawned it - that suspended
constitutional guarantees of free speech, privacy, and
habeas corpus. Police could now intercept mail and
wiretap phones; suspected terrorists could be
imprisoned without specific charges and without access
to their lawyers; police could sneak into people's
homes without warrants if the cases involved terrorism.

To get his patriotic "Decree on the Protection of
People and State" passed over the objections of
concerned legislators and civil libertarians, he agreed
to put a 4-year sunset provision on it: if the national
emergency provoked by the terrorist attack was over by
then, the freedoms and rights would be returned to the
people, and the police agencies would be re-restrained.
Legislators would later say they hadn't had time to
read the bill before voting on it.

Immediately after passage of the anti-terrorism act,
his federal police agencies stepped up their program of
arresting suspicious persons and holding them without
access to lawyers or courts. In the first year only a
few hundred were interred, and those who objected were
largely ignored by the mainstream press, which was
afraid to offend and thus lose access to a leader with
such high popularity ratings. Citizens who protested
the leader in public - and there were many - quickly
found themselves confronting the newly empowered
police's batons, gas, and jail cells, or fenced off in
protest zones safely out of earshot of the leader's
public speeches. (In the meantime, he was taking almost
daily lessons in public speaking, learning to control
his tonality, gestures, and facial expressions. He
became a very competent orator.)

Within the first months after that terrorist attack, at
the suggestion of a political advisor, he brought a
formerly obscure word into common usage. He wanted to
stir a "racial pride" among his countrymen, so, instead
of referring to the nation by its name, he began to
refer to it as "The Homeland," a phrase publicly
promoted in the introduction to a 1934 speech recorded
in Leni Riefenstahl's famous propaganda movie "Triumph
Of The Will." As hoped, people's hearts swelled with
pride, and the beginning of an us-versus-them mentality
was sewn. Our land was "the" homeland, citizens
thought: all others were simply foreign lands. We are
the "true people," he suggested, the only ones worthy
of our nation's concern; if bombs fall on others, or
human rights are violated in other nations and it makes
our lives better, it's of little concern to us.

Playing on this new nationalism, and exploiting a
disagreement with the French over his increasing
militarism, he argued that any international body that
didn't act first and foremost in the best interest of
his own nation was neither relevant nor useful. He thus
withdrew his country from the League Of Nations in
October, 1933, and then negotiated a separate naval
armaments agreement with Anthony Eden of The United
Kingdom to create a worldwide military ruling elite.

His propaganda minister orchestrated a campaign to
ensure the people that he was a deeply religious man
and that his motivations were rooted in Christianity.
He even proclaimed the need for a revival of the
Christian faith across his nation, what he called a
"New Christianity." Every man in his rapidly growing
army wore a belt buckle that declared "Gott Mit Uns" -
God Is With Us - and most of them fervently believed it
was true.

Within a year of the terrorist attack, the nation's
leader determined that the various local police and
federal agencies around the nation were lacking the
clear communication and overall coordinated
administration necessary to deal with the terrorist
threat facing the nation, particularly those citizens
who were of Middle Eastern ancestry and thus probably
terrorist and communist sympathizers, and various
troublesome "intellectuals" and "liberals." He proposed
a single new national agency to protect the security of
the homeland, consolidating the actions of dozens of
previously independent police, border, and
investigative agencies under a single leader.

He appointed one of his most trusted associates to be
leader of this new agency, the Central Security Office
for the homeland, and gave it a role in the government
equal to the other major departments.

His assistant who dealt with the press noted that,
since the terrorist attack, "Radio and press are at out
disposal." Those voices questioning the legitimacy of
their nation's leader, or raising questions about his
checkered past, had by now faded from the public's
recollection as his central security office began
advertising a program encouraging people to phone in
tips about suspicious neighbors. This program was so
successful that the names of some of the people
"denounced" were soon being broadcast on radio
stations. Those denounced often included opposition
politicians and celebrities who dared speak out - a
favorite target of his regime and the media he now
controlled through intimidation and ownership by
corporate allies.

To consolidate his power, he concluded that government
alone wasn't enough. He reached out to industry and
forged an alliance, bringing former executives of the
nation's largest corporations into high government
positions. A flood of government money poured into
corporate coffers to fight the war against the Middle
Eastern ancestry terrorists lurking within the
homeland, and to prepare for wars overseas. He
encouraged large corporations friendly to him to
acquire media outlets and other industrial concerns
across the nation, particularly those previously owned
by suspicious people of Middle Eastern ancestry. He
built powerful alliances with industry; one corporate
ally got the lucrative contract worth millions to build
the first large-scale detention center for enemies of
the state. Soon more would follow. Industry flourished.

But after an interval of peace following the terrorist
attack, voices of dissent again arose within and
without the government. Students had started an active
program opposing him (later known as the White Rose
Society), and leaders of nearby nations were speaking
out against his bellicose rhetoric. He needed a
diversion, something to direct people away from the
corporate cronyism being exposed in his own government,
questions of his possibly illegitimate rise to power,
and the oft-voiced concerns of civil libertarians about
the people being held in detention without due process
or access to attorneys or family.

With his number two man - a master at manipulating the
media - he began a campaign to convince the people of
the nation that a small, limited war was necessary.
Another nation was harboring many of the suspicious
Middle Eastern people, and even though its connection
with the terrorist who had set afire the nation's most
important building was tenuous at best, it held
resources their nation badly needed if they were to
have room to live and maintain their prosperity. He
called a press conference and publicly delivered an
ultimatum to the leader of the other nation, provoking
an international uproar. He claimed the right to strike
preemptively in self-defense, and nations across Europe
- at first - denounced him for it, pointing out that it
was a doctrine only claimed in the past by nations
seeking worldwide empire, like Caesar's Rome or
Alexander's Greece.

It took a few months, and intense international debate
and lobbying with European nations, but, after he
personally met with the leader of the United Kingdom,
finally a deal was struck. After the military action
began, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain told the
nervous British people that giving in to this leader's
new first-strike doctrine would bring "peace for our
time." Thus Hitler annexed Austria in a lightning move,
riding a wave of popular support as leaders so often do
in times of war. The Austrian government was unseated
and replaced by a new leadership friendly to Germany,
and German corporations began to take over Austrian

In a speech responding to critics of the invasion,
Hitler said, "Certain foreign newspapers have said that
we fell on Austria with brutal methods. I can only say;
even in death they cannot stop lying. I have in the
course of my political struggle won much love from my
people, but when I crossed the former frontier [into
Austria] there met me such a stream of love as I have
never experienced. Not as tyrants have we come, but as

To deal with those who dissented from his policies, at
the advice of his politically savvy advisors, he and
his handmaidens in the press began a campaign to equate
him and his policies with patriotism and the nation
itself. National unity was essential, they said, to
ensure that the terrorists or their sponsors didn't
think they'd succeeded in splitting the nation or
weakening its will. In times of war, they said, there
could be only "one people, one nation, and one
commander-in-chief" ("Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein
Fuhrer"), and so his advocates in the media began a
nationwide campaign charging that critics of his
policies were attacking the nation itself. Those
questioning him were labeled "anti-German" or "not good
Germans," and it was suggested they were aiding the
enemies of the state by failing in the patriotic
necessity of supporting the nation's valiant men in
uniform. It was one of his most effective ways to
stifle dissent and pit wage-earning people (from whom
most of the army came) against the "intellectuals and
liberals" who were critical of his policies.

Nonetheless, once the "small war" annexation of Austria
was successfully and quickly completed, and peace
returned, voices of opposition were again raised in the
Homeland. The almost-daily release of news bulletins
about the dangers of terrorist communist cells wasn't
enough to rouse the populace and totally suppress
dissent. A full-out war was necessary to divert public
attention from the growing rumbles within the country
about disappearing dissidents; violence against
liberals, Jews, and union leaders; and the epidemic of
crony capitalism that was producing empires of wealth
in the corporate sector but threatening the middle
class's way of life.

A year later, to the week, Hitler invaded
Czechoslovakia; the nation was now fully at war, and
all internal dissent was suppressed in the name of
national security. It was the end of Germany's first
experiment with democracy.

As we conclude this review of history, there are a few
milestones worth remembering.

February 27, 2003, was the 70th anniversary of Dutch
terrorist Marinus van der Lubbe's successful
firebombing of the German Parliament (Reichstag)
building, the terrorist act that catapulted Hitler to
legitimacy and reshaped the German constitution. By the
time of his successful and brief action to seize
Austria, in which almost no German blood was shed,
Hitler was the most beloved and popular leader in the
history of his nation. Hailed around the world, he was
later Time magazine's "Man Of The Year."

Most Americans remember his office for the security of
the homeland, known as the Reichssicherheitshauptamt
and its SchutzStaffel, simply by its most famous
agency's initials: the SS.

We also remember that the Germans developed a new form
of highly violent warfare they named "lightning war" or
blitzkrieg, which, while generating devastating
civilian losses, also produced a highly desirable
"shock and awe" among the nation's leadership according
to the authors of the 1996 book "Shock And Awe"
published by the National Defense University Press.

Reflecting on that time, The American Heritage
Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1983) left us
this definition of the form of government the German
democracy had become through Hitler's close alliance
with the largest German corporations and his policy of
using war as a tool to keep power: "fas-cism
(fbsh'iz'em) n. A system of government that exercises a
dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through
the merging of state and business leadership, together
with belligerent nationalism."

Today, as we face financial and political crises, it's
useful to remember that the ravages of the Great
Depression hit Germany and the United States alike.
Through the 1930s, however, Hitler and Roosevelt chose
very different courses to bring their nations back to
power and prosperity.

Germany's response was to use government to empower
corporations and reward the society's richest
individuals, privatize much of the commons, stifle
dissent, strip people of constitutional rights, and
create an illusion of prosperity through continual and
ever-expanding war. America passed minimum wage laws to
raise the middle class, enforced anti-trust laws to
diminish the power of corporations, increased taxes on
corporations and the wealthiest individuals, created
Social Security, and became the employer of last resort
through programs to build national infrastructure,
promote the arts, and replant forests.

To the extent that our Constitution is still intact,
the choice is again ours.

Thom Hartmann lived and worked in Germany during the
1980s, and is the author of over a dozen books,
including "Unequal Protection" and "The Last Hours of
Ancient Sunlight." This article is copyright by Thom
Hartmann, but permission is granted for reprint in
print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit
is attached.


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