Hitler vs. Trump
by Ed Sawicki - 2017 - updated January 2021
Godwin's Law is an Internet adage that states “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” The law originally implied that Hitler comparisons are hyperbole and any discussions using them are not productive. However, Donald Trump has changed that. Even the creator of the law, Mike Godwin, has no issue with comparisons of Trump and his ilk to Hitler.
In July of 2020, Trump sent federal agents to Portland, Oregon to deal with peaceful protesters. Press reports refer to protesters being detained by agents dressed in camoflage and driving rental vans. They're taken to a jail in a federal couthouse and questioned. There are videos of them beating medics who were there to attend to those shot or pepper sprayed. They pepper sprayed food meant to feed the homeless and medical supplies for treating the injured. Comparing them to Hitler's Brownshirts does not seem unreasonable.
A 1990 article in Vanity Fair said, “Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that from time to time her husband reads a book of Hitler's collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed.”
Hitler rose to power in Germany in a well-staged, systematic coup d'etat. Many claim that Trump is doing the same. The following timeline documents Hitler's rise to power and his actions leading to the removal of a functioning democratic government in Germany. The shaded areas compare this to Trump's actions today.
Decide for yourself whether a comparison of Hitler and Trump is hyperbole.
1932, Mar 13
First round of the 1932 German presidential election. Hitler ran against incumbent President Paul von Hindenburg. No candidate received a majority of the votes cast.
1932, Apr 10
Second (run-off) round of the presidential election. Hitler lost. German elections are decided entirely on the popular vote.
In 2016, Trump lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College. In the United States, the popular vote doesn't determine the winner. State electors determine the winner. After the 2020 election, Trump pressured states into replacing their electors with loyalists who would override the will of the people of the state.
1933, Jan 30
President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Chancellor after a failure to establish a coalition government.
The U.S. doesn't have coalition governments. It's a winner-take-all duopoly of two major political parties.
1933, Feb 27
Reichstag fire - The Reichstag was gutted by a fire that was deliberately set. Hitler blamed Communists. The Reichstag is the equivalent of the U.S. Capitol building.
1933, Feb 28
Reichstag fire decree - The Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State removed many civil liberties from German citizens such as habeas corpus, free speech, right to organize and assemble, and freedom of the press. The decree was issued one day after the fire. Do you think that the decree was written first, then the fire was started?
While the Trump administration didn't issue a decree per se, it did try to remove civil liberties, such as the right to organize and assemble. The attacks by federal agents on Black Lives Matter protesters in 2020 is a good example.
1933, Mar 23
Enabling Act - The Law to Remedy the Distress of People and Reich changed the German Constitution. It gave Hitler the ability to create laws without involving the Reichstag (the German legislature - not the building).
Trump's threat to bypass Congress by declaring a national emergency is the same kind of anti-democratic power grab. In recent years, presidents from both parties have used executive orders in order to bypass Congress. In many cases, the executive orders were necessary because of an obstructionist Congress. The political system in the United States is malfunctioning badly.
1933, May 2
Trade unions were banned and replaced with the state-run German Labour Force.
Trump and the Republicans would love to get rid of trade unions. The U.S. Right-to-Work laws and the continued attacks by Republicans on raising the federal minimum wage are proof of that.
1933, Jul 14
The Nazi Party (NSDAP) was declared the only legal political party in Germany.
In the United States, there are significant obstacles to any party other than the top two emerging. Both parties of the duopoly cater to their major donors. Efforts to take the money out of politics have failed.
1933, Oct 19
Germany withdrew from the League of Nations.
Donald Trump has been severly critical of both the United Nations and NATO. He attacked the U.N. over membership dues. He refused to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to NATO Article 5 that ensures Collective Defense. This jeopardized the U.S. relationship with its traditional allies. If a NATO member country has military conflict with Russia, which will the Trump Administration support?
1934, Jun 30
Night of the Long Knives - Although it's referred to as a night, this lasted until July 2. Hitler had his political opponents and members of the Brownshirts murdered. The Brownshirts were the main paramilitary wing of the Nazi party.
In the U.S., political parties do not have their own paramilitary organizations. However, the Secret Service provides protection for the president, vice-president, and their families. Trump has been in constant conflict with the FBI, CIA, and all the other intelligence agencies. He's had conflict with the military, claiming that he's smarter than the generals. Who would be surprised if Trump were to appoint Erik Prince to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff?
1934, Aug 2
President Paul von Hindenburg died. Hitler abolished the Presidency and merged its powers with the Chancellor. He made himself the sole leader of Germany.
1935, Sep 15
Passage of the Nuremberg Laws deprived Jews of German citizenship.
Which groups would Trump take citizenship away from if he could? Likely targets are Muslims, but would it stop there?
1938, Sep 15
Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass). This was an attack on Jews and their businesses conducted by the Sturmabteilung–the Nazi party's paramilitary wing. The German authorities looked on without intervening. While the focus of Kristallnacht was on Jews, Hitlers enemies included communists, rival political parties, homosexuals, and other people he considered social misfits. Studies have shown that most German citizens were appalled by and disapproved of Kristallnacht.
The similarities between Kristallnacht and the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. capitol (Insurrection Day) are:
- The Republican Party has no official paramilitary wing. However, Trump has deputized‑by‑tweet a civilian army to act as his paramilitary arm, similar to Hitler's Brownshirts.
- Hitler's political party and Trump's political party largely supported their actions, with many Republican Congressmen continuing to support Trump after the attack on the capitol.
- It's clear that some U.S. authorities did little to prevent the attack–similar to how German authorities stood by and did nothing about Kristallnacht.
- Most Americans are appalled by the attack on the U.S. capitol just as many Germans were appalled over Kristallnacht.
1949, Oct 2
The Socialist Reich Party was created. It was a neo-Nazi party in Germany whose platform was to deny the Holocaust, to claim that concentration camps were fake, that it was the United States that built the ovens at the Dachau concentration camp after the War, that films of concentartion camps were fake, that Germany reannex its eastern territories lost during the war, and to find a solution to the Jewish question. Germany banned this party in 1952.
The Socialist Reich Party claims that the Holocaust and concentration camps were fake sounds just like the Trump administration (and, by association, the Republican Party) claims of fake news.
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