The Donald is Not The Adolf

Source: a review by Michiko Kakutani of a new Hitler biography by Volker Ullrich in Books of The Times, The New York Times, September 27

On the surface, there are many similarities between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler. In a review of a new biography of Hitler by the German historian Volker Ullrich, Michiko Kakutani does not mention Trump. But there are many passages in it which also apply to Trump.

If we focus only on the personalities of the two and ignore the political contexts we might select these passages:

Hitler was a “politician who rose to power through demagoguery, showmanship and nativist appeals to the masses.”

Mr. Ullrich provides vivid insights into some factors that helped turn a “Munich rabble-rouser” – regarded by many as a self-obsessed “clown” with a strangely “scattershot, impulsive style” – into “the lord and master of the German Reich.”

Hitler was often described as an egomaniac who “only loved himself” – a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization and what Mr. Ullrich calls a characteristic fondness for superlatives.

His manic speeches and penchant for taking all-or-nothing risks raised questions about his capacity for self-control, even his sanity.

Hitler was known, among colleagues, for a “bottomless mendacity….” A former finance minister wrote that Hitler “was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth” and editors of one edition of Mein Kampf described it as a “swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts.”

Hitler adapted the content of his speeches to suit the tastes of his lower-middle-class, nationalist-conservative, ethnic-chauvinist….. listeners, consisting largely of “accusations, vows of revenge and promises for the future.”

And he would not only become, in Mr. Ullrich’s words, “a mouthpiece of the cultural pessimism” growing in right-wing circles in the Weimar Republic, but also the avatar of what Thomas Mann identified as a turning away from reason and the fundamental principles of a civil society – namely liberty, equality, education, optimism and belief in progress.

• • • • •

But the essential difference between them is a quality that Trump lacks entirely: Hitler’s mesmerizing intensity.

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One response to “The Donald is Not The Adolf

  1. Adolf Hitler was the product of massive dissatisfaction with the inability of so-called democratic government to act effectively to improve conditions for the vast bulk of the population.
    Donald Trump in the US and a multitude of lesser known populist politicians in other countries throughout the world today feed on similar sentiments.
    Hitler, Trump, Stalin et al, did not spring fully formed from the womb. They are the creation of political power brokers who listen to their vested interest donors rather than the pleas of the people.
    Everywhere you look the disparity between the rich, the middle income and the poor is increasing.
    Taxation, once held out as a way of levelling the gap and spreading the wealth, is now an optional extra for those who can manipulate the law.
    Work, once the great hope for the bulk of the people, is now under threat from computers and robots.
    The bosses increasingly regard the workforce as nothing more than a commodity and their puppet governments are everywhere attacking the one bastion of the workers, the unions..
    Governments and the courts are powerless to control the super-rich and the upshot is – just what we are seeing now.
    I know of no revolution that has resulted in anything other than the replacement of thuggish, insensitive bosses with new thuggish, insensitive bosses, but in the end that does not matter.
    Revenge might not alter the conditions, but to the starving it is sweet.
    Sharpen the guillotines..

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