I am not an expert on Hitler. But my father is. He toured post-war Germany extensively in 1957 and ’58 as a child performer. And he often recounts the stories. He befriended  teenage Lebensborn chi…


It is good to make sure that our comparisons are not too facile, and that we do not dismiss real danger through fear of being politically incorrect in calling one person a “Hitler”.
On the other hand, the assertion that it can never happen here is just flat wrong.
First of all, of course another Hitler, an exact replica, would not be an American way of moving into totalitarianism. the times, the culture, the tools and the issues are not, at least superficially, the same as they were in 1932. Anyway, it is irrelevant to debate about how Hitler could return, although one should see the great German movie, Look Who’s Back (Er Ist Wieder Da), that deals with that issue nicely.  The reflection on the regiehammblog misses the point entirely: it is not that we could have a Hitler, but that we could elect someone who will try to drag use into an autocratic government just beause he or she thinks he or she has all the right answers. That’s who Hitler thought he was: the greatest Führer of all times (der größte Führer aller Zeiten or in a sarcastic twist of the German tongue to belittle the Corporal fromm Austria then holding their country in an iron hand, der Groefaz (sounds a bit like great fart!).  Do we have anyone now in power who has said he knows best?  If you think not, you haven’t been listening to DT for most of his public life.
Next, Mr Hamm does start by admitting he is no expert on Nazi Germany.  He certainly got that right.  His aim source of knowledge is, as he asserts proudly and with the naive assumption that it is valid, childhood osmosis, carrying another’s learning about Hitler et al into his brain.  We have universities where that history is studied.  The Institut fuer Zeitgeschichte is still trying to catalogue and then study just the documents from Germans who were of official import during the 1000 Year Reich’s 13 years and they have about 60% of just that still to go.  The history of World Wat 2 is the largest body of documentation and data of all sorts in the field of history.   Not much of the learning about that most significant even in the last 2000 years has been obtained by “osmosis” from children.

For that matter, the experiences of a young child on tour there in the ’50s might provide colorful stories and compelling determination to learn as much as possible about it.  But it is not on the same level of reliability and validity as, for example, the studies of Guido Knopp, Sohnke Neitzel, Steven Ambrose, et all, the diaries of Viktor Klemperer or even of Joseph Goebbels.  That information belongs in Mr.Hamm’s family history or as part of a professional study of the development of understanding of the Third Reich by people who did not endure it.  It is not the basis for any argument which would assume accurate and reliable knowledge about Hitler and his rise — and Mr Hamm’s blog makes precisely that assumption.

Perhaps Mr Hammm’s father was able through his reading to get a balanced and challenging presentation on the why, how, who, when, where and to what extent of the Third Reich, but Mr Hamm does not even assert that.  Moreover, thinking that untutored, self guided reading in the largest body historical record ever could lead to anything more than interesting, perhaps even challenging, personal revelations is like saying that a monkey with word processing would, if given time and freedom, write Hamlet.  

Mr Hamm has no credible, substantial base for his opinions.  He is capitalizing on one of the flaws of internet blogging:  the tendency of the uninformed to mistake categorical assertions as facts.  Caveat emptor!

The scholars who have something valid to offer,  however, have also lived there, studied the documentation exhaustively, conducted planned, structured interviews with participants and survivors,  seen the films made at the time, used the National ARchives, the Institut fuer Zeitgeschichte, the Imperial War Museum, records of the armies, navies, air forces, of industrial production, of the general staffs, read all the other research done on the topic , carefully formulated their theses, tested them and then had them reviewed, redacted, revised, tightened and finally published by professionals.  And I, at least,, as a peripheral member  of that group with a lifelong study of German language, literature, culture, history based both on formal education here and in Germany as well as personal research as part of a professional career directly involved with German history and way, suggest therefore that Mr Hamm’s opinions are unfounded, misinformed, far too glib for such a nightmare, unreliable and invalid, very shallow and precisely because US readership of blogs has on the average a 4th to 6th grade level of reading skill, irresponsible and therefore, especially now, dangerous,

His attempt to find balance, circumspection and forbearance in expression is to be encouraged, but only with a founding in the facts.
Some of his ‘facts’ or interpretation of ‘facts’ are incorrect.
For example, Hitler did not introduce socialized healthcare and ‘socialized” everything else. All that was introduced in the 1870s by Otto von Bismarck in an effort to undermine the growing popularity of Social Democrats. The Nazis realized that in so doing, Bismarck had effectively made the populace into uncritical consumers of government actions rather than into participating democrats. It was easy then just to keep thos things going and then begin to use them as part of the pseudo-philosophy of “Gleichschaltung”.
You should ask yourself: isn’t that precisely that consumerism has done to the spirit of participation in democracy in the US?
Another example: our assertion that Hitler got elected by the use of violence. True, the SA–not the SS–regularly engaged in street fights prior to the 1932 election. But those battles were aimed primarily at the Communists and secondarily at the Jews. They had little effect on the vote. As a matter of fact, Hitler in 1932 did not win a majority in the Bundestag, but he had enough brownshirts in the Bundestag to control. And eventually he was able to show Hindenburg, who was concerned about street violence, that if he, Hitler were Kanzler, things could be controlled. In the 20s Hitler and the then fledgling Nazi party had tried a putsch in Munich. Hitler wound up in jail. He concluded that a violent revolution would not work. So he decided to win by non-violent means. He uses Goebbels to spread propaganda lies, he was the first politician in history anywhere to use the airplane in combination with the radio to make himself known. And he was an expert public speakeer who knew just what to say to the multitudes: a demagogue of immense skill that we would call marketing savvy today. you should ask yourself: hasn’t our version of that just happened here?
You assert that our checks and balances make the advent of an autocrat here impossible. Really? Have you read the history of Huey Long in Louisiana, the reign of terror of Joseph McCarthy and the House Unamerican Activities Committee in the 1950s? Don’t you understand that those checks and balances were put in place precisely because the founders knew all too well how easily authoritarian government can develop from a republican form (we have a constitutional republic with some democracy, not a democracy). ONe of those checks and balances was the Electoral College. In the event of popular election of an autocrat, the Eletoral College was supposed to vote independently of the popular vote and insure that the autocrat did not take office. You should ask yourself: has not the Electoral College been converted into a rubber stamp and did it not just fail to do what it was intended to do? Thinkk about it: the checks and balances are not needed unless the founders were not 100% convinced that popular self government would work. Indeed, Jefferson’s belief was that a well educated populace could govern itself. We have let our average reading level in the US fall from around 11th grade in 1932 to between 4th and 6th in 2016. ou should ask yourself: given that democracy means compromise, negotiation, slowness in responding to crises, living in the grey areas, just how well does someone who cannot read beyond 4th grade level handle that?

Additionally the assertion that Hitler came to office with he SS private Army which he then used as elite infantry in battle.  The Army which was upon the assumption of the Kanzleramt in 1932 his large private army was the SA, not the SS.  And his tool of terror was the Gestapo, not so much the SS, at that time.   It was not until 1934, two years after Hitler became Kanzler and then named himself Fuehrer that the SS was made an independent organization for its role in murdering Ernst Roehm, the head of the SA and the SD, the intelligence office of the SS, given authority to collect political intelligence domestically in the Reich.  It was the SA which fought the Communists, which marched in the election victory parade in 1932, which had developed into an army capable of overthrowing Hitler by 1932. True, the SS under Himmler and Heydrich were growing in power, but  itwas only after 1932 that the SS was substituted by Hitler for the SA to be his private army, Hitlers terror and military instrument.

That is just a sampling of the errors in Mr Hamms assertions, on the German side of things.  One could go. on and on, but if he knew better what actually happened, he could easily see that different events led to the same type of fertile field for autocracy in 1932 Germany as had slowly but very surely developed in the US by 2016.  At the War Crimes Trials in Nürnberg after The War, Justice Jackson, the chief prosecutor for the US, allegedly came to believe that the guilty verdicts and the evidence produced in mountains made ‘aggressive war’ and crimes against humanity impossible.  It has taken just 71 years for the country that sponsored those unique trials to become the one, under Mr Trump, advocating and now rehearsing engagement in aggressive war (make the US military more lethal….) and practicing both de-humanizing segments of the population and depriving straw man groups of their constitutional and human rights (the travel ban, the attack on Planned Parenthood, the drive to deprive 20-30 million Americans of affordable health insurance without offering a substitute).

I would add that Mr Hamm’s understanding of constitutional government leaves much to be desired.

The Unites States is a republic not a pure democracy — in its basic documents:  the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

True the founders created checks and balances, but they do not operate automatically.  They work when our elected leaders and their constituents respect and honor them.  Stop and think about it.  The President of the US is supposed, by law, to ask Congress for authorization to go to war.  But in practice as Commander in Chief, he has been able more and more to ignore that requirement.  Congress does not command the military.  It does fund it, but when in recent memory has Congress withheld any money from our forces who are in action all over the globe and often out of the the most exaggerated sense of national self defense. They aren’t going to hobble the forces when there is an ISIL, a Putin, drug cartels,etc,etc,and so forth.  They like living without war on their doorsteps too.

Now imagine a President who thinks he knows all, whose M. deception and bullying, and who has no opposition inn Congress or the Supreme Court.  Let’s also say that it is discovered that he has willingly let his subordinates collude with an inimical foreign power on fundamental issues of national security.  Congress decides to impeach, wich they do and then to try him in the Senate.  He refuses to show up, announces that he has a mandate to do what he knows is best,refuses to leave office and instead mobilizes the Marines and exists the FBI to deal with he enemies who have infiltrated — Congress.  What are Congress and the Supreme Court to do?

He has violated the Constitution, our laws and our historical values — or has he?  In the 2016 election pollsters discovered that a substantial portion of Republican voters would tolerate, even support a violent overthrow of the US government!  And now add in to that the imaginative scenario above–which anyone should recognize as anything but fiction these days.

Finally, this:  there are two modes of leadership which come naturally to humans. they are:  autocratic and Laisser-faire.  The trouble is that each of them winds up with poor output, bickering and squabbling and divisiveness amongst those wo need to hang together.  They each lead to shattering commonality, which winds up then with all, figurately and often actually, hanging separately.  In th 1950s a German Jewish sociologist named Kurt Lewin had lived under the aegis of bothHitler and FDR,  He began to wonder about and explore the differences in impact and motivation of each.  He began his experiments with the assumption that Laisser-faire  was the democratic way, while authoritarian was the autocratic way.  He found out he was half right:  Hitlers was the autocratic way and it did not work.  But he also found out that Laisser-faire was not FDR’s way and that Laisser-faire failed just as much as autocratic.  the conclusion was, and has been irrefutably confirmed repreatedly since then, that democratic leadership is a learned leadership style, which is aimed basically at encouraging and tough-loving others to do and be the best they can be.  It is a lifelong endeavor, involving the development of the appropriate competencies to empower everyone  and winds up being the hardest style for which to work:  the responsibility to learn, engage, manage oneself and produce rests upon the one doing the work, and not the leader,

Consider, in the context of all of the above, then threesalient points:

1.  Democracy depends on education, yet the ability  to read on the average in the US has fallen from about 11th grade in the 1930s to about the 4th and 5th grade during the last eletion.  Trump’s speeches and diatribes are all at 4th grade level.  No fourth grader can understand one iota of Know-how in empowering others.  INto the breach steps DOnald.J Trump with his sound bytes and misinformation.  The voters who back him have no way of distinguishing fact from opinion.  Hillary talked over their heads.  they chose our own Groefaz.

2.  Donald J Trump, just as Hitler did, has said he knows best.  He says it over and over.  Why don’t we believe him?

3.  Research is clear and has been for decades:  leaders in the US are not developing leadership skills.  they get hired on the basis of lower level know how and then use a facade of celebrity and pretend know-how or just appearance to rise to the top.  Some research shows that organizations like to choose taller men for leadership.  And all too often they learn, wrongly, that win-lose competition, opposing others just to be tough (aka bullying), nitpicking opposition to death, and gathering position, power, status and preside are the styles of success.   After an initial bubble of success, they fail and their organizations and nations eventually fail but they think they are right, even in the face of failure, because the harshness of their relationships discourages anyone from telling them the real truth.  They become the Emperors in the New Clothes.  And in a short-message culture which is, was and will still be adolescent and anti-intellectual, nobody remembers their history or wants to.  The Newly Clothed Emperors wind up ruling of the Palaces of Casino CApitalism, in which nobody but the Palace wins.  Just like with Donald, J Trump.

Instead of resting on the laurels of an old piece of paper called the Constitution, perhaps you will begin to see that written words will not stop a determined demagogue when those who could oppose him won’t.   It is a well educated population that is capable of self government and maintaining the checks and balances.  And those are not my words. They come from Thomas Jefferson on whose ideas the foundation is of this counry’s unique experiment in multi-cultural self government rests.

Glibness, which you seem to have mastered along with a need to make things all black or white, is no substitute for the learned abillity to make valid distinctions based on an ongoing processing of the real data in this world. I am older than your father. 

So, you might want to get some education before you speak up again about just how impervious we are to autocrats.   it is close to too late but maybe not. And at any rate if we want democracy and those checks and balances not to perish from the face of the earth,, then we need to know what we are facing all the time.
Read the memoires of Ambassador Dodd to Germany during the rise of the Reich — his daughter’s;
Read The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt or see the movie about her and her world shaking insights into te nature of evil in the movie about her on Netflix;
Read the remarks of Albert Speer, Hitler’s Architect, in Nurnberg before the International Military TRibunal as his last statement at sentencing;
Read: It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
Read: They Thought they Were Free by Milton Myer
See: the movie, Experimenter about the Milgrim experiments in obedience and his very unsettling findings about whether “it” cannot happen here;
See; the extremely relevant German movie, made well before our recent election and without amy mention of us at all but with 100% relevance, Look Who’s Back (Er Ist Wieder Da in German but with superb subtittles).

Then ask yourself if all this concern about the advent of a Hitler type autocrat in the United States is nonsense. If you still think it is, then you will have earned the whirlwind. Just ask the Germans.