Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

My thoughts keep coming back to the incident in Charlottesville and the Neo-Nazi, Alt-right march-turned riots and murder.

I keep finding myself making comparisons to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. It’s like I take it personally. And, why the hell shouldn’t I? My paternal grandfather had two brothers and four sisters. My paternal grandmother had three siblings. Yet, my father had but one first cousin – and he was from my grandmother’s side, whose sister managed to escape Europe before the storm. Do you have any idea how large a gap that leaves in a family?

We need to remember that what happened in the years 1939-1945, was the result of what happened in the Weimar Republic of Germany in the years 1923-1933, which started with the Beer Hall Putsch in November 1923 and Hitler’s consolidation of power in 1933. And, then what followed between 1933 and 1939. The Nazi Party was not a popular party at all before 1929. They were considered an annoying, but ineffectual fringe group. Then the great Depression happened, and in the panic and destitution of a collapsed economy and fear of a Communist takeover, Hitler’s rhetoric gave people a much needed scapegoat. But, as Jews, we tend to forget that while the Jews were the object of hatred, in the years 1923-1933, they were not the focus of the Nazi Party’s efforts. The focus was to turn public opinion, through incitement, propaganda thuggery, violence and intimidation. In the face of a weak response from the government, slowly Hitler and his Brown Shirts brow-beat the German people into voting for the Nazis, or alternatively to stay away from the polls, for fear of their safety, maybe even their lives.

And, this is what bothers me. Charlottesville is just the beginning, and if unhindered, just like in Weimar Germany, they will intimidate and cow the American public into submission. Some will join them, half-convinced, half out of a sense of self-preservation. Others will remain quiet and opt out.  Come election time, They will stay at home, preferring not to vote, rather than weather the abuse and beatings at the polling booths. Until, one day, ten years from now perhaps, these “extremist elements” will be a force to be reckoned with, no longer considered an extremist fringe, ready for stage 2, just like it was between 1933-1939. And, just like the German Chancellors’ responses were feeble and flaccid, perhaps even mildly encouraging (because it was only the Jews), so is Trump’s response exactly what these fucking thugs could ask for.

I am not an American. I have no right to tell my American friends to be prepared to put their bodies on the line. However, I am a Jew, and with our history and my family anecdotes, I can tell you what awaits you if you don’t. Being Israeli, I can offer you support and shelter, which I do willingly. And, being Israeli my destiny is linked closely to your’s. What happens in the US, will impact directly on what will happen here, in my home. So, forgive me for being presumptuous, but I felt I just had to remind you: Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

About the Author
Paul Mirbach (PEM), made Aliya from South Africa to kibbutz Tuval in 1982 with a garin of Habonim members. Together they built a new kibbutz, transforming rocks and mud into a green oasis in the Gallilee. Paul still lives on Tuval. He calls it his little corner of Paradise.