Trump and Hitler

Many Israelis believe that while Adolf Hitler was the worst enemy of the Jews in all of world history, Donald Trump is the greatest friend of the Jews in American presidential history. Israelis also take it for granted that all the Jews of the world constitute “the Jewish people,” despite the fact that most Jews outside Israel do not see it that way. Let us examine this situation more closely.

In a previous post I have diagnosed U.S. President Donald Trump as suffering from a borderline personality disorder. Some mental heath professionals believe that Trump suffers from an anti-social personality disorder, psychopathy, sociopathy,  malignant narcissism, and other labels out of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. To my mind, quibbling about diagnoses is less important than understanding what goes on inside the mind of the man who has the power to destroy or civilization, or earth, and our species.

Politics is about power. It naturally attracts people who badly need power, and, as the American political scientist Harold Lasswell pointed out as early as 1930 in his Psychopathology and Politics, those who are starved for power are often those who felt powerless in their early life. Politics, by its adversarial nature, also attracts people who have an unconscious tendency to project self-dissatisfaction, inferiority feelings, blame and guilt feelings on their opponents, namely people who are more or less paranoid. Our ancient Jewish sages knew this when they said that whoever finds fault in others, it is his really own fault (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Kidushin, Sheet 70, page B).

Adolf Hitler suffered from a severe emotional illness very much like Donald Trump’s. He craved power more than anything else in the world, having been a victim of domestic violence as a child. When Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933 he immediately set about dismantling all the democratic institutions of the Weimar Republic and becoming an absolute Führer.

Hitler hated the Communists almost as much as the Jews. One of Hitler’s first acts was burning down the German Reichstag and blaming it on a Dutch communist, then on three Bulgarian Comintern members. The German communist party held a “counter-trial” in London that summer at which a masked SA member admitted having set fire to the Reichstag. The American journalist William Shirer wrote in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich that Hermann Göring, Hitler’s right-hand man and air-force chief, had admitted to having set fire to the Reichstag. Nonetheless, the Dutchman, Martinus van der Lubbe, was beheaded in early 1934.

The Reichstag was not only a building: it stood for the existence of another branch of the government other than Hitler’s government that could oppose Hitler’s will, and therefore had to be destroyed. Indeed, Hitler quickly eliminated all the other German political parties, making Germany a one-party state with Hitler’s “National Socialist” party as its only political body. Then Hitler tried to take control of every other public institution in Germany, including the courts, the churches, the universities and the economy. He mostly succeeded, although there was always some opposition to him.

Germany became a police state where everyone feared the Gestapo and every German could be spied upon and denounced to the authorities by his neighbors and friends, and even by members of his own family with whom he had conflicts. German society gradually accepted Hitler’s abnormal actions as normal, adopted his upside-down language, and he did as he pleased. The end result was the deaths of tens of millions of people and the destruction of Germany itself.

When Donald Trump became President of the United States in January 2017, he similarly sought to diminish the power of the legislature and the courts, or to make them instruments of his will. American mental health professionals were alarmed. In April 2017 Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a courageous young psychiatrist at Yale University, held a conference at Yale entitled The Duty to Warn. Her mentor, the psychiatrist James Gilligan, compared Trump to Adolf Hitler.The conference produced a book entitled The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump to which twenty-seven prominent mental-health professionals contributed their assessments. Last March thirty-seven such professionals contributed to a new edition of this book.

Indeed, there are many troubling similarities between Trump and Hitler. In 2017 the U.S.-based Anne Frank Center, which combats discrimination, intolerance, antisemitism and racism, warned all mankind that Trump’s America was becoming more and more like Hitler’s Germany. The Center compared Donald Trump’s Presidency to the ‘escalating steps of oppression’ that led to the Holocaust.

Last year, the prominent American Holocaust historian Christopher Browning[1] compared Trump to Hitler, and Trump’s America to Hitler’s Germany.[2] The well-known American documentary filmmaker Michael Moore[3] made a documentary film entitled Fahrenheit 11/9 in which he made the same comparison. The New York Times noted that both Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler had used “colossal lies” to secure power and hold on to it.[4] While former U.S. presidents had refrained from attacking their successors, in late 2017 Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, did just that. Obama must have felt an urgent need to warn America — and the world — about the grave danger posed by Trump’s presidency. In a speech to the Economic Club of Chicago, the city that had made him what he later became,[5] Obama urged Americans to defend democracy against its enemies — without mentioning Trump by name.

One British journalist though that Obama “appeared to use the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany [in 1933] as a warning against the rise of bigotry and nativism under President Donald Trump. Although he did not refer to Mr. Trump by name, [Obama’s speech] brought accusations that a former president was comparing the current president with one of the most reviled leaders in history.”[6] This journalist accused Barack Obama on the one hand of “pulling his punches” by not mentioning Trump by name, and on the other hand of unjustly comparing Trump to Hitler.

In an interview with his younger British friend Prince Harry in late 2017, Obama said, “How people interact on social media today could splinter society, especially when used by leaders to divide.”[7] The allusion to Trump and his “tweets” was clear. Obama’s comparison of Trump with Hitler had hit the nail on the head. Both men suffered from a severe personality disorder, and both were extremely dangerous. In the fall of 2018, during the U.S. midterm election campaign, Obama spoke out against Trump’s politics of fear, anger and hate.[8]

One striking similarity between Trump and Hitler is their terror of their “shameful” secrets being revealed and their attempts to quash them at all costs. Right now we are witnessing Trump’s attempts to quash the Mueller Report, which has led to dramatic confrontation between Jerry Nadler, the Democratic chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, and William Barr, the Republican Attorney General and Trump’s personal shield. Nadler has issued an ultimatum to Barr to provide the full, unredacted Mueller Report to his committee by Monday morning, May 6, at 9AM, or be cited for Contempt of Congress, which could mean a year in jail for Barr. The outcome can be a full-scale Constitutional Crisis that will go all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Austrian-born Hitler, whose father had been an illegitimate child, feared that his paternal grandfather had been Jewish; as ruler of Germany and Austria, terrified that this would come out, he ordered his birth records destroyed.[9] Trump, who has repeatedly declared himself a genius and a man of the highest intellect, had received low grades at several schools in his youth, scored low on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and is a poor speller, as his thousands of “tweets” indicate. In 2015 he threatened Fordham University, which Trump had attended during his first two years of college, never to publish his grades or Scholastic Aptitude Test scores or face “dire consequences.”[10]

In the summer of 2016, at the height of the U.S. presidential-election campaign, Kevin Dutton, an Oxford expert on psychopathy, compared the scores of several prominent historical and modern political leaders on the Psychopathtic Personality Inventory.[11] Donald Trump scored higher than Adolf Hitler, just behind Saddam Hussein of Iraq, King Henry VIII of England, and Idi Amin of Uganda.[12]

Needles to say, Trump’s United States is not Hitler’s Germany, yet Browning found “several troubling similarities and one important but equally troubling difference” between the two. Browning wrote, “The domestic agenda of Trump’s illiberal democracy falls considerably short of totalitarian dictatorship as exemplified by Mussolini and Hitler. But that is small comfort for those who hope and believe that the arc of history inevitably bends toward greater emancipation, equality, and freedom. Likewise, it is small comfort that in foreign policy Trump does not emulate the Hitlerian goals of wars of conquest and genocide, because the prospects for peace and stability are nevertheless seriously threatened. Escalating trade wars could easily tip the world economy into decline, and the Trump administration has set thresholds for peaceful settlements with Iran and North Korea that seem well beyond reach.”[13]

Like Adolf Hitler, Donald Trump suffers from a severe personality disorder. Unlike Hitler, however, Trump cannot build “concentration” camps in the U.S. for his opponents. The U.S. Congress and people would never accept it. Like Hitler, however, Trump has encouraged his bodyguards and his followers to violently attack the protesters at his rallies and has incited to violence against immigrants, Hispanics, and other minorities. He has not deported all the “bad Mexican honchos” in the U.S. back to Mexico, he “only” wants to build a wall to make it impossible for any more Latinos to enter illegally. In October 2018, when a caravan of poor Central American immigrants made its way on foot through Mexico to the U.S., Trump called it “an invading army.”[14]

It Can’t Happen Here?

Eighty years before Donald Trump became President of the United States, the American Nobel-Prize winning writer Sinclair Lewis imagined a Nazi-style takeover of the U.S. government.[15] The similarities between Hitler and Trump are hard to miss. During Hitler’s first years in power, the Germans adored him. He built them the multi-lane Autobahnen and gave jobs to unemployed Germans, who worked in the factories that made Hitler’s weapons, tanks, airplanes, warships, submarines, ammunition, poison gas and death-camp equipment.Trump boats of the surge in the U.S. employment rate, which is primarily due to his taking American jobs away from other countries and moving them back to America. For Hitler, Germany was above all else. For Trump, America is first.

Some Germans joined Hitler’s murderous Gestapo, SS, SA, and other terror organizations. They wore the brown or black shirts and the “death’s head” skull and crossbones. Hitler invented the myth of the “Aryan race,” took away the jobs of the German Jews and gave them to the “Aryan” Germans. Hitler mesmerized the Germans with his fiery speeches, which were delivered in a crescendo similar to a sexual orgasm. Twelve years later millions of Germans lay dead and Germany lay in ruins, let alone the millions of Jews, “Gypsies,” homosexuals, retarded, disabled, Slavs and other “inferior people” murdered by the Nazis, and the millions of Allied soldiers and civilians killed as well. Hitler himself committed suicide in his bunker. To this day, despite their illusion of Vergangenheitsbewältigung (coping with the past), the Germans as a group have been unable to deal effectively with this traumatic past. The German national anthem is still Deutschland über Alles.

Just as the Germans adapted themselves to Hitler’s warped world, many Americans have adapted themselves to Trump’s abnormal behavior as if it were normal. Trump’s emotional instability, the intense narcissistic rage that overwhelms him over and over again, his inability to suffer any public shame or humiliation, his profound need to hurt others and to humiliate them, his inability to brook any opposition to his will, and, above all, the fact that he believes he has a “bigger nuclear button” than that of Kim Jong-un of North Korea, as he “tweeted” in early January 2018, make him far more dangerous to our species and to our world than Hitler. The German Führer brought about the deaths of dozens of millions of people; the 45th U.S. president can bring about the deaths of hundreds of thousands, even millions, and even all mankind, if he unleashes what he called “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”[16]

Collective denial is very dangerous. We saw its tragic consequences in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, in which 2,656 Israelis were killed and some nine thousand wounded, let alone the countless cases of post-traumatic stress disorder which destroy the lives of individual victims and their families. Our fantasies of all the Jews of the world being one people, and of Israel as a world power, are defensive self-deception. For all its nuclear weapons (“according to foreign sources”), Israel is a tiny country, surrounded by a sea of hostile Arabs, that depends on the United States for its economic and military survival. U.S. President John Kennedy said, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Perhaps we need to tell ourselves, “Ask not whether Trump is good for the Jews, ask whether he is good for mankind.”

 

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[1] Christopher Robert Browning (born 1944), eminent American historian, best known for his works on the Holocaust; his best-known book is Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (1992)

[2] Christopher R. Browning, “The Suffocation of Democracy,” in The New York Review of Books, issue of October 25, 2018

[3] Michael Francis Moore (born 1954), American documentary filmmaker and author known for his work on globalization and capitalism

[4] Charles M. Blow, “Trump Isn’t Hitler. But the Lying …” in The New York Times, October 19, 2017

[5] Avner Falk, The Riddle of Barack Obama: A Psychobiography, Santa Barbara, California, Praeger, 2010

[6] Rob Crilly, “Barack Obama accused of comparing Donald Trump with Hitler,” in The Telegraph, December 8, 2017

7] Christina Zhao, “Barack Obama Compared Donald Trump to Hitler, Fox News Host Says,” in Newsweek, December 28, 2017

[8] Sabrina Siddiqui, “Obama speaks out against Trump and attacks ‘politics of fear and resentment’ ,” in The Guardian, September 7, 2018

[9] Marty Hafner, “Did Adolf Hitler really have all of his birth records destroyed?” on Quora, August 6, 2015

[10] Aris Folley, “Fordham confirms Cohen threatened legal action if it released Trump’s grades, SAT scores,” on The Hill, February 28, 2019

[11] The Psychopathic Personality Inventory is a psychological test for psychopathic personality traits in adults, developed for non-criminal populations, but also used in studying clinical and criminal subjects; the PPI is a self-report scale, rather than an interview-based assessment

[12] Shehab Khan, “How much of a psychopath is Donald Trump? Worse than Hitler, apparently,” in The Independent, August 23, 2016

[13] Christopher R. Browning, “The Suffocation of Democracy,” in The New York Review of Books, issue of October 25, 2018

[14] Tom Embury-Dennis, “Trump says military is ’waiting for’ migrant caravan after warning of ’invasion’ across US border,” in The Independent, October 29, 2018

[15] Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here, New York, Doubleday, 1935

[16] Emily Shugerman, “Trump says North Korea will be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen’ if it escalates nuclear threat,” in The Independent, August 8, 2017

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