Is Trump like Hitler or is the very question a form of Holocaust denial?
(01-02-2019) The following is a quote by Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, on Fox and Friends yesterday:
Anybody who compares Trump or anybody else to Hitler essentially is a Holocaust denier, because what they’re saying [is] well, there were no gas chambers, there was no Auschwitz, there was no plan to kill six million Jews. They minimize it.
This statement is absurd on so many levels.
First: Alan Dershowitz’s reasoning is as follows. Trump hasn’t built any gas chambers (yet), nor any concentration camps (yet) and he has no plan to kill six million Jews (yet). Therefore, to compare Trump to Hitler equals saying that Hitler didn’t build any gas chambers (which he obviously did), or any concentration camps (which he obviously did), or didn’t have plans to kill six million Jews (which he obviously did). Huh?
Two: Seriously?! Am I minimizing the Holocaust when I warn against a possible recurrence of a fascist regime in a Western country, unless and until the results are literally the same? If not, where would Dershowitz draw the line? If under a Trump presidency or dictatorship “only” five million Mexican immigrants were to be killed, would it be minimizing the Holocaust if I compared Trump to Hitler then, because it would be less than six million dead and they wouldn’t be Jews? Or how about of it was exactly six million, but they weren’t killed in gas chambers? If Trump were to give police the go-ahead to shoot as many unarmed young black men on the streets as they wanted, because “they aren’t people”, would it be minimizing the Holocaust to compare Trump to Hitler because the young black men were killed willy-nilly on the streets instead of in orderly fashion in concentration camps like the Nazis did?
Third: People minimize the horrors of Hitler’s reign when they refer to a gruff soup peddler in New York as the Soup Nazi. Or when they claim that anti-fascist protesters are fascists themselves. When Dershowitz claims that it’s Holocaust denial to compare Trump to Hitler, however, he uses it as a glove to slap people in the face with, to argue that the Jewish struggle in Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe was worse than anybody else’s struggle anywhere else, ever: My nightmare killed more people than your fill-in-the-blank.My agony’s so much greater than yours. That is minimizing — it’s a disgusting way to use any calamity, man-made or otherwise. And a surefire way to not prevent it from happening again.
Fourth: Is Dershowitz somehow confusing history after the fact with living through the period? The genocide, and Hitler as its orchestrator, didn’t just appear on the timeline. 1945: Plop! Hitler most evil man in the world, responsible for killing six million Jews in gas chambers in concentration camps like Auschwitz, an event called the Holocaust!
No. First Adolf Hitler was a baby; comparable to every other baby. Then he was just a young man — a bit of a loser, in fact, kind of aimless. Then he became aware of antisemitism. Then he was a soldier in the Great War (WWI) and he became fascinated with the effectiveness of American and British war propaganda. Then he saw around him the results of the Treaty of Versailles and the resentment Germans felt toward the rest of the West. And he saw the rise of the workers, the unions and the communist movement. Then he became a member of the Socialist Workers’ Party. Then he got a following thanks to his mass speeches aimed at the poorly educated. Then he became the party’s leader. Then he renamed it the National Socialist Workers’ Party. Then he got leverage in government; then he took control; then he was a dictator, and then he started on the Holocaust. The point is to make clear what Trump is going for, what kind of power he craves, that America is on a similar track and it’s time to put on the brakes because we know from history where it ends otherwise. It’s the very opposite of Holocaust denial.
Fifth: What does Dershowitz want? What is his purpose with this statement? Does he want everyone to keep quiet until someone does actually also build gas chambers, and concentration camps, and make plans to kill six million Jews? Will he give the go-ahead and let us make the comparison when it has come to that? Should we sit back and let the loud-mouths and bullies make history as they will, and merely measure and categorize after the fact? When we ask ourselves, is Trump like Hitler, it is because we see the similarities in the build-up to the Holocaust on the one hand, and Trump’s presidency and his increasing corrosion of American democracy on the other. That’s not Holocaust denial — that’s ringing the alarm bells. We are pointing to the Holocaust and yelling at the top of our lungs, “Look, that is where we’re heading! Surely nobody wants anything that bad to ever happen again? So please stop this while we still can!” It seems Dershowitz doesn’t want us to ring the alarm bells. Or not the most effective ones, anyway. Which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
I agree with Alan Dershowitz that the labels Hitler, Nazi, and fascist are attached to everything but the kitchen sink in America. I agree that it’s mostly due to a lack of education on the matter. It is indeed damaging, because when these false analogies are made all the time, the actual definitions get lost and folks won’t know when they should sit up and pay attention. I’ve had conversations with several people who just shrug off the term fascism and say that everything is called fascism nowadays, so it’s meaningless. In other words, it’s not to be taken seriously anymore, or, nothing is fascism anymore. But Dershowitz only exacerbates that very problem by attaching the label Holocaust denial to everything but the kitchen sink. To say that nobody can ever be compared to Hitler and nothing can ever be compared to his crimes is just as damaging. It suggests, whether he intends it or not, that nothing like Hitler’s fascism can ever happen again. In other words, it doesn’t need to be taken seriously anymore when something is called fascism or when someone is compared to Hitler. If anything, according to Dershowitz, it should be frowned upon. People who compare anyone to Hitler or make any comparison between 1930s Germany and America today are Holocaust deniers!
That’s not helping. At all. To be fair, I have to mention that Alan Dershowitz made this statement in the context of educating high school kids about Hitler and fascism, but it’s still not helping. He’s really just muddying the waters even more. For what? One pointless, confusing, and in my opinion incredibly stupid minute on Fox and Friends? I find it highly irresponsible.