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Two of the many things Adolph Hitler did in his first year in office were to intensify the climate of fear and to destroy the independence of the judiciary.


First, by a series of manipulated events and misinformation (alternative facts?) he elevated the threat of communism. There was a legitimate Communist Party in Germany in 1933, and even though Hitler never won a majority of the popular vote at the polls it was soon delegitimized and many of its leaders detained. Indeed this is how concentration camps like Dachau originated. 

Secondly, Nazi-sympathetic-judges were appointed to major positions and, like officers of the Wehrmacht, were made to swear an oath of allegiance to Hitler personally rather than to the Weimar constitution. Thus any act of disobedience to the leader or his party was an act of treason. 

In both cases the majority of Germans condoned these changes, in part because they were willing to sacrifice liberty for security, to compromise their values in return for Hitler’s promise to “Make Germany great again,” and in part because they refused to believe that Der Fuhrer would carry out his threats, even though they had been spelled out in Mein Kampf and even though an independent judiciary is the only thing that stands between democracy and dictatorship. 

President Trump’s criticism of some judges as being ‘political’ is disturbing, as is the elevation of the level of fear by vague threats of ‘terrorism.’ In reality, a person in the United States today has a greater chance of being struck by lightning than being killed in a terrorist attack, and more American die in vehicle accidents every hour than have been killed in terrorist attacks in the last five years. 

Should we therefore ban lightning strikes and driving? As FDR famously warned, “The only thing we have to fear …”

But is it going to matter? When the paranoia of a people — any people — is exploited, facts as well as past achievements become peripheral until it is too late.

The civilized Germany of the nineteenth century — the culture of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Strauss, Goethe and Hess — was not enough to protect the populace from the regime of Goering, Goebbels, Himmler and vonRibbentrop.

And the erudition of Nietzsche, Hegel, Kant and Schopenhauer was ignored as German history was revised to suit the needs of the Nazi elite, which itself was a self-serving, ideologically dishonest, hypocritical elite.

— Jeremy Barnes is a resident of Springfield Township.

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