It Can Happen Here

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tags: Trump



Jim Sleeper is a lecturer in political science at Yale. He is the author of The Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York and Liberal Racism.

Donald J. Trump isn’t a Nazi, although his father came close. It’s true that historical analogies between Trump’s policies and Hitler’s are often facile, and sometimes dangerously misleading. But here’s one that I’m not inclined to shrug off.

During a long stay in Berlin in 2009, I went often to the Grunewald railway station to have my coffee. It’s a picturesque little station, built in the 1899, fronted by a cobblestone square and surrounded by splendid, well-preserved villas of that period.

It’s also the point from which more than 50,000 Berlin Jews were shipped to concentration camps, a few hundred a week, from 1942 to 1945. At the station’s Track 17, a steel strip along the platform edge records, in raised letters, each week’s shipment of several hundred “Juden” to Theresienstadt, Minsk, Riga, Kaunas, Łódź and, later, directly to Auschwitz and other death camps.

It’s hard for most Americans, especially those of us whose parents fought in World War II, to imagine that people who boarded the trains had no idea of what lay ahead. Yet, although Jews had been vilified and some attacked on the streets since 1938, some things remained unthinkable to Berlin Jews, most of whom had been middle-class, law-abiding citizens since birth. They showed up at station on the appointed dates, children and luggage in tow, for what they’d been told would be deportation to resettlement and work centers. At worst, they expected something like what Japanese-Americans experienced in internment camps on our own West Coast during the same war.

Under the watchful eyes of German police, they took their seats in ordinary passenger coaches for many of these departures. Only later, far beyond Berlin, were they transferred to box cars. Some time after that, postcards they hadn’t written were sent to relatives or acquaintances whom they’d listed with the authorities, assuring them that all was well in their new locations. ...

Read entire article at Washington Monthly

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