A Correlation of Nonsense?

I could not adequately, in the amount of space Facebook provides, respond to a comment put up there in response to one of my posts. I decided, without mentioning any names or quoting the person directly for privacy reasons, to Blog my response instead.

Before I start, allow me to post some information regarding my background and knowledge of the subject matter I will be talking about.

In 1994 I received a B.A. degree in Anthropology from Northern Arizona University. My minor was in History. Several of my fellow Anthropology students took on extended majors instead of minors in other subjects. I might have done that myself since at the time I hoped to actually find work as an Anthropologist; however I have always loved History, and in addition to that fact I had my eye on a course about the Holocaust. I already knew more than the average American likely knows about one of the darkest periods in Human History, however I was determined to take the course anyway.

The course was only offered the Spring semester of even-numbered years, and it also had prerequisites. Even the prerequisites had prerequisites. Since I enrolled at Northern Arizona University for the Fall semester of 1991, it was impossible to take the course in the Spring of 1992; therefore my next available chance would be the Spring semester of 1994. I had every intention of being ready to take the course when it was offered in 1994. If there was not enough room I was prepared to go to the Professor and try to talk my way into a course override because my graduation date was May 19, 1994, and that semester would be my final chance. I planned all my prerequisites for over five semesters to make sure I was able to fit them around my required Language, Science, Mathematics, English, Humanities and Anthropology related courses. When the time came I made it into the course and did not need to ask the Professor for an override.

By coincidence or happenstance my time in this course coincided with the wide release of the motion picture ‘Schindler’s List’. I had every intention of seeing the movie anyway; however my professor made seeing ‘Schindler’s List’ a class assignment. I went to see the movie with two friends who were not taking the Holocaust course with me, and it was a gut-wrenching experience. We all cried at some point; though, I discovered, not at the same points in the movie. A local Flagstaff news crew had contacted my professor about coming into his classroom and doing a report on the course because of the subject matter and the attention brought to it due to the release of ‘Schindler’s List’. The news crew came and filmed part of a class period and also interviewed my professor after class regarding Oskar Schindler, the movie and the Holocaust itself.

In addition, my professor invited several guests to come into the class and speak to us. Unfortunately, because of a tragic death in the family, I had to miss class during the time period when one of the survivors came to speak. The first of the survivors he invited spoke to us on April 19, 1994; the very day I received the news about my brother’s death. I spoke to this woman after class and she made me feel so much better about a number of things including the role the Catholic and other Christian Churches (I am Catholic) played in saving Jews and others during the Holocaust. Not enough of a role, in my opinion, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’ve often looked back at my brother’s death and meeting this wonderful woman on the same day and wondered if God was trying to tell me something. However, that’s another subject I won’t go into here. One of the guests I did get to see speak was a former SS guard. He seemed genuinely remorseful, and perhaps he really was. It’s hard to say.

I also had a friend my own age when I lived in Texas who was born in Israel. His grandfather was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto; and, when I told my professor about him he indicated he would love to have a ghetto fighter come into the classroom and speak. Unfortunately we were never able to arrange this. Unlike some Holocaust survivors who are understandably unwilling or reluctant to speak extensively about their experiences or survival, Jeff’s grandfather was willing. He was proud of his status as a Ghetto fighter and never minded talking about it to anyone who was willing to listen with an open mind.

In addition to seeing the movie, completing assignments and listening to the guest speakers, we were also required to read a book (non-fiction) about the Holocaust and write a review of the book. I picked a biography about a Gentile woman who had helped save the lives of numerous Jews, and wrote my paper on it. In addition, over the years I’ve seen a number of documentaries on the Holocaust, read several books outside of any class, watched movies and interviews, and listened to the idiocy of the Holocaust deniers. The best documentation of the Holocaust was provided by the Nazis themselves since they made many films and kept detailed records (and failed to destroy all of them); a fact the deniers consistently fail to consider unless, of course, they’re claiming the Nazis own records were also faked.  I even had a letter to the editor on the subject of Holocaust denial published in a newspaper.

Why does any of this matter? It matters because the issue in the Facebook post I’m responding to involves the future of America in relation to how things started with Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany. To start off with I would like to state I find this sort of correlation between President Barack Obama and the United States and Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany not only insulting, but also irresponsible and dangerous. It does not matter to me who you are or what you think you know, to my mind there are not enough adequate reasons for making a correlation such as this one. I have read the occasional item stating there is some cause for concern about the parallels between that time period and our own; however these items also point out that, for one thing, the German situation was compressed into a much shorter time period than our current situation in the United States has been.  This means, among other things, that the problems in this country go back to long before Barack Obama was elected President of the United States.

Another reason is that Germany was at the time a small and isolated state, and the United States is certainly not in the same situation either geographically or politically.

One of the reasons there were prerequisites for the Holocaust course was so the student could understand as much as possible the history of the region, and what the conditions inside Nazi Germany were that allowed Adolf Hitler to not only rise to power, but to also attempt to carry out his plans for the Final Solution.

Germany was under extreme economic stress after World War I. The country was certainly ripe for a leader with Hitler’s persuasive speaking skills and extreme viewpoints to come into power. However, the conditions that existed in Germany during that time period are not the same as the conditions that exist in the United States today.

One of the mistakes made after World War I was to blame Germany almost exclusively for the war when that wasn’t really the case. Certainly Germany was to blame, but they were not exclusively to blame. The country was ordered to pay reparations, which in and of itself was not unreasonable. However, the crushing burden of reparations did help to plunge Germany into an unprecedented economic crisis. Inflation rose to over 1000%. Yes, I did say over 1000%. At one point prices were known to double in a few hours, and workers were paid as often as three times a day just so they could rush to try to buy the goods they needed before prices had a chance to double again. In late 1923 a loaf of bread cost 200 billion marks. The German government kept printing money among other mistakes, which in turn further devalued the currency already in circulation.

Americans are justifiably concerned with double-digit inflation and budget deficits; however, try to get your mind around the hyperinflation in Germany between World War I and Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. Yes, the current deficits seem frightening; however please remember they were not exclusively created by President Obama and that he is trying to ease economic stresses that were not created on his watch.  Although it would be irresponsible of me to suggest there are NO parallels between the economic situation in post World War I Germany and the United States of today; conditions are not as extreme as they were then, and there were other issues present in Germany between World War I and Adolf Hitler’s rise to power that do not exist in the United States of 2009.

It is certainly a matter of opinion whether the United States is marching headlong toward socialism and has a glorified messianic leader in power like pre World War II Germany had in Adolf Hitler. Personally any comparison of Adolf Hitler to President Barack Obama makes me ill, and such a comparison is as irresponsible as comparing George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler was. I was no fan of President Bush, but I found that comparison as distasteful as I find this comparison of Hitler to Barack Obama. I find the parallels being drawn between that time period and this one, while not completely non-existent, overwrought and fueled by paranoia.

One of my classmates back in 1994 asked my professor if he thought Adolf Hitler was crazy. His response was that he thought by the end of World War II Hitler was ‘certifiable’, but when he first rose to power he was not crazy. He had ideas to end the turmoil inside Germany, and that helped drive his rise to power. However, just as President George W. Bush was not Adolf Hitler; President Barack Obama is not Adolf Hitler and the United States is not Germany after World War I.

 

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