The Hypocrisy of the Trump-Hitler Comparisons

Flinging the epithet Hitler at someone is not exactly a sign of tolerance, love and good will.

By Richard Weikart Published on March 31, 2017

As an historian and expert on Hitler, I’ve been wary to debate the common comparisons between President Trump and Adolf Hitler. But I’ve been slowly pulled into the debate anyway.

Around January 26 Christopher Hooton published an image from my book, Hitler’s Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress. Several internet news sites then picked it up. Some of them also quoted from my chapter on “Morally Upright Aryans and Immoral Jews.” On March 2nd, the Washington Post published this image and quoted from an e-mail interview with me. As you might have guessed, the piece compared Hitler and President Trump.

The image in question was from an article about “The Criminal Jew.” It was first published in 1935 in a Nazi periodical. Several photos featured Jews, along with the crimes they allegedly committed. The article claimed that Jews are biologically prone to criminality. This was a major theme in Nazi anti-Semitic rhetoric.

An article on “The Criminal Jew” in a 1935 Nazi periodical.

An article on “The Criminal Jew” in a 1935 Nazi periodical.

The is what the Washington Post tried to apply to Trump. Here’s the basic argument: Hitler targeted Jews as being criminal and publicized their crimes. Trump is now publicizing the crimes of illegal immigrants. Thus, Trump is like Hitler.

Before dismantling this argument, I should say that I’m not a big fan of Trump’s immigration policies. Nor do I endorse his rhetoric. Though illegal immigration is a tough issue on which decent people can disagree, I think as Americans we should be more welcoming and loving toward immigrants.

Even though I disagree with Trump’s immigration policies, this does not make his policies on par with Hitler. Hitler did many things during his career — some evil, some not. He was a vegetarian, loved dogs, and built highways. Does this make vegetarians, dog lovers, and highway builders “like Hitler”?

Hitler was also a pantheist, as I demonstrated in my recent book, Hitler’s Religion: The Twisted Beliefs That Drove the Third Reich. Pantheism has its problems, to be sure. But, it isn’t wrong because Hitler believed it.

I also explain in Hitler’s Religion that before coming to power, Hitler sometimes claimed he was a Christian. He showed no commitment to Christianity in his private life and his morality. Doesn’t this also sound a lot like hundreds or thousands of other politicians who have never done anything like Hitler? Does this make them, or Trump, a Hitler? Of course not.

To come to grips with the Hitler comparisons, we should ask: Why do people consider Hitler one of the most megalomaniacal evil figures of all time? I submit that it was because he launched an aggressive war to annihilate whole groups of defenseless human beings. He exterminated millions of people whom he deemed inferior biologically or racially. This included the mass murder of about six million Jews. Hitler also orchestrated the mass murder of over 200,000 disabled Germans, hundreds of thousands of Gypsies, millions of Soviet POWs, and others. Now ask yourself: Do Trump’s policies rise to this level? Is Trump threatening to commit mass murder?

Ironically, those who are eager to compare Trump to Hitler are doing just what they are decrying in Trump.

Of course not. Ironically, those who are eager to compare Trump to Hitler are doing just what they are decrying in Trump. What is their chief complaint against Trump when it comes to immigration? It’s that he connects other people — illegal immigrants — with criminals.

But what are Trump’s detractors doing? Associating another person — Trump — with the most fiendish criminal they know. Trump’s critics surely know that Trump is not a mass murderer. So why do they keep tarring him with the Hitler label? It’s simple. They think Trump is hateful and intolerant.

But wait a minute. Aren’t they being hateful and intolerant toward him and his supporters? Flinging the epithet Hitler at someone is not exactly a sign of tolerance, love and good will.

I’m not suggesting that those who disagree with Trump’s immigration policies and rhetoric should crawl into a corner and shut up. But, it would be much better, and more productive, if his opponents would take the moral high ground. They should engage in civil debate based on real love and reason, rather than doing the very thing they accuse Trump of doing: demonizing political opponents.

 

Richard Weikart is professor of history at California State Univ., Stanislaus, and author of Hitler’s Religion: The Twisted Beliefs That Drove the Third Reich and The Death of Humanity: And the Case for Life Possible.

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