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Profile: Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler was a participant or observer in the following events:

Father Charles Coughlin.Father Charles Coughlin. [Source: Spartacus Schoolnet]Father Charles Edward Coughlin, an ordained Catholic priest, hosts what may be the first politically oriented national radio broadcast in US history. Coughlin, who started his political involvement as a supporter of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, quickly becomes a virulent Roosevelt critic, calling Roosevelt’s economic policies “socialism.” By 1930, CBS broadcasts Coughlin’s weekly radio show nationwide. Coughlin’s harsh criticism of communist and socialist governments, such as the Soviet Union, widens to encompass the US government and many aspects of American life. He accuses the citizenry of “scorn[ing] the basic family and national doctrine of Jesus Christ,” citing divorce statistics as “proof” of his assertions. He does not spare the corporations, blasting them for treating working families unfairly and warning of the dangers of the “concentration of wealth in the hands of the few.” Coughlin begins claiming that American communists have infiltrated many levels of government and corporate leadership, and lashes out at what he calls the “Bolshevism of America.” In April 1931, CBS refuses to renew his contract, and Coughlin organizes his own radio network which eventually claims over 30 radio stations and some 30 million listeners. In 1936, Coughlin, who has grown disillusioned with Roosevelt over his administration’s failure to take over the nation’s banking system and other of Coughlin’s suggested reforms, forms a hardline anti-Communist, isolationist organization called the “Christian Front.” When the US begins publicly opposing the German Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler, Coughlin turns on Roosevelt entirely, accusing him of advocating “international socialism or Sovietism,” and praising Hitler and Italy’s Benito Mussolini as “anti-Communist fighters.” By 1940, according to playwright Arthur Miller, Coughlin is “confiding to his 10 million Depression-battered listeners that the president was a liar controlled by both the Jewish bankers and, astonishingly enough, the Jewish Communists, the same tribe that 20 years earlier had engineered the Russian Revolution.… He was arguing… that Hitlerism was the German nation’s innocently defensive response to the threat of Communism, that Hitler was only against ‘bad Jews,’ especially those born outside Germany.” Coughlin echoes Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels in claiming that Marxist atheism in Europe is a Jewish plot. He claims that America is overrun by “Jewry,” resulting in critics labeling him a “fascist.” Boston police discover that for several years Jewish youths in the city have been beaten and terrorized by what the Christian Science Monitor calls “Coughlinites and the Christian Front”; other assaults on American Jews are later found to have been carried out by people who support Coughlin, often with the complicity of local law enforcement and Catholic officials. The Christian Front collapses in January 1940 when the FBI raids its New York branch and finds a cache of weapons; FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover tells the press that the organization is planning the assassinations of a number of prominent Jews, communists, and “a dozen Congressmen.” Coughlin’s influence is badly damaged by the FBI’s claims, and Coughlin’s rhetoric continues to move to the extreme. By September 1940, he is calling Roosevelt “the world’s chief warmonger,” and in 1941 says that the US, not Germany or the Soviet Union, is the biggest threat to impose its domination on the world. “Many people are beginning to wonder who they should fear most,” he says, “the Roosevelt-Churchill combination or the Hitler-Mussolini combination.” When the US enters World War II at the end of 1941, the National Association of Broadcasters arranges for Coughlin’s broadcasts to be terminated. At Roosevelt’s behest, the US Post Office refuses to deliver his weekly newspapers. And in May 1942, Coughlin is ordered by Archbishop Francis Mooney to cease his political activities or be defrocked. Although Coughlin will continue to write pamphlets about the dangers of communism until his death in 1979, his influence on American political thought ends in the first months of the war. (New York Times 1/21/1940; Dinnerstein 1995, pp. 132-133; Spartacus Schoolnet 2010)

Marinus van der Lubbe.Marinus van der Lubbe. [Source: Spartacus Educational]The German house of parliament, the Reichstag building, is set ablaze, allegedly by Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch communist. At 9:14 p.m., a fire station in Berlin receives an alarm that the Reichstag, assembly location of the German parliament, is on fire. The fire seems to have been started in several places, and by the time the police and firemen arrive, a huge explosion has set the main Chamber of Deputies in flames. Looking for clues, the police quickly find 24-year-old van der Lubbe, naked and cowering behind the building. Van der Lubbe is a Dutch insurrectionary council communist and unemployed bricklayer who recently arrived in Germany. Chancellor Adolf Hitler and political aide Hermann Göring arrive soon after, and, when they are shown van der Lubbe, Göring immediately declares the fire was set by the communists and has the party’s leaders arrested. (Shirer 10/11/2011, pp. 191-192)
State of Emergency Will Be Declared in response to the Fire - Hitler will subsequently take advantage of the situation to declare a state of emergency and encourage aging President Paul von Hindenburg to sign the Reichstag Fire Decree, abolishing most of the human rights provisions of the 1919 Weimar Republic Constitution. The Nazis are running on a platform of hysterical anti-communism, insisting that Germany is on the verge of a communist revolution and the only way to stop this is to pass the Enabling Act. Hitler’s platform in the campaign will comprise of little more than demands that voters increase the Nazi share of seats so the Enabling Act can be passed. In order to decrease the number of opposition members who can vote against the Enabling Act, Hitler plans to ban the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), which holds 17 percent of the parliament’s seats, after the elections and before the new Reichstag convenes. (Chicago Tribune 4/27/1942)
Nazis Will Claim that the Alleged Perpetrator Is Part of a Communist Conspiracy - The Reichstag fire will allow Hitler to accelerate the banning of the Communist Party and will be used to confirm Nazi claims of a pending communist revolution. The Nazis will argue that the fire was meant to serve as a signal to launch the revolution, and warn the German public about the grisly fate it will suffer under communist rule. The Nazis will allege that van der Lubbe was part of the communist conspiracy to burn down the Reichstag and seize power, while the communists will allege that van der Lubbe was part of a Nazi conspiracy to blame the crime on them. The resulting Leipzig War Crimes Trial will be widely publicized and broadcast on the radio. The public will assume that the court will find the communists guilty on all counts. However, Georgi Dimitrov, who will stand accused in the trial for involvement with the Reichstag fire, will give up his right to a court-appointed lawyer and defend himself successfully. He will prove his innocence and the innocence of his communist comrades (except van der Lubbe) and be set free. In addition, he will present evidence that the organizers of the fire were senior members of the Nazi Party. However, van der Lubbe will say that he set the Reichstag fire, and did so in an attempt to rally the German people against fascism. He will be sentenced to death and be executed by guillotine on January 10, 1934, three days before his 25th birthday. (Milwaukee Journal 8/24/1942; Connolly 1/12/2008)
Responsibility for the Fire Will Become a Subject of Controversy - Historians will generally agree that van der Lubbe was involved in the Reichstag fire. The extent of the damage, however, will lead to considerable debate over whether he acted alone. Considering the speed with which the fire engulfed the building, van der Lubbe’s reputation as a mentally disturbed arsonist hungry for fame, and cryptic comments by leading Nazi officials, it will be generally believed the Nazi hierarchy was involved in starting the fire in order to reap political gain. Journalist William L. Shirer will argue that van der Lubbe was goaded into starting the fire by someone else, while the Nazis set a more elaborate fire at the same time, thereby placing van der Lubbe at the scene of the crime and framing him for an attempted communist takeover. Despite the outcome of the event and the dubious claims by the Nazi Party of a takeover, the issue of responsibility for the fire will still be debated decades later. (Shirer 10/11/2011, pp. 191-192; Oxford University Press 12/14/2013) The Enabling Act will be passed by the Reichstag on March 23, 1933. It will be the second major step after the Reichstag Fire Decree through which the Nazis legally establish Nazi Germany by providing the government with legislative powers, effectively handing dictatorial powers to Hitler. (Paterson 4/15/2001; Koonz 11/30/2005, pp. 33; Connolly 1/12/2008)

Soviet Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov gives a press conference regarding the KAL 007 shootdown.Soviet Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov gives a press conference regarding the KAL 007 shootdown. [Source: Central Intelligence Agency]The Soviet Union, flustered and angry at the harsh denunciations heaped on it by the US after their shootdown of a Korean Airlines passenger jet (see September 1, 1983, September 5, 1983, and Mid-September, 1983), reacts badly to the US’s response. Between the KAL incident and other episodes—President Reagan’s terming the USSR an “evil empire” (see March 8, 1983), the refusal of the US to negotiate on arms reduction (see April 1983-December 1983), and the US’s launch of the Strategic Defense Initiative missile defense program (see April 1983-December 1983), the Soviets are not prepared to accept the US’s position on the shootdown, nor are they prepared to accept responsibility for shooting down a passenger plane full of civilians. Instead, the KAL incident provides what Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to the US, will later call “a catalyst for the angry trends that were already inherent in relations during the Reagan presidency.” Newly installed Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov issues a statement saying that US-Soviet relations cannot improve so long as Reagan is president: “If anybody ever had any illusions about the possibility of an evolution to the better in the policy of the present American administration, these illusions are completely dispelled now.” Soviet statements begin referring to the danger of war and US nuclear first strikes. The Soviet press calls Reagan a “madman” and compares him to Adolf Hitler. Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko worries that “the world situation is now slipping towards a very dangerous precipice.” (Scoblic 2008, pp. 132)

In an interview, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushes hard for the US and Israel to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities, and warns that if this does not happen, the world will find itself teetering on the brink of World War III and a “second Holocaust.” Netanyahu says flatly, “Iran is Germany, and it’s 1938, except that this Nazi regime that is in Iran, that’s a religious kind of fanaticism, but it wants to dominate the world, annihilate the Jews, but also annihilate America. Remember, [Israel is] the small Satan. You’re the big Satan.… We’re just the first way station en route to you. So there is this fundament[al] fanaticism that is there. It’s a messianic cult. It’s a religious messianic cult that believes in the Apocalypse, and they believe they have to expedite the Apocalypse to bring the collapse of the West.” Netanyahu compares the Iranian leadership, both political and religious, to Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh (see June 22, 2002, “a crazy messianic cult of death.” He says, “So imagine David Koresh with nuclear weapons. Imagine David Koresh, not with hundreds of followers, but millions of followers, with nuclear weapons, wanting to obliterate America, wanting to obliterate America’s allies, wanting to take over the world’s oil supply. If the lunatics escape from the asylum, that’s one thing. But if they can get their hands on a nuclear weapon, that’s another. And this is that kind of cult.… I think when you have something as fanatic and as dangerous as this, the question now is not whether he should be stopped, but how’s he going to be stopped?” He also says of Muslim terrorists, “[T]hey’re out to get you; they’re not out to get us. We’re simply standing in their way. They’re not interested in Israel, per se. They’re interested in bringing down Western civilization, led by the United States.” If the US doesn’t act quickly, Netanyahu predicts that Iran “will dominate the Middle East very quickly,” making “the Persian Gulf an Iranian pond,” controlling “the world’s oil supply [and using] the weapons, first against my country, and then to intimidate or threaten Europe. They want to control the world.” (CNN 11/17/2006)

Former Bush administration official Ellen Sauerbrey (see October 11, 2005) tells a group of Maryland Republicans that President Obama is advancing socialist and fascist policies. Sauerbrey addresses a group of local Republicans in Callaway, Maryland. According to Sauerbrey, Obama has surrounded himself with cult-like, fanatical followers much as Adolf Hitler or Argentina’s Juan Peron did when they ruled their countries. While she says she is not comparing Obama to either of those leaders, she says that conditions in America make the time ripe for Obama to usurp dictator-like powers. Obama is advancing “fascist, socialist ideals,” she says, and adds: “I’m really afraid for the future of our country. Our Constitution is indeed being dismantled.” In an interview shortly after her address, Sauerbrey says she had issues with some of the Bush administration’s economic policies as well: “[W]hen you start down this road of these kinds of policies, you are on the road to destroying what has made this a great country.” As for the comparisons to Hitler and Peron, she later tells an interviewer: “I never mentioned Hitler’s name other than when the reporter came up to me afterwards. And I said, look, I am not making a direct comparison Obama and Hitler. I’m making a comparison between policies in countries, and that history has a way of repeating itself.” To the interviewer, Sauerbrey denies accusing Obama of being a fascist, though in her address she did accuse him of advancing “fascist, socialist ideals.” Instead, she says: “I’m saying, if you said ideals—yes I do believe, when you look at the definition of fascism. Fascism is not government ownership of business, it is government control of business.… I think that the definition of what the Obama administration is doing, from an economic definition standpoint, is much more closely described as fascism than socialism, because the government is not owning, it is directing and controlling the elements of the economy. Would you disagree with it?” (Kleefeld 9/17/2009; Terkel 9/18/2009)


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