This election cycle has given me an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. Looking closely at Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, I find it to be eerily reminiscent of the chain of events that brought Adolf Hitler to power in the 1930s, and these in turn I find to be eerily reminiscent of the amazing 10-day vacation I took to Berlin more than a decade ago.
It should give us pause that, just like Trump, Hitler was a fringe authoritarian figure whose views lie far outside the mainstream. Meanwhile, just like Hitler, I went to Berlin and had an unforgettable time.
When I think about Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again,” I can’t help but think of Hitler co-opting anxiety over the crippled post-WWI German economy for his own political gain, and when I think about this, I can’t help but think of me in 2004, just out of college and eager to see the world, walking through central Berlin in awe of the sights, from the Brandenburg Gate to the gorgeous Gendarmenmarkt.
Much like Hitler being in Berlin in 1933, I was in Berlin in 2004.
Every time I see a clip of Trump advocating mass deportations, it might as well be Hitler giving a speech in the Reichstag advocating mass deportations, which might as well be me standing in the Reichstag with our tour guide, Markus, who was so insightful and fun and he even got a beer with the whole group after.
We must not lose sight of the barely disguised xenophobia suffusing all of Trump’s rhetoric, and how disconcertingly similar this is to the anti-Semitism that propelled Hitler to power in Berlin in 1933, and how disconcertingly similar this is to the wanderlust that brought me to Berlin. And it’s when you look at the particular details of Trump’s emergence on the national scene that things really get spooky. Remember, Trump was initially dismissed as a buffoon by establishment pundits and politicians.
Remind you of anyone?
Much like Trump, Hitler managed to obscure his virulence behind a veil of extravagant public displays. By the time anyone took Hitler seriously, he’d already realized his ambition and seized the reins of power in Berlin.
Ringing any bells?
Much like Hitler being in Berlin in 1933, I was in Berlin in 2004. Visiting Germany had been a dream of mine since high school, but until the summer of 2004, I’d never been able to go. After graduation and before my first job, I finally had my chance, and before I knew it, I’d booked my trip. It was everything I’d hoped for. And if that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.
So, a crucial election is almost upon us. Next Tuesday, Trump and Clinton will take center stage, while in the background shall loom the specter of Hitler and Nazi Germany less than a century ago, while further in the background shall loom the specter of me having a blast in Berlin less than 14 short years ago.
We would do well not to ignore such ghosts. I know I won’t.