A group of public high-school students in Newport Beach, California, has provoked a huge controversy for arranging red cups in the shape of a swastika and doing a Nazi salute at a drinking party. Even though the party was a private affair, school officials and even law-enforcement officers are investigating the matter, especially since the party apparently involved some under-age drinking. The school’s Associated Student Body issued a statement denouncing and condemning “all acts of anti-Semitism and hate in any form.” According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, one of the students has received a death threat.
Unfortunately, those students aren’t the only people who have seemingly expressed admiration or sympathy for Nazi principles and policies. There have been plenty of others, especially during the 1930s, many years before the Holocaust.
Consider, for example, Winston Churchill. He once declared, “I have always said that if Great Britain were defeated in war I hoped we should find a Hitler to lead us back to our rightful position among the nations.”
Why would Churchill say such a thing? After Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933, he was viewed by many as a “great leader,” one who could lead Germany out of the Great Depression.
Equally important, many Germans and many people around the world agreed with the economic policies that Hitler was employing to lead Germany out of the Depression.
For example, many people agreed with Hitler’s policy of massive military spending and his belief in a large, permanent military-industrial complex.
They also agreed with his strong commitment to Social Security, a welfare-state program that, in fact, had originated among German socialists in the late 19th century.
They agreed with the Nazi Party’s fierce commitment to public (i.e., government) schooling, especially as a way to create the proper mindset of “patriotism,” deference to authority, obedience, and regimentation within German children.
They agreed with Hitler’s concept of a government-managed and government-regulated economy.
They agreed with the Nazi monetary concepts of a central bank, monetary central planning, and paper money, especially as a way to “stimulate” the German economy.
They agreed with Hitler’s program of massive public-works projects, such as the Autobahn system, which ultimately served to inspire the Interstate Highway System in the United States.
They also liked that Hitler believed in the concept of using emergencies, such as the terrorist attack on the Reichstag, as a means to acquire totalitarian-like powers. That was what the Enabling Act was all about.
In fact, many of the economic policies that Hitler was employing to lead Germany out of the Depression were quite similar to those being employed by America’s president, Franklin Roosevelt, who took office in 1933, ironically the same year that Hitler did. Don’t forget, after all, that it was Roosevelt who was responsible for enacting Social Security here in the United States. Moreover, Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which placed American businesses and industries into government-managed cartels, along with its infamous Blue Eagle campaign to assure compliance, would have easily been embraced by Hitler.
In fact, it might surprise many Americans to know that Hitler even wrote a letter to Roosevelt expressing admiration for how FDR was leading America out of the Depression with his New Deal programs.
One of the best books in this area is Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939 by Wolfgang Schivelbusch, a book that details the remarkable similarities between what the Nazis and fascists in Italy (under Mussolini) were doing and what Roosevelt was doing here in the United States with his New Deal. See these three reviews of the book: here and here and here.
Perhaps it’s worth mentioning, especially during a time when so many are enamored with socialism, that the Nazi Party is actually short for the National Socialist Party.
What about anti-Semitism? Actually, it wasn’t limited to Hitler. Anti-Semitism extended to the Roosevelt administration as well. Consider, for example, the infamous “Voyage of the Damned.” It consisted of a German ship carrying Jewish refugees from Germany. Roosevelt officials refused to permit the ship to land at Miami. The reason? The refugees were Jewish and, therefore, were unwelcome in America. The ship captain had no choice but to turn the ship eastward and begin heading back to Germany. At the last minute, Britain and some European countries reluctantly agreed to take the refugees. The ones who ended up in Europe lost their lives after the Nazis went to war against France.
Not surprisingly, the Voyage of the Damned is not taught or emphasized in America’s own public (i.e., government) school system. For that matter, neither is Roosevelt’s refusal generally to permit German Jews to immigrate to the United States from Germany. Thus, not very many Americans realize that during the 1930s, long before the Holocaust, the Hitler regime was willing to let Jews leave Germany. The problem, however, was that foreign governments, including the U.S. government, would not permit them to enter their countries. Roosevelt’s position was “We have the quota system,” which meant that under America’s system of immigration central planning, only a set number of Germans could be permitted to enter to the United States, and the quota was already filled. If Roosevelt had not taken that position, countless German Jews would have escaped the Holocaust several years later.
Finally, check out an article entitled “At Home with the Fuhrer” that appeared in the November 3, 2003, issue of the Guardian. It tells about a British magazine called Homes and Gardens whose November 1938 issue featured a nice pictorial description of Hitler’s chalet in the Bavarian Alps. The article observed that “The colour scheme throughout this bright, airy chalet is light jade green. The Fuhrer is his own decorator, designer and furnisher, as well as architect … [and] has a passion about cut flowers in his home.” The article went on to say that Hitler “delights in the society of brilliant foreigners, especially painters, musicians and singers. As host, he is a droll raconteur…” [a person who tells anecdotes in a skillful and amusing way]. The November 1938 pictorial was published “two years after Hitler had occupied the Rhineland and six months after ‘union’ with Austria. He had just taken Czechoslovakia and Germany was weeks away from the horrors of Kristalnacht.”
I can’t help but wonder if Churchill, who expressed his admiration for Hitler in that same month — November 1938 — was a subscriber to Homes and Gardens.