In 1955, he published a seminal work titled They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 in which he analyzes how Hitler came to power and got away so long with his maniacal agenda in a modern, civilized, cultured twentieth-century Germany.
He wanted to know what ordinary men, “not men of distinction,” felt, thought, and experienced, as their country slipping into darkness, how incrementally their nation devolved into fascism.
What he found was they just wanted to live their lives, and they did the best they could, realizing too late freedoms they once enjoyed eroded right under them. But because it happened gradually, few noticed, or, if they noticed, few said anything lest they seem paranoid. Slight disturbances did not appear to many to be that dire.
In chapter 13, Mayer quotes one of 10 men he befriended:
“Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others will join you. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone. You speak privately to your colleagues…but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad or ‘You’re seeing things’ or ‘You’re an alarmist’. And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and can’t prove it. Your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic.”
“This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.
“To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it–please try to believe me –unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, “regretted,” that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these “little measures” that no “patriotic German” could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.”
“Now I see a little better how Nazism overcame Germany–not by attack from without or by subversion from within, but with a whoop and a holler. It was what most Germans wanted–or, under pressure of combined reality and illusion, came to want. They wanted it; they got it; and they liked it.
“I came home a little bit afraid for my country, afraid of what it might want, and get, and like, under combined pressure of reality and illusion. I felt– and feel– that it was not German Man that I met, but Man. He happened to be in Germany under certain conditions. He might be here under certain conditions. He might, under certain conditions, be I.
“If I– and my countrymen– ever succumbed to that concatenation of conditions, no Constitution, no laws, no police, and certainly no army would be able to protect us from harm.”
Friends, countrymen–this is the road down which we are currently headed.
Consider three things for which Adolf Hitler is known:
- Mass deportations of “undesirables” blamed for the nation’s ills;
- Racial supremacists assembling in public to demonstrate support for “their leader”;
- Concentration camps
Consider today’s equivalents:
- Mass deportations of undocumented people
- The “Unite the Right Rally” in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017 and subsequent violence from Trump-inspired white supremacists
- The detention of thousands of children in concentration camps along our Southern border.
In the two weeks since Donald Trump was acquitted in his Senate impeachment trial, he has used the captive audience at the annual National Prayer Breakfast to vow vengeance against those who testified against him, fired impeachment witnesses, and insinuated himself in the seven-to-nine-year prison sentence of ally Roger Stone.
This week in fascism, Trump enlisted his Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the division that oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), against “sanctuary” New York for its refusal to turn immigrants over by preventing New York residents from enrolling in programs to expedite international travel.
In his obsession with “illegals” running rampant through “democrat sanctuary cities,” prepare next to see armed “tactical units” in America’s streets.
According to The New York Times:
“The specially trained officers are being sent to cities including Chicago and New York to boost the enforcement power of local Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, according to two officials who are familiar with the secret operation. Additional agents are expected to be sent to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit and Newark, N.J.”
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson Lawrence Payne confirmed 100 officers over the next three months will be called up from the Southern border to work with ICE “in order to enhance the integrity of the immigration system, protect public safety, and strengthen our national security.”
Among the units being deployed are members the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC), the CBP’s equivalent of a SWAT team, armed with stun grenades and Special Forces-type training that includes sniper detection.
Tasked with supporting ICE agents in routine immigration arrests, the SWAT-team connotation is already alarming.
Former CBP commissioner Gil Kerlikowske called it a “significant mistake,” explaining:
“If you were a police chief and you were going to make an apprehension for a relatively minor offense, you don’t send the SWAT team. And BORTAC is the SWAT team. They’re trained for much more hazardous missions than this.”
Senior advocacy and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Naureen Shah, added:
“This is transparent retaliation against local governments for refusing to do the administration’s bidding. It will put lives at risk by further militarizing our streets.”
National Immigration Forum’s Ali Noorani commented:
“It is unbelievable how much this action will undermine public safety. Unbelievable.”
Cecilia Muñoz, vice president of the think tank New America, tweeted:
Officers trained in SWAT team tactics, sent to help with run-of-the-mill immigration arrests in major cities far from the border.
Trump is using military-style tactics because he has a political beef with cities whose policies he doesn't like. https://t.co/QEwG0DyNab
— Cecilia Muñoz (@cecmunoz) February 14, 2020
The same week Trump’s Republican Senate enablers let the president off the hook, an ICE agent shot unarmed Brooklyn man Eric Diaz-Cruz in the face during a routine ICE arrest–the very type BORTAC is being ordered to help carry out.
No matter how we look at it, we have become “that country.”
We can’t pretend we weren’t warned.
Trump promised a “deportation force.”
He and his ardent supporters like to boast about the “promises he has kept.”
Sadly, here’s one.
This should be the daily headline for every major media outlet in the nation.
Sadly, our corporate media would rather we not know about any of this, thus setting up the fait accompli that will one day cause future generations to shake their heads and vow “Never again.”
It’s already happening.
Image credit: en.wikipedia.org