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7 ways how Hitler held onto power. Trump has replicated 6 of them



Every account of Hitler’s first months as Chancellor of Germany by his contemporaries makes it clear that nobody expected him to last. He was a soap bubble that would soon burst; liberal democracy would return to Germany, as soon as the nation realized what a joke Hitler was.

Franz von Papen, who had been Chancellor prior to Hitler and in fact was Hitler’s Vice Chancellor from January 1933 until July 1934, in his “Memoirs” listed seven reasons why Hitler survived the uneasy early period and emerged as Germany’ dictator. There was a time—say, his first nine months in office—when Germany might have come to its senses and got rid of him. But this did not happen. As I go through von Papen’s seven reasons, I will point out the obvious analogies with Trump.

Von Papen’s Seven Reasons Why Hitler Succeeded

(The first six of these already has been replicated in the Trump regime. The seventh may well be, soon.)

  1. “The seemingly unconditional enthusiasm of his mass of adherents”

Hitler took office amidst a sea of joy from his supporters, who felt at last that they had seized power from the effete elitists of the Weimar Republic. Trump’s supporters likewise have so far displayed a fanatical devotion to their leader, and show no signs of abandoning him. Their dedication empowers Trump.

  1. “The idolization of his person”

By this von Papen means that Hitler had personally become a cult-like figure in Germany. He was seen as above and beyond mere politics—the embodiment of German hopes and history. Trump, too, portrays himself as possessing an almost mystical wisdom. “Nobody knows more about [fill in the blank] than me,” he has repeatedly boasted, whether it be foreign policy, jobs, ISIS, trade, nuclear issues, Iran, renewable energy, money, or infrastructure.

  1. “The Byzantine nature of his entourage”

Hitler’s top officials always were stabbing each other in the back, jockeying for the leader’s favoritism. Trump’s top officials too are at war with each other—at least, those who haven’t already been fired.

  1. “His own lust for power”

Hitler dreamed of supreme power for decades for achieving it. Trump similarly has been dreaming of running for president since at least the 1990s. He has finally obtained his goal, and won’t let go of it without a fight.

  1. “Lack of opposition from the bourgeois forces”

By using the old word “bourgeois” von Papen refers to what we would call “moderate conservatives,” particularly those who profess to be Christian. In other words, Germany’s 1930’s equivalent of the modern Republican Party. Trump, too, benefits from the craven fear of GOP leaders like McConnell and Ryan—although this may be shifting.

  1. “Insufficient resistance from the Conservative members of his first Cabinet”

Hitler’s initial Cabinet was by no means dominated by Nazis, but its members were curiously inert as he increasingly performed end-runs around the Constitution and became supreme leader. Trump’s Cabinet lost all independent credibility that day he forced them to publicly announce what a “blessing” it was to “serve” him.

7. “The fatal consequences of a war instigated on no rational grounds”

This is the one analogy that hasn’t materialized so far. Von Papen refers to the Second World War, which cemented Hitler’s hold on power (as it did for Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin as well). Trump hasn’t started a war, yet. But, as I wrote yesterday, there is every reason to believe he’s going to “wag the dog” with respect to North Korea and start a war that he thinks will keep him in power. That it will have “fatal consequences” seems not to be part of his thinking.

Have a nice weekend!



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