Election 2016

Anne Frank's Stepsister: Trump 'Is Acting Like Hitler': Holocaust Survivors Warn of Historical Parallels

A critique that should chill all of us to the bone.

Donald Trump
Photo Credit: Vine

“If Donald Trump become[s] the next president of the U.S. it would be a complete disaster,” author and Auschwitz survivor Eva Schloss states in a recent Newsweek op-ed marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Pointing to his promises to close the borders to Muslims and Mexicans, the 86-year-old Schloss, who is the stepsister of Anne Frank, sees disturbing parallels between the Republican frontrunner and a dangerous historical predecessor. “I think he is acting like another Hitler by inciting racism,” Schloss says. “Fewer people would have died in the Holocaust if the world had accepted more Jewish refugees.”

She is not the only Holocaust survivor who has observed Trump’s ascendancy with fear and foreboding. With “Don’t stand by” as the theme of this year’s observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a number of survivors are speaking out about the ugliness of Trump’s message and those who have embraced it. These words of warning come as multiple polls indicate Trump currently holds comfortable leads among GOP voters in Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire.

“The guy scares me,” Martin Weiss, an 87-year-old Auschwitz survivor who lost most of his family in the camp, told the Washington Post. “I don’t want to make any comparison to Hitler, but believe it or not his delivery and the way he conducts himself is very similar to Hitler’s way of doing things. He discredits everybody who disagrees with him. He’s insulting. He discriminates against everybody.”

“It’s really frightening,” survivor Al Munzer told the newspaper. “When you see these mass rallies that Trump is able to attract, you really wonder: How are they buying into this message of hate?”

The most direct answer to Munzer’s question can be found in the words of Trump’s followers themselves, who aren’t so much buying into hate as they are enthusiastically supporting the guy boosting the hate and racism they already feel. For all his self-aggrandizement, even Donald Trump wouldn’t likely claim to have hypnotized his supporters. He’s merely speaking directly to a huge demographic of overwhelmingly white voters who want blacks, Mexicans, Muslims and others out of the country they believe belongs to them. This is what they mean by "making America great again."

Arthur Jones, who ran for Illinois Congress as a Republican and in 2012 stated “the Holocaust is nothing more than an international extortion racket by the Jews,” recently endorsed Trump for president. “I agree with a lot of what Mr. Trump has to say,” Jones told the Oak Lawn, Illinois Patch. “He’s his own man. I like the fact that he doesn’t have to go hat in hand to Jewish billionaires to get money.”

CNN reporter spoke with Iowan Paul Weber, a Trump supporter who explained, "The people that are coming in here from China, Indonesia and all of them countries, they're getting pregnant and coming here and having babies. They get everything and the people that were born here can't get everything." (CNN notes that Weber told the Asian reporter he meant “no offense.”)

Rhett Benhoff of North Carolina told CNN he was supporting Trump because white men have it so hard these days. "I mean, it seems like we really go overboard to make sure all these other nationalities nowadays and colors have their fair shake of it,” Benhoff complained, “but no one's looking out for the white guy anymore."

Patricia Saunders, a Trump backer from South Carolina, told the network Obama had spent the last eight years ruining things for white people, the natural inheritors of the U.S. "White Americans founded this country. We are being pushed aside because of the president's administration and the media."

Another Iowan, Robert Engelkes, stated, “What did we do in World War II? We put all the Japanese in internment camps," presumably as a suggestion for how we might move forward with Muslim immigrants. "We had to do something with them."

These attitudes are commonplace in America, and Trump’s numbers are at least one reason to end the feigned astonishment over their existence. For people of color and other marginalized groups, Trump’s rise is merely an explicit pronouncement of the race hate and xenophobia that are key to America’s national identity. For many Holocaust survivors, Trump and his followers are cause for an unsettling case of deja vu.

“Sooner or later, you know what happens in a case like this?” Weiss asked the Post, before recalling the historical similarities being currently witnessed. “That’s how Weimar Germany went to hell, because when Hitler came in, if somebody disagreed with him—guess what—he put them in prison or he had them shot or he opened the concentration camp.”

“It is repeating itself, and it is again the inattention that people pay to real cues that one should understand,” Margit Meissner, a 94-year-old who managed to escape Nazi-occupied France told the Post. “It’s not Weimar, but it could become Weimar Germany if you have Mr. Trump here and people keep believing what he says...I think one has to speak up. And that’s the one lesson from the Holocaust: Do not be a bystander.”

(h/t WaPo, CNN)

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

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