One doesn’t have to be a member of the opposing party to cringe at President Donald Trump’s antics. His outrageous remarks and actions keep drawing criticism from both sides of the political aisle.
This time, a Holocaust survivor has drawn a parallel between today’s America and the Nazi Germany. He said the rise of the American far-right under Trump “feels like 1929 or 1930 Berlin” as Nazis thrived, and “things just go from bad to worse every day.”
Stephen B. Jacobs is among the youngest of the living Holocaust survivors and was born six years after Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. He spoke to Newsweek ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Jacobs might be 79 years old but he clearly remembers the fate he, his family and friends suffered at the hands of Nazis in Buchenwald. More importantly, he has a warning from the past for America today.
The renowned architect said the current climate in the U.S. is reminiscent of the years that led to the Nazi takeover of Germany. When economic, political and social resentments were surging and eventually led to the dreadful right-wing rule of Hitler, who got to power by promising Germans to bring their country back to its pre-World War I glory — make Germany great again, if you will.
Though Jacobs was not yet alive in 1929 or 1930, the Nazi Party’s second largest base of support at that time was in Berlin, after Munich. The party’s Berlin branch was headed by one of Hitler's close associates, Joseph Goebbels, who frequently referred to Jewish people as “negative aspects” who needed to be “eradicated.”
Jacobs is highly perturbed by the growth of the far-right movement and white nationalism in the United States and said, “There’s a real problem growing.”
“Things that couldn’t be said five years ago, four years ago, three years ago — couldn’t be said in public — are now normal discourse,” he continued. “It’s totally unacceptable.”
Moreover, his opinion didn’t come out of thin air. Being an architect based in New York City, he has personally come across the president.
“I’m involved with New York real estate, I know this man personally,” he said. “Trump is an enabler. Trump has no ideas. Trump is out for himself. He’s a sick, very disturbed individual.”
Jacobs, who designed the Holocaust memorial at Buchenwald, terms Trump an “enabler’ of far-right rhetoric,”and the white nationalists who he says have become emboldened by his rise in politics.
Jacobs was separated from his mother, aunts and grandmother in 1944 when he, his older brother and father were sent to Buchenwald from a labor camp in Poland.
However, he and his family survived the concentration camp and were later liberated by the U.S. Third Army.
Although the survivor doesn't paint an optimistic picture of the U.S. right now, he is still pressing the Americans, particularly those with power in Washington, D.C., to fight fascism once again.
He also said he couldn’t quite call Trump a fascist because “you’ve got to know what fascism is” and he doesn’t believe the president “has the mental power to even understand it.”
Jacobs went on to burst the bubble of many who believe that the country has changed.
“We were operating on a misconception,” he said.
People thought, “‘My god, we elected a black president in the United States! Look how far we’ve come!’ We haven’t,” he added.
A look at the findings of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that monitors hate groups and other extremists throughout the U.S., adds a lot of weight to Jacobs’ wariness of extremist organizations.
According to SPLC, armed militias and supremacist groups have risen 4 percent since 2016. Within white supremacist movements, neo-Nazi groups saw the greatest growth, going from 99 to 121 in 2017 alone.
Jacobs made sure that on the Holocaust Remembrance Day, he not only commemorated the tragedy but also warned Americans about the possible dangers of Trump’s divisive rhetoric in case they have forgotten lessons from the past.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters