Hitler, Trump, Putin
Sharpening the Comparisons
In the past few years, leaders ranging from Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin have been compared to Adolf Hitler. I think the comparisons are valid. But Hitler had more than a decade-long career as the authoritarian leader of Germany, and it might be useful to sharpen the comparisons by specifying where and when in Hitler's career the comparisons most accurately apply.
Hitler at his worst was responsible for the murder of six million Jewish people and tens of thousands of Roma. Putin has certainly not come close to that number as yet, and it is not clear at this point that Trump has been responsible for murder. Where, then, do they currently correlate to Hitler's horrendous career?
Shortly before and leading to the onset of World War II, Hitler annexed pieces of the other countries around him. In 1938, Hitler convinced Neville Chamberlain (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) to allow Germany to annex the Sudetenland, a part of Czechoslovakia, due to Sudetenland having a predominantly German population (Chamberlain's concession is dramatized in the recent movie, Munich -- The Edge of War). A year later, Hitler and Stalin's joint conquest of Poland ignited the Second World War. Clearly, Putin's attempt to annex Ukraine is somewhere between Hitler's annexation of Sudetenland and conquest of Poland. In that undeniable, tragic way, Putin is indeed like Hitler.
Trump's similarity to Hitler comes at a much earlier time. Hitler rose to power condemning the press that truthfully reported on his activities as the Lügenpresse -- the lying press -- just as Trump labeled and still continues to call news organizations that truthfully report on his activities as "fake news" (Putin of course also calls any press critical of him "fake news" and has shut down the free press in Russia to silence their criticism of his war against Ukraine). By 1932, Hitler's Nazi party received enough votes in the general election that the German President, von Hindenburg, appointed Hitler as Chancellor. Successive, closely occurring elections resulted in Hitler going out of and back into power. By 1933, Hitler was back as Chancellor, and before that year ended, all political parties other than the Nazis were banned in Germany. I would say Trump most accurately compares to Hitler circa 1932 to 1933. Trump won the electoral college vote and became U. S. President in 2017, lost the vote and was out as President in 2021, and may run again in 2024.
The point of these comparisons, and the hope that resides in them, is that there is still time to prevent the further rise of Trump and Putin. With the current and immensely destructive attack on Ukraine, Putin is the one who needs to be stopped most immediately. The Ukrainian people are doing an heroic job of this, but they need even more help from U.S., NATO, and the free world, as Ukraine has repeatedly requested and experts ranging from U. S. Army lieutenant colonel (ret.) Alexander Vindman (who was fired by Trump after Vindman testified against him at Trump's first impeachment trial, where Trump was charged with attempting to blackmail Zelensky into lying about Joe Biden's son Hunter) and former U. S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul have repeatedly urged. Trump is not an immediate danger right now, but the Republicans need to nominate someone else for the 2024 U.S. Presidential election -- or, if they nominate Trump again, he needs to be soundly defeated again.
These comparisons to Hitler are painful but they are necessary. They may seem over the top, but they are not. Trump has indeed referred to the press an an "enemy of the people" -- a hallmark of repressive, totalitarian governments -- and Putin has indeed savagely attacked Ukraine with no provocation, his soldiers killing children, a pregnant woman (at least one that we know of), people on breadlines, and who knows how many other unarmed civilians.
We the people in this world who believe in freedom have our work cut out for us. We cannot rest easy until Trump and Putin are not only no longer in office, but permanently so.
About the author
Paul Levinson's novels include The Silk Code & The Plot To Save Socrates; his LPs Twice Upon A Rhyme & Welcome Up. His nonfiction including Fake News in Real Context, The Soft Edge, & Digital McLuhan have been translated into 15 languages.