If Hitler Had Lived in the YouTube Era
“Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”
—Justice Louis D. Brandeis
In the critical days before the Congress officially returns to work to weight the issue of military strikes against Syria, we have seen many more disturbing video images online and on television that prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the al-Assad regime had used sarin gas against his own people. These videos, taken on the scene in real time with cell phones and other “new” technologies, make a near-fortress like case that everything that America has asserted in regard to these attacks is true. However, whether or not that will make a difference to the Congress and the American public remains to be seen [for more on that read my previous posting here: http://jeffreykrames.com/2013/09/07/the-word-of-a-leader/].
While watching these heart-wrenching videos, I began to wonder what would have happened if such images existed in real time while Adolph Hitler waged his merciless war and subsequent genocide against the Jewish people. If so, would the world have allowed Hitler to get as far as he did? Would they have watched Hitler roll over the Polish army [so mis-matched atop horses fighting Hitler’s air force and armored Blitzkrieg divisions]?
First, a bit of history: Hitler lost a key election in 1932 by securing just under 37 percent of the vote. Paul von Hindenburg, an independent, crushed Hitler with 53 percent of the German electorate backing him. In the German “Weimar system,” the president had broad and sweeping powers, and Hindenburg made the most seriously flawed mistake of his presidency by elevating Adolph Hitler to the key post as Chancellor of Germany at the end of January, 1933. After Hindenburg died in office in 1934, Hitler consolidated his power as dictator of Germany by eliminating the office of the presidency and replacing it with the newly created post of “Führer und Reichskanzler” (“Leader and Reich Chancellor”).
But as early as 1933 Hitler began his war against Jews and other people within his own country. Here is how the New York Times reports it:
“Within months [of Hitler’s appointment in 1933], the first concentration camp was opened in the Bavarian town of Dachau. The first prisoners were political opponents of the regime. But it wasn’t long before other groups that the Nazis deemed undesirable were rounded up and sent away: in particular, Jews, homosexuals, and gypsies.”
The SS—Hitler’s elite paramilitary force—had long been terrorizing Germany’s Jews, beating them up and vandalizing their businesses. The Nazis believed that Germans, part of what they called the Aryan race, were racially superior to Jews. In 1935, their racist beliefs became official German policy with the passage of the Nuremberg laws, which stripped German Jews of citizenship and laid the groundwork for the horrors to follow.
On Nov. 9, 1938, the Nazis orchestrated a nationwide wave of attacks on Jewish businesses, homes, and synagogues. Almost 100 Jews were killed, and thousands were arrested and sent to concentration camps. The night became known as Kristallnacht—the night of broken glass.”
I must note that Bashar al-Assad is no Adolph Hitler. Al-Assad is the dictator of a brutal regime that used chemical weapons to kill many people—yes. But their goals were far different and the number of dead in Syria does not come close to the number of Hitler’s murders, and Syria is a poor country with a limited military that does not compare to a fighting force capability as strong as say, Iran, never mind the United States. In 1939 Germany had the world’s third most powerful military.
We all know of Hitler’s atrocities—and as the son of Holocaust survivors who had lost most everyone at the hand of Hitler’s armies—I could not help wonder what would have happened if the world was able to see what Hitler began in 1933 as it happened. Would France and England have permitted Hitler to take Czechoslovakia and annex Austria [in the so-labelled Anschluss] in 1938? Would the U.S. have intervened far earlier in the second World War?
We, of course, cannot answer these and many more pressing questions with certainty this many decades later. However, I think it is a very fair to assume that despite the many pockets of anti-semitism of the day that persisted inside and outside the borders of the United States and Europe, the world would not have allowed Hitler to go unchallenged. Even Czechoslovakia could have given Hitler a fight, as it possessed dozens of well-armored divisions in 1938, but laid down its arms without firing a single bullet. We know now that Hitler correctly assumed that no one would have the stomach to wage war against him until September of 1939 when he attacked Poland. His armies were not ready for war before then, and the world was war-weary still after World War I.
Now, as the world faces another brutal dictator [albeit with far less military power than the Nazi Germany of 1939], what happens in the upcoming days and weeks will be of historical significance for many reasons. One of the biggest challenges for the world—more specifically the United States— is that there are no good choices left. Because the world watched as al-Assad slaughtered 110,000 of his people with mostly conventional weapons, we now have bad guys on both sides of the conflict. Still, that does not mean that inaction will not come without a heavy price.
No matter what happens, we must never forget.
—-Jeffrey A. Krames, September 8, 2013