Reading a history written in history and seeing how all history is understood through the lens of each generation.
I read German and the Jews: The Right, The Left, and the a Search for a Third Force in Pre-Nazi Germany first published in 1987, by an German emigre historian. In school, I learned about the Holocaust, but recently, I’ve been interested in how it got to that. What were the events leading up to it? What did it German society feel and look like – from the dinner table conversations to the classrooms to the streets?
“German and the Jews” focuses on the different factions of political thought and alliances in pre-Nazi Germany. It answers part of my question. It shows how, when neither communism nor capitalism could provide answers to the chaos following WWI and the Great Depression, a third option emerged: nativism, or going back to the way things were. It showed how “going back” could be revolutionary.
“Make America Great Again” is a homage to conservative revolutions: as to say, “let’s move towards something behind us!” It mirrors the Volkish revolution in early 20th century Germany, a revolution to return to German roots, nativism, and “blood and soil.” It’s the convergence of striving towards something and believing that that something only existed in a past society. In this way, history repeats itself: when people feel threatened in some way, what do we often do that remains the same across nations and time? Resort to tribalism and other-ism, resulting in dehumanizing the “outsiders.” Yet, will simply having this knowledge stop it in it’s tracks or will the tape continue rolling? There has to be something in order other than watching the script play out, mumbling each line before it’s said.