The comparison of a person to Hitler is a frequent refrain to demonstrate how intolerant, narcissistic, or brutal a person in power can be. However, this comparison can often be seen as an over-exaggeration or hyperbole due to Hitler’s infamous reputation. What people often forget is that Hitler wasn’t always the same person responsible for the systematic murder of millions. Before rising to power, he was just a small-town bigot with intense and delusional beliefs about himself and others. He worked aloud, and in secret, playing with truths and rules to finagle his way into a position where all his dissolutions became an infamous force upon reality.
The rise of Hitler is a cautionary tale, not just about how far a poisonous thought can disseminate the world, but about the dangers of overlooking or underestimating the potential for evil in its infancy. Hitler’s rise to power was a result of a series of oversights and underestimated threats that allowed someone with his particular mindset to gain influence and ascend the ranks.
In November 1923, Hitler and his then fringe Nazi supporters attempted to overthrow the German government in the name of nationalism and strength. The coup failed, and Hitler fled the scene leaving his sycophants behind. Two days later, Hitler was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison. During his imprisonment, Hitler sought to create an image that would convince others of the god like qualities he saw in himself. To do so, he created a fictional persona, writing a book under an assumed name that lauded Hitler as the savior of Germany. (All as an unbiased 3rd party, of course.) The egotist then used that momentum to stoke flames of anger, convincing the German people that he had solutions to the very problems he manifested. It was a vicious cycle: Create the problem, blame those you hate for the problems, assert you are the only one with the solution, and repeat into fervor.
Unfortunately for those alive in 1923, Hitler was only 34. This was just the beginning of his 20 year campaign in politics where he would continue to manipulate, deceive, self inflate, and dismantle the world. The world lacked the priori knowledge of how such manipulative thinking could lead to a global meltdown. They did not have a “Hitler” to learn mistakes from.
The failed “Beer Hall Putsch” (coup) of 1923 was nothing compared to the atrocities to follow later. It is the mindset and characteristics of this type of individual that are the warning signs. Signs the surrounding community is bound to appreciate and resist. If we wait for someone to replicate Hitler’s final years as the only true comparison, then we are relegating ourselves to always acting too late.
It is the fervent blame on others, the lack of culpability, and the “I am your savior” mentality that we must shine a light on when remembering the failure in stopping the Nazi Party’s propaganda. The world has a solemn commitment to “Never Forget” the atrocities of the Holocaust and the hate filled speech of WWII. To do so, we must not only honor the lives lost but remember how one was able to rise to such levels of brutality. If the only time “we remember” comes after a menace has risen to power, then it is already too late.
The rise of Hitler serves as a reminder of what can happen when we turn a blind eye to the warning signs of a narcissistic and power-hungry leader. Hitler gained power because people underestimated him and allowed him to climb the ranks. The world has made a promise to “Never Again” allow someone like Hitler to rise to power, but the key to keeping this promise is recognizing the characteristics of a leader like him.
These characteristics include a tendency to shift blame, a belief in themselves as the only solution, and a talent for creating angry polarization in order to gain importance. If we only remember to pay attention to these red flags once a group as garnered a large following, we would acting too late. Then we’ve learned nothing from the past.
These traits and events are not relegated to ancient history. They persist in our present-day world, as evidenced by riots at capitol buildings, unchecked leaders who have become drunk on power, and the rise of self-anointed saviors who claim to have all the answers. They thrive in a new age of sycophants and fear-mongering, taking root and festering like a cancer. But the solution is not to look for a false idol to save us from a world that is only viewed through the lens of those that are the “problem”. The power must flow to the people, by the people, and for the people.
We must recognize the warning signs and stand up to those who seek to manipulate and control us. We must be vigilant. By doing so, we can stop the cycle of history repeating itself and move towards a brighter, more equitable future. We must remember that the strength lies in our unity and our unwavering dedication to the principles of freedom, justice, and equality.
Yes, the comparison of a person to Hitler is a serious one and should not be taken lightly. That being said, it is important to remember that Hitler was not always the monster he is remembered as, but rather a product of a series of oversights and underestimated dangers. Humanity created a path for a person to spread a heavily distorted philosophy of your neighbor masked as a “strength”. We must remember the lessons of the past and remain vigilant against the rise of any individual with similar tendencies and beliefs. Only then can we truly honor the commitment to “Never Again” and “Never Forget.”
So, the next time you hear someone compared to Hitler, don’t just brush it off as hyperbole. It’s important to recognize these comparisons against a 35 year old Hitler, still acting well below is potential for evil. Keep an eye out for the warning signs of a leader who could lead us down a dangerous path. By recognizing these traits, we can honor our commitment to ensure a better future for all.