Holocaust survivor says Trump's America ‘feels like 1929 or 1930 Berlin’

The president may not be a fascist, the survivor told Newsweek, but he is an enabler of hate speech

Clark Mindock
New York
Monday 09 April 2018 20:01 BST
Neo Nazis and white supremacists pictured at the rally in Charlottesville
Neo Nazis and white supremacists pictured at the rally in Charlottesville (Getty)

A holocaust survivor says that he sees a lot of parallels between what is happening in American today and the atmosphere in pre-Nazi Germany that led to millions of people being murdered by the state.

Stephen B Jacobs, who has lived in the United States since being liberated from the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945, told Newsweek that the growing prominence of far-right voices since President Donald Trump’s ascension to America’s highest office is worrying — and that things seem to just be getting worse.

“Things just go from bad to worse every day,” Mr Jacobs, a 79-year-old architect in New York who designed a memorial at his former concentration camp, said. “There’s a real problem growing.”

He said that it is not just that far-right demonstrators feel emboldened in the age of Trump, but also that their rhetoric and talking points have seeped into some areas of mainstream political discourse.

“It feels like 1929 or 1930 Berlin,” Mr Jacobs, who said he sees a “direct parallel” between 2018 America and the nascent days of Nazi Germany, said.

“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. It’s totally unacceptable,” he continued. “We thought our country had change. In fact, it didn’t. We were operating under a misconception. ‘My god, we elected a black president in the United States! Look how far we’ve come!’ We haven’t.”

Observers note that the divisive rhetoric of Mr Trump’s campaign has carried over into his presidency, squashing previous hopes that he would become a unifying presidential figure once actually in office.

That has resulted in both tangible and symbolic developments: The Southern Poverty Law Centre — a civil rights advocacy group — saw a 4 per cent spike in the number of hate groups in the country, while a white supremacist rally resulted in the death of a counter-demonstrator being killed in Charlottesville last year — an incident that Mr Trump appeared hesitant to denounce in the days that followed.

Mr Jacobs told Newsweek that he does not think of the president as a fascist — “you’ve got to know what fascism is. And I don’t think he has the mental power to even understand it” — but said that he knows the president personally from the New York real estate industry, and that he fears the worst.

“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.”

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