"A LITTLE HISTORY LESSON – CAN IT HAPPEN AGAIN?"
By Frank Lanza, M.D.
In 1928, the German Republic was a very fragile democracy. Germany was laboring under the severe restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles and the effects of the recent hyperinflation, which wiped out the savings of a large part of the middle class. An election was held that year and the small national socialist (Nazi) party garnered 810,000 votes, only 3% of the total. In a parliamentary democracy, which Germany was at that time, the head of state, the elected president or hereditary monarch asks the leader of the party with the most members elected to the legislature to form a government. This is relatively easy when one party has a majority, but can be a real problem when the leading party only has a plurality.
The next election was held in 1930. The Nazi party increased its vote tally to 6.5,000,000, nowhere near enough to be a significant force in any government. Heinrich Bruening of the Catholic Center Party was asked by President Hindenburg to try to form a government. Hindenburg was Germany’s leading soldier in World War I and was the most popular man in Germany at that time. Bruening was unsuccessful, mainly because there were ten parties in the mix with constant bargaining, bickering, and catering to special interests. Hindenburg reluctantly appointed Bruening Chancellor and instructed him to rule by presidential decree.
Heinrich Bruening was not a popular leader. He was dubbed the “hunger chancellor”. Unfortunately, he inherited the Great Depression with its unemployment and lowered wages. In May of 1932, Bruening was finally forced out of office and new elections held. This election was marked by extreme violence, especially by members of the Schutzstaffel (SS), a military order originally designed for security purposes, but later much else and the Sturmabteiling (SA), essentially a paramilitary bunch of thugs intended for the intimidation, brutalizing, and even murder of opponents of Naziism. At one point, Marshall Law had to be imposed. Later, in 1932, another election had to be held and Nazis received over 16,000,000 votes and 230 seats in the Reichstag (The German Legislature). Other parties receiving a significant number of seats where the socialists, the communists, the Catholic Center, and the conservative German nationalists.
Hitler and the Nazis were close to a majority (37%), but not there yet. Hitler was unable to form a government because all of the other parties were either diametrically opposed to Naziism or were justifiably deathly afraid of it. The solution; another election held in November 1932. Much to the surprise of the Nazis, they lost 2,000,000 votes and 34 seats in the Reichstag, leaving them with only 196 deputies. However, this was still a significant Nazi plurality.
In January 1933, Hindenburg was finally prevailed upon to appoint Hitler as chancellor. Shortly thereafter, Hitler persuaded the conservative German National Party to vote with the Nazis to pass an Enabling Act, which allowed Hitler to rule by decree. On June 22, 1933, the socialist party was dissolved and many of its leaders jailed in concentration camps. The communists were either killed or jailed with the remainder leaving Germany. On June 29, 1933, as a reward for supporting the Nazis, the German National Party was also dissolved. The last to go was the Catholic Center Party, which dissolved itself later in 1933. It might be interesting to note that the Vatican signed a concordant (treaty) with Germany shortly thereafter, which was the work of the Vatican legate (ambassador), Eugenio Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII. German was then a one-party state and, thus, ended democracy and freedom in that country and the beginning of tyranny and despotism.
In order to answer the question posed in the title of this article, it is necessary to compare the socioeconomic structure in Germany in 1928-34 with that currently in the U.S. Many similarities and differences are present, which ultimately answer the question. Germany was in a severe depression in those years, as was the rest of the world. Unemployment was very high (15 to 20%) and the economy was stagnant, primarily because of the depression and the draconian reparations meted out to that country by the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I. In 2007-2009, the U.S. also suffered a severe depression-like recession with high unemployment of 10 to 12%, but began to slowly recover in 2009. The severity of that economic downturn in the U.S. was in no way comparable to that in Germany in 1933. The U.S. is an immensely wealthy country with the ability to overcome almost any adversity. Germany, on the other hand, was essentially bankrupt in 1933-1934.
In the 1930s, the middle class in Germany, having lost most of its wealth, was desperate. Today, this group in the U.S. has also suffered significant losses, but for the most part have recovered. This erupted into violence and a turn to Nazism in Germany, but except for the “Occupy Wallstreet” movement, there was little or no violence in the U.S.
However, there were some similarities in both situations. In Germany, wages and prices were lower while the U.S. taxes were increased, which is essentially the same thing. In both countries, restrictions were placed on banks and other financial institutions. The U.S. was able to afford to pump enormous amounts of money into the economy via the stimulus programs, which Germany in 1933 was unable to do.
Finally, Germany suffered from an unstable government with multiple political parties, each with its own agenda, making it impossible to accomplish anything substantive. In the U.S., we have two parties which cannot agree on anything, but ultimately they finally get things done.
Adolf Hitler came to power because he was able to get the Reichstag to pass an Enabling Act, which gave him the right to rule by decree with no checks on his power. This was possible because of the horrific conditions which existed in Germany during those years. In America today, we have a chief executive whose plans have been frustrated by a stubborn congress and an uncooperative supreme court. As a result, he has tried to implement his programs by executive order with only varying degrees of success. He may be a dictator in waiting, but he will have to wait a long time. The next election will tell whether his star is still rising or is beginning to fall.
Will conditions ever exist in the U.S. similar to that of Germany in 1933? That does not seem to be the case in the foreseeable future. The only scenario which might lead to this state would be a growth of the national debt to an unsustainable level. The government gets its income from collected taxes and finances its deficit by selling bonds to investors, other countries, and if necessary to itself through surrogate the Federal Reserve. This works only as long as the economy is growing. Sooner or later, there will be a downturn, leading to inflation, high interest rates, and inability of the government to pay the interest on its bonds or redeem them, ultimately leading to default.
When merchants stop accepting foods stamps; when welfare, disability, and social security checks stop coming, or when they are either uncashable or devalued by inflation to where they have little or no value, then we will become the Germany of 1933 and ripe for dictatorship. It’s a long way off, but could happen, unless we alter the course we are currently following. In other words, we must stop the profligate government spending of the last several years. There is an old saying that when the number of people riding in the cart outnumber those pulling it, the cart does not go anywhere.
What can we as Christian believers do to avoid these problems? First of all, the power or prayer is not to be disregarded and we should all pray that these events do not come about. I would recommend keeping some assets in precious metals, preferably silver since it can be spent more easily and getting as debt free as possible since interest notes will become astronomical with hyper-inflation. Finally we need to contact our elected representatives and urge them to vote against excessive and unnecessary government spending.
Be assured that God has a plan and we should make every effort to be a part of it.