• peterwerff

Trump and Hitler: Differences and Similarities

Updated: Feb 17

It seems wise to warn for dictatorship in the US under President Trump and try to learn from situations that did lead to real dictatorship. But to think Donald Trump is similar to Adolf Hitler seems to be misleading and ignite the wrong sort of counteractions.


Adolf Hitler came from a modestly positioned family. His father worked at the customs and had, in the end, the salary of a primary school headmaster. Adolf himself did not amass huge wealth and did not lived in grandiose palaces. See the photo with his hide out, the largest house he had for himself, and perhaps mostly showing his fear and inferiority complex.


Trump, by contrast, enlarges the gap between rich and poor, and belongs himself to the ranks of the very rich. His father, Fred Trump, established a real estate empire in New York City. Donald was estimated to have a net worth of three billion US dollars in 2018. Their building, the Trump Tower, is by many seen as a shameless display of megalomaniac fantasies.


Rightwing intolerance is said to possibly arise in poor and petty middle classes out of fear and uncertainty. The rich and the aristocracy are too far away to confront, so the anger aims at minorities that exist with social reach. That is in line with the sentiments living in Hitler’s Germany and Austria: narrow-mindedness leading to fury against available targets.


Trump mobilizes the same rightwing intolerance and fury in the poor and petty middle classes but he is not part of those classes. That can, as some hope, turn against him. But his Republican Party has a long-standing experience in misleading the poor classes by focusing on non-economic issues such as ignited by religious conservatives.


Hitler did not particularly work in favor of the rich in Germany. He rather sympathized with the labor class. Don’t forget the word ‘socialist’ in the name of his party, the National Socialist Party, abbreviated as Nazi. And actually, Hitler did lift millions of Germans out of poverty. That is an important reason why he got so many followers in his first years. And he did not need to rely on religion in trying to mislead people and get a voters’ majority.


Yes, both men are scapegoating ethnic minorities. But whereas Hitler’s targeting of minorities was new in Germany, it is not all new in the US. As Noam Chomsky explained much earlier already, the so-called War of Drugs was in fact a war against the black population, resulting in confinement for ridiculously minor offences. The Blacks constitute 12% of the total population but 33% of all inmates.


Hitler was the first German leader starting a long dreamed-of empire. The Germans felt surrounded by world conquering nation-states such as France, England, Spain, Portugal, Soviet Union, and even that tiny neighbor the Netherlands. Their minority complex made them desperately long for an empire of their own. The difference they presented to their European neighbors was not creating yet another colonial empire outside Europe, but creating an empire inside of Europe.


Before Trump became president, the US had already seventy years of an unparalleled huge empire, in a number of ways, and not in the least militarily and economically. The American people may not be a suffering from a minority complex and easily feel ready to suffer for the costs of conquering yet more of the planet.


Hitler started his military campaigns, he disposed of skilled and loyal army generals in his authoritarian Germany and met with little military resistance across abroad.

True, US presidents will neither find much military resistance. But loyal as Hitler’s generals and company presidents may have been, Trump’s commanders-in-chief and Wall Street bankers are not. They know very well there’s no dilly-dally with China. They have learned of the cat-and-mouse games that Russia, Iran and other countries play with more skill than Trump can understand. Trump’s entourage will not let him start world wars.

China taught Trump an important economic lesson when he started a trade war. Nobody taught Hitler such lessons.

As far as I know, no countries declared Hitler a persona non grata, whereas a growing number of countries refuse Trump to visit them.


Here some preliminary thoughts. No doubt there’s much more to consider and discuss.

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