Following the end of World War II and the collapse of Hitler’s Germany, Americans were convinced that our way of life -- our democracy -- would make it impossible for what happened there to ever occur here.
But take a step back in time with me, to 1935 when “It Can’t Happen Here,” was the title of a book by Sinclair Lewis. He describes a charismatic, power-hungry politician who wins a Presidential election on a populist platform, promising to restore the country to prosperity and greatness.
Motivated by a leader who many think was delusional, those events in Washington D.C. January 6th 2021 have a special meaning for Los Angeles-based Loyola Law School professor Stan Goldman.
He is author of Left to the Memory of a Rude Stream, subtitled, “The Bargain That Broke Adolph Hitler and Saved my Mother.” It is a riveting story about one of the worst nightmares mankind has seen: the Holocaust and his own family. When I began reading it, I was compelled to finish the book that very day.
While I knew that Goldman is the son of a Holocaust survivor, exactly how did his mother escape the horrors of Nazi Germany? He kept me in suspense.
“There was a message I heard often at home from my parents, ‘Stan, do something good with your life that helps others.’”
Goldman credits his mother’s strength, wisdom and sheer desire to survive as what led to his becoming a public defender, and later, professor of law at one of the nation’s top law schools.
If you recall the O.J. Simpson murder trial, no doubt you heard Goldman’s daily legal analysis during those many months, on radio and television. He is a prolific writer and so interesting - we could have talked for hours and I would not have been bored.
Gives an Insight into Genocide
Goldman writes in a conversational tone. He reveals so much about himself, about the impact upon a child whose family have experienced, not just the horrors of war, but genocide: the deliberate and systematic destruction, of an ethnic, racial, religious or national group.
“Genocides and mass atrocities have taken place, in all millennium, in all centuries in every part of the world,” he points out. “They can take place anywhere.”
“We are all capable of committing genocide. For example, The Book of Deuteronomy features God ordering the Canaanite to be exterminated. Just look at 19th Century attitudes toward Native Americans. Or, White’s attitude against Blacks in the US and the justification for slavery over the centuries.
“How about Rwanda where between 600,000-800,000 Tutsi died, at the hands of their neighbors. Or the genocide of the Armenians during which the Turks may have killed over one million in 1915 alone! Mass atrocities? -- Just consider 20th century communist China - over 50 million. The Soviet Union, 25 million under Stalin, Cambodia, close to 2 million, Just Google ‘Genocides and Mass Atrocities.’ for some shocking numbers.”
How Much at Risk are we Today?
I asked Goldman, “You have studied how the Germans willingly voted a monster into power, by electing Adolph Hitler Chancellor. Just how close did we come to losing our democracy on January 6th, 2021?” He replied with this question:
“If the mob that attacked the Capitol had succeeded in getting their hands on many of our elected leaders, is there any doubt some would have been killed?”
“The seeds of that invasion of our capitol were planted by former President Trump early in the election campaign. He repeatedly said the only way he could lose would be if the election were stolen from him. Then, he lost by a 7 million margin - but maintained that he had won and there was massive fraud.
“Of course the fact that no one has found that fraud is of no importance. Truth does not matter to authoritarian leaders and Trump’s behavior was a page from an old play book familiar to anyone who has studied the rise Fascism in the 1920’s and 30s.
“When a source that is credible to a large percentage of the population repeats false statements often and loudly enough, no evidence of proof is needed. The faithful believe.
“Many feel that the crash of 2008-9--where the real culprits were not punished–led directly to Trump’s election. Anger was the catalyst for Trump, as it was for Hitler. Mass hatred can spin out of control, leading those people who were badly hurt by the recession to seek a savior and scapegoat.”
Concluding our interview, Goldman asks us all to be cautious:
“While I have greater faith in our country, those people who attempted a take-over of government on January 6th, this year, are not going away. We are at great risk. Many Germans did not foresee the danger of Hitler right there on their door step.”
Dennis Beaver Practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to (661) 323-7993, or e-mailed to Lagombeaver1@gmail.com. And be sure to visit dennisbeaver.com.
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!