Letter: History in the making

I applaud filmmaker Chris Anthony for his effort to bring unseen portions of 20th century ski history to audiences. I also agree there have been unfortunate side effects to the pandemic, although I consider entrenchment of wealth inequality and asocial behaviors much more worrying than momentary abridgements of individual freedom. I further agree elite figures of all stripes used a difficult situation for venal hypocrisy or craven advantage.

However Anthony’s attempt to equate temporary COVID-19 restrictions with Nazi mandates against Jews strikes me as a false equivalence of the highest order. Anthony admits his indifference to history until recently. I humbly suggest he dig deeper into that dark World War II period than his column indicates he has ventured thus far.

To that end, I present here for consideration the event that, in fact, launched the Nazi dictatorship of Germany. Prior to this event, Nazis held less than a third of the seats in the Reichstag legislature of the Weimar Republic, relying on paramilitary gangs for violent influence. President Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor in early 1933, hoping to curb Nazi excesses. Then a week before the next parliamentary election at which the Nazis could expect to lose further public support to their hated Communist opponents, who in fact picked up 81 seats, the Reichstag building burst into flames. Hitler used the fire — for which historians have persuasive, if not conclusive, evidence the Nazis caused it — as justification for subsequent emergency acts eliminating civil liberties, abolishing political opposition and, with the death of Hindenburg in 1934, removing any checks on Hitler’s power.

He thus became Fuhrer of the Third Reich. To my knowledge a similar, physical attack on a national legislature has not occurred anywhere else in the democratic world since then — until the storming of the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021.

Matt Nelson

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