Zach Leiter '21
In August of 2017, almost a thousand far-right protesters descended on Charlottesville, North Carolina waving Swastikas and Confederate flags. In the chaos, amid the chants of “Seig Heil,” and “Jews will not replace us,” the neo-Nazis murdered a woman and injured more than twenty others. Afterwards, the President of the United States of America called these neo-Nazis “very fine people.”
One year later, a gunman in tactical gear opened fire in the Tree of Life Synagogue outside Pittsburgh, slaughtering eleven worshippers. His posts on social media said Jewish nonprofits were bringing “hostile invaders to dwell among us.” That same month, a Trump supporter was arrested for mailing a pipe bomb to Jewish billionaire George Soros.
In 2019, the Anti-Defamation League marked the highest level of antisemitic incidents since tracking began in 1979.
As hatred rises, and our society grows increasingly divided, conspiracy theorists are seizing on Americans’ fear. Once a fringe internet phenomenon, QAnon, the cult that alleges the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles, has become mainstream. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are now supporters. One of them, Marjorie Taylor Greene, won a Republican congressional primary in Georgia and is almost certain to join the United States House in 2021. Greene claims George Soros and the Rothschilds—a wealthy Jewish family—collaborated with the Nazis. Greene, Trump said, is a “real winner,” and a “future star.”
More than a hundred years ago, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion similarly spun lies to inspire hate: A secret cabal runs the world. They kidnap children and drink their blood. They are homosexuals and pedophiles and government officials and financiers. They are the downfall of the white race (whatever that is).
Mein Kampf, at first, seemed only a raving lunatic’s diary.
Then, the Nazis sent more than six million Jews to their deaths, irreparably scarring the lives of my grandmother and countless others. My family, and countless other Jewish families, were forever shattered.
But Adolf Hitler was not a singular villain. The Nazi party was not alone in their evil. Their tyranny grew out of an eerily familiar distemper in society. Across Europe, millions lost work during the Great Depression; Fascists and Communists fought in Italy, and Spain, and Germany. By the outbreak of World War Two, Europe had fallen under an Iron Curtain from which it would not fully emerge for half a century.
Now, we find our own world in a similar situation. Millions are out of work. Hundreds of thousands lie dead. Political division runs rampant. Armed militias murder protestors in the streets of American cities, and our president defends the murderers. In Portland, he sends in unmarked troops to suppress constitutional rights.
It is, I believe, a stretch to call Trump today’s “Hitler.” It is not, however, unfair to worry what he might become. And it is, unfortunately, not a stretch to call QAnon supporters Nazis.
I have seen the Tree of Life Synagogue, in a quiet neighbourhood in the suburbs of a major American city. Outside, there’s now a makeshift art exhibit. A week after the shooting, I walked into my own synagogue past armed guards.
The Alliance Against Genocide called QAnon an early warning sign of deadly genocidal violence. President Trump called them “lovers of our country.” If this is the nation that our president wants us to be, if this is the nation we are becoming, it is not a nation I want to live in. It is not a nation where I, as a Jew, feel safe.