Anne Frank’s stepsister, Eva Schloss, lived through the horror of the Holocaust, that period of German-driven ethno-religious cleansing that saw millions of Jews, Magyars, and other Nazi-deemed social undesirables ostracized, dispossessed, herded into concentration camps, used as slave labor, and killed. In an essay written for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, she conveyed her thoughts on the disturbing similarities between the man that instigated the Holocaust, Adolf Hitler, and current 2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Newsweek reported January 27 that Eva Schloss, who survived being interned at Auschwitz, has pegged billionaire businessman and presidential hopeful Donald Trump as deporting himself in much the same way as did Adolf Hitler. “If Donald Trump become(s) the next president of the U.S. it would be a complete disaster,” she said Wednesday. “I think he is acting like another Hitler by inciting racism.”
Adolf Hitler and his Nationalist Socialist Party rose to power as a populist movement, appealing for support for his remaking and restoration of Germany as a world power by touting German exceptionalism and blaming the rest of the world for the nation’s economic ills (mostly via the imposition of reparations on the country through the Treaty of Versailles, signed after the cessation of World War I). As outlined in his bestselling autobiographical manifesto, Mein Kampf, he also blamed Germany’s social and economic woes on an international conspiracy of Jews and the weakening of its populace by the intermingling of undesirables (other perceived inferior races and ethnicities, gays, the mentally ill). Hitler’s policies would include the total disenfranchisement of Jews and others considered undesirable, eventually leading to forced deportations, registrations of ethnic populations, and the rounding up and forced internship in concentration camps, many of which would become places of atrocities and mass killings.
By comparison, Donald Trump has called for the rounding up and deportation of all undocumented immigrants (illegal aliens), labeled Mexicans rapists and drug mules, called for national registration of all Muslims in the United States, and called for a ban of all Muslims entering the United States. His overriding campaign theme is to “make America great again” (his actual campaign slogan), claiming that America is no longer the economic or military power it once was and that our foreign and domestic policies have made the country weak.
Eva Schloss sees other current world events that seem comparable to the events that led up to the rise of nationalism, ethnocentrism, militarism, and dictatorships in Europe. She criticized the U.S. and Western European governments for their response to the Syrian crisis, finding similarities in the refugees’ experience “to what we went through” in the 1930s and 1940s in Europe.
“I remember how upset the world was when the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961,” Schloss said. “And now everybody is building walls again to keep people out. It’s absurd.”
The now 86-year-old Schloss was referring to the building of walls and fences in Hungary and Bulgaria, a rush to keep out Muslim refugees from the war-torn areas of the Middle East and Afghanistan. Other European nations are strengthening troop strength at their borders. The alluded comparison to Trump, of course, focuses on his continuous calls for building a wall on the Mexican border of the U. S., one that he maintains will be paid for by Mexico.
But as for parallels with the time of Hitler, Schloss finds that today’s overall socio-political atmosphere worse. She noted: “The situation today is worse than it was under Hitler because at that time all the Allies—the U.S., Russia and Britain—worked together to combat the terrible threat of Nazisim. If we don’t work together, the world will never be able to resolve the threats it faces today.”
Anne Frank became famous posthumously after her diary — revealing her Jewish family’s ordeal in a Nazi-occupied Holland — was published. She and her mother were both victims of the Holocaust, dying at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germnany. Eva Schloss was a friend of Frank’s in Amsterdam, her family having fled Germany in the 1930s along with the Frank family. Schloss would survive nearly nine months at Auschwitz, but her father and brother would not. Anne Frank’s father, Otto, would later marry Schloss’ mother, Fritzi, after the war.
If there is a qualifier for whether or not an individual can be considered an expert on a given topic, experiential knowledge would likely be the standard. In this case, Eva Schloss would undoubtedly fit the knowledgeable criteria with regard to identifying rabble-rousing, racist rhetoric and its ability to move entire populations. She lived it and, unfortunately, became, along with friends and family and millions of strangers, a victim of it. She also sees the wheel of history returning to a most dark place, cycling around to a familiar spot where fear, ignorance, and uncertainty is producing social and political strains reminiscent of a time that allowed demagogues and despots to rise to power in several of the most educated and religiously homogenous nations in the world. One of those demagogues is Donald Trump.
There is a maxim that notes that history ignored ensures its repetition. Experience and its recall, whether aided by anecdote or documented history, provides foundation for warning and potential avoidance. We ignore those warnings to our own detriment.