History has a tendency to repeat itself. Some, like author William Strauss and historian Neil Howe, argue that this is due to the cyclical nature of history — history repeats itself and flows based on the generations. We tend to think we are so above previous generations and immune to their mistakes. Perhaps because of advancements in science and technology we can look down on them. But has that blinded us to the obvious fact? We are human and human nature does not change. It seeks to include and exclude; to hoard and cannibalize, and it’s greedy and fearful. People before the stock market crash in 1929 thought they were invincible and the economy would keep expanding. The Roaring Twenties were a time of economic prosperity with a distinctive cultural edge in the United States and Europe, particularly in major cities such as Berlin, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York City, and Paris, and it seemed though they would never end. The generation at the time had endured the Spanish Flu pandemic and they were far above those that had participated in the Great War just 15 years earlier. Britain and France were so convinced that the sanctions and systems they had put in place would keep their arch enemy, Germany suppressed and incapable of ever being a threat to them again. But as history shows us, they were so wrong. They weren’t immune to the catastrophe that awaited them. The irony was that they had created the monster that was Hitler and Nazi Germany through unfair reparations, land concessions, and controls placed on Germany.
In 1933 Hitler enacted emergency powers after the Reichstag, the seat of the German government was mysteriously burnt down. Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch communist, was found at the scene and the apparent culprit. Hitler used the event as a pretext to claim that Communists were plotting against the German government and induced President Paul von Hindenburg to issue the Reichstag Fire Decree suspending civil liberties, and pursue a “ruthless confrontation” with the Communists. This made the fire pivotal in the establishment of Nazi Germany. The powers Hitler granted himself effectively centralized Hitler’s power in Germany. They were only meant to be temporary.
Hitler began with the immediate threat to his rule which was the communists. The Nazis went on a rampage rounding up the communists throwing them in jails. When the jails became overrun they built internment camps and silently disposed of them. The communists may have been the first victim in Nazi Germany, but they certainly were not the last. And as for the Reichstag. Well, as it was no longer around it gave the Nazis the perfect excuse to never reopen it. The German seat of government met, but it was never the same. The Reichstag wasn’t reopened until well after the war when Germany was in ruins.
Last week, after a long shut down of Parliament in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau granted himself and his government emergency powers through invoking the Emergencies Act—a statute with such great power that it was only to be used when there was an absolute crisis. It was invoked only three times prior: World War I, World War II, and the FLQ Crisis. Parliament was not asked to participate in this decision process. To make matters worse, when they should have been debating the passing of the Act the Liberals shut down parliament over concerns of danger to the government. The irony is that this danger was created by them! Trudeau has taken a page out of Hitler’s playbook. Whether the Prime Minister realizes it or not is another question up for debate. The parallels of what is unfolding in Canada to Germany in 1933 are both shocking and alarming. How we as a nation navigate out of this one is yet to be determined. One thing is for certain, the momentum of the protests will continue to build, and that surely will give Trudeau more fodder to standby his decision indefinitely.
- Thuillier: History is repeating itself — right before our eyes. The Daily Northwestern. May 2, 2019.