By Sarah Roark |
DON’T confuse the beginning stages of fascist collapse with the end stage. Hitler was Hitler before he was Hitler. If you’re waiting for ovens to fire up before you feel licensed to act, you’ve basically committed to waiting until it’s all over already.
1933 Germany is not 1945 Germany.
And 1921 Far-Right Crank Hitler is not 1933 Chancellor Hitler, is not 1939 Der Fuehrer Hitler, is not 1945 Bunker Hitler.
But 1921 Hitler had an embryonic agenda that was already pretty clear to anybody who wasn’t deluding themselves about what they were looking at.
Imagine if he had been stopped then. Or in ’32. While almost everybody who was an Expert and Knew Things was still dismissing him as a clown who’d self-destruct soon and required no urgent response, because Germany’s democratic institutions were strong. (Sound familiar?)
The beginning of fascism is not jackboots, and tanks on the streets, and railcars carrying people to literal death camps. That’s the END of it.
The Wannsee Conference, where the Final Solution was formally decided upon, was not till 1942. But there was a nine-year-long road to get there, littered with many, many thousands of murdered souls. And then at a certain point, Wannsee became not just possible, but unavoidable. How close to that point are you waiting to get?
So: if somebody is telling you to stop being hysterical and shut up, because our border concentration camps are not YET literally Auschwitz and Majdanek, with canisters of Zyklon B flying? Because bulldozers are not YET being employed to pile up the corpses?
Then they are being either deliberately fascist or hideously detached from reality, and you must not join them there.
The whole point of “Never Again,” and the appeals Holocaust survivors have been making to us for decades — and the few left are desperately sounding alarms about it now, by the way — is to catch it BEFORE there are that many corpses.
The point is, ideally, to catch it while it’s all still “just words.”
Tragically, we’re already well beyond words. We’re already at deaths in camps. We’re already at major civil rights reversals. We’re already at political prosecutions and the destruction of electoral democracy.
But the longer we wait to act, the closer to those ovens we will get. It’s already likely worse than we realize — because it always turns out to be worse than we realized, and unless you’re literally a child, you have no excuse for not knowing that.
Don’t believe a thing can’t happen just because it hasn’t yet. Many things are impossible right up to the moment they become inevitable.
This can go both ways. Too often, people have stood by and allowed horrors they did not think were possible to become reality. This is the perennial lesson of Pastor Niemöller’s quote: First they came for the communists, but I wasn’t a communist, so I said nothing…By the time they came for me, there was no one left to speak up.
But sometimes, people do answer the call of history. They take a moment into their own hands and act, refusing to stand by as spectators. When millions of people come together in unity and courage, what once seemed impossible can also become inevitable.
Now is the time to act. History teaches us this a thousand times. Listen to it.
Sarah Roark is a contributing editor to RefuseFascism.org