IT began simply as a campaign to get rid of immigrants.
The people chosen to be the targets were settlers into a land not their own. They came from the Middle East, driven to the “safe havens” of Europe and the West by strife and conflict in the home of their births.
These people became very successful where they were, establishing themselves in their new homes. They learned the language of their adopted land. Their children went to school with their new friends. Their neighbors, “natives” in their new abode, welcomed them with open arms. They became citizens of the country where they now lived.
But things eventually became unsettled.
Some of the people in their newfound home became suspicious of their new neighbors. Suspicious of their wealth. Suspicious of their success. Suspicious of their culture. And worst of all, suspicious of their religion. So these neighbors began to agitate against them.
First, they targeted their places of work and business. They destroyed their shops and looted their goods. They urged others to boycott their businesses, and go buy elsewhere. Then they went after their homes. They marked their doors with telltale signs so that those opposed to them could vandalize their dwelling places. And finally, they went after the people themselves. And that, as they say, is all part of history.
This is the story of the Jews in Nazi Germany. Fleeing persecution during the Jewish diaspora, they sought refuge in the peaceful tranquility of Europe. They flourished and became successful in their new homes, where they integrated themselves, and became Germans, Poles, Dutch, Hungarians and Europeans of every stripe. For many, many years they lived happily in their new countries. But it was not to be forever after.
When Hitler took power after the uncertainty of post-World War I, the Europeans were an anxious and nervous people. The trauma of war was all too raw and fresh in their memories, that it was very easy to scare them into believing anything that seemed to account for their difficulties. And the Jews were a convenient scapegoat, all because they were “different” to the rest of them.
The danger today is that we seem not to have learned from the lessons of the last great war. Or at the very least, we seem to have forgotten the bitter lessons learned.
Brexit, the rise of the French nationalists, the various populist movements that have taken root in Europe – all these are identical developments to the shoots that gave rise to the horrors of World War II.
I am not saying that all these are pointers to the emergence of a new global crisis. But neither were many observers during the 1940s, who prematurely dismissed the rise of Hitler as just the rantings of a madman, with no hope at all of gaining mass popular support.