April 20, 2024
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Putin Using Hitler’s Playbook

I am absolutely astonished that with all the news about Russia, Putin and Ukraine, (Ukraine’s Jews on Edge,” February 24, 2022) the words “Hitler,” “Austria,” “Anschluss” and “Czechoslovakia” are rarely, if ever, mentioned. To me the situation today is an exact replay of events in the 1930s that led up to the calamitous World War II. Only the names of the guilty have changed. Then, the axis of evil was Germany, Italy and Japan. Today it is Russia, China, and Iran.

In the 1930s, in response to the humiliation of the World War 1 defeat, Hitler clearly announced his intention to resurrect the greater German empire and expand Germany’s borders in Europe. No one paid any attention to him. He started by annexing Austria in 1938, called the Anschluss, and no one opposed him. Then he carved up Czechoslovakia in 1938 and the world supported him, as highlighted by the infamous waving by Britain’s Neville Chamberlain of the Munich Agreement document signed with “Herr Hitler,” calling it a sign of “peace in our time.” That peace lasted less than one year, when an emboldened Hitler then invaded Poland, starting WWII. All the while, in the Pacific arena, Japan was ruthlessly rampaging over China and its neighbors. There was very little organized opposition there either. Even the United States adopted a mostly passive, isolationist stance until it itself was attacked at Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Fast forward to the 21st century. After losing the Cold War and the Soviet Republic, Putin announced his intention to avenge that humiliation and reassemble the Soviet Union, but no one took him seriously either. In 2014 he annexed the Crimea section of Ukraine, and met with no organized opposition. Now he has invaded Ukraine proper, and the world powers are debating almost helplessly how to respond.

Meanwhile, in the Pacific arena, China is steadily expanding its influence and posing ever greater threats to the Western World, with little organized resistance. Again the United States is mostly passive issuing mild sanctions, declarations and rhetoric. These have little real deterrence value when one remembers that Hitler rebuilt Germany, which was completely devastated and impoverished after WW1, and in a little over 10 years conquered half of Europe, including most of the victors of WW1.

Another familiar thread is now also weaving through this ominous scenario, that of dramatically rising global antisemitism. This always provides a useful scapegoat behind which to hide otherwise overt outrageous actions.

All these are among the most documented events in world history but amazingly, most historians, politicians and media experts seem to be completely oblivious to them, and can’t seem to connect the dots. This unfortunately recalls the words of Edmund Burke: “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

Max Wisotsky
Highland Park
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