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A Sordid Centennial: Hitler’s Trial in 1924 and Trump’s Trials Today - Peter Ross Range (The Globalist)


A Sordid Centennial: Hitler’s Trial in 1924 and Trump’s Trials Today

The 100th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s 1924 trial for treason summons direct parallels to Donald Trump’s upcoming trial for insurrection.

The Globalist, February 22, 2024

This month marks a sordid centennial. February 26 is the 100th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s 1924 trial for trying to overthrow a democratically elected government.

From 1924 to 2024, it almost seems as if little has changed.

While there are many reasons to wake up to the threat of Donald Trump’s authoritarian politics, the memory of Hitler’s crimes and trial should be yet another.

The Beer Hall Putsch

Hitler’s trial was for the infamous Beer Hall Putsch in Munich that left 20 men dead. It resonates so loudly today because Trump faces trial for essentially the same thing: Trying to derail a democratically elected government by inciting an insurrection that led to five deaths and countless injuries.

Trump may not be Hitler, but the parallels between the two men and their legal entanglements have become too glaring — and too alarming — to ignore.

Political soapbox

For starters, Trump, like Hitler, instinctively uses the courtroom as a political soapbox. Each man casts himself as a victim, and responds to charges by attacking his accusers.

Both men recklessly predicted mayhem if convicted, and each portrayed himself as a political savior — Hitler as a millennial “great personality,” Trump as “your retribution” along with he megalomaniac claim that “only I” can save the nation.

Strategy: Delegitimize the opponent

Finally, there is delegitimization. With his incessant denial of the 2020 election results — a classic Hitlerian Big Lie — the former U.S. President brazenly seeks to delegitimize not just his trial, but the very government that is trying him.

He even threatens future criminal charges against President Joe Biden, whom Trump has labeled “the destroyer of American democracy.”

Grisly threats

Hitler used the same nullification tactic. He denied the authority of Germany’s first democracy known as the Weimar Republic, which he called “a joke.”

The men who founded and led Germany’s nascent republic would “hang from lampposts,” Hitler raged — or, as he put it another time, their “heads would roll in the sand” once the Nazis took over.

Trump does not shy from such grisly intimations. His assertion that, if re-elected, he will be “a dictator on day one” precisely echoes a threat Hitler made while contemplating his ascent to power: “Oh, I will take merciless and frightful revenge on the first day that I can.”

In the same spirit, Trump once suggested the execution of former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair, Gen. Mark Milley, and reportedly endorsed January 6 rioters who chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!”

Creating a national profile

For Hitler, such tactics worked in 1924. With lengthy courtroom perorations — his Munich trial lasted a month — the Nazi leader garnered national headlines that gave him, for the first time, a national profile.

The publicity won him new adherents, like a young man in the Rhineland, 400 miles away, named Joseph Goebbels, who pronounced himself “inspired” by Hitler’s courtroom antics.

Hitler was found guilty

During the trial, Hitler mounted ferocious attacks on his attackers that threw the proceedings into disarray and nearly won him acquittal.

Yet, in the end, Hitler was found guilty of treason, for which he received a laughable five-year sentence with the possibility of parole in six months. For treason, the Nazi could have received life in prison with no parole.

From the fascist’s mouth

His months behind bars became a boon to Hitler. He hardened his radical views, especially towards Jews, solidified his messianic self-image and wrote “Mein Kampf,” the venomous memoir that jumpstarted his final march to dictatorship.

Trump has said that he never read “Mein Kampf.” It is unknown if he has ever read Hitler’s speeches. But it is clear that Trump blithely takes words right out of Hitler’s mouth. These include Trump’s scurrilous recent claims that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.”

Slurs and smears

This smear comes from Hitler’s very first speech after leaving prison. Before a packed crowd in the same beer hall where his coup d’état had failed, Hitler ranted that the greatest danger facing Germany was the “foreign racial poison in our bodies.”

Conjuring scenes of German girls strolling the streets of Berlin on the arms of Jewish boys, the beer hall rabble rouser accused Jews who slept with German women of “destroy[ing] our blood for eternity in a single instant.” (Hitler regarded Jews as a separate race and foreigners even though their families had often been in Germany for generations, even centuries).

Copycatting Hitler

Trump’s adoption of another vile slur — “vermin” — also comes directly from Hitler. Invoking diseased rodents and noxious parasites in political life is as low as it gets. Yet, that is where Trump went last November, calling his political opponents “thugs that live like vermin.”

To Hitler, “Jewish vermin” had wrought Germany’s defeat in World War I.

Dehumanizing the other

Sadly, the effrontery of these words is not the worst of it. It is their impact on behavior that raises them from disgusting to dangerous —and dehumanizing. As Hitler knew and Trump has learned, dehumanization couched in grievance is the enabling precondition for violence.

One hundred years ago, Hitler used the courtroom for self-promotion and his prison time for a reset, enabling his successful climb to power.

Preconditions for authoritarianism

Trump is already trying the first tactic, and has vowed to use the second — possible jail time for political advantage. His ominous predictions of chaos echo his “Will be wild!” tweets in 2020 that became self-fulfilling prophecies of violence, the classic preliminary of authoritarian rule.

In 1930s Germany, Hitler’s Brown Shirts assured the turmoil. In today’s United States, Trump’s followers — some of them — carry weapons, threaten force and murmur civil war.


On this squalid anniversary of Hitler’s trial, U.S. voters should take on board the chilling parallels and not shy from sharing the disturbing resemblance of today’s politics to yesterday’s horrors.

There is no law that history cannot repeat itself.

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