Last year, I drew a comparison between the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to the Munich Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 in Germany. Since writing that article, I have found myself noticing other similarities between our modern predicament and the history of Germany in the interwar period.
The Beer Hall Putsch was the Nazis’ first attempt at seizing power in Germany. Nazi paramilitary soldiers marched from a beer hall in central Munich to the city center in an attempt to seize the Bavarian Defense Ministry. The mob was stopped by a group of just 130 soldiers, and many of the perpetrators — including Adolf Hitler — were arrested and convicted of treason.
A decade later, in 1933, the Nazi Party won a majority in the German parliament, cementing their rule. Just a few months later, that government outlawed all political parties except for the ruling Nazi Party. Thankfully, we have not reached that point yet. But we are inching closer.
Far-right elements of the Republican Party have exhibited such intentions. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has suggested stripping Democrats of their voting rights if they move to a red state. Florida Republicans have even introduced a bill that would ban the Democratic party.
This past week, our nation experienced yet another tragic school shooting. There is plenty to be said about such events and their frequency, but that is its own article. Instead, it is the identity of the shooter that is of concern. As conservative media has been unrelenting in reporting, the assailant was transgender.
Conservative pundits like Tucker Carlson have jumped on this fact, using it as an opportunity to further anti-trans rhetoric. Carlson described the “trans movement” as militant and dangerous, and suggested that it was the “natural enemy” of Christianity. When Dylann Roof — a neo-nazi and white supremacist — killed nine people in a predominantly Black church in Charleston in 2015, there were no such claims of an attack on Christianity.
The reason is clear enough — the right is already targeting transgender people, and for them, this latest tragedy is a perfect opportunity to capitalize on. By attributing the shooter’s motives to their “trans-ness,” conservative commentators hope to advance their inquisition against the trans community.
When I saw how the right was reacting, I was reminded of another event in Germany’s interwar history. In November 1938, a German-born Jew named Herschel Grynszpan shot and mortally wounded Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat. Nazi leadership seized the moment to further their persecution of Germany’s Jewish populace.
The shooting of vom Rath was used as the pretext for what became known as Kristallnacht — the Night of Broken Glass. Across Germany, thousands of Jewish stores, homes and synagogues were vandalized, burned and destroyed. Over 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps.
Returning to the present, it would appear that we are aimed in a similar direction. Republican lawmakers and commentators have already begun to act. Rep. Greene has suggested that hormone replacement therapy was to blame (there has been no evidence that the Nashville shooter was taking HRT). Charlie Kirk, founder of the far-right group Turning Point USA, suggested banning gender-affirming care as a reaction to the shooting.
Like the Nazi’s exploiting the death of vom Rath, the Republican Party wants to exploit this opportunity as pretext to enact collective punishment on a vulnerable group because of an individual’s actions.
In another article last year, titled “The Right is Laying the Foundation for Genocide,” I argued that elements of the far-right were pushing the Republican party toward genocidal intentions against the queer community, especially trans people. The recent events in Nashville seem to support such an idea. I mentioned in that article that we had not progressed to the “Preparation” stage — now we have. The right is framing their acts and intentions as self-defense, just as was done in Germany.
We are at a dangerous crossroads as a country. It may already be too late to stop us from continuing down our current path, following in Germany’s footsteps. If we want to avoid such horrors, we as a country need to unite against the bigotry the right represents.
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