Remembrances from Germany in the 1930s | Guest column

As the daily news become ever more ominous – the tone so eerily familiar to my old ears – mental pictures from my childhood in Germany are re-surfacing, literally making me shake.

In times of economic uncertainty and disempowerment, people are looking for miracles and miracle workers, and Trump, like Hitler, promises to deliver. The 1930s had brought to power another “charismatic” leader, and by the time I started to be aware of what going on in the adult world, he and his storm troopers were in absolute control. A creature who spews lies and racial hatred, and encourages his followers to beat the s!%& out of protesters is close kin to the organizers of the Brown Shirts of those days.

Trump’s Cabinet choices are truly scary, with the Department of Education Secretary being just one outrage. His choice for Senior Advisor, Steve Bannon, is a worthy soulmate to Dr. Goebbels. As early as 1938, rationing was introduced: “Cannons instead of butter” was the slogan, and the buildup for war had started. The “new” army certainly created jobs right away, as will Trump’s military plans! Already saber-rattling is getting louder in Washington, DC. Will rational citizens stay awake to the insidious drift toward enemy lists and one-man rule, and the grave danger of history repeating itself? Will they fight against it, or ignore it until it is too late?

I was very young when the worst crimes began to be set in stone, and these are a few of my haunting experiences:

Sometime in the 30s I was walking with my Dad when he stopped to speak with a man with whom he had shared the hideous trenches of WWI. It was the first time I saw a yellow decal with the word JUDE on someone’s clothing. The conversation was brief, because the stranger urged my father to keep going, as it would not be safe for him to be seen talking to a Jew. To this day I could pinpoint where that encounter took place.

Not long after this, as I was walking home from school on one dark November evening, I could smell and see that there was a fire ahead. It was November 1938, and it quickly became obvious that this was no accidental fire: things were being thrown into the hottest part, not rescued, and the fire engines protected only surrounding buildings. The local synagogue burned to the ground. These days it would also be mosques.

On the way to school the next morning the sidewalks were littered with glass shards: Jewish-owned shop windows were smashed, and some classmates had vanished. Soon informers were everywhere, and parents were scared to talk freely, even in front of their own children.

Alas, surveillance is so much easier today, as the majority of us have given away any shred of privacy to the latest handy electronic gadgets. The bromide “I have nothing to hide” may come back to haunt many in the not-too-distant future.