Trump's criminal connection

Trump returns to his comfort zone of antisemitism

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published June 3, 2024 6:00AM (EDT)

Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump, speechifying (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump, speechifying (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Convicted felon Donald Trump recently shared a video on his Truth Social disinformation platform that celebrated the rise of a “unified” Trump Reich if he takes power as the country’s first dictator. The imagery, language, and narrative of the video evoke the rise of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler. As is their tactic, Trump's campaign claimed that sharing the "unified Reich" video was an “error." They left the video on the Truth Social disinformation site for hours before deleting it.

Hitler’s Third Reich was supposed to last at least 1,000 years. In reality, it only lasted 12 years. With World War II and the Holocaust, Hitler and the Nazis tried to turn Europe and the world into a necropolis — and they almost succeeded.

In a new essay at The New Republic, Greg Sargent, who is one of the indispensable guides to the Age of Trump, shared these insights about the propaganda video:

The video promoted by Trump’s feed contained the words “unifying Reich,” which were a tad too explicitly evocative of Nazism, requiring his disavowal. But the bigger story is unmistakable: Trump and his allies are testing how far they can push forward with a dizzying barrage of propaganda tropes and policy threats that are at least as perniciously “fasc-ish” as that video, and often far more so. And if Trump can get elected in spite of all that, they will likely claim a mandate for full-blown authoritarian rule.

Of the many examples that I and others have extensively documented, Trump admires Adolf Hitler and other tyrants. Trump is directly channeling Adolf Hitler and his book Mein Kampf with his threats and promises to “purify” the blood of the nation by removing the human “vermin.” Trump has plans to create a nationwide concentration system to deport millions of non-white migrants, refugees, and other undocumented residents. Trump and his agents repeatedly threaten and fantasize about killing and imprisoning his and the MAGA movement’s perceived enemies and other members of the opposition. As detailed in Agenda 47 and Project 2025, a second Trump regime will try to end multiracial pluralistic democracy and replace it with a type of fake democracy that functions like a dictatorship.

After his felony conviction for election interference and hush-money payments last Thursday, Trump will only amplify these threats and dangerous behavior as he and his propagandists attempt to rile up Trump's MAGA followers, and he wallows in and seethes with thoughts (and acts) of revenge and destruction. 

In a news conference about Trump's verdict and the trial, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg was asked if he feared retribution from Donald Trump. Bragg did his job as a public servant by holding the corrupt ex-president accountable like any other person under the law. That Bragg must now fear for his safety (and that of his family) is something one would expect to see in a banana republic and autocracy or some other failed state. Not in what is supposed to be the world's leading democracy. Judge Juan Merchan, who presided over Trump's hush-money trial, has already been targeted by assassination threats. The jurors in Trump's hush-money case are also in danger. 

At CNN, Stephen Collison described Trump's demeanor and energy perfectly, writing:

Donald Trump’s first act on becoming a convicted criminal was to launch a raging new attack on the rule of law, laying bare the gravity of the choice awaiting America’s voters.

In one sense, Trump’s conviction on all counts in his first criminal trial affirmed the principle on which the United States is founded — that everyone is equal and that no one, not even a billionaire and former and possibly future president, enjoys impunity.

But Trump’s authoritarian outburst minutes after the guilty verdict in New York and a race by top Republicans to join his assault on the justice system underscore how threatened those bedrock values now are.

“This was a rigged, disgraceful trial. The real verdict is going to be November 5, by the people, and they know what happened here and everybody knows what happened here,” Trump said minutes after a jury foreperson announced he was guilty on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records to hide a hush money payment to an adult film star. After returning to Trump Tower and greeting supporters with a clenched fist, Trump issued a written statement that made clear that he views his own fate and the nation’s as indistinguishable — a familiar hallmark of a dictatorial leader. “I’m a very innocent man, and it’s okay, I’m fighting for our country. I’m fighting for our Constitution. Our whole country is being rigged right now,” Trump wrote.

President Biden condemned Donald Trump’s campaign for sharing the Trump Reich video. At a campaign event, the president said, “’ A unified Reich." That’s not the language of an American president. That’s not the language of any American. That’s the language of Hitler’s Germany.” The three evening network news programs also discussed the propaganda video and were suitably critical of it.

In a very important essay at The Philadelphia Inquirer, William Bunch offered this corrective about the “debate” surrounding the “real” meaning of the Trump Reich propaganda video: "It was somewhat amazing to watch the furious debate online and on cable news this week over the weird incident in which small text about a “unified Reich” found its way into a Trump promo video the ex-and-wannabe president posted on Truth Social. The perplexing part, for me, is that this was discussed as some kind of Sherlock-Holmes-magnifying-glass a-ha moment, revealing Trump’s secret plan for Nazi-style rule. Folks, he is screaming his plan out loud at his rallies! The Trump deportation scheme is really Trump’s blueprint for dictatorship.”

We need your help to stay independent

Public opinion polls continue to show that a large percentage of Americans do not understand (or just refuse to accept) the imminent and growing threat that Donald Trump, the MAGA people, and the larger fascist movement represent not just to that abstract thing called “democracy” but to their day-to-day lives and freedom and safety. Authoritarians and fascists (in whatever form they may take) are experts at exhausting the public to make them pliable and subservient. Once in that condition, many members of the public will yearn for the type of order and direction that a strongman like Trump or Hungary's Viktor Orban or Vladimir Putin (or a tyrant like Hitler) promises a beleaguered and broken public.

When such leaders and their agents “flood the zone with human waste” (disinformation, misinformation, lies, threats, and other forms of distraction and emotional and intellectual abuse and conditioning) the public is put into a condition where they can no longer discern truth from lies and fictions. And even when it is clear what the facts and truth are, the mass public no longer cares anyway. In the age of the internet and social media this type of propaganda campaign and psyop is much more powerful than even master Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels could have imagined in the 1940s and 1930s.

In a recent interview about the rise of Hitler and the Nazis and its parallels with Donald Trump and the rise of American neofascism, historian Timothy Ryback offers these chilling examples:

I used to cite a quote by Hans Frank, Hitler's private lawyer, who designed the legal strategy for destroying democracy through the democratic process. Before he was hanged at Nuremberg, he said that the Führer [a tyrant] was only possible in 1933. He said [Germans] were too far beyond the monarchy to go back, but only a half a generation into a democracy. So, we didn't have democratic values. Nazis came when the German people could not escape into the past nor into the future. In the late 1980s, I used the U.S. as an example saying, Weimar Germany had 12-13 years of democracy, America has 200-plus years of living in democratic values. The notion of America ever seeing these kinds of issues was beyond comprehension for me.

But there are parallels, and they became evermore striking and almost terrifying. Hitler [had] fierce determination and strong ability to endure endless ridicule in the press to to ignore every reality possible….

Some of the similarities are in rhetoric. Hitler said if he ever came to office, "heads will roll." In the run-up to the 1932 election, he told his followers, "Be there, it's going to be wild." Hitler said when he was [finally] in the chancellery, "People laughed at me for 13 years; no one is laughing now."

Ryback continues:

One parallel I saw was the polarization in the press. When you read the Weimar press, you see that Hitler is failing every week; there's some scandal and there's something that 's going to be the end of Hitler's political ascendancy. There's a cartoon in January 1933 — one week before he is appointed chancellor — of Hitler standing in a Hamlet pose in the graveyard of National Socialism, where all the headstones are broken swastika crosses.

A man named Alfred Hugenberg controlled a media network that fed news to 1600 local newspapers across the country. He was very conservative, antisemitic, and anti-democratic. He developed a strategy that he called Katastrophenpolitik, the politics of catastrophe, bringing what we would "wedge issues," and putting them on the public agenda. He would flood the media landscape with fake news. For example, under the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was burdened with war debts. He put these stories out that the German government was taking German teenagers and selling them into slavery abroad to pay off German war debts — a complete invention. But it got out there and it became a debated issue.

Even more troubling is how similar, and now proven to be very prescient warnings, have been made for many decades. Yet, the gatekeepers and other opinion leaders and elites who shape American life and society continue to act flummoxed and shocked by the Age of Trump and the dictator in waiting who is now tied with President Biden in the early 2024 polls.

During a 1986 appearance on the CNN show “Crossfire," Frank Zappa warned about the rise of the Christian Right in America.

The biggest threat to America today is not communism, it's moving America toward a fascist theocracy, and everything that's happened during the Regan administration is steering us right down that pipe. [...] When you have a government that prefers a certain moral code derived from a certain religion and that moral code turns into legislation to suit one certain religious point of view, and if that code happens to be very very right wing, almost toward Attila the Hun.

Zappa’s warnings were prescient as seen in how the “Christian” dominionists and other right-wing “Christian” theocrats are some of the most enthusiastic and loyal supporters of Trumpism and today’s Republican Party and larger anti-democracy movement. Why? Because under such a regime, they will be made the official state religion and possess the power to marginalize and oppress any other groups who do not subscribe to their doctrines.

During a discussion on the “Retreat from Equality” panel which was convened in 1987 as part of the Sag Harbor Initiative series of town hall meetings and public forums, Kurt Vonnegut warned that: “How are we going to treat each other when the trouble comes? …. I think you know what Weimar was the prelude to. And if the excrement is going to hit the air conditioning the Nazi thing will start here…. “

In 2018, I had the very special honor and privilege to speak with and learn from Professor Edgar Feuchtwanger about his personal experiences with the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, and its echoes in the Age of Trump and the global democracy crisis. As a child, he lived down the street from Adolf Hitler. My questions are in bold:

In Europe there are now Nazis and others of that type marching in the streets. In the United States there are neo-Nazis and white supremacists running amok and killing people. Did you ever think you would see such a thing again in your lifetime?

No. I don’t know whether it’s just bad as it was then, but it isn’t good, let’s put it that way.

It is almost unbelievable. You were an eight-year-old Jewish child living across the street from Hitler.

We knew of course that Hitler was a bad thing for us, we knew that, but we didn’t know that he was going to turn the world upside down and kill people by the millions.  We just didn’t know how quickly. One can’t anticipate a thing like that.

Many Germans thought that Hitler and the Nazis were a joke, a hot flash of sorts who would eventually go away. They thought nothing would come of it all because the Germans are a "good people".

This is the sort of mistake that people like my father made. He couldn’t really believe that it would go like this so he didn’t do the right thing. He should have got out much sooner.

Looking at the world today what worries or frightens you?

What scares me is that there’s so many people around who think they can contract out. It’s like they don’t care, they don’t mind, and those are the people who elect people like Hitler and Trump for that matter. I think people who think they can just forget about it, who think they can contract out of the fate of the world as it were, scare me.

I have been thinking about my conversation with Professor Feuchtwanger a lot these last few months.

The American people and their responsible leaders who believe in democracy have a choice to make. They can learn from history and stop the Age of Trump (Donald Trump the man is less of a problem than what he represents and has empowered) and the ascendance of American neofascism with its increasingly Hitlerian intent (which includes the violence, pain, and destruction) or they can pretend that somehow everything will magically be okay because somehow, in their minds at least, it always has been. Such individual, collective, and social immaturity is how we arrived at such a bad place and on the precipice of a Trump Reich.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

MORE FROM Chauncey DeVega