Commentary: Is history being repeated?

There once was a man named  Paul Joseph Goebbles.  He was a student of philosophy and history.  He was an admirer of a specific book, “The Prince,” by a long dead Italian writer;  a loyal party member who early on befriended a veteran, highly decorated,  who also wrote a book he admired and studied –  Mien Kampf,  Goebbles also read a book called The “Protocols of Zion.”

In the 1920s three men in Europe rose to power, all legally elected or appointed.  One in Spain never amounted to much, although he managed to kill a lot of people and drive a country into ruin. But few today remember Franco.

Another was a bit more successful: he made the trains run on time, but then his visions of restoring a failed empire and his friendship with another radical leader caused him to swing from a rope.  Again, few remember ” Il Duce,” Benito Mussolini.

The third, also elected by his party and who won the vote we all remember:  Adolf Hitler, the fuhrer.  This was the person to whom Goebbles tied his wagon.

Goebbles, as a student of philosophy and history,  remembered a concept called the big lie from that book The “Prince.” Briefly, the thesis was that “criminal and immoral acts are justified if they lead to victory.”  He also had a partner in crime named Otto Dietrich, who just happened to be the party press secretary.  Together the two put together a campaign to ensure that their man won and stayed in power once he won.

Soon a free press disappeared and the only newspapers allowed to publish had to follow the party line and promote the big lie.  They picked an enemy, the Jews, and their worldwide conspiracy to get attention, and then got a slogan, “Make Germany Great Again.”

Goebbles pushed the big lie, over and over again, so much that people flocked to see the leader talk and spread his other minor lies.  Goebbles and Dietrich  succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Thousands went to listen and cheer the fuhrer, and afterward to riot in the streets seeking out their chosen enemies.  At Nurenburg, Germany, over 500,000 people cheered him on, shouting make them wear a star so we know who they are, register them, lock them up, send them home, get rid of them.

One big lie followed another.  Full employment, better homes, a car in every garage (the people’s car, the Volkswagen).  A thousand-year reign was promised.  It lasted less than 20 and ended in total ruin.  Goebbles played a major part and witnessed the destruction he helped create.  Over 23 million people died.  Maybe we are lucky that our new leader doesn’t read.

Guess who ruled the longest.  It was that minor figure down in Spain few know or remember.  For over 50 years he called the shots. He died in bed.

Goebbles poisoned his wife and children and then himself.  Dietrich was convicted of war crimes and imprisoned.  Hitler, we believe, first killed his dog, then his wife and then shot himself.  They failed to make Germany great again.

George Santayana, an essayist and historian wrote, “Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.”

Danuel L. Smith is a Woodstock resident.