In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 26, 2021 at 12:09 am

On November 9, 1923, Nazi Party Fuhrer Adolf Hitler tried to overthrow the government in Munich, Bavaria.

About 2,000 Nazis marched to the center of Munich, where they confronted heavily-armed police. A shootout erupted, killing 16 Nazis and four policemen. 

Hitler was injured during the clash, but managed to escape. Two days later, he was arrested and charged with treason.

Put on trial, he found himself treated as a celebrity by a judge sympathetic to Right-wing groups. He was allowed to brutally cross-examine witnesses and even make inflammatory speeches.

At the end of the trial, he was convicted of treason and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

Serving time in Landsberg Prison, in Bavaria. he was given a huge cell, allowed to receive unlimited visitors and gifts, and treated with deference by guards and inmates.

Hitler used his time in prison to write his infamous book, Mein Kampf-–“My Struggle.” Part autobiography, part political treatise, it laid out his future plans—including the extermination of the Jews and the conquest of the Soviet Union.

Image result for Images of Adolf Hitler outside Landsberg prison

Adolf Hitler leaving Landsberg Prison, December, 20, 1924

Nine months later, he was released on parole—by authorities loyal to the authoritarian Right instead of the newly-created Weimar Republic.

Hitler immediately began rebuilding the shattered Nazi party—and deciding on a new strategy to gain power. Never again would he resort to armed force. He would win office by election—or intrigue.

On January 30, 1933, those intrigues made him Chancellor of Germany. 

Writes historian Volker Ullrich, in his monumental 2016 biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939: “Historians have perennially tried to answer the question of whether Hitler’s rise to power could have been halted….

“There were repeated opportunities to end Hitler’s run of triumphs. The most obvious one was after the failed Putsch of November 1923. Had the Munich rabble-rouser been forced to serve his full five-year term of imprisonment in Landsberg, it is extremely unlikely that he would have been able to restart his political career.”

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The United States Senate—and Justice Department—now face the same dilemma faced by the judges of the Weimar Republic. 

On January 6, thousands of Donald Trump’s supporters—incited by the then-President—attacked the United States Capitol. Stormtrumpers ransacked the building while legislators—protected by only a small cadre of police—huddled fearfully. Five people—including a Capitol Hill policeman—were killed.

The Stormtrumpers’ goal: To illegally overturn Trump’s defeat in the November 3 Presidential election.

The storming of the United States Capitol

TapTheForwardAssist, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

On January 23, the Daily Mail carried a story under the headline: “Justice Department Debate NOT Charging Up to 800 MAGA Rioters at Capitol”:

“The FBI and prosecutors at the Justice Department are debating whether to decline to charge some of the MAGA rioters who stormed the United States Capitol on January 6 in an attempt to derail President Joe Biden’s certification.

“There is concern among DOJ officials that bringing charges against all of the estimated 800 rioters who ransacked the Capitol building could flood the local federal courthouse in Washington, DC, with cases.

“There have been internal discussions about forgoing charges against those who were not involved in any violence or vandalism but were simply trespassing or ‘going along with the crowd,’ The Washington Post reported.”

Meanwhile, many Republicans are strongly opposing Trump’s second impeachment trial—which is set to open on February 8. 

Some claim that the only way to “heal” the country after four divisive years of Trump is to forgive his every crime.

This amounts to Right-wing hypocrisy, since Trump himself wanted his Attorney General to “lock up” those who had not broken the law—former FBI Director James Comey, former President Barack Obama and former First Lady and Senator Hillary Clinton. 

Other Republicans are asserting that since Trump has left office, his crimes cannot be prosecuted.

Yet no other United States official has ever been granted such immunity. If an ex-Senator is found to have taken bribes, he can be tried for bribery—so long as the statute hasn’t expired

More than 500 years ago, the father of political science, Niccolo Machiavelli, examined the issue of rewards and punishments. He concluded: 

“…No well-ordered republic should ever cancel the crimes of its citizens by their merits. But having established rewards for good actions and penalties for evil ones, and having rewarded a citizen for conduct who afterwards commits a wrong, he should be chastised for that without regard to his previous merits. And a state that properly observes this principle will long enjoy its liberty, but if otherwise, it will speedily come to ruin. 

“For if a citizen who has rendered some eminent service to the state should add to the reputation and influence which he has thereby acquired the confident audacity of being able to commit any wrong without fear of punishment, he will in a little while become so insolent and overbearing as to put an end to all power of the law.”

For those who require more contemporary advice, the example of the Weimar Republic offers a continuing warning.

Right-wing judges and police, sympathizing with men like Adolf Hitler—who had publicly sworn to destroy the fledging Republic—ultimately made that a reality.

They must not be allowed to do the same to the American Republic.

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