Munich 1923 / Charlottesville 2017
By Todd Samuel Presner
As a scholar of German-Jewish history, I’m reluctant to make overstated analogies with the past. But if I had to suggest a parallel, I would start in Munich in 1923. The Nazi party, founded three years earlier out of the political disillusionment of Germany’s loss in World War I, started to gain a foothold. It was one of many right-wing, nationalist parties vying for power in the nascent democracy of the Weimar Republic. Allied against liberal democratic principles, the Nazi party began to find a diverse base of support among artisans, merchants, civil servants, shop owners, war veterans and students. Members of the elite, including publishers, manufacturers, business owners and aristocrats, also were attracted by its nativist rhetoric and virulent anti-Semitism. Fueled by ethno-nationalism, rabid scapegoating and promises of greatness and rebirth, the Nazi party even had, as some historians have argued, an integrative function in German society during these early years.