How Do Fascists Creep into Power?

By Lillian Rosengarten

Uri Avneri’s always powerful observations raise the most profound question. How can it happen, the lure of Fascism that oozes into the fabric of societies with the promise of a better life? There are always those who are not vulnerable to the language of temptation, the racist rhetoric that tears a society apart. These heroes become freedom fighters. An example is Hans Lebrecht, my father’s first cousin who was an active resistance fighter in World War 11, a noted Communist activist and supporter and writer for Gush Shalom. He was my mentor and beloved friend. Now in his 90’s he resides at Kibbutz Beit-Oren. I cannot visit him for I am not allowed to return to Israel because I have dissented against their injustice to Palestinians. Here is a still timely quote from “JewishFriends of Palestine Gateway, by Hans.

"I am sorry and upset that now, as an active member of the CP and the progressive peace camp in Israel, I still have to fight fascism. I am currently a member of the leading bureau of the International Federation of Resistance Fighters. The fight against neofascism in Europe and throughout the capitalist world continues. This includes against the fascist hoodlums in Israel who attempt to torpedo the peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians."

I too was an eye witness, one might say:

Try to imagine a beautiful evening in the fall of 1934. My parents decide to take an after dinner stroll in the elegant neighborhood where they lived on Feuerbach Strasse in Frankfurt. Linden trees grew tall and the air was filled with blossoms. They walked along the quiet street when suddenly from nowhere, out sprang a group of young men. “Brown Shirts” they were called, a precursor to the SS, the feared Nazi police. That was how it began, the debauchery of Germany. The men marched up to my parents and simultaneously clicked their heels. They were no more than 18 years old, clean shaven angel faces hardly out of childhood indoctrinated with hate. Were they children once? Five brown shirts, high boots laced over brown pants, Nazi flags pinned on brown caps, swastika armbands in red white and black. In high spirits they were on a path to lunacy where linden trees would bloom no more.

One Brown Shirt stepped up close to my father, a finger on his nose. He laughed then circled about. “Come see the Jew nose,” he bellowed. The others cursed and mocked. My father, elegant in a tailored suit, silk tie and expensive overcoat wore fine black leather gloves. A small Florentine gold pin engraved with a diamond “L was visible on his tie. I would see it often as a child just as I had heard this story from my father so often. My mother pregnant with me wore a sable fur hat to match the collar and cuffs of her stylish coat. As I lay inside my mother, I became an unseen witness. Perhaps that can explain my lifelong vulnerability and sensitivity to racism and fascism.

Number two kicked, taunted, cursed, then punched my father in the face until he bled. The others kicked him onto the ground. The Brown Shirt angel faces in high spirits kicked some more and marched away. This episode was a deciding factor in my father’s decision to leave Germany. It took him two years to get us out.

I see the face of Fascism here in the US as right wing pundits seize on the political climate of high unemployment, fear of the future,  loss of power, loss of homes and hope. Americans who feel abandoned and exploited hear right wing rhetoric, words that terrorize and manipulate and then vote against their interests. It seems the climate is right for fascism with the breakdown of a social democracy which is known to raise the standards of living for it’s most vulnerable population and everyone.
Scapegoating and blaming the other becomes the norm and quickly there emerges the “them” and “us” rhetoric, the good and the evil, the split that separates and creates walls.

High unemployment, despair and fear also permeated German society when Hitler’s strong rhetoric mesmerized a population that heard and embraced big daddy tell them he would lead them into prosperity.

From my view, racism is a precursor to fascism. In addition, a nationalistic identity of moral superiority, closes off the potential to reflect and consider one’s actions in as much as they have create a moral morass and a dangerous direction for Israel.

I beg you Israel, speak with your enemies, let dissenters raise their voices. Allow for debate and discussion. Become an open society, embrace your enemies, do not treat them with disrespect and disgust.  Tear down the wall of hate. Do not be afraid to change your direction.

– Lillian Rosengarten was the only American on board the Irene to Gaza. She contributed this article to the

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