It's tempting to read into the significance of historical anniversaries, perhaps especially so when we're in shock. November 9, the same day that Donald Trump was declared the president-elect, is Kristallnacht's anniversary. On that day in 1938, there were massive coordinated attacks on the Jewish communities in Nazi Germany and Nazi-controlled Austria and Czechoslovakia, resulting in the killing of at least 91 Jews and the rounding up of thousands. Although there were many signs of Adolph Hitler's anti-Semitism and plans to exterminate Jews across Europe before Kristallnacht (which means "Night of Broken Glass" in reference to the homes and businesses ransacked and destroyed), it is seen as a turning point towards the horror of the Holocaust.
Now, some have taken to social media to highlight the tie between Kristallnacht and Trump's victory. Avital Nathman, author of The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood To Fit Reality, tweeted "Tonight marks the 78th anniversary of #Kristallnacht. Sadly something inside me feels l like a new version isn't far off #FightForWhat'sRight." Actress Leslie Grossman tweeted, "Today is the anniversary of Kristallnacht (google it) This morning I feel we are doomed to repeat history. We better stand up for each other."
Trump has been compared to Hitler and other dictators throughout his presidential campaign — and not merely in a melodramatic, hyperbolic, Godwin's Law kind of way. After all, Trump has praised dictators like North Korea's Kim Jong Un, Italy's Benito Mussolini, and Iraq's Saddam Hussein ("He was a bad guy, really bad guy, but you know what he did well? He killed terrorists.")
Also, Trump has exhibited behavior that had fascist undertones, as historian Robert Paxton told Slate:
The use of ethnic stereotypes and exploitation of fear of foreigners is directly out of a fascist’s recipe book. “Making the country great again” sounds exactly like the fascist movements. Concern about national decline, that was one of the most prominent emotional states evoked in fascist discourse, and Trump is using that full-blast, quite illegitimately, because the country isn’t in serious decline, but he’s able to persuade them that it is. That is a fascist stroke. An aggressive foreign policy to arrest the supposed decline. That’s another one. Then, there’s a second level, which is a level of style and technique. He even looks like Mussolini in the way he sticks his lower jaw out, and also the bluster, the skill at sensing the mood of the crowd, the skillful use of media.
Trump and/or his campaign has also displayed and failed to denounce anti-Semitism at different points during this election cycle.
It's not so much that I fear what Trump will do as president as much as I am concerned about what it reveals about the electorate.
Personally as an American Jew, what remains the most disturbing is that Trump and his wife, Melania, failed to criticize their supporters who attacked journalist Julia Ioffe with anti-Semitic death threats after she wrote a profile of Melania that was less than glowing. Ioffe was harassed to the point that she filed a police report, according to the Washington Post, and Donald and Melania Trump pointblank failed to criticize the people behind the threats when questioned about it. Melania told DuJour that Ioffe had "provoked them [her supporters]."
There was also the time this summer that Trump tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton with piles of money and six-pointed stars — aka the Jewish star of David — in the background. His campaign claimed it was innocuous, but it was reportedly taken from a white supremacist, anti-Semitic message board (the campaign denied it came from such a forum).
Then, there's the fact that Klu Klux Klan leaders seem to have a great affinity for Trump — and are happily claiming his presidential victory as one of their own. David Duke tweeted after Trump's victory, "This is one of the most exciting nights of my life -> make no mistake about it, our people have played a HUGE role in electing Trump!"
For all of these reason, as a Jew in America, the election of Trump definitely disturbs me and stirs my worst fears for how a seemingly accepting and modern country can turn on minorities. It's not so much that I fear what Trump will do as president as much as I am concerned about what it reveals about the electorate. How much did America not want Hillary Clinton that they were unconcerned about Trump's anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-women comments?
However, I also feel highly uneasy drawing parallels between this day and Kristallnacht. This may sound obvious, but as sad as some may be by the election results, that sadness is not the same as the horror of the government orchestrating the murder and physical removal of a group of people. Those two events are incomparable and saying otherwise dilutes the horror and significance of Kristallnacht.
November 9, 2016 may be upsetting and scary to many Americans. I think as a nation we need to acknowledge that, that this election was more than a red-blue split over politics. Rather, there are people who deeply fear a Trump presidency for the sake of their safety and well-being.
Yet, as much as we must recognize that, if we delve so deep into that fear that we're equating today with Kristallnacht, we lose our sense of proportionality and, with it, an ability to move forward and find middle ground. At the end of the day, the hope that our leaders and, more importantly, our countrymen will find common ground is the silver lining — a silver lining that is still very real and what will keep us from becoming 1938 Berlin.