Those who don’t know…
I’ve always loved History (with a capital H) so that may explain my passion for this subject.,
Hans Litten’s story is relevant today. He was a German attorney who represented opponents of the Nazis at important trials before Hitler’s ascent to full power.
He sounds the alarm. The evidence seems clear to him. Consider the following quotes from Episode 1:
“Hans Litten is starting to realize that Germany’s legal system is riddled with Nazi sympathizers. …Crucial evidence mysteriously disappears. The Nazi conspiracy is wider than Litten realized.”
“Hans Litten is seeing how the rule of law is now a pretense. Berlin’s chief prosecutor informs him that the case against the storm troopers is being dropped for lack of evidence.”
“He sees that the destruction of democracy is taking place before his eyes, and no one is stopping it.”
“We go back to this time over and over again, because it informs our current world. It informs our current world on a number of planes, but particularly, it is a warning to us to prevent things like this from happening again. And we ask, “Why wasn’t it that there were no people around who could actually prevent this terrible descent?”
“The story of German politics between 1930 and 1933 is the story of the decline and fall of a democracy. And that’s why we’re so fascinated because we know what happened afterwards. Journalists at the time didn’t know what was going to happen, but we know now, looking back, what a terrible turning point it was.”
“And, of course, democracy is under challenge and under threat in many countries at the moment. We’re looking for parallels. That period does have lessons for us if we want to preserve and defend democracy in our own day.“
Oh, yes, and then this fact, revealed at the end of the episode:
“Hans Litten is arrested and sent to a concentration camp. He does not survive.”
We are living in dangerous times, watching precedent after precedent fall as our nation splinters around the cult of personality that defines both sides.
We cannot ever take our democracy for granted.
While God granted us the extraordinary leadership of Abraham Lincoln the last time our divisions ran so deep, we cannot know now how our current crises will end.
Reflect carefully on what you see and hear.
Make the effort to hear the other side and then ask, ‘Does this action help or hinder our democratic institutions and proclivities?’
America has always been special but if you think it can’t happen here, you’re not paying attention to history.
“America as an experiment is genuinely important to the world not because of the accidents of history that made us the most powerful nation on Earth, but because America is the first real experiment in building a large multiethnic, multicultural democracy. And we don’t know yet if that can hold.” ~ Barack Obama
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
*(You can stream Episodes 1 and 2 at PBS.org if you’ve missed them.)