‘Trump Hitler-like’, 100-year-old Holocaust survivor says

Ruth Nussbaum with her son, right, and two grandsons. Photo by Ruth Nussbaum

By Steve North in the USA, 30 September 2020:

100-year-old Holocaust survivor compares Trump to Hitler

I’d like to say a few words about Adolf Hitler, Donald Trump, and Ruth Nussbaum.

Let’s start with Ruth, who is marking her 100th birthday on September 30th, and isn’t overly thrilled with the occasion. As she told me a few weeks ago, “I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody”.

Ruth Rozanski was born in Offenbach, Germany, a few miles from Frankfurt. By the age of five she’d learned how to knit, an activity in which she finds enjoyment and meaning to this day. After her father’s untimely death when she was 11, she lived with her mother Henriette and younger sister Ellen in a building owned by an aunt; her mom and aunt managed a small store downstairs from their apartment.

An exceptionally bright teenager, Ruth worked for three years as an apprentice bookkeeper until Kristallnacht in November 1938. During that nationwide anti-Jewish orgy of violence, death and destruction, Nazi thugs ransacked her family’s store and residence.

Several months later, fearing what the ominous future might hold for German Jews, Henriette made the wrenching decision to send Ellen to safety in England on the now-legendary Kindertransport.

Ruth, however, was already past the 17-year age limit; it took another year of desperate attempts – and the help of the refugee organization HIAS – to make her escape from Nazi Germany, leaving her mother behind.

In late 1940, the 20-year-old, with only the clothes on her back, got on a train that rumbled through Russia for days, made her way to Japan, and boarded a ship that eventually docked in Seattle. Literally penniless, it took her some time to raise the one cent needed to send a postcard to relatives in New York City, who arranged through HIAS to bring her east.

In New York, Ruth was reunited with her fiancé Norbert (later Norman) Nussbaum. The couple met at a dancing school in 1935 when he was 17 and she 15; he fled Germany separately, and they married in 1942.

I am familiar with Ruth’s saga because Norman was my mother’s cousin, and our two families lived near each other for decades in Queens, NY.

After World War II ended, Ruth discovered that her 55-year-old mother Henriette had been murdered in Treblinka.

In 1956, tragedy struck again, when the older of Ruth and Norman’s two sons died of leukemia at the age of nine. Although never fully recovered from that heartbreak, the Nussbaums carried on, moving to Delray Beach, Florida in the 1980s; Norman passed away in 1993.

In the years since being widowed, Ruth has kept busy by knitting blankets and hats for hospitalized children with cancer. Still living alone in her own home, she creates a blanket a day, and has been recognized several times for her remarkable charity work. She enjoys visits from her surviving son and two grandsons, as well as the children and grandchildren of her sister Ellen, who died in 2018.

One might think Ruth could look back with some sense of contentment and comfort at a lifetime of triumph over tragedy, but that’s not the case. In our recent conversation, she lamented the nation’s current crises, saying “I’ve seen a lot in my 100 years, but I don’t know why I had to stick around for all of this. It’s awful”.

Her pessimism has grown since 2016, when we met at an Italian restaurant for dinner during the presidential election campaign. After sharing joyful memories of my parents’ wedding and gossip about various relatives, Ruth turned to politics.

The woman who was forced to listen daily to Adolf Hitler’s lunatic rants on the radio for seven years in the 1930s was blunt: “When I hear Trump speak, I hear Hitler again. When I see his rallies, it’s like what I saw in Nazi Germany”.

I pushed back against Ruth’s emotional comments. As a journalist who has interviewed dozens of survivors and reported extensively on Holocaust-related topics, and as the son of a mother who escaped the Nazis and a father whose aunts, uncles and ten first cousins were murdered by them, I have long believed that nobody and nothing can or should be compared to Hitler and Nazism.

The slaughter of six million Jews has been used and abused far too often by those who have no concept of its mechanized magnitude, … to evangelical Christians on the extreme right. Its unfathomable evil has been cheapened by pop culture references to “soup Nazis” and sitcom jokes about Anne Frank.

So I told Ruth in 2016 I thought she was exaggerating, that the Holocaust was an event unique in its horror, that the unhinged diatribes of Donald Trump, as racist and moronic as they might be, were not equivalent to genocide.

Four years later, I’ve come to realize Ruth is right. Donald Trump still is not the Adolf Hitler of 1944. But he legitimately can be compared to the Hitler of 1934 – and that, perhaps, is by design. Legal filings from Trump’s first divorce revealed he owned and studied a book of the Führer’s early speeches. A new analysis by prominent civil liberties attorney Burt Neuborne cites twenty ways Trump’s words and actions are similar to those of Hitler in the early years of the Third Reich, from the attacks on mainstream media and objective truth to huge rallies, mass detention, ultranationalism and demonization of all opponents.

In recent weeks, as early voting begins, Trump has repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses in November. This is no surprise to Ruth, who told me earlier this month that “Trump is like a dictator. He’s crazy like Hitler was”.

Despite the barbed wire and caged children, a detention center in Texas is not Dachau in Bavaria. But when an eyewitness such as Ruth Nussbaum with a century of wisdom and lived experience warns us of the similarities, we ignore her at our own peril.

For Holocaust survivors, Trump’s refusal to concede is a bad memory.

10 thoughts on “‘Trump Hitler-like’, 100-year-old Holocaust survivor says

  1. Pingback: ‘Trump Hitler-like’, 100-year-old Holocaust survivor says — Dear Kitty. Some blog – The Narrow Edge

  2. In the middle of this unfolding nightmare for America and the world, Ruth’s words are a comfort and a bacon to all those who truly believe in liberty and justice for all. It is: of the people, for the people, by the people! Not of the president! or any one person. Especially this president. We must come out to vote in great numbers to defeat this attempt at dictatorship.


  3. Pingback: ‘Trump Hitler-like’, 100-year-old Holocaust survivor says | sdbast

  4. Pingback: ‘Trump Hitler-like’, 100-year-old Holocaust survivor says — Dear Kitty. Some blog – Redvince's Weblog

  5. By George Zornick

    Even before President Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19, the 2020 presidential election contained several unprecedented variables. One major concern was that Republicans in key states might overrule voters and appoint a slate of pro-Trump electors in a state Joe Biden wins, or where the result remains unclear. The Pennsylvania GOP took one step in that direction this week, and HuffPost Senior Reporter Paul Blumenthalcovered it after writing a definitive piece on this nightmare scenario. He spoke with Must Reads about the lurking dangers that keep Democratic election lawyers up at night.

    OK, quickly run us through what the elector process is after a state is won by one candidate or another.

    Each candidate has a slate of electors who will cast their votes at the electoral college vote. When a candidate wins a state, it is their electors who are certified. These electors then go on to cast their votes during the electoral college voting process on Dec. 14. The results of the electoral college vote in each state are then sealed and sent to Congress, which meets on Jan. 6 to open the results and vote to accept them — or not. Once Congress accepts each state’s electoral college votes the president is inaugurated on Jan. 20.

    Most people I think would assume that the winner of a state would of course, by law, have his or her electors sent to Congress. But tell us why that’s not the case.

    Well, it is supposed to be that way. The problem arises if one candidate, or more, contests the results of a state’s election. This happened in 1876 when Democrats said the results in four former Confederate states were tainted by voter fraud and Republicans claimed that the results were instead tainted by white terrorist violence preventing Black voters from casting their ballots. (Both sides had a point.) And so both sides had state officials certify opposing slates of electors and sent them to Congress. This was only resolved days before the inauguration when Democrats let the Republican take office in exchange for him pulling troops out of the South and ending the policy of Reconstruction. Congress passed a law meant to create a legal system for dealing with such conflicts if they arose in the future, but, like many laws written in the late 19th century, it is poorly written and contains conflicting language. Legal scholars today still have opposing interpretations of key parts of it.

    The scenario that disturbs election law experts today is if President Trump were to carry out his strategy of claiming any absentee ballots counted after Election Day amounted to fraud and asked Republican officials of any office in a state to agree with him. A Republican-led legislature could theoretically, if not necessarily legally, certify Trump’s slate of electors while a Democratic governor could certify a slate for Biden were he to be the actual vote winner. This could then end up with a state sending two slates of electors to Congress. And while many legal experts agree that the law passed after the 1876 election states that Congress must favor the slate certified by a state’s governor, there are competing legal theories that Republicans could push in both the courts and the arena of public opinion.

    In what swing states is this of potential concern?

    This strategy could only be possible in a state with divided government. That means states with Democratic governors and Republican-led legislatures like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Minnesota also has a Democratic governor and one chamber of its statehouse under Republican control. And some experts state that the Democratic secretary of state in Arizona could certify Biden electors if questions about the results arise in Republican-controlled Arizona.

    But attention has largely focused on Pennsylvania, as The Atlantic reported that Republican officials there have discussed this scenario among themselves and the Trump campaign. Republicans in the legislature moved this week to create a special committee to investigate the 2020 election, which many see as the first step to using trumped up allegations of voter fraud to toss the results and certify Trump electors.

    What, if anything, can be done to avoid this?

    This scenario requires a lot of actors to take rather extreme action to ensure Trump “wins” reelection. It’s quite possible that any number of the people needed to pull this off choose not to go along with it. There is also the possibility that Trump loses by large enough margins for this type of scheme to not be realistic. It is also legally dubious, as a number of legal experts suggest that the state legislature must first pass a law prior to the election for it to be able to certify electors. There are, naturally, other interpretations that favor a legislative certification.

    Another way this could become impossible is if Democrats win control of both the House and Senate. There is no chance they would vote to accept Trump electors certified by Republican legislatures based on baseless voter fraud charges. Even before that, it’s possible for Republicans to lose control of a state legislative body in November in a state where the newly elected legislature takes office prior to the electoral college meeting, which is true of both Florida and Pennsylvania. But the main way to avoid this is for Trump to lose resoundingly on election night.




  6. Pingback: Donald Trump and coronavirus pandemic | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  7. Pingback: Trump copies Adolf Hitler | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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