The rise of Trump and Hitler
– A comparison

Twenty common themes, rhetorical tactics and dangerous policies

By Byron Toben

In previous articles, I have drawn theatrical parallels to the rise of Donald Trump. Somehow, I had overlooked Berthold Brecht’s 1941 classic, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. There Brecht compared Hitler’s rise to that of a fictional gangster in 1930’s Chicago stockyards.

That inspired me to research comparisons of the Donald to Hitler. I was astounded at how many items turned up via Google. I flaked out after the first 200. The authors ranged from professors to TV documentarians to journalists to entertainers to politicians.

Short of getting a grant and months of time to compare and analyze all these references, here is my quickie summary based on only two of them.

The first is a 1995 Vanity Fair piece interviewing Ivana Trump, Donald’s first wife. There she claims that John Walter, Donald’s cousin, gave him a copy of the collected pre-WW II speeches of Hitler. This is a rarer book than Mein Kampf (My Struggle). She states that Trump then kept it in a locked bedside cabinet.

Trump Rally -

Trump speaks to automobile workers in Michigan, March 2017 – Image: Gage Skidmore via

That connection is also cited in my second source, When at Times the Mob Is Swayed: A Citizen’s Guide to Defending Our Republic (2019) by law professor Burt Neuborne, a civil rights icon. In Chapter Two, he lists 20 common themes, rhetorical tactics and dangerous policies. These are summarized in an excellent review by Steven Rosenfeld in Common Dreams. (August 9, 2019)

I further reduce them here:

  1. Neither was elected by a majority
  2. Both found direct communication channels to their base.
  3. Both blame others, divide on racial lines
  4. Both relentlessly demonize opponents
  5. Both unceasingly attack “lying press/fake news”
  6. Both relentlessly attack mainstream media
  7. Both deride scientific experts
  8. Their lies blur reality – and their supporters spread them
  9. Both orchestrate mass rallies
  10. .Both embrace extreme nationalism
  11. Both made closing borders a centrepiece
  12. Both embrace mass detention and deportations
  13. Both use borders to protect selected industries
  14. Both extend their rule by enriching elites
  15. Both reject international norms
  16. Both attack domestic democratic practices
  17. Both attack judiciary and rule of law
  18. Both glorify the military and demand personal loyalty oaths
  19. Both proclaim unchecked power
  20. Both relegate women to subordinate roles
Hitler 1938 rally

1938: Hitler is driven through the crowd in Cheb in the Sudetenland – Image: Bundesarchiv, Bild 137-004055 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons

Each of these 20 has many specific examples in Neufeld’s book. I would like to point out some of my own counterpoints with some of Adolph’s supporting cast

Herman Goring advised leaders to “first make people afraid of others, then you can do anything.” (Donald aided and abetted by Stephen Miller?)

Heinrich Himmler consolidated local police into a national police force, the Gestapo. (Bill Barr blending border patrol and Sheriffs?)

Joseph Goebbels perfected the use of propaganda with the “Big Lie” as well as repetitive small lies. (Fox News morphing into a private propaganda vehicle?)

Feature image: original images of Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.

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