In what was at the time justified as a preemptive strike against a possible coup, in the summer of 1934, Adolf Hitler ordered the murder of Ernst Röhm and several of his “brownshirt” lieutenants. The net effect of this purge was to rein in the more thuggish elements of Hitler’s regime and consolidate his power. It largely worked and the evening of 30 June, 1934 became known as the “Night of the Long Knives,” in commemoration of those brutal murders.
With Donald Trump ordering the termination of Kirstjen Nielsen and Service Director Randolph Alles, and with other DHS and ICE personnel also on their way out, it’s ironic in light of reflected history that Trump was motivated to take these actions because the personnel he’s purging, though thuggish in their own right, have not, by his lights, been sufficiently thuggish enough. Even so it might not be out of line to call Monday, the eighth of April, and events immediately following, the “Day of the Long Knives,” as a memorialization.
With John Kelly gone, Josef Goebbels lookalike and White House cockroach in residence Stephen Miller is the Svengali currently holding the lion’s share of Trump’s strings. Miller’s well-known toxic views on immigration (it was he who made sport of the “New Colossus,” poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty) are quickly becoming Trump’s too. These days it may even turn out to be dangerous in Trumpland to despise, with substandard zeal, immigrants and asylum seekers. Look for Insufficient Hate to become a fireable offense in the Trump White House soon.
I do not believe that history repeats itself, per se. I do believe, however, that certain identifiable patterns do recur. So apart from yet another tired Hitler dig on Donald Trump, and obvious comparisons of Trump sycophant and lapdog Stephen Miller with Josef Goebbels, what can be achieved by rechristening the eighth of April, 2019, the “Day of the Long Knives”? Only this. During Adolf Hitler’s second year of his rise to power, Hitler never once held in his mortal hands the power to destroy all life on Earth. In fact, he never did. Donald Trump holds two weapons of clear and present danger to the future survival of the human race: the largest nuclear arsenal ever assembled, and a complete disregard for the science of global climate change.
So let’s never lose sight of this chilling reality. Adolf Hitler, with far fewer weapons of far lesser power, and wielding the same simple, inimical bigotry that Donald Trump wields every day, still managed to massacre millions of innocent people, and very nearly destroyed the world. If christening Trump’s latest act of hate-inspired xenophobia the “Day of the Long Knives” reminds you of Trump’s potential to destroy us all, then I see it as a good thing. We need to stay scared.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.