Freedom is usually lost in steps, for individuals or entire nations. As Scottish philosopher David Hume observed, “It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.”
H.L. Mencken saw government gaining ground by way of scaring the bejeebers out of people. “The whole aim of practical politics,” he explained, “is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), for example, regularly sounds the warning bell about hobgoblins like Ellen DeGeneres, hoping that an alarmed populace will clamor for larger Republican majorities in order to provide a federal buttress for the allegedly endangered missionary position.
To Germans burdened by defeat in World War I and the associated reparations payments, Hitler offered Jews and communists as the hobgoblins who conspired to undermine the country’s war effort. To a nation threatened by unemployment and hyperinflation, he offered the scapegoat of Jewish “exploiters” and the hobgoblin of “Jewish financiers.”
In steps, for years, liberty in Germany was rolled back as the government expanded its edicts and regulations. On April 7, 1933, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service was passed, banning Jews from government jobs. On April 22, 1933, the Law Against the Crowding of German Schools and Institutions of Higher Learning limited the number of Jewish students by means of quotas: “In new admissions, care is to be taken that the number of Reich Germans who are of non-Aryan descent, out of the total attending each school and each faculty, does not exceed the proportion of non-Aryans within the Reich German population.”
In May 1935, Jews were forbidden to join the German army. On Sept. IS, 1935, the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor was adopted by unanimous vote in the Reichstag, decreeing the following. Section 1: “Marriages between Jews and nationals of German or kindred blood are forbidden.” Section 2: “Relation outside marriage between Jews and nationals of German or kindred blood are forbidden.” Section 3: “Jews will not be permitted to employ female nationals of German or kindred blood in their households.” Section 4: “Jews are forbidden to hoist the Reich and national flag and to present the colors of the Reich. On the other hand, they are permitted to present the Jewish colors.”
The final part of the law, Section 5, orders that a person acting contrary to Section 1 be “punished with hard labor” and orders that a person in violation of Section 2 be “punished with imprisonment or with hard labor,” thereby providing an early flow of people to the Nazi labor camps, the forerunners of the extermination camps that would in due course produce the mass slaughter of millions.
In March 1936, Jews were banned from all professional jobs in Germany. On Sept. 30, 1936, it became unlawful for “Aryan” physicians to treat Jewish patients, a patient group that was already restricted in medical care by the fact that Jews were banned from becoming doctors.
Beginning in March 1938, government contracts in Germany could no longer be awarded to Jewish businesses. On November 9, 1938, Germany’s Nazi leaders sent the SS
In steps, for years, liberty in Germany was rolled back as the government expanded its edicts and regulations.
on a rampage of destruction against the nation’s Jews. With police and firemen standing idle, Jewish homes, cemeteries, hospitals, schools, and synagogues were looted and burned.
In two days of government-directed mayhem, more than 1,000 synagogues were burned, dozens of Jews were murdered, and an estimated 7,000 Jewish businesses were trashed. The attack became known as Kristallnacht, the “Night of the Broken Glass,” for the shattered windows of Jewish storefronts that covered the sidewalks and streets.
On November II, an estimated 30,000 Jewish men in Germany were sent to concentration camps, Jewish children were expelled from the public schools, and the management of Jewish businesses was turned over to non-Jews.
And just to make sure that all went according to plan without any significant detours, the Weapons Law of 1938 was passed. Stated Section 1: “Jews are prohibited from acquiring, possessing, and carrying firearms and ammunition, as well as truncheons or stabbing weapons. Those now possessing weapons and ammunition are at once to turn them over to the local police authority.”
Long before the Third Reich, Thomas Jefferson warned of freedom being crushed, step by step, by an ever-expanding state. “The natural progress of things,” he wrote in 1788, “is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”