Publication Date

September 1, 1994

Perspectives Section

Letters to the Editor

Errant Hitler Analogy

In the context of the recent Cincinnati/Chicago controversy, Thomas Holt wrote ("Adhering to Principle on Human Rights," Perspectives, April 1994, p. 21) “We might also reflect on the fact that Hitler came to power via majority rule.” I have watched this debate from afar and frankly feel the whole affair to be a bit of a “storm in a teacup”; I hope to attend the 1995 meeting regardless of its location. What I do have strong feelings about is a careless handling of the historical record, particularly on such a sensitive issue as Nazism.

The truth is that the Nazis never came close to a majority in any fair, free, democratic election in the Weimar years. In the presidential race against Hindenburg, in spring 1932 Hitler won 36.8 percent of the vote. The Nazis exceeded this with their astonishing electoral success in the Reichstag elections that summer (37.2 percent). But in the last free election of the Republic (November 1932) the NSDAP won only 33.1 percent of the vote. Hitler did not (despite Dr. Holt's "fact") get the reins of power in January 1933 "via majority rule." It had rather more to do with the backroom intrigues and fantasies of the likes of Hugenberg, the Hindenburgs, and, above all, von Papen. Even after becoming Reichskanzler, after turning Göring and Frick loose to persecute and jail opponents, and after unleashing the full fury of the SA on the streets of Germany, Hitler and his party could still only muster 43.9 percent in the March 1933 elections! Perhaps what Dr. Holt meant to say was that Hitler was personally determined to get power by using or abusing parliamentary institutions such as election campaigns or through the semilegal camouflage of an Enabling Act. (The vote for the Enabling Act was a clear majority. But Hitler had by then already been Kanzler for two months, the transformation to a police state was well under way via presidential decree, and the constitutional validity of the act is highly questionable since many leftist deputies were in jail, the SA and the SS intimidated the debate in the Kroll Opera House, and the Reichsrat was by then improperly constituted after Hitler's attack on the Lünder governments.)

Let me be clear: While there is no question that Hitler had mass support, nothing close to a majority of Germans ever voted freely for Nazi rule in Germany. Hitler was very good at distorting the historical record in order to answer critics and to suit his present political needs. That, to my mind, is what the AHA must be ever vigilant to avoid.

Stephen A. Pagaard
International School of Düsseldorf

Kudos on Cincinnati Decision

Hooray for Thomas Holt and his reply on the Cincinnati decision. He was kind in calling two of the objections to equal rights disingenuous. I recently joined the AHA because I believed it better fit my interests than has the OAH. The move by the AHA on the Cincinnati problem has strengthened my decision.

As you read this, my check is on its way to the AHA Human Rights Fund.

F. Michael Mase
Golden West College

Condescending Relocation Accusations

As the author of one of the letters published in Perspectives opposing the AHA Council’s decision to move its 1995 meeting from Cincinnati, I feel it is my duty to respond to President Holt’s comments in answering the dissenting letters. I believe that Professor Holt was somewhat hypocritical and condescending in the arguments he used to dismiss the opinions presented in opposition to the relocation of the meeting to Chicago.

At one point in his letter, Dr. Holt leveled a "backhanded" accusation at the motives of the opposition, calling them "disingenuous arguments that merely camouflage an actual opposition to the principles of equal rights." With all due respect to Professor Holt, neither he, nor any other member of the AHA Council, has the right to suppose the intentions of those who object to their actions.

I must also object to Dr. Holt's assumption that the opposing viewpoint in this matter is the product of a successful effort by "[t]he right-wing sponsors of the Cincinnati referendum [who] propagated the disingenuous campaign cover story that their proposal merely repealed ordinances giving 'special' rights to gay and lesbian citizens." Such an argument is equal to my accusing the AHA Council of being swayed by an effective propaganda campaign sponsored by "left-wing militant homosexuals." The manner in which Dr. Holt addressed this matter reflects the obvious ideological leanings of the AHA leadership.

Finally, I must seriously question Professor Holt's misuse of history in his attempt to cast an unfavorable light on the democratic actions of the voters of Cincinnati. While he was accurate in pointing out that Hitler was democratically elected, that example is not applicable in this case. I find it interesting that Dr. Holt appears to use John C. Calhoun's idea of the "concurrent majority" as a needed defense against "tyrannical, self-righteous majorities." I am sure Dr. Holt is happy that this idea did not gain favor when Mr. Calhoun proposed it, or else there might still be slaves in the South. However, if the minority is to be protected in this fashion, who will protect us from such "tyrannical, self-righteous" actions as those recently taken by the AHA Council?

Stephen Dale Cronin
University of Delaware

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