To the editor:
As I visited the old heart of the West German city of Nuremberg during a study abroad program in college, a flyer posted nearby got my attention. Actually, it was posted everywhere around the old marketplace square. The flyer said, “Nie Wieder,” or “never again.” The words accompanied a photograph of the same marketplace square as it appeared at the end of the Second World War; the city then was a scene of total devastation from Allied bombing. The fact that residents of West Germany had to remind themselves not to repeat their mistakes of 40 years earlier impressed me then as it reminds me now, following the violent events of the week in our nation’s capital.
The ruin brought about by the Second World War, only 25 years after the first war, was the ultimate outcome of the Big Lie. After that first war, the Big Lie was that the Kaiser’s troops had not really been defeated, but had been “stabbed in the back” by war profiteers, bankers, Jews, and other scapegoats. A would-be demagogue stoked fires of hate using the Big Lie; he even wrote about his plans in a book. Industrialists, politicians, and everyday citizens still thought they could survive by accommodating the Big Lie and its re-tellers.
The Big Lie today is that an election in America was stolen and that tens of millions more citizens did not actually vote for a different leadership and a different direction. Now as then, some people think they can accommodate the Big Lie and those who push it. The consequences of the Big Lie for Germany included a nation physically divided by a wall for the next 50 years. A photograph I took in still-divided Berlin in 1985 shows a row of crosses on the democratic side of that wall, just outside the doors of the old German parliament building. Each cross stood for a German citizen killed while trying to regain the freedom lost to the Big Lie of Yesterday.
Will reasonable people of courage in America halt the spread of the Big Lie of today?