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Will 2024 Be the New 1933?

Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 remains all too relevant today. Much of the world will vote in pivotal elections this year, and even though the warning signs are there, too few commentators, politicians, and business leaders openly acknowledge that liberal democracy itself is on the ballot.

DUBLIN – On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany. To his supporters, it was a day of “national revolution” and rebirth. Germany, they believed, needed the restorative force of an authoritarian strongman after 14 years of the liberal-democratic Weimar “system.” That night, Hitler’s torch-bearing brownshirts marched through central Berlin to mark the dawn of a new era.

It was also a triumphant moment in the history of popular deception. Since the Weimar Republic’s early days, its politics had been defined by disinformation campaigns, including the lie that Weimar democracy was the work of a cabal of Jews and socialists who had “stabbed Germany in the back” to ensure its defeat in World War I.

Today, few people dispute that Hitler’s arrival was a turning point in world history, the start of a political process that would lead to World War II and the Holocaust. But Hitler did not “seize power,” as the Nazis later claimed. Instead, as his biographer Ian Kershaw has explained, he was “levered into power” by a small group of influential men.