In Germany, President Paul Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor on Jan. 30, 1933. Hitler had reached this position constitutionally under German law. Over the next few months, Hitler maneuvered (“executive orders”) to dispense with the Reichstag as a legislative body and moved to eliminate his political rivals.
On June 30th, in what came to be known as the “Night of the Long Knives” and through July 1-2, 1934, the German SS and Gestapo simply murdered hundreds of SA personnel and other Germans who held political views that differed with Hitler’s. With his political position now unchallenged, Hitler was free to pursue his dream of world domination and his promise to exterminate Jews. Six million Jews died in the concentration camps and another hundred million military and civilians died in the war Hitler started.
In pre-war Russia, Joseph Stalin saw the leaders of the Soviet Army as potential political threats. So, in addition to some 20 million civilians killed on Stalin’s orders, he systematically imprisoned and/or executed thousands of his own military officers.
The loss of nearly the entire command structure of the Soviet Army had huge and terrible effects on the ability of the Soviet Union to defend itself against the Nazi onslaught during WWII.
In China, in August 1966, Mao Tse Tung launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. The nation’s schools were shut down, the youth were organized into paramilitary groups called Red Guards and were turned loose on military personnel, the elderly, the intellectual population and political opponents.
Some 1.5 million Chinese people were killed during the Cultural Revolution, and millions of others suffered imprisonment, seizure of property, torture and general humiliation.
Historically, attempts to silence political opponents or rivals don’t seem to have turned out very well. I wonder how the IRS intimidating free speech, the CIA spying on the Senate, the NSA spying on everybody, the forced retirement of an unprecedented number of high-ranking American military personnel, and attempts to register our firearms - all under the Obama administration - will play out in this country?
Oh, did I mention that Hitler, Stalin and Mao had disarmed their citizens before murdering them?
Ronald B. Elder, M.D.