Fifteen years ago a German housewife in the Albany area of New York State told me bluntly, “America will have a fascist government thirty years from now.” Not yet twenty-three years old, I looked at her in disbelief. The country cherished worldwide as the land of freedom and human rights going fascist? It was unthinkable. She sensed my doubts and repeated her warning as clearly and convincingly as if she were talking about today’s weather. I had forgotten her words until newspaper articles and TV news reports about neo-Nazis in the Chicago area brought them vividly to mind. At this point the halfway mark had been reached according to her prediction. What I had brushed aside as an exaggerated statement perhaps didn’t seem quite so unreal anymore.

As I thought about whether Hitler could happen here, I recalled the experiences of my family when Hitler was in power in Germany. Both of my parents were born-again Christians who wouldn’t accept the demands of the new regime. My mother considered it idolatry when Hitler substituted the old Southern German greeting GrüÆ Gott (may God greet you) with Heil Hitler (hail to Hitler). She refused to salute and avoided the Nazis in my hometown, Sontheim, a small suburb of Heilbronn. This was difficult to do, and soon the Nazis viewed her as an enemy. This was also true of my father, who supported my mother fully in her efforts of passive resistance.

Although this was a minor matter, events soon became much more serious. Hitler demanded total obedience from all Germans for his vision of a glorious and great Germany that would last a thousand years and usher in a new era for mankind. With his messianic promises and emotional speeches he captured the ...

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