Could ordinary Americans embrace socialism?

Flipping channels to get away from the day's depressing news, I found Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt) playing on a movie station.  It was director Walther Ruttmann's acclaimed 1927 silent film that used innovative montages to move the plot along.  The groundbreaking Weimar cinema documentary offers historians a significant window into German life in between the two World Wars.

The film documented a full day in 1927 cosmopolitan Berlin — from early morning when streets were empty to busy daytime when those same streets were bustling with activity to the evening when adults owned the urban jungle.  What made the 79-minute documentary frightening was knowing that just six short years later, many of those same everyday ordinary people would be standing on those same city streets waving flags adorned with black swastikas and shouting, "Heil Hitler!"

Could everyday ordinary Americans just as easily, or eventually, embrace socialism?  One would be naïve to dismiss the possibility, given the results of many respected polls and especially those taken of young Americans.

Had the German signage been hidden, viewers might have thought it was 1927 London, Paris, or Manhattan.  Just another lively metropolis with people going about their ordinary lives.  Traveling to work on trains or buses, eating in restaurants, delivering packages by horse-drawn carts, taking children to playgrounds, visiting the city zoo, sitting and talking with friends, walking down streets, cleaning or sweeping in front of homes, shopping in stores filled with the latest clothes and furniture...

...everyday ordinary people leading everyday ordinary lives on a very ordinary day.

Did some of those everyday ordinary people shown in the film paint "Juden" on store windows or beat Jews while Germans shouted their approval and police stood idly by, watching the cruelty?  Did some of those same lips that smiled in the film's festive restaurant scenes also smile when Jews were forced to clean dirty streets using toothbrushes?

The most painful part of the documentary showcased Berlin's modern mobility: trains pulling both passenger and cattle cars from Potsdam to Berlin.  In several years, those same trains would provide different transportation — either for Jews being shoved into the cattle cars on their way to labor or extermination camps or for those doing the shoving.

Like many of the people depicted in his 1927 film, Ruttman also embraced the diabolical Nazi regime.  Using his exceptional talent behind the camera, he assisted director Leni Riefenstahl in 1935, when she made the infamous Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will.

Watching ordinary Germans going about their lives, it was impossible to avoid wondering if it could happen in America.  After all, "it" happened in Germany, a democratic republic that was the centerpiece of contemporary Europe.  As Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi said, "It happened, therefore it can happen again.  It can happen everywhere."

Alarmingly, there are similarities between Germany's president then and America's president now.  In 1933, after Hitler was named Führer of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party) by the frail and ailing President Paul von Hindenburg, the Nazis waited patiently for the aging and sick Hindenburg to leave office.  When Hindenburg died the next year, Hitler's Nazi Party and its Third Reich agenda controlled Germany.

Fast-forward to the questionable (arguably fraudulent) results of the 2020 presidential election that put Joe Biden in the White House.  Washington politicos whisper, and others say it out loud, that Vice President Kamala Harris and her supporters are patiently waiting for the frail and ailing President Joe Biden to leave office.  Few people deny that Biden suffers from dementia or some cognitive issues, which is why many Americans doubt that Biden will complete his term in office.

Notably, President Biden, in his rare public appearances and still not having appeared before Congress, is dazed and confused.  He stumbled badly climbing up the stairs to Air Force One.  When Biden leaves office, Harris's Democrat Party and its socialist agenda will control the United States.

Are these far-fetched comparisons?

  • While Auschwitz-like concentration camps might not be built, we've already heard socialist Democrats talk about re-education camps for Trump-supporters.
  • The Nazi minister of propaganda role has been replaced by Big Tech's censorship of conservative news sources and insane cancel culture demands.
  • Book-burnings have morphed into award-winning acclaimed books and movies being removed from library shelves and online stores.
  • Youth indoctrination starts in elementary school with socialist-leaning teachers brainwashing students to support communist organizations and adore alternative lifestyles.
  • References to God disappear along with reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the National Anthem.

Some Americans scoff at the comparisons, erroneously believing that "it" could never happen here.  But as George Santayana famously wrote in 1905, long before Russia's Lenin, Germany's Hitler, or China's Mao, "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Viewing the 1927 silent black-and-white documentary Berlin: Symphony of a Great City on a 2021 wide-screen high-definition color television is a frightening reminder of just how quickly a modern society filled with everyday ordinary people can quickly change its personality and embrace evil.  Could it happen here?  History often repeats itself, and Americans would be foolish to ignore that "it" could repeat itself in the United States of America.

To contact Robin Itzler, please email

Image: Berlin 1927.  YouTube screen grab.

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