Fascism, the Past, and Our Future

Please don’t let history repeat itself.

The Stone Man
“The stone man” (1953), National monument: Prisoner before the firing squad in Camp Amersfoort/The Netherlands. Click for larger image. (Image: leonotenboom.com)

My parents lived in The Netherlands during World War II. The country was occupied by the Germans for several years prior to the war’s end. My parents lived through that occupation, including the famine.

This was not just some “inconvenience”. My father told me stories of diving into ditches to avoid being captured and conscripted by a passing Nazi patrol. He and his brother did get captured once, but in a fit of “either way we’re probably dead” decision making, when they saw an opportunity to run, they did. They got lucky.

During a visit to The Netherlands, I visited Kamp Amersfoort, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamp_Amersfoort, a waypoint for prisoners, many of whom would eventually be transported to concentration and work camps further east. The memorial to those who died was sobering.

Even with these lessons of the past, even with the history we can see and experience ourselves, even with the stories told by the survivors, both living and dead, fascism seems to be on the rise once again.

There’s a very real possibility that we may see more dictators in places we never, ever, would have expected them.

I don’t get it.

White supremacy, genocide, so-called purity, marginalization due to everything from ancestry to skin color to sexual preference, to religion, to race and more — none of these make any sense to me. Their attempted suppression was the foundation for so much evil in the past, how can we possibly be turning in that direction once again?

I just don’t get it.

Of particular concern to me are those who desperately desire to impose their religious beliefs on others by capturing leadership and authoritarian positions in the government. Much like many countries have and enforce state religions, these folks would love nothing more to impose their rules the exact same way here in the U.S..

I just don’t get it.

Particularly since their belief system is supposed to represent a loving and all-embracing deity. It feels like hypocrisy of the highest order.

No system is perfect, but we seem to be headed in a particularly evil, destructive, and disastrous direction.

As someone who’s parents lived through the experience, it boggles my mind that there’s even a remote possibility of it returning.

We certainly don’t seem to learn from history. I truly hope it doesn’t repeat itself.

But sometimes it’s sure looking like it.

These are things I worry about.

7 thoughts on “Fascism, the Past, and Our Future”

  1. Leon, I empathise with your thoughts,I really do.
    I live in a country that has been governed ,mostly by conservative & labour parties (a coalition during the last war) and I personally lived through some of the troubles (born in ’41).
    But now I’m experiencing attitudes that are frightening – an inbuilt greed,hostility,isolation and this from the government-I thought they would have learnt-the Jews are slaughtering their own people,in who’s name ? Putin & Trump are desperately trying to stay out of prison (at all costs)!
    I worry that the ‘young’uns’ won’t be able to cope; leading to the inevitable end.
    While the authorities ‘fiddle’ the ‘planet’ burns.

  2. When I moved from Britain to German Switzerland in 1966 to work as a toolmaker for Landis & Gyr AG, I was allocated to the smallest room in a big top floor flat in Steinhausen, near Zug that had all Dutch guys living there. Rene de Jong, Josefus Vaes, Henk Stoltz and Kees Keleins. I was allocated to the smallest room in the flat, but it was warm and comfortable enough.
    So, I awoke every day at six for a fast breakfast with dutchmen around me in the kitchen and corridors gabbling away in “Nederlandese” with me trying to understand. I spoke reasonable German at the time, but the Dutch was too fast for me. I did say to myself that I should teach them English…
    As I had a car, they willingly came the short distance with me to our workplace, instead of taking the bus.
    But the days with them was quite amusing and I learned all the swearwords – “gott-ver-dummer”, etc.
    On the lower floors, there were a few more Dutch guys. One, a certain Van den Pijl from Groningen in the north, had suffered the famine and had also lost much of his family. He did not appreciate that the British Army had moved south to get into Germany and left the Dutch to fend for themselves.
    We worked with many Germans in the Werkzeugmacherei, but they were mainly from the Black Forest. The Dutch generally kept their distance from the Germans. The Swiss were generally quiet and also kept much to themselves.
    But I went skiing with many of them during the first few winters, until I met and married my French beauty.

  3. Erg goed verhaal Leo.
    Ook in Nederland worden we steeds meer beïnvloed door rechts denken en dat ook nadrukkelijk uitspreken en uitvoeren als dat kan. Rechts extremisme krijgt ook hier steeds meer voet aan de grond helaas.

    • For those that follow, Simon’s my cousin-in-law. He and his wife were with me when I took the photo above. His comment, in essence, says the same issues I raise are happening in The Netherlands as well.

  4. Mooi geschreven Leo.
    Ik kwam hier na het bekijken van de Youtube video “10 Ways To Make Windows 10 And 11 Faster”.
    En je familienaam intrigeerde mij. Want da’s een Nederlandse naam. En in de video spreek je verdomd goed Engels, zelfs geen Nederlands accent te horen.
    En toen las ik dit artikel. Je bent wel degelijk uit Nederland zoals ik vermoedde.
    Wat ik (helaas) niet kon lezen is op welke leeftijd je naar de VS verhuist bent. Het doet me een beetje denken aan de hardrock broers Eddy en Alex Van Halen, ook van Nederland naar de VS verhuist.
    Groetjes van iemand niet uit Nederland, wel België.

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