The specter of Nazism is haunting Europe as the far right rise throughout the continent.
And every far-right leader is giving the same speeches that we have heard during the Republican presidential campaign in the United States, especially from presumptive nominee Donald Trump: anti-immigration, xenophobic, angry and scary.
That should concern all Americans. Just check these examples from Europe.
▪ Last Saturday a thousand anti-immigrant demonstrators gathered in the capital of Germany. They held banners saying, “No Islam in Germany.” They were supporters of AfD (Alternative For Germany), a far-right party that was founded in 2013 with the motto of “Islam is not part of Germany.” Does that remind you of an old story about Germany from the 1930s? It should.
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AfD members want to stop Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “refugees welcome” policy, even though Merkel really does not have a detailed plan on immigration except a complicated exchange deal with Turkey.
▪ In the last week of April, the Austrian far-right Freedom Party’s presidential nominee Norbert Hofer surprisingly won 35 percent of the vote in the first round of this year’s election. The secret of his success? His anti-immigrant views and fears of Islamization.
▪ In France, far-right Marine Le Pen’s Front National is becoming the country’s strongest party. For years, it used to represent a marginal side of French politics. But now, Le Pen’s goal is to win the presidential election, which will be held in 2017.
▪ Last week in Sweden — the champion of democracy in Europe — 300 neo-Nazis marched on the streets of Borlange.
▪ In Italy it seems as if the far right has been reborn from the ashes of history. Matteo Salvini, leader of the separatist Northern League party, has propelled it all the way from just 3 percent to almost 17 percent support in nationwide polls. He is against refugees and the “lazy southerners” of Italy. He claims Benito Mussolini did many good things before becoming a World War II ally of Germany’s Adolf Hitler.
Salvini also has a modern-day hero from overseas: Donald Trump.
The two politicians met during a Trump campaign rally in late April in Philadelphia. They announced they were in “total agreement” on the refugee crisis. Trump said he wished to see Salvini as the next prime minister of Italy.
That brings us to this disturbing possibility: A world ruled by Trump, Salvini, Le Pen and AfD at the same time. All of this could occur within a year. What a wonderful world.
Many Americans and Europeans may want to disregard the populist, anti-immigration speeches of Trump, Salvini, Le Pen and Hofer, as if they were unimportant matters. But their language is triggering angry and arrogant nationalist sentiments among people in their countries.
History has taught a lesson to everyone: Never underestimate a demagogue.