POLITICS
04/09/2018 01:07 pm ET Updated Apr 09, 2018

Holocaust Survivor On Trump's America: It's '1929 Or 1930 Berlin'

“We thought our country had changed. In fact, it didn’t," said the 79-year-old Buchenwald survivor to Newsweek.

A Holocaust survivor says the rise of the American far right under President Donald Trump “feels like 1929 or 1930 Berlin” as Nazis thrived, and “things just go from bad to worse every day,” according to a Newsweek story.

Stephen B. Jacobs, a New York-based architect who designed the Holocaust memorial in Buchenwald, Germany, spoke to the publication ahead of Thursday’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Polish-born Jacobs, 79, has lived in America since a few years after being liberated from the Buchenwald concentration camp on April 11, 1945.

Though Jacobs was not yet alive in 1929 or 1930, the Nazi Party’s second largest base of support at that time was in Berlin, after Munich. The party’s Berlin branch was headed by Joseph Goebbels, who later served as minister of propaganda under Adolph Hitler and frequently referred to Jewish people as “negative aspects” who needed to be “eradicated.

On the growth of the far-right movement and white nationalism in America, Jacobs said, “There’s a real problem growing.”

“Things that couldn’t be said five years ago, four years ago, three years ago — couldn’t be said in public — are now normal discourse,” he said. “It’s totally unacceptable.”

NurPhoto via Getty Images

Jacobs terms Trump an “enabler’ of far-right rhetoric,” citing his first-hand knowledge of the president.

“I’m involved with New York real estate, I know this man personally,” he said. “Trump is an enabler. Trump has no ideas. Trump is out for himself. He’s a sick, very disturbed individual.” 

NICHOLAS KAMM via Getty Images

The septuagenarian also said he couldn’t quite call Trump a fascist because “you’ve got to know what fascism is” and he doesn’t believe the president “has the mental power to even understand it.”

“We thought our country had changed. In fact, it didn’t. We were operating on a misconception,” Jacobs said.

People thought, ”‘My god, we elected a black president in the United States! Look how far we’ve come!’ We haven’t.”

This story has been updated with context about Berlin, circa 1929-30.

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