I’ve spent the past 12 days in Germany. It’s been an eye opening experience. I’ve learned about pilsners, wurst and impeccable manners. I’ve learned that Germans have plenty to say about Donald Trump. They aren’t afraid to share, either.
Before we had even boarded our flight in Boston, we struck up a conversation with a couple at the gate. “What do you think of Trump?” they asked. “He is dangerous. To the whole world, yes? You agree?”
Over the course of the past two weeks, I’ve spoken to a young tour guide, two waiters, and the 18 year old son of our hosts. All of these young people have had the same opinion. Trump is ridiculous, unintelligent, loud and boorish. They use words like “idiot,” “assh*le,” and “insane.” These young, working class Germans seem to brush Trump off as a joke. Their distaste for him is clear.
We have spoken at greater length to our hosts, a middle aged couple who work for a Berlin bank. They are highly educated, very intelligent, prosperous. The husband grew up on a farm in West Germany. His wife grew up in East Berlin. She lived behind the Wall until her late teens.
They have expressed a deep level of disgust for Trump. Like many German we’ve met, they are acutely aware of good manners. They are offended by Trump’s crude language. His threats of violence shock them. His immature name calling horrifies them.
He scares them.
Katja remembers what it was like to live under Soviet control. She remembers the empty promises of prosperity, and the slogans extolling the greatness of the State. One evening she said:
“To say ‘America first’ is wrong. It is like me saying I will put my husband first and the children have to wait for food. This makes no sense for the modern world.”
Our friends, and their friends, have asked us directly how it’s possible that Trump has so many supporters. Who are those people? What can they be thinking? Their view of Americans is increasingly negative.
We’ve met older Germans, including a couple in their 80’s who grew up during WWII. They lived in the rural, agricultural North. They remember their fathers fighting in the war. They talked about dangerous rhetoric and inciting fear in order to gain political power.
Hitler’s name has come up three times, and I wasn’t the one to raise it. These are some of the things that people have said to me, paraphrased from my memory, but accurate in their intent.
“Why do people trust leaders who say they are saviors? Didn’t Americans learn from what happened here with Hitler?”
“Trump is just like Putin, Erdogan, Hitler and others who only think about themselves. They want power and more power. They are not true leaders.”
“Trump’s words sound like Hitler’s speeches.”
Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, will not comment on elections in the U.S., but some members of her government will. According to Deutsche Welle, the Foreign Minister called Trump a dangerous “hate preacher.” He warned of the dangers of a Trump Presidency.
The comedy show Der Heute (Today) did a sarcastic bit about the risk of giving Trump the nuclear codes.
We have seen memes here about Trump’s hair and skin.
So far, Germany seems to be a lot like the United States. People laugh at Trump while honestly fearing what might happen to the world if he is elected President. People are reminded of Hitler when they hear Trump speak. They should know.
We should all be scared.
Featured image by Karen Shiebler.