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Buyer beware: Article from 1932 resonates today

The story that seems to scream “Buyer beware” is about a leader looking for more than a second term of office. Its headline: “Germany’s Political Racketeer.”

I was rummaging through some old magazines in my basement and came across a copy of an old Pathfinder, a popular weekly news and opinion journal published in Washington, D.C., for national distribution. A story that seems to scream “Buyer beware” is about a leader looking for more than a second term of office. It appeared in the Aug. 20, 1932, issue, at the height of the Great Depression. Its headline: “Germany’s Political Racketeer.”

In the first paragraph: “His political program is a queer hodge podge of sense and nonsense, and his personal character combines the virtues of a patriot and the follies of a mountebank.”

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According to standard dictionaries, a “mountbank” is any boastful or false pretender; someone who boasts of his skill in curing diseases, and vends medicines which he pretends are infallable remedies; someone who cheats, boasts and uses false pretenses, and one who deceives others in order to trick them out of their money. Sound like someone we know?

Within months of the re-election of this upstart German ruler the rule of law had been destroyed, any opposition was brutally silenced, and people were violently dying, especially minorities such as Jews, dissenting intellectuals and gay people. Law and order began to mean escalating violence and strict obedience to a dictator. Many decent Christians, perhaps most, went along with him. Within a few years cities all over Europe, and elsewhere, were on fire.

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