The Lessons of History: Kristallnacht in Egypt

Many forget that Hitler had a very uneasy relationship initially with the German military.  It was the only viable force in Germany that could have deposed Hitler and the Nazis as they started to consolidate power.  But the military never did so and Hitler acted quickly to take control of the military to prevent any such opposition from developing.  It was only late in the war in 1944 that a small number of senior military officers finally tried to assassinate Hitler to get rid of him and end the war.

But what if the German military had acted much earlier?  Hitler in essence consolidated his power in the two years from 1932 to 1934 through a complicated series of actions, including plots like the Reichstag fire, the Night of the Long Knives, and the passage of various laws that effectively swept away all of his opposition.  If the German military had crushed Hitler, his SA Brownshirts, the Hitler Youth, the SS, and all of the other Nazi Party affiliates in 1933, perhaps millions of people would not have died in a genocidal war and Nazi concentration camps.  The history of Europe might have been completely different.

Fortunately, the Egyptian military has acted before Morsi and his own Muslim Brotherhood Brownshirts had the full opportunity to consolidate their power.  Morsi and his clan are thugs with views no different than those who stood in the docks at Nuremberg from 1945 to 1949.  If we can learn anything from the history of the 1930s and Nazi Germany, we should be hoping that the Egyptian military is successful in crushing the new version of the Nazis in the Middle East.  That is the only way that a real democracy will ever have a chance to be born in Egypt.

Even if a western-style democracy never takes hold, one can hardly dispute that Egypt was much more peaceful under Hosni Mubarak despite the human rights failings of his government and military.  Things will be much worse if the Muslim Brotherhood consolidates its power.  While there has always been hostility by some Egyptian Muslims towards the Coptics, there was an exponentially sharp increase in attacks on Coptic Christians during the one year that Morsi was in power.

As the Coptic Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria has said, Morsi was Islamicizing Egypt and no doubt would have prosecuted all non-Muslims under blasphemy laws as he consolidated power.  The Muslim Brotherhood is using the Coptics in the same way that Hitler used the Jews as scapegoats.  In fact, the Facebook page of Morsi’s Islamist party, the Freedom and Justice Party, blames the pope for the “removal of the first elected Islamist president” and incites the burning of Coptic churches. The pervasive bloodshed throughout the former land of the Pharaohs against the Coptics over the last month is, in many respects, a copycat Kristallnacht instigated by the Brotherhood.

Ultimately, the interests of the United States in this region are best served by a policy focused on stability.  Wouldn’t we rather see a relatively peaceful Egypt even under military rule with no interest in attacking Israel or supporting terrorist attacks than some democratically elected dictator (one man-one vote-one time) hell-bent on eradicating Jews and other blasphemous non-believers from the face of the Earth?  Is there really some strategic utility in supporting -- particularly financially -- Egyptians who want to impose an eighth century, barbaric, antidemocratic Islamic theocracy on its population?  To embrace the Muslim Brotherhood is to endorse a takeover of Egypt by a direct descendent of the Nazi Party.  The United States, Egypt, and the world deserve far better.

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This piece was written independently, and is not sanctioned by the Heritage Foundation.