by Teresa Morris
from Kjos Ministries
“If you by any means forget the Lord your God and follow other gods… you shall surely perish.” (Deut. 8:19)
History shows us that as free nations become complacent, they become vulnerable to manipulation. Most dictatorships rise gradually — a step at a time. Smooth talking politicians make each incremental step seem reasonable, because the masses are blind to the tides of change. The wisdom of Wendell Phillips fades away: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
Austria illustrates the power of gradualism. In 1933, it was a free nation. In 1934, its government began to centralize its power and welcome the influence of Nazi sympathizers. By 1938, it had become a Nazi dictatorship .
The downward slide began with one crisis after another. A third of the people were out of work, inflation rose to 25%, and political turmoil caused civil unrest. People longed for a leader to rescue them. Adolf Hitler campaigned in Austria, promising to solve their problems if they were annexed to Germany. A persuasive speaker, he gave them hope and won their hearts. The Austrian people voted him in.
Why? How could the Austrians be so blind? The answer is simple: they faced hard times, so they chose to believe Hitler’s promises. They didn’t see him as we do — brutal, arrogant, narcissistic and ruthlessly ambitious. That image came later, when it was too late to escape his grasp. In the beginning, Hitler appeared as a caring, charismatic, captivating visionary. His words brought hope of prosperity, and his public image was intentionally shaped with pictures of his smiles, benevolent deeds and warm encounters with children and babies.
After the annexation, new government jobs were created and order was restored. The people were encouraged and hopeful, and — for a short while — the nation prospered. Then it crashed. This transformation is described by Kitty Werthmann:
“I lived in Austria under Adolf Hitler’s regime for seven years. Dictatorship did not happen overnight. It was a gradual process starting with national identification cards, which we had to carry with us at all times…. Gun registration followed, with a lot of talk about gun safety and hunting accidents…. Freedom of speech was the next target…. With a large network of informers, people were afraid to say anything political, even in their own homes.”
She tells of other changes, including nationalization of education; indoctrination of children; socialized medicine; government control of businesses; and a lack of respect for human life. Before the annexation, most Austrian mothers stayed at home to take care of their children. Under Nazi rule, both parents had to work, so the children were sent to government-run daycare centers.
Gun control came in two stages. First there was gun registration, and then the people were required to give up their guns. Once the people were unarmed, they had no way of defending themselves against the Nazis. After that, political correctness replaced freedom of speech; taxes were increased to eighty percent (i.e., four fifths of income); the nation was filled with informers; anybody who spoke against the government was arrested; and the people lived in constant fear. Click here to continue reading.