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Op-Ed: Little by Little Freedoms Were Hewed Away

Hitler and Mussolini in Munich, Germany, June 18, 1940. Hitler was at a high point, as his army accomplished a string of victories and was completing its conquest of continental Western Europe. File photo: Everett Collection, Shutter Stock, licensed.

PORTSMOUTH, OH  They Thought They Were Free, a book first published in 1955, tells the story of passivity during the rise of Nazi government and why ordinary Germans joined the Nazi party and why ordinary Germans did not speak out. Milton Mayer’s book is the result of interviewing ten Germans and observing their lives after the war ended, from 1933 to 1945. 

Mayer asserted “What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.” 

A German interviewee from Mayer’s book explained how freedom was methodically hewed away, “But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked … But of course, this isn’t the way it happens. In between comes all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next…” 

“What Would You Have Done?” is the title of Chapter Four in Mayer’s book. It’s a soul-searching question.  

His book is powerful. His book is disturbing. His book is recommended.  

Civil liberties are the “basic rights and freedoms guaranteed to individuals as protection from any arbitrary actions or other interference of the government without due process of law.” [

We must protect our civil liberties before, during, and after any national or international crisis. We must seek the face of God and pray for our nation daily. We must pray for our freedom-loving elected state representatives that battle the forces of darkness on our behalf. We must pray for our alternative media sources that publish truth and stand for freedom of the press. 

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

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