From Matthew's op ed on Hardball tonight (my handmade transcript):
Well the same thing's going on in this Arizona deal, checking people's ID's to see if they're in the country illegally. I'm sorry, did Hitler arrest people for trying to move into the Third Reich? Or was he catching and killing people trying to escape? Sorry, there is a difference.
This Hitler stuff is teaching us nothing.
Link to vid here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/...
"No Eastern Jew comes to Berlin voluntarily. Who, after all, comes to Berlin voluntarily? Berlin is a thoroughfare, where one stays longer because one is forced to. Berlin has no Getto. It has a Jewish quarter. Jewish emigrants come here, on their journey to America via Hamburg and Amsterdam. Quite often, they are stuck here. They have not enough money. Or their papers are not sufficient. (Of course, the papers! Half a Jewish life is wasted by the useless struggle against the papers)."
Let me start out by saying I hate historical analogies, as most of you here probably already know. No two events in history are exactly alike, and Hitler analogies are probably the worst ones to employ because they paint with such broad brushes that the facts of the history itself is sacrificed on the altar of partisanship and ideology.
All that being said, Matthews is wrong here. If one were to make an analogy between Hitler's Germany and anything - well, using the Arizona law is probably one of the better analogies to make.
Matthews asks in his piece, "can we to drop the Nazi stuff". Honestly, I'd like to put out there the facts of the Nazi stuff so we can learn from it. "Never Again" should be something all of us - left, right and center - work for, and a discussion of how immigration played into the climate that allowed the Nazis to rise to political power must be a part of that discussion.
It might surprise folks that the above quotation from Joseph Roth does not describe Nazi Germany, but rather the Weimar Republic - the government that preceded Nazi Germany. The academic paper I took this quote from - and I recommend everyone click on that link and read it because it is pretty eye opening stuff - basically describes the process by which many Jewish migrants became stateless people after the Russian Revolution, and then explains how Germany during the Weimar Republic became something of a permanent-temporary home for these migrants:
After 1918, Jewish migrants could get off the train in Berlin and even stay for some time, but only because they often had nowhere else to go. Post-war Germany pursued a less restrictive migration policy, partly as a consequence of America's closed door policy. Initially, the Weimar Republic was simply not in a position to deport large numbers of migrants, nor to police its new borders. After the Republic had stabilized, it did not want to cause offence with its Western neighbours by deporting desperate refugees to the East. By the mid-1920s some refugees could and did 'return' to countries that had not existed when they had left. At the same time, the Soviet Union began to restrict out-migration. But the toleration and the reach of the German central government had also limits. Especially the rightwing press and fascist agitators constantly attacked Jewish migrants and refugees from the East, in some cases triggering violent assaults. In the early years of the Weimar Republic, in a period of political and economic turmoil, Jewish migrants also encountered rough treatment by the authorities in Prussia and especially Bavaria, amounting to physical abuse and arbitrary arrest, in some cases even deportation.
This educational document from Yad Vashem hints at some of the feelings that Germans had toward Jews who migrated from Eastern Europe in the period between the two world wars:
Jewish immigration into Germany from Eastern Europe increased considerably in the wake of the world war and the revolutionary convulsions which followed it. Jewish organizations in Germany worked for the absorption of the immigrants, but did not encourage them to remain in Germany. They were not so much concerned with the economic burden of caring for the immigrants as they were with the potential risk they posed to Jewish integration into the surrounding German society. The immigrants stood out in their different dress and behavior, which were foreign and even repulsive to many Germans. The Jews of Germany appeared to have internalized their Christian neighbors’ feelings of rejection and disaffection with these Eastern European Jewish immigrants. The term "Ostjuden" (Eastern Jews) which was attached to the immigrants contained more than a grain of derision and contempt.
Now, Matthews is correct when he states that Hitler did not encourage people to immigrate to Germany, but he misses a large part of the story when he skips over the part where the Nazis attempted to encourage the Jews to leave Germany.
From the United States Holicaust Memorial Museum:
Until Nazi Germany started World War II in 1939, antisemitic legislation in Germany served to "encourage" and ultimately to force a mass emigration of German Jews. The government did all it could to induce the Jews to leave Germany. In addition to making life miserable, the German authorities reduced bureaucratic hurdles so those who wanted to leave could do so more easily.
In the late 1930s, a severe worldwide economic depression reinforced through Europe and the United States an existing fear and mistrust of foreigners in general, as well as antisemitism in particular. Above all, people were wary of immigrants who might compete for their jobs, burden their already beleaguered social services, or be tempted as impoverished workers by the promises of labor agitators or domestic Communist movements.
Even government officials in democratic countries were not immune to those sentiments. Most foreign countries, including the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, were unwilling to increase their immigrant quotas to admit very large groups of refugees, especially the impoverished and the dispossessed. Indeed, the United States refused to reduce the many obstacles to getting an immigrant visa, with the result that until 1938, the immigration quota for Germany was unfilled.
Again, as I stated above, no historical analogy is ever completely exact because no two historical events occur in exactly the same way. There are many differences between the migration of Eastern European Jews in the 1920's and the events leading up to the Holocaust and the current-day situation in Arizona.
When I draw this comparison, I am in no way trying to say Jan Brewer is a Nazi or that the people who support this legislation are Nazis. What I am attempting to do is use history as a cautionary tale of what can happen when feelings like xenophobia get out of control during times of economic uncertainty.
And that's what I think this Arizona law did - it took people's fears of losing their jobs and any dwindling social safety net, coupled it with the ongoing problems of enforcing our pretty large and diverse southern border and then used illegal immigrants as a political scapegoat.
The next step of scapegoating the entire ethnic group that these illegal immigrants belong to is far too easy and far too dangerous...as we know from the history of what happened in Germany.
As cautionary tales go, this is a big one and in my book - with all due respect to Mr. Matthews - it should not be something that we can just "drop".
Update - from Catte Nappe, with additional h/t to Vita Brevis, this is from Arizona SB1070:
the intent of this act is to make attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona. The provisions of this act are intended to work together to discourage and deter the unlawful entry and presence of aliens and economic activity by persons unlawfully present in the United States.
I don't really need to add anything to that - it's pretty self-explanatory.