Former U.S. President Donald Trump had praised Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler’s reinvigoration of his country’s economy during a 2018 trip to Europe celebrating the centennial of the allied victory over Germany in the First World War.
Citing an advance copy of Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender’s book “Frankly, We Did Win This Election,” The Guardian reported that Trump told chief of staff John Kelly that “Hitler did a lot of good things.”
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According to the report, Trump’s comments came as Kelly was briefing the president on World War I, reminding him “which countries were on which side during the conflict.”
The former Marine general “told the president that he was wrong, but Trump was undeterred,” reported Bender, who wrote that Trump denied having made such comments. Kelly also told the president that “you cannot ever say anything supportive of Adolf Hitler” and “argued that the German people would have been better off poor than subjected to the Nazi genocide.”
According to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, Trump asked why he should go to a U.S. military cemetery in France during the trip, declaring that it was “filled with losers.”
Trump has repeatedly come under fire from Jewish and civil liberty groups for his relationship with the far-right. Several of the pro-Trump insurrectionists who stormed the capital last January in an attempt to block the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory were known white supremacists. One was photographed wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” hoodie.
Last October, asked if he would denounce white supremacists and militia groups during a televised presidential debate, Trump told the Proud Boys right-wing group to “stand back and stand by.”
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The Proud Boys describe themselves as a male-only club of “Western chauvinists” who “refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” The group, whose membership is multiracial, has been called out for misogynistic, anti-Muslim and anti-immigration rhetoric by advocates who monitor extremism. Its members tend to adhere to an ideology that rejects overt white supremacy but embraces chauvinism, according to the ADL.
In 2017, Trump declared that there had been “very fine people on both sides” of a clash between white supremacists and anti-racist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia. According to Trump, there was “blame on both sides” of the clash, which left one anti-white supremacist demonstrator dead.
The Trump administration was a frequent target of criticism from Jewish organizations and human rights groups for allegedly downplaying the threat of far-right extremism and white nationalism in favor of a focus on radical Islam.
Trump was not the only prominent Republican to make waves with Nazi-related comments this week. On Tuesday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called Biden administration officials promoting vaccination “medical brown shirts” only weeks after touring the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and apologizing for likening coronavirus protections to the Holocaust.
“Biden pushing a vaccine that is NOT FDA approved shows covid is a political tool used to control people,” Greene tweeted. “People have a choice, they don’t need your medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations. You can’t force people to be part of the human experiment.”
JTA, Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.