In March 2016, various memes attempted to draw a connection between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler by claiming that both politicians campaigned with similar slogans:
It's true that Trump used the slogan "Make America Great Again" during the 2016 presidential campaign, but we were unable to uncover any record of Hitler using the exact phrase "Make Germany great again" (or, in German, "machen Deutschland wieder groß") during the Nazi party's rise to political power.
However, while Hitler may have not used this exact phrase, making Germany great again was a dominant theme in Nazi propaganda. The mood in 1930s Germany was dark; the country had been hit especially hard by a global economic recession, and was still stinging from a humiliating defeat during the first World War fifteen years before. Adolf Hitler's main message was one of redemption for the country. In his book Access to History: Democracy and Nazism: Germany 1918-45, Geoff Layton identified three themes to Nazi propaganda:
- The Führer cult. Hitler was portrayed as a messiah-type figure, who could offer strong authoritarian leadership and a vision for Nazi Germany's future.
- The Volksgemeinschaft (national community). To appeal to the people for the development of a unifying idea, regardless of class.
- German nationalism. To play on German nationalism and to exploit the discontent since the First World War. To make Germany great again.
On the other hand, while Donald Trump and Hitler may have both wanted to make their respective countries great again, this is hardly a notion unique to these individuals. In fact, several politicians have campaigned with slogans similar to "make (insert country here) great again":
Former president Ronald Reagan used the slogan "Let's make America great again" in 1980. During a general election address in 1950, Margaret Thatcher said that her goal was to "make Britain great again." President of the Philippines Ferdinand E. Marcos once promised "with the help of the masses to make this country great again.''
While an underlying theme of Nazi propaganda was "making Germany great again," a message that directly contributed to Hitler's rise to power, this does not mean that Donald Trump (or Ronald Reagan, or Margaret Thatcher, or Ferdinand Marcos, or anybody else) necessarily campaigned on Nazi principles.