A long time ago, when I was an investigative reporter, I hunted Nazis.
They were living out the twilight of their lives in Canada, enjoying a quiet, comfortable retirement with a government pension, to boot.
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I made it a priority to find them and make their agreeable lives decidedly less agreeable. It was my modest way of ensuring that these murderers were held to some measure of account for the monstrous crimes they perpetrated – mostly against Jewish families.
I remember one Nazi, in particular. His name was Josef Nemsila. He was a Slovakian Nazi who helped round up the country’s 100,000 Jews for deportation to death camps.
I discovered that he lived alone behind a chiropractor’s office just outside Toronto. The war criminal wasn’t home when I knocked. So, I waited. Later, a small man with a shock of wispy white hair and wearing a white trench coat came ambling down a busy street, pulling a grocery cart behind him.
“Mr Nemsila,” I called out. “Yes,” he replied. I got him. I asked Nemsila whether “the Jews” were responsible for his legal troubles and possible deportation.
The question was meant to provoke. It worked. Nemsila unleashed a gusher of bigotry and viciousness that still burned like a seething cauldron inside the Nazi’s diseased heart and soul.
My encounter with that old Nazi came to mind when I read that the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump, had an intimate dinner with the young, Holocaust-denying white supremacist, Nick Fuentes; rapper Ye — formerly known as Kanye West — and other repellant company at his home in Florida late last month.
With Fuentes by his side, Ye later confirmed his neo-Nazi bona fides by admitting to elementary school massacre denier, Alex Jones, that: “I like Hitler.”
“Well, I see good things about Hitler also. I love everyone,” Ye told Jones while appearing on his InfoWars hate fest on Thursday.
Predictably, Trump whined that he had been set up by his neo-Nazi guests, who tried to convince him to become Ye’s presidential running mate.
Look, there can be no equivocation on this score: Trump might as well have been breaking bread with Nemsila and the other Nazis I once tracked down – all of whom took pride and satisfaction in having played a role in the extermination of six million Jews.
Trump claimed he did not know Fuentes before he shared a hearty meal with anti-Semites who would likely have considered Nemsila a heroic martyr to their anti-Semitic cause.
That is akin to German Nazis claiming not to have known anything about how Jewish children, women and men had been deported, starved and beaten to death or incinerated in ovens throughout Eastern Europe.
It was unbelievable then. It is unbelievable now.
Trump has committed one hideous outrage after another during his odious tenure as a presidential candidate and president. This latest sickening affront confirms, yet again, that he is prepared to cross any moral or ethical boundary to fuel his decrepit ego and abiding narcissism.
It should result in his immediate disqualification as a presidential hopeful for 2024. But it won’t, because, just like the powerful Nazis responsible for planning and executing the Holocaust, Trump has millions of willing and enthusiastic collaborators.
For too long, the polite commentariat has been reluctant to admit the obvious: the Republican Party is today a welcoming place to America’s legion of fascists. It is led, in effect, by a fascist who greets Hitler-adoring fascists with courtesy and respect at Mar-a-Lago.
I can recall when silly pundits and historians chided columnists like me who knew that Trump and his MAGA hat-wearing disciples were the latest iterations of a fascist strain that is an undeniable aspect of America’s political and cultural history. Trump’s convivial dinner with Fuentes and Ye is only the most recent evidence that he is an unrepentant fascist who admires other fascists.
And don’t be fooled by the recent expressions of so-called “resistance” among some Republicans who have “distanced” themselves from Trump in the wake of the drubbing many of his handpicked candidates endured during the Congressional midterm elections.
Beyond the odd rebuke, to date, not one senior member of the Republican leadership has condemned Trump by name for spending quality time with a Holocaust denier, clearly fearful of alienating large swaths of their “base,” which, it turns out, is indeed the definition of base.
That tricky, unenviable chore was left to Trump’s former ambassador to Israel, who blasted his “good friend” for having coddled “human scum” at his beachfront lair.
“You are better than this,” David Friedman wrote on Twitter.
No, he isn’t. Nor, really, is Friedman, a grovelling sycophant who defended and applauded a preening fascist for having moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
True to revolting form, Trump refuses not only to apologise for having feted Fuentes and Ye but to disavow their repulsive beliefs. That’s no surprise because, these days, far too many Republicans are attracted to those beliefs.
Reportedly, Trump “seemed very taken,” a source said, with the “human scum” Fuentes. “He gets me,” Trump said.
Of course, he gets Trump, who embodies every sinister aspect of Fuentes’ noxious nature and cancerous character. The only things that separate Trump from Fuentes are age and the pleasing trappings of wealth.
Still, what is as repulsive is the astonishing suggestion among some liberal commentators that, rather than denouncing neo-Nazis, we should try to understand them as “victims” of the corporate state.
Here is how one explained it in 2017, in the aftermath of a violent, white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. “The white racists and neo-Nazis may be unsavory, but they too are victims. They too lost jobs and often live in poverty in deindustrialized wastelands,” he wrote. “They too are often in despair and suffer from hopelessness. And they too have the right to free speech, however repugnant their views.”
Sympathy for the devil, I don’t think so.
Fascists and their sympathisers must be confronted, not understood. In the streets, at Mar-a-Lago and in the White House.
Otherwise, we will be guilty of appeasing white tiki-torch-wielding thugs who, if offered the opportunity, would do what they have done before: corral and then destroy people for praying to a different god or no god at all; for loving who they want to love; for being sick or disabled; and for subscribing to humanity rather than hate.
We cannot tolerate the intolerable. That is the true meaning of resistance. So, our course is clear: We have to acknowledge evil where it not only exists, but thrives, and then defeat it by whatever means necessary. To shy away from this duty at this urgent hour risks placating the vile likes of Ye, Nick Fuentes, Donald Trump and Josef Nemsila.
That was intolerable when I set out to expose Nemsila decades ago. It remains intolerable today.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.