The Tyrant’s Playbook: Hitler’s Strategy Proves Timeless
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The Tyrant’s Playbook: Hitler’s Strategy Proves Timeless

Scott Ritsema | March 16, 2005

Many Americans, regardless of political persuasion, understand that America has embarked upon a march toward tyranny throughout the 20th century. Since 9/11, the march has sped to a near sprint. The American founding and Constitution, however, established protections against centralized tyranny. This protection of liberty, in fact, was the central priority of the Founding Fathers. If we want to prevent tyranny from completely enveloping our nation, we would do well not only to renew our commitment to the principles of our founding, but also to learn the lessons of history, particularly embodied in the obvious five-step playbook of tyrants, such as Adolph Hitler. One could write an entire book paralleling Hitler’s dictatorship with the recent American experience in near-tyranny. For now, briefly summarizing this elementary five-step game plan is a simple yet shockingly necessary exercise.

Step 1: Eliminate the Legislative Process

Our Founding Fathers understood that the legislative branch, being closest to the people, would be the most powerful branch of government, most representative of the individual liberties of the people. Likewise, Hitler knew that to wield total power, he needed to do away with the legislature. In Germany, the destruction of the legislative branch began symbolically at the burning of the Reichstag. Following this event, after Hitler used the event to instigate fear of communists, the legislature signed its own death warrant, as it passed the Enabling Act. This act gave Hitler total executive power without formally abrogating the Weimar Constitution. The constitution was simply seen as a “living document.”

This executive power-grab is reminiscent of countless parallels in American 20th century history. Examples range from the abuse of the executive order to legislation such as the Patriot Act II being drafted by the executive branch. Additionally, one glaring example of an executive power-grab in recent history is the power to declare war. While the U.S. Constitution clearly gives Congress that power, they have avoided their duty to declare war for a half-century, giving the President discretion and power.

Step 2: Destroy Federalism

One of the most important and most neglected amendments in our constitution is the 10th Amendment. Unlike our Founding Fathers, Hitler did not want state powers to compete with the central government. In fact, he abolished all state assemblies and implanted a Nazi-friendly governor in each of the states to execute the decrees of the central government. He understood that states exercising their constitutionally granted powers would only inhibit his desired outcome: total centralized control.

Like others, this Nazi development has been paralleled in the U.S. Hardly any Americans even understand that, according to the Constitution, nearly all of our Federal Government actions are unconstitutional. According to the 10th Amendment, the Federal Government only has the power to do what the expressed powers of the Constitution grant it the power to do. All other powers are reserved to the states and the people. This fact is ignored simply because it would discredit all benevolent and tyrannical Federal Government actions. State power, according to the Founding Fathers, was to be much more powerful than Federal power. Our departure from this intention is one of the central reasons we are witnessing the waywardness of our Federal Government.

Step 3: Create an Enemy and Declare “Homeland Security”

For Hitler, the central “boogy-men” were the communists and the Jews. He blamed the burning of the Reichstag (which he most likely carried out himself) on the communists, and used the Jews as a scapegoat for the struggling German economy. He then declared that he, their leader, would protect them. He called his program, “Fatherland Security,” and took away all individual liberties such as freedom of speech and the press in the name of security. All dissent was stigmatized and marginalized as “treason.”

The parallels in the U.S. on this point are endless. Obviously, the Bill of Rights and especially the 1st Amendment are the most important element of our Constitution. But, due to the government fear mongering that has occurred since 9/11, security, rather than liberty has become the priority. Countless examples of intimidation, jailing, and outlawing political speech have arisen in the past 3 years. Those who question or oppose government policy are branded as terrorists. Under “Homeland Security,” we are told that we need to find a “balance” between liberty and security. This balance was completely absent from the philosophy of the Founding Fathers. This is one of the most dangerous developments in America today.

Step 4: Disarm the People

Using common sense, Hitler realized that an armed citizenry would threaten his power. He was fortunate enough to simply use gun control laws that were already on the books, enacted under the Weimar Republic, to disarm the German people. In 1938, five years after his rise to power, he enacted further measures to complete this disarmament.

Our Founding Fathers included a Bill of Rights in the Constitution as a check on government, intended to protect the people from government. While many liberal intellectuals argue that the 2nd Amendment was never intended to apply to individual citizens, this claim is laughable in light of the central purpose of the entire Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, due to the co-action of both the Left and the Right, gun control laws have been passed and upheld in America in a complete dismantling of the 2nd Amendment.

Step 5: Nationalize Police Forces and Establish Secret and Military-Style Police

In order for Hitler to maintain control, he knew that he needed a mad band of storm troopers along with an extensive spy agency. He achieved both of these after incorporating and abolishing state and local police forces. His badgeless S.S. and Gestapo forces terrorized the people forcing them to always be ready to display “travel papers.” In addition to formal police forces, an extensive spy network was formed, even using children to inform on their teachers and parents.

Our Founding Fathers intended that government would be transparent, the people would have rights to privacy, and state and local governments would control law enforcement. All of these important concepts have become casualties of Homeland Security America. Under the Homeland Security Department, all state and local police forces are being incorporated under Federal power. In addition, the courts have ruled that citizens no longer have the right to refuse to show their I.D. (travel papers) to police, while at the same time, military-style law enforcement agents refuse to identify themselves to law-abiding citizens. The Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness Network exemplified this inversion artistically through their logo: the all-seeing eye casting its gaze upon the earth.


In conclusion, our Founding Fathers rightly noted that governments naturally become tyrannical over time (“when in the course of events…”). Is it a radical claim to argue that the U.S. is not immune to such natural developments? When one understands the fallen state of man, observes the repetition of history, and becomes aware of current events, such a claim is undeniable. If the American people don’t stand up and call this movement what it is, we will lose America and descend into despotism.

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911:  The Road to Tyranny