Update October 18, 2015: Concluding paragraph added.
One of Hitler’s inspirations was Karl Lueger, the Christian Socialist mayor of Vienna. Lueger had risen to fame and power through virulently antisemitic campaign speeches. But Lueger differed from Hitler.
This difference was that Lueger was apparently insincere in his antisemitism. For all his speeches, whenever he achieved power he did very little practical to harm Jews through enacting or enforcing antisemitic policies. And in his private life he was closely associated with a number of Viennese Jews in a manner entirely inconsistent with what one would expect from a sincere antisemite. Of course this does not acquit Lueger from the charge of being an antisemitic demagogue. It just add hypocrisy to his bill of indictment.
The example of Lueger and his likes is a partial explanation why Jews and their friends were not as alarmed at the rise to power of a raving antisemite like Hitler as one might have expected them to be or as, in retrospect, they ought to have been. Rather they judged that Hitler’s antisemitic rhetoric was just so much of what a later generation would call
boob bait for the bubbas and remained confident that nothing very bad would come of it. How could they have known that Hitler wasn’t a hypocrite?
This is of course the same sort of reasoning used by the present Administration to dismiss the sign-offs from weekly speeches by the Iranian leadership of
Death to Israel! or the public musings of the Iranian President about the wonders a single nuclear device well-placed in, let’s say, Tel Aviv would do as merely
for domestic consumption. They may very well be right. One might even go so far as to say that they are probably right: few people intelligent enough to rise to control of entire states are in their hearts sincere exterminationist antisemites à la Hitler; more merely find such rhetoric politically advantageous à la Lueger.That Lueger’s name means
Liar in his native tongue seems oddly appropriate. But they must remember that they would not be the first to learn to their regret that they faced a Hitler and not a Lueger.There are some worrying signs that this may be the case with the Iranian leadership. For example, their likely involvement with the Argentinian synagogue bombing indicates that they are willing to invest real resources purely for the purpose of murdering Jews. This cannot even be dismissed as a political propaganda stunt, for they deny involvement.