By and large, what the German people did was fail to unite against the Nazis.
But their grave error wasn't one of failing to vote for a party and its leader who we all now know would commit all the horrors of the Holocaust. Their disgrace came not from the things they didn't know then but from failing to recognize all the relatively little bad that was quite clear at the time. Back then, nobody knew it would mean the atrocity of slaughtering millions and a permanent national disgrace to fail to unite behind the most viable alternative.
They knew the Nazi leader winked at the violence of his party and maybe even encouraged it.
They knew he attacked his nation's negotiated treaties.
They knew his party embraced an ideology favoring one particular race and xenophobic of others.
They knew he used anti-Semitism in his campaign.
They knew his party opposed women being in the workplace, pushing that they stay home producing children.
They knew he'd botched his preferred line of work and essentially gone bankrupt.
They knew about his failed coup.
They saw all his various campaign attacks on people and groups.
They had a pretty good idea he was more than a bit unhinged.
|Trump's RCP Average Favorability as of 11/8/2016: 37.5%|
But the majority of the German people knew all of this and failed to consider it sufficiently crucial for them to unite to keep Hitler and his party out of power. They considered it more important that they not vote for a party other than their particular preference. Or that they punish a party they usually preferred but that hadn't made everything better fast enough.
They saw a lot of warning signs. And they failed to stop it. And that's more than bad enough.
It would have been more than bad enough even if the Hitler of 1932 hadn't eventually become the Hitler of the later 1930s through the mid 1940s. The Hitler of 1932 was not then the Hitler of later history. But what was known in 1932 should have been plenty to unite to stop the Nazis from ever attaining power.