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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I was reading Eric Muller's post on discovering his Uncle Leo's identity card 65 years after the Germans sent him to the gas in Poland. One commenter speaks of the pure evil operating in Nazi Germany. While I don't quibble with the term, I think that many people miss the point when trying to apply the historical significance of the German "Final Solution" to our contemporary lives.

The point here is not that "monsters" perpetrated these acts. The point is that regular, everyday Germans did so, while going about their regular everyday business. It bears thinking about that the clerks and bureaucratic functionaries who signed the orders, made the entries, ensured the trains were full, and dropped the poison zyklon pellets were all regular people, doing what they were told to do because their government told them the subhuman Jews were the enemy. Apparently for the Germans, their government's denunciation was enough; without a flicker of remorse or second-guessing [collectively, at least], regular Germans as "normal" as any average American accepted unquestioningly the twisted ravings of a few, and translated it into a horrifyingly efficient and bureaucratically well-documented genocide.

For those interested in the best and most-readable exposition of the German-perpetrated genocide, as well as the typical German efficiency with which it was carried out, read Herman Wouk's War and Remembrance. The made for TV miniseries of War & Remembrance is flawed, but the episodes dealing with the Holocaust-related aspects of World War II are strikingly well done. In fact, the Auschwitz scenes were actually filmed there.

It is naive to think another such holocaust could never happen here. Without constant vigilance, it could happen anywhere.


Blogger M. Simon said...

My mother is Jewish. As I am.

She grew up in the 20s and 30s. She know about Roosevelt abandoning the Jews. She is a staunch believer in "never again".

And yet when I say that we can't abandon the Iraqi people to the head choppers all I get back is "I hate George Bush" and "America has no interest in Iraq".

10:40 AM  
Blogger M. Simon said...

I turned my comment into a post with some link love at:

Never Again

11:38 AM  
Blogger From Inwood said...

Springtime for Islamo-fascists.

History repeats itself & not always as farce.

Some, alas, never think that similar things could happen to them or theirs. And all we need is love, love, all we ever need is love. And jaw jaw is better than war war. And we know the rest.

And thank you M. Simon for your sad comment.

1:11 PM  
Blogger From Inwood said...

And, of course, we should not forget Hannah Arendt's memorable phrase (or the underlying work) "banality of evil".

2:17 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Let me throw in a recommendation for "Masters of Death" by Richard Rhodes. He tells the story of the SS-Einsatzgruppen and how they operated. I'm a longtime reader of WWII history, and I was shocked at the detail he goes into as they try to figure out the most economical way to kill as many people as possible, and the toll it takes on them.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

I enjoy your blog, Douglas.

Regretfully, these kinds of things have never stopped. Stalin, Mao, Amin, and Pot. Now all over Africa. Polls show that Europeans are as anti-semetic as ever and blast Israel for every response to Hamas or Hezbolah.

It seems like 1930s Germany was the beginning of something and not the end of anything.

9:43 AM  
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