Wednesday, May 22, 2024

How is it Possible? Food for Thought

Nazi SS secretaries having fun while Jews were being gassed (screenshot)
One of the most perplexing things about the Holocaust is the following. How is it possible that a nation as advanced as 1930s Germany could so easily be convinced that murdering an entire ‘race’ of people  was a morally justifiable act?  

While there were some notable exceptions that were disgusted at the idea there were even fewer that did anything about it. Most Germans were quite aware of Jewish ghettos, concentration camps and death camps. They knew Jews were being systematically exterminated even if they didn't know the extent of it. And yet just carried on with their lives as though nothing terrible was happening.

That this happened was the message of the Oscar wining film ‘Zone of Interest’. That was a fictional account of the life of Rudolf Hess, commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Hess and his family lived quite literally on the other side of a wall separating Auschwitz from his family living in a  rather nice dwelling and living the good life at the height of the Nazi extermination of the Jews taking place just a few feet away behind a wall.  

Last Sunday night 60 Minutes featured a segment about a new play on Broadway with the same theme called The Album. Only this time it wasn't fictionalized.

It is based on a scrapbook found in Auschwitz that belonged to one of the SS soldiers involved in the extermination of Jews there. It showed some of the most notorious killers in history enjoying themselves along with fellow German citizens. If you didn’t know there was a genocide going on, you’d think this was a typical family vacation album.  

So I asked myself that question again. How can normal decent people that seem to be no different than me or my family enjoy life and so easily accept the genocide that was going on all around them? 

The only answer possible is that people can be convinced of anything. Even people who consider themselves moral and ethical. As I’m sure the Germans of that time did.

Consider the  following factors. The German people loved Hitler. He restored in them national and ethnic pride after having been humiliated by the victors in World War I. Hitler defied restrictions placed upon them by the allies in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles and rebuilt the German military with impunity. One can see just how much the Germans loved him by watching the crowds at the 1936 Olympics cheering him as though he was some sort of rock star.

Hitler needed a scapegoat for all the ills and humiliation foisted upon Germany by that treaty. What better scapegoat could their be than a ‘race’ that was already hated - at least subliminally. Germans are Lutheran. Marin Luther famously loathed the Jewish people and transferred that loathing to the German people. 

Over time German Jews became more accepted and more accepting of German culture. To the point of almost complete assimilation. In some cases serving with honor in the German military during World War I. But just below the surface lurked this deep Lutheran hatred of Jews. It didn’t take much to bring it back to the surface.

But even so, genocide? Killing an entire ‘race’ of people? Doing it without the slightest bit of guilt?!

Well, yes. If someone is convinced beyond a doubt that an entire race of people is so evil and dangerous to the world order that the only solution is to destroy every last one of them, then it not only can happen. It did happen. Without so much as an ounce of guilt. They saw genocide as the moral and ethical thing to do to save the world. This is what Hitler and his henchman were able to convince their people of. 

It’s the only way to explain pictures of people enjoying themselves while thousands of people were being exterminated daily.  They may not have known the numbers. But they had to  know Jews were systematically being killed daily while they were having a  jolly good time.

Think that unlikely? Well there is actually a biblical precedent for that. We are commanded by God to kill an entire people. Every last man woman and child of the evil nation of Amalek without mercy.

Germans were convinced by Hitler’s Nazi propaganda machine that Jews needed to be exterminated in order so that the good people of the Germany and the world could be saved..  

Please do not misunderstand. In no way should any of this kind of thinking be attributed to the Jewish people about Palestinians. There is no Israeli propaganda about Palestinians being Amalek. There is no Israeli propaganda that Palestinians are trying to take over the world and that we must therefore exterminate them. 

None. Zero. Nada. 

On the contraray, The reality is that if it were possible, Israel would make peace with them in a heartbeat. Unfortunately as thing stand now, it is impossible. If anything, the reverse is true. Which is why Israel must continue to fight for its existence against a people who – like Nazi Germany would exterminate us in a heartbeat us if they could.  

The big challenge for us is to make the rest of the world understand that. Problem is - convincing a world (outside of the US) with centuries of antisemitism under its belt may prove to be impossible. But that does not free us from trying

Just some of my thoughts about how Man’s inhumanity to Man can – not only happen – but happen and be considered to be the right thing to do.