Condemnation, Nazis, and where we are now

August 24, 2013

When I was a boy, we took it for granted that the Nazis were supremely evil people; that they were different from us; that the German people were guilty because they had not overthrown their rulers but had followed orders. Their very explanation – “we were good Germans,” meaning they followed the rules as they had always done – became a taunt that seemed to show that a whole people were evil.

But now are getting a good look at what that Nazi mentality and that “good German” mentality looks like from the inside. Our rulers (hardly our representatives!), reacting out of fear and self-righteousness and whatever other emotions, do what they please, and there is damned little anybody who doesn’t have his hands on the levers of power can do about it.

Perhaps if we had troubled to get inside the heads of the Nazis and the German people when it was still safe to do so, we would have realized the psychic danger we were in. A couple of true and appropriate psychological sayings: “You become like the worst in those you fight,” and “Condemnation isolates. Only understanding liberates.”

We can pretend that one side is all evil and the other all good, but it doesn’t lead anywhere we want to go.

One thought on “Condemnation, Nazis, and where we are now

  1. My friend, Vera, was a teenager during Hitler’s time and during post WW2. She was raised by her aunt, as her parents spoke out against Hitler and were always jailed for it. They would get released when her mom was pregnant so they could have the child. But it wasn’t long before they would be jailed again for protesting. Vera folks were non-Jewish, pure Germans.

    And let’s not forget Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who supported Hitler at first. Later, he had a change of heart and formed the Confessing Church, which protested against Hitler’s doings. Bonhoeffer helped to plot and carry out an assassination attempt on Hitler, which cost him his life.

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