Friday, December 13, 2002

Once innocent

I'll bet you've never heard of the Bund Deutscher Mädel. It's an innocent enough name - "Association of German Girls". Then again, once upon a time you might have said the same thing about their brother organization, the "Hitler Youth".

Ach, Hitler! Has anyone in history been so demonized? That must be the price he paid for losing WWII. Otherwise we can't account for the comparatively more benign reputations enjoyed by the even more murderous Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong, neither of whose names have become such worldwide epithets.

Nowadays perhaps only "racist" can compare to "Nazi" as a political insult. But Hitler didn't just show up one day and take over. Many saw his National Socialist German Worker's Party (Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or NSDAP) as an alternative to other forms of socialism such as the various Communist groups (whose parties had names remarkable similar to Hitler's). He was the highly visible leader of what was from 1931 on the was the largest party in Germany, and he worked through existing political structures in the beginning. When the opportunity arose to consolidate power, he took it.

We'll never know how many voters stayed home during Hitler's rise out of "principle". Or maybe they said "my vote doesn't count".

Once Hitler had consolidated power, then what was the ordinary German to do? The police were beyond their control, and informers were everywhere. That old man who always looked out the window and waved at you? - he saw you talking to that non-Aryan the other day and wrote it down for his masters. Even well connected military men failed in attempts to kill Hitler.

Maybe on your way to a vacation in Munich you rode past Dachau and asked your father what it was. He told you that it was just an internment camp for foreigners, and you have no reason to believe he doesn't believe it himself. It was only after the war that the local officials were taken to tour the concentration camps.

And they were lectured:
Though you claim no knowledge of these acts you are still individually and collectively responsible for these atrocities, for they were committed by a government elected to office by yourselves in 1933 and continued in office by your indifference to organized brutality. It should be the firm resolve of the German people that never again should any leader or party bring them to such moral degradation as is exhibited here....
How scary to think of being called to account for the errors of your government because of your one vote out of tens of millions.

I expect that soon we will be going to war with Iraqis. There will be many innocent deaths, and I don't know of any way to avoid this.

But let's make sure we remember that this is about Saddam's goons and al-Qaeda, not Iraqis and Muslims.

[This post has been modified]

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