Munich, the Bier Hall Putsch and American Parallels

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This is another one of my pre-posted articles for while we are traveling in Munich.

I have spent a total of about four years of my life in Germany. I enjoy the country and the people and I love traveling here because for me it is relaxing. When I have a car I enjoy driving on the Autobahn, and I find the mass transportation more than effective and convenient but a great way to travel.

I am a historian who for many years specialized in the study of the latter years of the Kaiser Reich, the German revolution and civil war, the Weimar Republic and the Nazi period. I always find visiting Munich intellectually stimulating. Munich is a very interesting and sometimes contradictory city, rich in culture, music, art, literature and scientific-technological achievements. Likewise it has always been a more cosmopolitan center of a very conservative state, especially religiously conservative as Bavaria is the heart of Catholic Germany. Thus there has always been a tension in the city, between the local more religious conservatives and business leaders and the more secular and progressive inhabitants, and the immigrants from Eastern Europe, especially more traditional and conservative Orthodox Jews.

This tension continues today with the large numbers of foreigners that live and work in the city. Many are Turkish guest workers and their descendants that have been in Germany almost half a century. But many are new immigrants from the Middle East and Africa, some who have embraced German life in a secular state, but many who have not and stand out in the crowd. In particular I think of the number of Moslems who retain their traditional dress and ways, which in many ways is reminiscent of the Eastern European Orthodox Jews, who likewise stood out as they attempted to maintain their cultural and religious identity.

Hitler-Putsch, M¸nchen, Marienplatz

Munich is the capital city of Bavaria, or as it is known here, Bayern. It was ruled for centuries by the Wittelsbach dynasty, which included “Mad King Louis” who built the amazing Neuschwanstein and Linderhof castles. That dynasty, with the rest of the German royalty was overthrown at the end of the  First World War. It was replaced for about three months by what was known as the Bavarian Soviet led by Kurt Eisner, an “independent socialist.” Eisner could not hold power and resigned in February 1919 and on the way to his resignation he was assassinated by a right wing extremist who held the views of the racist Thule Society. Eisner was replaced by a Majority Socialist leader who could not form a government and then by an Independent Socialist and Communist government. This government was both inept and brutal, it took hostages from the elite of the city as well as conservative reactionaries and had them executed. This brought a response from Berlin which sent a force of 30,000 Weimar Government employed Freikorps troops, including many Bavarians from rural areas, under the command of Ritter Von Epp to crush the Munich Soviet. After hard fighting against the Communist troops Epp’s men crushed the opposition and executed hundreds of the Communists and Independent Socialist fighter and leaders.

stosstruppe

The city was still rife with revolutionary and reactionary elements and in 1919 a new political party was established. This party became the National Socialist Workers Party of Germany, or the NSDAP. Adolf Hitler joined the party and quickly became its head. He along with General Erich Ludendorff led a coup, or “putsch” against the government on the 8th and 9th of November 1923. The putsch originated at the NDSAP headquarters and Hitler led about 2000 armed members of the party to the Burgerbrau Keller beer hall where the Gustav Von Kahr, who had been appointed with dictatorial powers due to the unrest, was making a speech.

himmler-bier-hall

Hitler took Kahr and other members of the government hostage and declared a revolution and enjoined those present to “join in this grave eleventh hour for our German Fatherland.” While many present were turned by his speech, the revolt did not gain momentum and in desperation Hitler ordered a march to overthrow the government. At Odeonsplatz at the bridge over the Isar River near the Feldherrenhalle his group of nearly 2000 followers including future Nazi Leaders Hermann Goering and Rudolf Hess were confronted by about 100 Bavarian police, and defeated. Hitler was arrested and tried, spent nine months in prison during which he wrote Mein Kampf. The Burgerbraukeller and the Feldherrenhalle became Nazi shrines which after Hitler’s takeover became places where Hitler would return yearly to mark his failed putsch.

All of these events took place in a small area of the Munich city center. Sadly most people who come to Munich are aware of the events that occurred here, and many fail to realize how easily a city know for so many cultural and scientific achievements can become the locus of evil for a man like Adolf Hitler.

While I love Munich my love is tempered by how many events which still affect us today occurred here just eight to ninety years ago. To use a German expression, that amount of in the sense of history is merely an “augenblick” or “blink of an eye”. It is hard to believe that so much has happen here, and just how few people understand just how easily such events can happen again.

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When I look at my own country I see parallels between some of the more deplorable of Donald Trump’s supporters, the White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Racists, and members of the so-called “Alt-Right” which is nothing more than a cover for its member’s Nazi ideology with the people that followed Hitler to the Burgerbraukeller. The hatred that they express towards liberals, racial minorities, immigrants and Moslems is so similar to the words of those precursors to the Nazi party rule in Germany that it is frightening. Comforting myths are substituted for history. Race, ideology and xenophobic nationalism, often clothed in the language of tradition “Christian” beliefs are used to demonize those who are different. Sadly too I see some of my fellow progressives inflamed with such a hatred of conservatives that they cannot see the dangers inherent in such polarization. As a historian, I find the parallels disturbing.

But despite that we are here to have fun, and that I am. After all, I choose to believe in the power of acceptance, tolerance and inclusiveness. Those are found in the words that are imprinted on the modern German Army belt buckles and in the German National anthem “eingekeit, recht  und freiheit” or “unity, Justice and freedom.” Those words are also implicit in our own Declaration of Independence which states that “all men are created equal.” Thus for me, not believe that good can overcome evil is central to who I am.

And from Munich, I am your friend,

Peace

Padre Steve

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Traveling Amid Terror Threats

fest-tent-2015

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

This is another one of my pre-posted articles for our Munich trip and I am offering a few thoughts on terrorism. With all of the recent attacks in Europe the authorities in Munich are taking the threat of terrorism very seriously and that is a good thing. There are a lot of extra police and security officers out and about and a fence has been placed around the fest grounds in order to keep people from sneaking in. I was asked before we left if I was thinking about terrorism or afraid. I answered that I think of it but I am not afraid I just stay alert and pay attention to my surroundings like I do anywhere. But as far as terrorism in Europe, it’s real, and there are dangerous elements who I am sure would love to create havoc at the Oktoberfest, but I am not afraid.

This is because Judy and I our old hands when it comes to living with terrorism. When we were stationed in Germany in the 1980s it was at the height of the second generation of the Baader-Meinhoff Gang/ Red Army Faction reign of terror. There were frequent bombings and murders committed by these East German supported terrorists throughout Germany, and we narrowly avoided being victims of two of them; one at the Frankfurt Airport, and one at the Frankfurt Military Exchange. Every day we had to look under our car for car bombs as that was a favorite method of killing. Likewise when we drove onto base, not only did we have multiple forms of identification verified, but our vehicles were checked for bombs underneath, as well as in the trunks and engine compartments, which had to be opened and inspected. Despite that on one occasion a bomb was found in the Mess Hall and defused, across town at another base a young enlisted man was kidnapped and murdered by a female terrorist posing as a date. When we were shopping one day at a German retail store we saw, and reported to the Polizei a group of people that we recognized too late from the wanted posters. We made our report and were interrogated for over two hours. I was actually glad for that, because what we said was taken seriously.

RAF bombing

Baader-Meinhoff/ Red Brigade Bombing in Germany

But sadly that was just the beginning of my experience with terrorism, both international and domestic. Terrorists may have different causes and motivations, but the one thing they desire to do is to is to terrorize and kill, that their victims often have nothing to do with their grievances, real or imagined, and are innocent of any crime against them does not matter; nor does it seem to matter to their western apologists who excuse the terrorists by blaming the societies and governments of the victims instead of placing the blame on the hate filled ideology of the terrorist.

The sad thing is the ideology of DAESH has been around for a long time, but that it would not made much progress had not President Bush destroyed Iraq and given them a place to flourish. Fareed Zakaria hit the nail on the head when he noted: “I should have paid greater attention to my mentor in graduate school, Samuel Huntington, who once explained that Americans never recognize that, in the developing world, the key is not the kind of government — communist, capitalist, democratic, dictatorial — but the degree of government. That absence of government is what we are watching these days, from Libya to Iraq to Syria.” It is the absence of the restraining force of government that has allowed DAESH to thrive, and which will allow it to continue.

But that being said I am not going to let those sonsofbitches or any other terrorist sonsofbitches frighten me from living life or keeping me from traveling.

I have traveled all over the world and I have been to war. I have seen horrible things and even when I admit the many things that this country has done that are wrong, and even criminal, I cannot allow that to color my view that the terrorists; be they the Baader-Meinhoff gang and the Red Brigades, or today the hate filled religious terrorists of DAESH deserve the slightest bit of sympathy, and just because our government and other governments, as well as the media sometimes label people as terrorists who are not, does not mean that the actual terrorists, like the ones who attacked Brussels yesterday are not terrorists. They are terrorist and that word has a definitive meaning for them, there is no moral equivalence of sleight of hand here. They terrorize and kill innocents in the lands that they occupy, and are taking their fight all over the world.

So do I live with it? I decide to live in the  moment regardless of the threat. I refuse to be terrorized and I will speak out, even if I offend people. I think that Salman Rushdie, a man who has known the price of having a bounty on his head by religious fanatics for decades, said it right: “How to defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized. Don’t let fear rule your life. Even if you are scared.”

We are going through the airports and traveling on the subways, and going through train stations; and I will not be afraid.

Now if by some chance something does occur while we are over here I will let you know first hand, but even if terrorists strike I will refuse to be afraid.

Have a good day,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Gemütlichkeit: The Importance of Community

oktoberfest-2015

Oktoberfest 2015

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

This is another of my pre-posted articles for while we are away. We are halfway through our trip Munich Germany this week for the Oktoberfest and while here we are making number of other trips to historic places and exhibits. But I wanted to post something that I think is important that the Germans do but we often miss in the United States, the concept of community.

What we have always liked about our times in Germany is that it is pretty easy to talk and spend time with people, even perfect strangers. In Munich during the Fest you can do this sitting in one of the Bier Gardens of the Hofbrauhaus tent at the Theriesienwiese grounds, the Hofbrauhaus itself, other restaurants, sidewalk cafes or the hotel bar. I have to say that the ease with which you can mix with and get to know people; the ability to talk about life, culture, and even current events without someone looking for an angle to exploit is in stark contrast to so much of what we see in the States. Since I have lived in Germany for about four years as well as having been back numerous times I can say that whether you are in a big city or small town it is pretty easy to mix.

One of the interesting things is how the Germans, even those who live in big cities understand the concept of community. The Germans take life and work seriously, but unlike many, if not most of us, they know when business stops and fun, family and community begin. When people leave work they leave work, and even the business culture, in which stores are not open 24 hours or on Sundays provide Germans the opportunity to spend good amounts of time with family, their neighbors and friends as they meet for dinner or drinks at the local Gasthaus or inn on a regular basis. Likewise communities sponsor sports teams, and a wide array of other clubs that draw them together, everything from Rotary, to veterans associations, bands and choirs, hunting and shooting clubs and many more. Many of these groups sponsor events in which the entire community can partake.

The concept in all of this is that of Gemütlichkeit, a German word that basically describes a situation of where a cheerful mood, peace of mind and social acceptance are joined with the connotation of being unhurried in a cozy atmosphere. It also is understood in relationship to holidays where public festivities in the form of music, food, and drink help promote a sense of community. In this there is a sense that someone is part of something bigger than himself or herself where they are connected with being accepted by others while enriching the community.

Unfortunately for many Americans this is not the case. Unless one belongs to an organization such a various types of lodges, local sports fan clubs, or a local pub or bar where “everyone knows you name” there are precious few places one can experience this type of community. Churches like to claim that they are places of fellowship, but in my adult experience I have to say that most churches neither foster community nor are they places where one can go to be accepted. They are often the most cliquish, unfriendly, uninviting, and judgmental places around, and this is across the board. This cliquish and uninviting spirit covered in a veneer of spirituality and forced friendliness knows no denominational or theological boundaries, but I digress….

Judy and are lucky, we have a sense of community with friends who span the breadth of society; most of those who we know from the place where everyone knows our name, the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant bar in Virginia Beach.

The Germans for all of their serious nature and sometimes-brusque manner of getting around do know how to draw the line between work, and play and in the process build community. Their cities and towns are designed to keep a community connection, including many parks; excellent public transportation systems, sidewalk cafes, local corner grocery stores and bakeries, as well as family run businesses that have not been destroyed by the huge box-stores like Wal-Mart. They are places that you get to know people, where life is lived, and community experienced.

Part of this is the difference in culture and how over the years our American culture has become detached from this sort of community. In many ways we have become increasing individualistic through the proliferation of suburbia, massive box-stores, and all that goes with it, including the abandonment of cities, and small poor rural communities. Even our churches, across the denominational spectrum have embraced the community destroying box-store religion of the mega-churches. The fact is we don’t know our neighbors and that leads to a culture that devalues people, destroys community, and actually brings on social problems including crime.

Without community we fall back into our basest survival instincts; we see people in regard to what they can do for us. People simply become nothing more than commodities that we discard when they are no longer useful. We adopt the modern American business model as our model for relationships; and when we do this, we devalue friendship; we become paranoid, distrustful, isolated and ultimately come to despise our neighbors.

To make matters worse our lack of real community has so poisoned our political system that I doubt we will ever come back together as Americans. I would like to see our divisions healed but I just don’t see it happening, and that to me is heartbreaking.

Anyway, speaking of this Judy and I will be seeing some of our friends and doing some sightseeing today and just enjoying that gift of friendship.

Wishing you all today that sense of Gemütlichkeit,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Collapse that May not Matter


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

We are in Germany this week and I think I mentioned here that I wasn’t going to watch the first presidential debated between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. If I didn’t say it here I’m sure that I did on my Facebook or Twitter feeds, but whatever. 

Honestly I wasn’t planning on watching it but we were up late with friends following a great day at the Nuremberg Trial Museum in Nuremberg and at Oktoberfest in Munich. Now I know that many people were planning to drink heavily as they watched the debate, but I didn’t. In fact, by the time I got to my room I had drank enough and it was almost time for the debate to begin. So I turned on my television to BBC and watched it, and unlike what I predicted either here or on my social media outlets, there was a debate, the only problem was that only one candidate really showed up, and that person was not Donald Trump, it was Hillary Clinton. Trump spent about 20 minutes repeating GOP boilerplate rhetoric that I am not sure he even believes before he transformed himself before the eyes of the nation into a charicature of an evil circus clown. 

But not only did Trump not show up for the substantive issues he came across as an evil circus clown like you would see in some B grade horror movie that was so bad that it went directly to video. It was sad to watch, especially because I spent 32 years of my life as a Republican and worked for the Ford campaign before I could even vote. I never believed that the GOP could sink to this level and I’m sure that if they were alive today that both Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater would repudiate everything that Donald Trump advocates. Even Richard Nixon might disown Trump if he were still alive and I cannot think of any President in recent times more malignant than Tricky Dick. That’s how bad Trump is. All he lacked were the clown shoes, a Bozo nose, a copious amount of white makeup, and a machete to complete the picture. 

Sadly, I was not surprised. I have stated many times that I believe that Trump is both a narcissist and a sociopath who has no ability to empathize with anyone and whose only concern is his bottom line. He demonstrated those lack of character traits in abundance last night and today. Caught in lies about the Iraq War and his Birtherism, he continued to lie and say that he was being “unfairly treated.” Nailed by Clinton on his profiting from the housing collapse that cost so many Aericans their homes, businesses, and jobs he smugly said “that is business.” He demonstrated not a shred of feeling or empathy for many of the people who lost their homes, businesses, or jobs in the crash of 2008, and who now misguidedly support him. Confronted on his incredibly malicious treatment of women he didn’t have the decency to apologize, instead he continued to attack them. 

His performance in the debate was sad, it showed a lack of preparation and hubris that would be disastrous for the nation and the world if he is elected. It showed that for all of his bluster that he is an empty suit with no capacity for critical thinking, dealing with policy, or leading. It revealed that he cares not a wit for his supporters or for that matter the affairs of hard working people in general. He is a sociopath who has a complete lack of empathy. 

When I went to Dachau and Nuremberg this week I could not help to be reminded that evil exists. I know a lot about the Nazi system, and when I stood by the dock that housed the Nazi war criminals in Saal 600, the courtroom when the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials were held, I could not help to remember the words of Gustave Gilbert, an America Army psychologist who worked with the defendants in the major war crimes trials. Gilbert struggled to understand the nature of evil until he spent time with all of the defendants. Then it dawned on him. None of the defendants had tha capacity for empathy. It was the one think that they all had in common. Gilbert wrote after the trials that “evil is the absence of empathy.” 

Today we face a man who is the nominee of a major party who shows that lack of empathy on nearly a daily basis. The man frightens me. In a normal year he would not have gotten through the primaries, but this is not a normal year, these are not normal times, and many of his supporters are not normal people. As Trump said last year he “could murder someone and his supporters would not abandon him.” Sadly, despite everything that Trump has said and done, many of his supporters will support him unto the last into Trump’s “Gottdamerung” where at the minimum he shatters the GOP, and if he wins would likely destroy the country in order to save it. 

So anyway, from Munich, I am yours.

Have a great day and night. 

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The Importance of Now

munich-2015

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Just a short thought while I am traveling in Germany. We live in very unsettled times and when that happens people are often filled with anxiety usually concerning things that they cannot control. I understand that completely, yet there is a time to live in the moment and savor friends, family, the love of a spouse, the warmth of a dog that adores you, a drink with friends, and the exploration of new places.

In our world people ask questions. As James Spader’s character in Boston Legal rightly observed:

“Some people see things as they are and ask why? Others see things as they never were and claim mad cow.” 

I am not an economist, I am a historian and I while I do understand some things about economic theory and history, and I am certainly no expert on markets. Like many I do get concerned when I see the stock markets around the world crashing, not so much for the rich people who are losing inflated stock value, for the rich almost without exception seem to do well in times of such turmoil, in fact they often do better because governments value their business expertise and depend on them to get countries out of the mess. But I worry more for the possible effects that this could have on small business owners, the middle class and the poor. I do get concerned for the middle class who have money invested in the markets through their 401k’s and retirement programs, as well as the poor who could lose their jobs if the companies that they work for tank.

There are so many variables; interest rates, oil prices, housing prices, and employment rates just to name a few. There are also the factors of what is happening in China and other big yet developing markets which can have ripple effects, or even tsunami-like affects across the globe depending how bad things get. There are so many other things going on in the world economy dealing with Greece the EU and the Euro, Russian rumblings in Eastern Europe and the Ukraine, the rise of ISIL and the potential threats to oil producing countries in the Middle East, things going on with vast refugee migrations as well as economic, political, and potential viral epidemics in African countries which frankly most Americans, Europeans and Asians until they reach our shores, and then my God there’s Donald Trump.

All of these things are so troubling on so many levels, and why shouldn’t they be. Not only are we looking at potential economic chaos, but there is climate change and its effects on endangered wildlife like the Virgin Island Screech Owl and the Fresno Kangaroo. Who knows what could be next?

So in light of this worldwide uncertainty I can recommend a number of things. Look at your investments, take a look at history because it always has lessons, or follow the immortal advice of John “Bluto” Blutarsky: “My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.”

But that being said, no matter how bad things are and how much worse they could get it is far more important to live in the moment with those that you love and care about in the now, not the future that we have so little influence over. As Danny Crane (William Shatner) told Alan Shore (James Spader) in Boston Legal:

“Let me tell you something. When you got polar ice caps melting and breaking off into big chunks and you got Osama still hiding in a cave, planning his next attack, when you got other rogue nations with nuclear arsenals, and not to mention some wack-job, home-grown that can cancel you at any second and when you got…mad cow, now gets high priority. And when you’re still on the balcony on a clear night, sipping scotch with your best friend, now is everything.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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From Dachau to Nuremberg 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Tonight, or rather early this morning I am in Munich Germany for the Oktoberfest, but over the past two days Judy and I have been to the Dachau Concentration Camp and the Palace of Justive in Nuremberg. 


I have been to Dachau before, nearly twenty years ago, but Judy has never been there. It is a sobering site. Dachau was not an extermination camp like Auschwitz, but rather a place to imprison polical, religious, and other opponents and undesirables, but also to humiliate them and take away any shred of their humanity before killing them through torture, starvation, medical experiments, or other repressive measures. The exhibits even detailed things that ordinary Germans, and Nazi Party members bragged about “taking people to Dachau” on floats during festival times at their version of Carnival. 

Dachau was not an extermination camp like Auschwitz, it was a camp designed to crush political, religious, and racial,opposition to the Nazi state, that the Nazis were proud of it. I was the pioneer, it was the “model camp” on which all subsequent camps in the Nazi system used in dealing with the enemies of the Nazi state. When you go to Dachau the documentary evidence is overwhelming and the physical images, the preservation of the devices of torture, and killing all to real to deny. What happened there was beyond the imagination. 

The people initially rounded up by the Nazis and sent to Dachau were political, social, and religious leaders who had stood against them before the takeover. Any accusation was good enough for the Nazis to arrest, imprision, persecute, torture, and kill these men and women, and many of those decisions came in Saal 600, the main courtroom in Nuremberg’s Palace of Justice, the very courtroom that within 13 years would be the site of the Nuremberg trials, both the trials of the major war criminals, but also the leaders of the military, the SS, the mass murder units of the Einsatzgruppen, the doctors who committed inhuman medical experiments on innocent people, and who exterminated the disabled, the judges who adapted themselves to serve the Nazi regime, the corporations like Krupp and I G Farben, as well as the leaders of Nazi organizations. 



The two locations are two sides of the same coin. The Nazi defeat allowed Dachau to be seen and exposed as a place of horror that the Nazi we’re proud of and of which many German citizens approved. The trials at Nuremberg demonstrated to the world that a modern, civilized, cultured, and dare I say “Christian” nation in a very short time can become a criminal state, committing genocide as just one of many crimes against humanity. In that time many otherwise moral, upstanding people, either signed on and became participants in those crimes or said nothing against those crimes. 

These places also remind all of us that the what the Nazis did could be repeated in otherwise civilized Western nations, including the United States. When one hears some of the policy statements of Donald Trump, and the actions of his supporters one cannot help to be reminded of the last few years before the Nazi takeover and what happened in its aftermath. One cannot with an open mind and listening ear interpret his words and some of his supporters actions in any other way. That my friends is frieghtening. 

For me these trips amidst a visit to the Oktoberfest in Munich were important. While I have been to Dachau some twenty years ago, that site has been improved with the work that has been done in the museum. Likewise, the museum for the Nuremberg trials let me imagine being in that courtroom that I teach about in my ethics class at the Staff College, a class when I try to implant in the minds of the men and women who will be the future Generals, and Admirlas of not only own nation, but of our allied nation partners, that what they do in positive ways, as well as negative ways matters from more than a military viewpoint. 

Well it is very late, it has been a long day and when we get up we have some plans. So have a great day.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Vast and Heinous Crimes: Babi Yar at 75

babi yar

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

While I am in Germany I am pre-posting articles that I think are important about issues that I think that we should not forget. This especiall6y true during this presidential campaign where one candidate has stated that he would order U.S. troops to commit acts that can only be described as war crimes, and to deport or expel over 11 million people from the country. To put that number in perspective it is great than the numbers of Jews that Hitler’s forces “evacuated” during World War II.

So anyway, have a great day,

Peace

Padre Steve+

As part of my academic work at the Staff College I teach military ethics as related to the Just War Theory. In the class on jus post bellum or justice after war I deal with the implication of participating in war crimes. It is a serious subject and in the class I attempt to make my students, all relatively senior officers from the United States and allied nations as uncomfortable as possible. I use a number of examples from the major war crimes trials at Nuremberg as well as the Generals Trial. I had an exceptionally good class over the past several weeks and that caused me to go back and do some revisions to a number articles that I have written in the past. I have published a version of this before but I have made some additions and expect that like my work on Gettysburg that this work too will be an ongoing project.

As I went through previous notes and research I felt a tenseness and revulsion for the actions of those that ordered, committed or condoned these crimes, men who were like me professional officers. I realize how easily it is for normal, rational, and even basically decent people to succumb to either participating in or turning a blind eye to crimes against others, even on a massive scale, in fact the bigger they are they seem easier to dismiss, because the victims cease be human, and simply a statistic. Sadly, Josef Stalin probably got human nature right when he said “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” That comment causes great revulsion in my soul, but I have to admit it seems to be the way that many people deal with such great crimes.

September 29th 2016 will be the 74th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre. It was committed by members of the SS Einsatzgruppen C near Kiev shortly after the German Army captured that city. 33,771 Jews were exterminated by the members of Sonderkommando 4b of Einsatzgruppen C as well as Police battalions. About 10,000 others, mainly Communist Officials and Gypsies were rounded up and killed in the same operation. The victims were stripped of all of their belongings taken to a ravine and shot. It was the second largest killing action by the various Einsatzgruppen in the war. It was committed by men who either believed that the people that they were killing were sub-human, or did not have the courage to stand up and say no.

These issues are still with us. Hannah Arendt made the comment that “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

These are uncomfortable subjects. We like to say that the Nazis were different than us or others. To some extent this is true, but the real truth is that most of the Christian Western European countries, and I include the United States have also committed gross crimes against humanity against peoples that we believed were less than human and not afforded human rights or protections. In the movie Judgement at Nuremberg Spencer Tracy makes a comment that should send chills through any of us. He spoke concerning one of the judges on trial, “Janning, to be sure, is a tragic figure. We believe he loathed the evil he did. But compassion for the present torture of his soul must not beget forgetfulness of the torture and the death of millions by the Government of which he was a part. Janning’s record and his fate illuminate the most shattering truth that has emerged from this trial: If he and all of the other defendants had been degraded perverts, if all of the leaders of the Third Reich had been sadistic monsters and maniacs, then these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake, or any other natural catastrophe. But this trial has shown that under a national crisis, ordinary – even able and extraordinary – men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination….”

Babi Yar is just one example of how civilized people can get can commit great atrocities in the name of ideology and race, and it does not stand alone. The tragic fact is that it really doesn’t take much to condition people to go commit such crimes; just teach people from childhood that people of certain races or religions are less than human. Then subjugate them to incessant propaganda and then turn them loose using the pretext that they are killing terrorists or insurgents. In the coming days I am posting in small sections an article that I wrote that deals with the ideological as well as military reasons that brought about Babi Yar and so many other atrocities committed by the Nazis during the campaigns in Poland and the Soviet Union.

What happened at Babi Yar is just one example of how civilized people can get can commit great atrocities in the name of ideology and race, and it does not stand alone. The tragic fact is that it really doesn’t take much to condition people to go commit such crimes; just teach people from childhood that people of certain races or religions are less than human. Then subjugate them to incessant propaganda and then turn them loose using the pretext that they are killing terrorists or insurgents.

The article deals with the ideological as well as military reasons that brought about Babi Yar and so many other atrocities committed by the Nazis during the campaigns in Poland and the Soviet Union.

To be continued….

Peace

Padre Steve+

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