Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Obsolete Consciousness VI: The Holocaust part I

I read this book last spring, and I wanted to share it with you, and hopefully engage in a dialogue about its content.

Only four men commanded Nazi extermination (as opposed to concentration) camps. Franz Stangl was the "Kommandant" of Treblinka, one of the most terrible camps. After the war he escaped to Syria and then Brazil, where he lived with his family and worked in a factory.
After extradition to Germany, he was tried for the deaths of around 1,200,000 people. He admitted to these killings but argued: "My conscience is clear. I was simply doing my duty ...". Found guilty on October 22, 1970, Stangl was sentenced to life imprisonment. He died of a heart attack on June 28, 1971.

Gitta Sereny talked to him in prison for about 70 hours, asked him questions of how he came about to be in charge of an extermination camp, how he felt then, how he was feeling now, what relationship he had with his family.
I think she does not go deep enough (maybe it is not possible) in the psychological roots of organized cruelty, I have the feeling that Stangl himself does not know how it all happened, only that it happened. But this unique book has some parts which are quite thought provoking.

One point that emerge from reading the book is that Stangl was not a psychopath or a nazi fanatic. He was rather a "grey" person, a person that wanted to please his superiors, that wanted to ascend in the rank, that wanted to do a "good" job, that wanted to be somebody.....and on top of all he loved his family (!!!)

It seems that the main power behind the holocaust was an IDEA. Just an idea. The idea of a superior race (├╝bermensch). And the moment you project the idea of a superior race, automatically you have inferior races. What a power an idea, a thought, could have.

And how obsolete a consciousness that can generate and pursuit to the end, unchequed, such idea.....

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