Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Obsolete Consciousness VII: The Holocaust part II

(Children walking to the gas chamber in Birkenau)

In 1933 approximately nine million Jews lived in the countries of Europe that would be occupied by Germany during the war. By 1945 two out of every three European Jews had been killed by the SS Men. The Holocaust was the systematic annihilation of six million Jews.

But Jews were not the only group singled out for persecution by Hitler’s Nazi regime. As many as one-half million Gypsies, at least 250,000 mentally or physically disabled persons, and more than three million Soviet prisoners-of-war also fell victim to Nazi genocide. Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Social Democrats, Communists, partisans, trade unionists, Polish intelligentsia and other undesirables were also victims of the hate and aggression carried out by the Nazis.

The number of children killed during the Holocaust is not fathomable and full statistics for the tragic fate of children who died will never be known. Some estimates range as high as 1.5 million murdered children. This figure includes more than 1.2 million Jewish children, tens of thousands of Gypsy children and thousands of institutionalized handicapped children who were murdered under Nazi rule in Germany and occupied Europe.

The SS Men wore black uniforms with a skeleton's head on their hats, the motto "Unsere Ehre heisst Treue" (Our honor is loyalty) on their belts and their symbol was the double S-rune. They had sworn eternal faith to Adolf Hitler and they were his most ruthless henchmen, men often seen as the very personifications of evil.

These masterminds of death were found to be quite psychologically normal. They were men of fine standing, husbands who morning and night kissed their wives, fathers who tucked their children into bed.

But murders, brutalities, cruelties, tortures, atrocities, and other inhuman acts were an everyday occurrence.

Stangl (Treblinka's commandant), Hoss (Auschwitz's commandant) and Bergen commandants were quite "normal" people, Eichmann the same, they wanted to do a good job, wanted to ascend in the ranks, be respected in the SS, be loyal to their group, be somebody.....

The "will to power" (german: "der Wille zur Macht") concept, describes what Friedrich Nietzsche believed to be the main driving force in all living things. Briefly, it means that all living species try to prevail over the rest of species, even if that meant to violently exterminate those species.

The holocaust is very difficult to comprehend. But it comes to my mind several factors that led to it:

1) It seems to me that a big part of our conditioning does not come through things that happen in our life time, but rather we inherit from our long distant evolutionary past. So, one possible factor is this "will to power" that Nietzsche is referring to, the intrinsic tendency in all living things to try to prevail over other living groups. The tendency of one group to destroy other groups, and thus survive better.

2) The strong "drive for security" of all living creatures. And the security inside a group is to be well regarded, to do a good job, to be respected in that group, to be somebody....This is also a conditioning coming from a long distant evolutionary past...

3) The tremendous conditioning through propaganda that happened in the 3rd reich ("Jews are evil", "ubermensch", to get more "lebensraum" (living space), etc.....)

1, 2 and 3 are not separate entities, but there is a lot of overlap between them. We already may be conditioned with 1 and 2 when we are born. Number 3 may happen during our life time, with different degrees of intensity.....

And now comes the terrible question: properly conditioned, could any one of us be a nazi?

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