One of the great mysteries for normal people is how Nazism grew and eventually dominated Germany. 6,000,000 – 8,000,000 Jews, gays, intellectuals, journalists, gypsies, etc murdered. All due to one man, Adolph Hitler.
Yet, to the best of our knowledge, Hitler never murdered a Jew. Never sent a Jew to the gas chamber. Never extracted a tooth from a living Jew without anesthetics. Never separated children from their mothers and exterminated them.
All this was done by German citizens. Volunteers. You see, the Nazis did not force anyone to work at the camps. The death camps were staffed by volunteers. True believers.
Normal people wonder at this. Normal people cannot understand.
Yet, history is full of human behavior which is both cruel and vile. Savonarola and the bonfire of the vanities as he cleansed Florence of decadence. The Spanish Inquisition aimed initially at Muslims and Jews, then expanded to include all who may not be true believers. Pol Pot and his wholesale slaughter of millions of Cambodians. Wearing glasses was enough to get you executed. The Hutus murdering Tutsis and vice versa. The extermination of the Native Americans by the European invaders. The Bible tells us of the justified genocide by the Jews of the Canaanites. Not just victory, but complete extermination of a people. The Armenia massacres. Etc. etc.
Hitler was not alone. The history of the world is filled with stories of people executing each other based on ethnic origins. Or language. Or skin color. Or religion.
It seems as though this is a rather regular occurrence. It seems as though at least some people are easily influenced to murder, torture and degrade. It must be somewhere in the genes.
But what triggers it? In all cases it is the demagogue. The man or small group of men who lead others. They use fear of the “other”. The “other” is out to get you. The “other” is the fault of all of your problems. Fear is the strongest emotion.
And, if the “other” is a danger, what is the next step? Dehumanization. People don’t kill people except in self-defense. But the “other” is not a person. The other is less than a person. The other is sub-human. It (not he or she) can be dealt with. Confine the “other”. Deport the “other”. Exterminate the “other”. Spray the hornet’s nest. Set out the mouse traps. Shoot the varmints. The other is not worthy of life.
Understanding Hitler. Hitler understood the power of the “other”. The power of propaganda. The power of labeling. The power of prejudice. The power of hatred. He understood the very small step to dehumanization. He understood that people will do what is necessary if you can convince them to cross the line. The line of viewing other humans as less than human. As vermin.
So, watch the Trump rallies. Watch the snarls. Watch the hatred displayed toward the “liberals”. Listen to the “Lock Her Up” chants. Watch the leader foment hatred . Encourage hatred towards the other. And a candidate talks about roughing those who disagree with him.
And watch as “normal” people separate 3 year olds from their mothers . Watch as a judge passes judgment on a 5 year old who doesn’t even speak English and sits alone in a courtroom. Watch as unarmed men are shot down in the street because their skin color tells you they are dangerous. Listen as the president’s spokesperson calls members of the FBI “crooked”. Wonder as the president of the United States call a free press the “Enemy of the People”.
Are you really still confused about how the extermination of the Jews was carried out? Do you think that some of the citizens of the industrialized nation of Germany in the 1930s are somehow any different than some of the citizens of the United States today? Have people evolved to a higher plane in 70 years?
You want to understand the Nazis? Look around you.