Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Moral failure

Yesterday I was surprised to find the current Forbes magazine in my mailbox: the "30th Annual Almanac of Wealth." I have never subscribed to the magazine, am not wealthy, nor am I unusually interested in those who are, so its appearance was something of a mystery. Perhaps it was a premium unnoticed by me when I bought something online. Nevertheless I almost immediately found something interesting in a Steve Forbes column: a book review titled "Why They Stuck With Hitler." The book is The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939–-1945. Forbes writes that the book "brilliantly and with impressive nuance and texture deals with the astounding questions of how the most educated and cultured nation on earth could unloose such a murderous, barbarous and genocidal war and why most Germans—Nazis and non-Nazis alike—closed ranks around Hitler, even when it became clear the war was going to end disastrously." And "This is an extremely interesting and disheartening tale of a civilized people's descent into barbarism." From the review, the German Church:
.... A prominent Protestant, Bishop Wurm of Wurttemberg, faintheartedly protested the Nazi regime's policy of murdering "deformed" infants and the mentally ill by administering poisonous drugs or starving them to death, while Catholic Bishop Galen of Münster initially courageously and publicly condemned the practice. The death toll from this alone was well over 200,000. Yet Galen vigorously supported the invasion of the "Jewish Bolshevik" Soviet Union and refused any aid to Jews, even to those who had years before converted to Christianity, while Wurm privately wrote letters to the Reich in support of those converts. As this book makes clear, both the Protestant and the Catholic churches were guilty of moral failure.

A number of German soldiers and officials were uneasy or outright horrified by what was happening, but most did nothing about it. ....

Most German civilians were aware of the mass killing of the Jews and other atrocities through letters and photos sent to them by husbands, sons, brothers and friends, and from conversations when these men came home on leave.

Goebbels was a master at making the home front complicit in what was happening, first by noting Hitler's January 1939 "prophecy" that if the Jews launched another European war they would perish, and then letting events speak for themselves—the deportation of German Jews and the auctioning off of their property, along with what people learned from news sent by their relatives fighting on the Eastern Front. ....