A German TV movie about a political prisoner who falls in love with her interrogating officer in the early 1980s drew angry accusations ahead of its screening that it humanized the dreaded East German secret police.
— Deutsche Welle
Excuse me, it what? Humanized? As in, made the Stasi seem… human? When in reality they were, what, howler monkeys? Cuttlefish?
Nopers. They were human. The Nazis too. Stalin, Idi Amin, Pol Pot and all the people who carried out their orders and enabled them to become grand-scale murderers instead of mere serial killers, they were all people. Casting them as something other than human is a way to avoid confronting the potential for atrocity that we all carry in us. Comforting, to think we don’t have to battle those same impulses in ourselves because we are somehow naturally better than that, but in fact the real reason is that we’ll probably never have the opportunity. Each of us might turn out to be better, or not, and you just don’t know until you’re in that situation, is what I think.
For my Nazi Germany class I read a book called Ordinary Men, by Christopher Browning. Well, I read parts of it. With one eye closed, and holding it at arm’s length, because it was harrowing. It was about the people tasked with actually making the Final Solution happen: not the desk jockeys who thought it up and signed the orders, but the ones who actually had to kill the actual people. His conclusion was that they were ordinary people forced to cope with an extraordinary situation. Browning spoke at one of the class lectures, and he said when it was first published people took issue with the title: it should be called Ordinary Germans, because only Germans would do such terrible things.
I find that (still unfortunately common) attitude unconscionably cowardly, complacent, and dishonest, and I think it’s what enables the Israeli goverment (separate and distinct from the Israeli people as individuals or from Jews Everywhere, so don’t even start that specious anti-semitism crap with me) to treat the Palestinians the way they do, and what enables the current U.S. regime to sanction torture, War for Oil, and Gitmo. The Nazis, they were Bad People who did Bad Things, but we are Good People, and if we do the same Bad Things, it’s to achieve different ends, so that’s okay. We wear the white hats.
But actions speak louder than words, and history will judge us for what we did, not for what we wore.