I went to a Jewish school grade 1- grade 5. I spent my summer with my ultra-catholic, ultra-traditional German grandparents. My grandfather wore a Hitler-mustache. I’m told he used to say “I had mine first. Let Hitler shave his.” My grandparents were worried I would go to hell because I was going to a Jewish school. These opposing forces in my life left me a sort of perpetual inner conflict.
I recently gave my Swiss girlfriend Maus to read, and it was interesting hearing her perspective on it. Since I went to a Jewish school I grew up learning more about the holocaust than your average American, particularly on impact on the Jewish people and how it pertains to the modern Jewish identity, in particular Israel. Back there, my sister was the only kid I knew who didn’t personally know someone that had survived the holocaust. I think they all had a relatively direct connection to the Holocaust, whether it was a family member, or just a distant friend of the family now living in Israel. We spent a lot of time covering both the historical and emotional aspects thereof.
Now that was always kinda interesting for me, because I had to reconcile that with my German grandparents, who were responsible adults, even property owners, during the war. They were later refugees who had to leave their land in the Sudatenland, and resettle in Bavaria.
Now most Germans suffered as a result of WWII, by the end for certain. So as a result of this, and as a result of the moral implications of supporting the Nazis, it’s pretty hard to find a survivor who will admit to being supportive of Hitler and his policies. Okay, nowadays there aren’t so many survivors alive who were culpable adults during WWII, but back in the seventies there were plenty. I’m certain that if you would have taken a poll in the seventies, you would come to the conclusion that Hitler managed to take over and run Germany with the support of <1% of its population. This of course was not the case.
History shows, of course, that very very few of the German population actively opposed Hitler (I would love reference for this). Certainly not to the point of taking any significant risks. Well, very few of them survived it anyway, and my grandparents certainly did not. At the very least they supported Hitler with their silence and complacency, but they were my omi and opa! They were the next best thing (or maybe even sometimes better) to my parents! So of course I worshiped them. At the same time of course I believed every word they were teaching me at the IL Perez school.
I believe that it is for this reason that I worry so much about history repeating itself, with regard to the evils that feed fascism. Even if we disregard fascism per se, the fear of the harm (physical, psychological, economic and spiritual) that an out-of-control system or institution can perform is terrifying.
I knew my grandparents were sweet, nice, loving people, who almost certainly supported Hitler at some point in his career. This was never explicitly discussed, but I guess the majority of Germans supported Hitler at some point in his career, and I see no reason to believe that my Grandparents were an exception.Now, it’s impossible to get good information about this, because they didn’t have freedom of speech, but I wonder at what point most Germans stopped supporting him? Probably when it started negatively affecting their standard of living.
So I quickly came to the conclusion that anyone was capable of being a good nazi, just following orders. This of course proven by the Millgram experiment, but it’s a heady realization for an eight year old.
All of this is a really long winded buildup to saying that healines like: “Bosses’ power to check email”, and “Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear”, and “Administration Set to Use New Spy Program in U.S.” really fill me with anxiety.