* Lew’s comments on “The Nazi Conscience” by Claudia Koonz
Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 7, 2016
Claudia Koonz sets out to answer the question of why Germans were so willing to participate or at least stand aside for the murder of millions of innocent citizens. She puts forward the proposition that Christian Germans were prepared by the Nazis through a carefully executed program that included relentless denigration of Jews as subhuman enemies of the German “Volk,” coordinated with powerful enforcement against any who strayed from the Nazi line. Altogether she makes a sickeningly convincing case against both the Nazis and the Christian Germans, opposite sides of the same repulsive coin.
Koonz’ case is made even more powerful by the academic tone she almost always maintains. Surely there is anger simmering behind her words, but she rarely lets it filter through.
SELECTED EXCERPTS …
… The popular risers of anti-Semitism the planners of genocide followed a coherent set of severe ethical maximums derived from broad philosophical concepts … they denied the existence of universal moral values and instead promoted moral maxims which they saw as appropriate to their Aryan community … Asserting the superiority of their own communitarian values above all others
… Having fully absorbed knowledge of the “Jewish menace” … a Nazi was ready to accept deportation and murder as just … if he had a Jewish friend, he would say “what a misfortune that my friend is Jewish” rather than “how terrible it is at we are murdering Jews”
… The expulsion of Jews from Germans’ universe of moral obligations was carefully engineered
… The Nazi program sought to break ties between Jews and their surroundings … until Jews were totally isolated from the Christian German population
… The Nazis implemented an acceptance of “ethnic fundamentalism” which summoned its followers to seek vengeance for past wrongs and to forge a glorious future cleansed of ethnic aliens … Germans were enticed to participate in a moral universe accessible only to the favored
… Jews, who before 1933 were friends, neighbors, and colleagues … were now to be considered pariahs, a plague on Germany
… Hitler linked “Jewish” with despised values, such as urbanism, materialism, and greed … link the Jewish press with promoting decadence … blame moral degeneration on sexual intercourse between Jews and Christians
… Most Germans tacitly approved of persecution so long as they did not feel personally threatened or inconvenienced
… Heydrich: too many German citizens perceive Jews as harmless … they must be defined as a threat, loathsome as well as lethal
… Der Sturmer and Das Schwarze Korps both portrayed Jews as not only dangerous but also subhuman … words like “extinction” and “annihilation” he came routine … the intent was to create a German conscience that minimize the psychic stress they might experience when murdering Jews
… The final solution did not develop as evil incarnate but rather as the dark side of ethnic righteousness … to German Christians caught up what they perceived as a high moral purpose purification of racial aliens became a difficult but necessary duty