In 1955, the
Keep in mind that in 1955,
Mayer’s conversations found something quite different. The small-town citizens in
This really shouldn’t surprise anyone. I once had a sociology professor who spouted on and on about how dictators oppressed their subjects, forcing them to do things that the free man would never do.
He was completely wrong, of course. As history has shown time and again, the strongest man is only as strong as his arm or his vision.
Any ruler, whether democrat or despot, saint or sinner, potentate or president, rules only because a substantial number of people permit him. A ruler maintains himself in power by convincing enough people that (a) there is an insoluble problem and (b) he is the best man to address that problem. If either (a) or (b) ever fails to be convincing, then his rule ends.
When the Italians were convinced that Mussolini was no longer an asset, he became a lamp-post ornament. The Italians could have hung him anytime they wanted to; they simply weren’t convinced his exit was in their interests until they met a stronger strong-man. In this sense, the only distinction a democracy has over a dictatorship is a reduced (but not entirely eliminated) tendency to kill the ex-leader as he exits, stage left. It’s not at all clear that there is such a thing as a dictator.
Mayer points this out early on:
When I asked Herr Wedekind, the baker, why he had believed in National Socialism, he said, “Because it promised to solve the unemployment problem. And it did. But I never imagined what it would lead to. Nobody did.”
I thought I had struck pay dirt, and I said, “What do you mean, ‘what it would lead to,’ Herr Wedekind?”
“War,” he said. “Nobody ever imagined it would lead to war.” [The baker saw nothing wrong with Nazism until
September 1, 1939, when, he was told, attacked Poland .] Germany
The lives of my nine friends – and even the tenth, the teacher – were lightened and brightened by National Socialism as they knew it. And they look back at it now – nine of them, certainly – as the best time of their lives; for what are men’s lives? There were jobs and job security, summer camps for the children and the Hitler Jugend to keep them off the streets.
An anti-Nazi woman jailed for listening to foreign radio but actually for hiding Jews (which was not technically illegal), said, “I remember standing on a Stuttgart street corner in 1938, during a Nazi festival, and the enthusiasm, the new hope of a good life, after so many years of hopelessness, the new belief after so many years of disillusion, almost swept me, too, off my feet. Let me try to tell you what that time was like in Germany: I was sitting in a cinema with a Jewish friend and her daughter of thirteen, while a Nazi parade went across the screen, and the girl caught her mother’s arm and whispered, ‘Oh, Mother, Mother, if I weren’t a Jew, I think I’d be a Nazi!’ No one outside [of
] seems to understand how this was.” Germany
That, Mayer discovered, is how Nazism became a mass movement:
The crash of the synagogue dome awakened the Rupprechts. They could see the glowing half dome from their house.
“Papa,” said the mother, “It’s the synagogue.”
The father said nothing.
“Of course it’s the synagogue,” said 14-year old Horst, excited, “Juda verrecke! May the Jews drop dead! May I go to the fire? They’ll all be there, Pa. Can I?”
“They won’t all be there, Horstmar. You won’t be there.”
It was a long speech for his father.
“Horst, Where did you learn to say ‘Juda verrecke’?”
Horst replied, “In the Ha-Jot, the Hitler Youth.”
“So,” said his father, “in the Ha-Jot.”
“They don’t teach it, Pa, you just hear it there. The other kids say it. They all say it.”
“Like ‘they’ll all be there,’ ” said his father.
“You just hear it, Pa, don’t you understand?”
The Nazis killed six million Jews, five million Gentiles, three million of those being Catholic. They were tried for crimes against humanity, one of which is abortion.
Adolf Hitler attempted to carry out a Putsch in 1923 and received a five year sentence, of which he served about nine months.
The serial murderer, Jack Kevorkian, who used essentially the same gassing and poisoning techniques used by the Nazis, was acquitted of murder numerous times before he was finally convicted and sentenced to 25 years: he served eight.
Nazi doctors conducted deadly medical experiments on camp prisoners for about four years starting in 1941.
American doctors conducted deadly medical experiments on the black community for about forty years, starting in 1932 and only ending in 1972.
The Nazis began compulsory sterilization programs in the 1930s. Theirs ended in the 1940s.
By 1935, it was illegal for a Jew to be a citizen in
In 2007, we call for the mass deportation of Hispanics who have been declared legal outlaws by the state.
We think we are free. Are we?
I am an American of German extraction. Are we - am I - more free in this country than my cousins were in
Well, there are no brownshirts to break down my door. I can run a business more easily here than anywhere in the world. Economically, I am very free, just like the ten men Mayer interviewed. But is money all that matters?
Aren’t we all in the American version of the Hitler youth? Euthanasia, contraception, abortion, sterilization: even when it is not explicitly taught, everyone talks about the need for these things. It's obvious that we should accept contraception, sterilization, homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, and fight to deport Hispanics without proper papers.
Don't I understand?
As long as we sterilize ourselves, kill our own children, euthanize the aged among us, rail against the dirty, conniving illegal, are we free? Are these things to be proud of?
In these respects, I am not proud to be an American, because I am not sure we’re free.