Saturday, January 28, 2012

One More Reason to Hate the Nazis, or at least Two Nazis

As if you needed one.  But consider: we spend a good deal of time persuading our children, persuading ourselves, that good and evil come all mixed up in the world, that our enemies are rarely the personification of evil, nor we the image of sainthood.  We know that this is an attitude for adults: it is in touch with reality and it laces us with a chastening humility.

But now comes Max Hastings with his admirable review of two new biographies: one of Hitler's henchman, Heinrich Himmler, the other of Himmler's henchman, Reinhard Heydrich--the one, loving and attentive progenitor of the Nazi SS; the other chief architect of the Holocaust.  It must have been a depressing enterprise, plodding through the careers of two such nasty and destructive human beings--though not, perhaps, much wore than the research necessary for Hasting's own recent Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945.  But here's the capstone, per Hastings:

If the two authors' explanations of Himmler and Heydrich remain somehow unsatisfactory, this is surely because it is impossible to explain how two such contemptibly small people could encompass such vast horrors.
So Hastings, "The Most Terrible of Hitler's Creatures," New York Review of Books February 9, 2012, 38-9, 29.  Translated, I think: forget about "a little good in the worst of us:" these guys really were evil.   They can't even claim the Eichmann excuse of stupidity: they went about the work of inflicting untold misery on others every day with zeal and panache.  It's always wrong to claim moral superiority, especially for one's self.  But for this once, maybe we really were superior.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

another great aspect of this i got from the article was how plebian, how ordinary, how much these guys were losers. they could have been manager and sub manager of the clean up crew in a rocket factory at peenamunde. but they showed up at the right place at the right time.