Important Take-Aways from ‘They Thought They Were Free’ Pt1

Men who did not know that they were slaves do not know that they have been freed. (Pg 62)

This is a fantastic quote to start with.  I’ve discussed the relationship between Knowledge and Sin before, and this is similar.  Knowledge is revelation, and the best way to stem revelation is to increase fear.  Which is the State’s forte, whether Nazi, Mao, or US; just varying degrees.  The nazi’s were fearful but also prosperous, a dangerous condition which made them ignorant to slavery.

Sixty days before the end of the war, Teacher Hildebrandt, as a first lieutenant in command of a disintegrating Army subpost, was informed by the post doctor that an SS man attached to the post was going crazy because of his memories of shooting down Jews “in the east”; this was the closet any of my friends came to knowing of the systematic butchery of National Socialism. (Pg 71)

Isn’t that just amazing?  The Nazi government was able to hide its horrific actions from the same citizens who were funding it.  The question is, did they just not know, or was there willful ignorance involved on the people’s part?

The “democratic,” that is, argumentative, bill-collector, Herr Simon, was greatly interested in the mass deportation of Americans of Japanese ancestry from our West Coast in 1942. He had not heard of it before, and, when I told him of the West Cost Army Commander’s statement that “a Jap is a Jap,” he hit the table with his fist and said, “Right you are. A Jap is a Jap, a Jew is a Jew.”“A German a German,” I said. “Of course,” said the German, proudly. “It’s a matter of blood.”

He asked me whether I had known anybody connected with the West Coast deportation. When I said “No,” he asked me what I had done about it. When I said “Nothing,” he said, triumphantly, “There. You learned about all these things openly, through your government and your press. We did not learn through ours. As is your case, nothing was required of us – in our case, not even knowledge. You knew about things you thought were wrong – you did think it was wrong, didn’t you, Herr Professor?” “Yes.” “So. You did nothing. We heard, or guessed, and we did nothing. So it is everywhere.” When I protested that the Japanese-descended Americans had not been treated like the Jews, he said, “And if they had been what then? Do you not see that the idea of doing something or doing nothing is in either case the same?” (Pg 81)

And if they had been what then?  An excellent question that should give us all pause.  Especially in today’s world without habeus corpus, indefinite detention, and the war on terror.  I for one, do not want to be ignorant of what goes on in my name, nor benefiting the evil actions condoned in my name.  Yet sadly, I know my money goes towards evil every, single day; and yet I continue to pay.  Why?  Fear.  Don’t we all fear retribution?  It is easier to pay my taxes despite that they fund inhumane wars, welfare for people who don’t need it, abortions, murder, theft, the list goes on.  I fund these actions.  Yes, I know I’m “forced” to; but truly no one is ever really forced to do anything.  It’s just that I’d rather fund evil actions done on others then have evil actions done to me.  I realize this.  Among men there are few more selfish and lazy then I.

This post begins a long series of commentary on quotes pulled from They Thought They Were Free, the Germans 1933-45 by Milton Mayer.  The book itself is home to a lot of revelations to the nature of people and I do recommend reading it.  To see the short review of the book itself please click this link, to see other commentary like this post click this link.


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