Recent discussion has often been along the lines of authority and how we obey authorities and what authorities to obey. Having found a few more relevant quotes in They Thought They Were Free by Milton Mayer I’d like to return to that theme once again.
Pg 290 – November 9th, 1948 at The Trials in Kronenburg, quote from the Senior Judge with approval from the others.
“Every defendant in this case, as in all preceding cases, has argued that he was acting under superior orders. The doctrine was asserted by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg that superior orders do not constitute a defense of a crime against humanity. This doctrine is not clear to this court. Citizens must obey the law and the officers of the law, or anarchy will rule. And yet, no man should commit an offense against humanity. Here we have an apparent contradiction.
That contradiction is related to the contradiction discussed a few weeks ago in We Ought To Obey God Rather Then Men which discussed the seemingly contradiction between Acts 5 “We must obey God rather than Men” and Romans 13 “submit to governing authorities”. Rather than reiterating what was said there, let’s take a look at this phrase “Citizens must obey the law and the officers of the law, or anarchy will rule.” This statement flies in the face of common sense that takes more than a second to reflect on it. Look where this is coming from; former Nazi Germany. It’s a pity Nazi Germany didn’t descent into “anarchy” because citizens weren’t obeying the law and it’s officers/enforcers. Wouldn’t anarchy would have been a welcome respite from the murderous, fascist tendencies of Nazi Germany?
For the duration of the emergency the city does not exist for the citizen but the citizen for the city.
Similar to the notion expressed above about how the Citizens must obey the law and law enforcers; but this is expressed so vividly in this quote. Morally this notion is abhorrent, as the citizen should never exist for the city. Not in this sense at least. As Christians we are called to serve others and to be a blessing to those around us (society / city / town / cul-de-sac) but the notion that is expressed here mainly refers to individuals sacrificing themselves for the government’s “greater good”. Something which, in most regimes in history has never been a good or wise goal.
The German nation had to drink to lighten itself, and what do nations drink but blood?
Definitely note worthy. In hard times, it has been noted that commerce like smoking, drinking, and gambling goes up. So many Germans, coming from a hyper-inflationary period, debt spiral, wealth destruction and familial destruction probably did turn to smoking, drinking, and gambling. The notion here is that the nation itself needed to drink to lighten itself, and when nations need to lighten themselves it is always at the expense of people. It doesn’t have to be their other people, the recent example of Zimbabwe is a reasonable example of a nation drinking its own blood and killing itself. The Nazi’s however, took it to other countries, just like Rome before it. Sacked and pillaged other nations, other people’s in order to make itself feel richer. But such a facade can never last. Just ask Mises.
“Didn’t I say … that whatever God sends us is good? We must wait until morning, and then we will understand the meaning of the night.” – From the Talmud
While technically this isn’t an original quote from They Thought They Were Free, it was used as a Chapter header. The sentiment is similar to verses in the Bible referencing how God can take evil, and turn it towards good works. Like in Genesis 50:20-21 with Joseph: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. Even in the worst of circumstances, God can still use evil for good.
This post is a continuation of 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 and all the quotes in one place please click this link, to see other commentary like this post click this link.