One of the most interesting proclamations by young freedom fighters is that if they were around before World War II, they "would do everything in there power to stop Hitler." It is a great thing, no doubt, to want to go back in time and warn the past of the impending danger. Although it is much easier to see the atrocities of Hitler and the Nazis long after-the-fact, the reality is is that most of these same jungen would be the ones to rally behind the madman if they were ever in the same situation.
"Now why would you say that, Forsaken Eagle!? I would NEVER support that mass murder!!!"
Here is the thing that I addressed before: we know of the Nazi atrocities long after-the-fact. The Holocaust, as the clearest example, was unknown until the waning days of WWII. Soviet soldiers were the first to uncover death camps. Soviets, always willing to smear the German public, were honest about their findings at the camps to their western allies. However, their word, despite the long war with the Axis powers, were not fully believed until western Allies laid eyes on the remains of the exterminated. Western civilization was unaware and unprepared to face the full reality of the disaster that was the war. On top of that, Hitler, before WWII dawned, was seen as a great leader who brought Germany back onto her feet and took Germans out of poverty.
"But what about the Germans!? They must have known what was happening to the Jews!!!"
The German public only knew about Jews, among others, being relocated. However, the death camps were almost completely outside of Germany. That, and the Goebbels propaganda machine kept the knowledge of such systematic exterminations outside the public ear. I guess it would also be easier to just assume that the Germans were born racist and anti-Semitic (so much for Nurture over Nature, huh). My personal belief, aside from the natural mistrust of all things different, was that the propaganda industry of Germany convinced the public that the Jewish people were really deceiving the system and controlling the future of the country. World War I, as the Nazis claimed, was the result of Jewish bankers making a profit at the cost of millions of others. I would argue that a similar situation exists here in the United States where scapegoating is running rampant on all sides.
"What does this have to do with me again?"
The youth that support Hitler and the Nazi Party were naive. Despite the usual cultural belief that the young are rebels, they are more likely to rally behind some form of authority that they believe will change the "status quo" and give them hope. In this regard, the youth ARE rebelling, but that does not mean they are trying to create democracy and freedom for all. This does not mean that the German kids were TRYING to commit evil, but were trying to find a sense of purpose, hope, and change. The suffering of the German public was an especially nurturing environment for the rise of a totalitarian government. The youth turned Hitler into a messiah figure for themselves, as a figure of hope. They were not malicious, only naive of the consequences their actions would have on themselves, their country, and the world. In their mission to have their own voices heard, they allowed the muzzling of others and eventually themselves (no need to give credence to those who gave you ultimate power). The Germans traded a wounded government and a crippled economy for something far worse in the long run.
"So why are you SO concerned about 'dehumanizing Hitler'?"
The most important aspect about Hitler was not the bad things he brought onto the world, but the fact that he was just human. It is never good to idolize a person to a messiah level of existence, as the majority of Germans did with Hitler. However, it is not more acceptable to treat Hitler as the devil incarnate. Hitler and the Nazis are often portrayed as "people" whose greatest pleasures in life are waging war and creating genocide. This is a form of intellectual laziness and dishonesty that will eventually, if not already, shoot us in the foot. By simply saying the Nazis were evil people instead of looking at the underlying structures of the forces that drives the dark side of humanity, history will probably be inclined to repeat itself.
I cannot help but feel that those people who claim to be open-minded about the reality of totalitarianism and corruption are only going to elect their own Hitler one day. Hitler was an unknown figure who happened to have the charisma for arousing the frustrations within people. He was quick to put a target on the people he perceived to be causing the suffering of Germany and played on the people's desire for a foreseeable solution. The people made Hitler a popular figure and nearly got him into office. German President Paul von Hindenberg appointed him as Chancellor of Germany before long. Hitler, before he bullied his way to having an empire, was viewed as a hero not only in mid-Europe, but also all throughout western civilization. After all, he was proclaimed man-of-the-year by Time magazine for encouraging the turnaround of Germany. On top of that, there were even Jewish advocates who agreed with Hitler's sentiment that Jews and Germans must live separately (however, I doubt those supporters had genocide on their minds; only hubris until the gravity of the situation took center stage). Hitler was by all means a good guy. It took the near takeover of Europe before people were forced to wake up to the reality facing them.
I conclude that the simple notion of good and evil is a grave threat to the freedoms of human beings everywhere. Hitler is arguably the most hated man of the twentieth century because of the great tragedies that happened under his rule. However, before he was the devil, Hitler was the messiah to both Germans and the international community. One has to wonder now about what future the present will bestow upon us. I have a fear (hopefully just a paranoia of youth) that the west is ready to see a new evil dictator. This person will capitalize on the discontent and petty prejudices of the populace. No, he won't have a sinister grin and a goofy mustache and tie up helpless young damsels to railroad tracks. The new dictator will be friendly, charismatic, and raise the spirits of those who will listen. My peers may claim to know that their personal responsibility to question authority, but they seem quick to replace the current authority with another that promises greener pastures and cotton candy for all. This is my view of ignorance of history and why it will only be repeated in time.
Until next time.
- Forsaken Eagle