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The Humanization of Nazis

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by J.A. Costigan, Oct 31, 2008.

  1. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Even if we broaden this discussion to cover Facism in general and omit the horrendious atrocities of the Holocaust for the moment, the Nazis, Italian Facists and, other variants of Facism fell between bad and dehumanizingly evil.

    Magda in the following seems to slather prase on the Nazis for their social efforts:

    But, this omits that the Nazis also expected their followers to be xenophobic nationalists. They set up cradle to grave systems of social control like Hitler Youth for indoctrinating childern and then took control of the unions to ensure these same children would remain compliant as adults.
    Did having a system of secret police and domestic spys (eg., the Gestapo) bring increased "securirity" (sic) or a "safe place to live?" I doubt it. Living in fear of the government is as bad as living in fear of criminals.
    Was it a good thing that the Nazis wanted to dumb down the nation feeling that a turn-of-the-century high school education was more than enough for the nation as a whole? That ridding Germany of much of its higher education and outlawing many fields of study as anti-government or for racist reasons was good? Physics, music, art, philosophy, all felt the axe of Nazi political correctness in Germany. Was that a good thing for the nation?
    Government control of the economy to a large degree might have brought more people their basic needs but it also crushed any hope of increasing one's own wealth and ability in doing so. Was this good for the average German? I think not.
    The Nazis also wanted Germany to become more like a 19th Century agrarian society with peasant farmers making up the bulk of the population. Was this a good thing in the mid-20th Century world for Germany? I doubt it.

    Even before the war the Nazis had given scraps of bread out to placate the masses just as the Communists did all-the-while plotting for the bigger destruction of social and individual freedoms. The Nazis were just as evil socially as Communists have been.
    They need to be shown in their true light in order that it does not happen again.
     
  2. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    An extremely astute post Von Poop.

    I don't think it is immoral to protray evil men in their moment of weakness and vulnerability. It shows how degenerate and dangerous those people truly are, without taking them so out of context that we become incapable of sympathizing with them--in a sense that their humanity is recognized. Even abhorrent beings such as those are humans, and the admittance of that fact does not diminish my repugnance at what they stand for or what they do.

    On the other hand, it is ingenious to praise the most narcissistic and degenerate regime that ever existed for treating "its own" well, which was achieved by taking the spoils of war from the cold dead bodies of those who were not its own. The Nationalist Socialists also precipitated the events that ended in Germany's total ruin, and persisted in policies that they knew for sure would have prolonged the sufferings of what passed for their citizens. Hitler thought those Germans who had survived to May 1945 as weak and underserving of life, a terribly conceited view for someone who was tucked away in a bunker while his adoring subjects were massacred by the thousands arround him, but ironically correct when applied to one such as himself.
     
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  3. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    it is the degree of their respect, or lack thereof for their fellow humans upon which they are judged.

    This is an accumulation of information, including from my step-mother who was 14 when the Nazis fell. She was the daughter of a dairy family in the Holstein district. She informed me that her father was not required to join the party in order to sell his milk and cheese, only "strongly encouraged" to join; so that he could continue in his chosen field of endevor. He was also reminded just what "difficulties" he may encounter in order to purchase any supplements for his cows, including salt if he didn't join.

    But that said, in the 1928 elections the NSDAP only captured 2.6% of the popular vote, and appropriate seats in the Reichstag. In 1932 elections they picked up to 33.1% and became the largest single party in the Reichstag with 230 seats, as a reflection of the onset of the now global Great Depression. But in no single election did the NSDAP capture more than 44% of the vote. It went sort of like this (first year they stood for national position): 1924-6%, 1928-2.6%, 1930-18.3%, 1932-33.1%, and in 1933-43.9%. So in spite of their hollow promises, they still didn't gain full acceptance in the Germany of the time.

    In February 1932, feeling that his party might be strong enough, Hitler figured he should run against Hindenburg in the forthcoming Presidential election, but unfortunately he was not yet a German citizen. He repaired that little problem only on February 25th of ‘32. He had always been an Austrian, and a "royal dispensation" had been required for him to enlist in the Bavarian volunteers to serve the Kaiser in WW1.

    But when he stood against Hindenburg the result was less than "sweeping"! The election of March 1932 awarded Hindenburg 49.6% of the vote, and Hitler 30.1%. There were two or three other candidates who absorbed the remaining votes. In a "run-off" election between Hindenburg, Hitler and only one other candidate, Hitler again lost to Hindenburg; 36.8 to 53%. The Nazis (after a slight decline in seat numbers in the previous election) were the largest single PARTY elected in the July 1932 elections, the Nazi Party won 13,745,000 votes which gave them 230 out of the 608 seats in the Reichstag. Although the Nazis were the largest party, they were far short of a majority. However with Herman Goering as President of the Reichstag (sort of like our Speaker of the House), they could bring the government and its legislation to a halt by walking out and not voting, but the Nazis still did NOT control the Reichstag in the manner needed (2/3) for constitutional change.

    The APPOINTMENT (not election) of Hitler in January of 1933 to the post of Chancellor was well within the purview of President Hindenburg (and legal), Hindenburg had tried to avoid it for months. However, it remains that Hitler was never elected to any post outside of the NSDAP itself. The one single vote against him for leader of the NSDAP was cast by a librarian, who mysteriously "disappeared" from the party rolls the next week. Harbinger of things to come?

    A month after his appointment (Feb. 27th), the Reichstag fire, blamed on the Communists (but likely orchestrated by the Nazis themselves) occurred, and STILL with most of his political enemies in JAIL due to public OUTRAGE, he STILL couldn't swing the populace to completely vote for his party or HIM! In the last truly "open election" in Weimar Germany in Feb. 1933, the party still only received 44% of the vote. Then here comes the "goodie" as to who was a Nazi and why IMO.

    Less than a single month after that fire, The Enabling Act was placed before the Reichstag on March 23rd, and allowed the powers of legislation to be taken away from the Reichstag and transferred to Hitler's (hand-picked) cabinet for a period of four years, the only instance in which an elected legistative body voted itself out of power (to my knowledge). Quickly on the heels of this, on July 14th Hitler had unilaterally proclaimed a law which made the Nazi Party the only political party allowed in Germany, if you weren’t a Party member (in at least a nominal fashion) you were removed from your job. Governmental or civilian. The Nazification of Germany was underway.

    Then ten months after assuming power, Hitler held a referendum vote, and nine out of ten who COULD vote, voted that "Hitler was doing a good job", but it should be remembered that nearly the whole German nation had been made less diverse by the Allied occupations of some regions post-WW1, which may account for even that 1 negative vote per 10. In time, even Hitler's staunchest opponents among businessmen, academics and other (non-Jewish) "persons of quality" hopped on the band wagon and talked about "changing times."

    When he couldn't gain the support of the Wehrmacht with the SA still in existence, about eighteen months after coming to power, on June 30th 1934 Himmler's SS and Goering's special police arrested and executed the leaders of the SA, including Ernst Roehm. And lets not forget that those SS and "special police" also executed many others not connected with the SA, but against whom the Nazi leaders had a score to settle. Including General von Schleicher, the former Chancellor. None were given a trial, none were spared if they were even slightly anti-Nazi.

    A few days later Hindenburg dies, and Hitler assumes the office of both President and Chancellor, created the position of Fuehrer and eliminated the other offices! Hitler, always the opportunist, managed to suppress Hindenburg's will, which included the wish and hope that upon his death the monarchy should be restored. Shortly after the President's death, Hitler had the loyalty oath altered for the military, and eventually in the same year all German citizens had to take it to keep their jobs.

    This made ALL German citizens swear an oath to defend Adolf Hitler, and follow his orders without question. Not an allegiance to the state, the constitution, an office, or anything but ADOLF HITLER himself! And through that medium in effect, the Nazi party. Shortly thereafter, private firm employees were required to join the only "union" in Nazi Germany in order to work. Before May of 1933 the workers of Weimar Germany were in these unions:

    Free Trade Unions-4,569,876 members -65.9%
    Christian Trade Unions-1,283,272 members-18.5%
    Other Unions-1,081,371 members-15.6%
    Total union labor- 6,934,519 members.

    Those union members were required to join the "German Labor Front", which confiscated all other union property, bank accounts, membership lists, and which replaced all the unions in Weimar Germany after May of 1933.

    Ironically on the newly proclaimed "Labor Day", the union members returned from the joyous celebratory parade to find their offices occupied by the party, with machine guns in the front doors. I may be mis-interpreting this info. from late June, '33 as well:

    "By Party proclamation, all associations of workers not yet 'concentrated' in the German Labor Front have to report within eight days. Thereafter they were to be notified of the branch of the German Labor Front which 'they will have to join'." Seems to myself that the German Labor Front was a subject of the Nazi Party, and by extension Party members swore the oath.

    As stated, I am only anecdotally referring to my step-mother’s experience as a young farm girl on a personal level, perhaps she was "covering" for her parents? I know not.

    The way she explained it the "party card" was necessary for selling their dairy products at top price, and without one their milk and cheese products were open to "confiscation" for the "good of the state". Made sense when she explained it (but she sure could be an old Nazi liar, although I doubt it), I don’t know, I have always liked her actually.

    I certainly wasn’t selling milk in the Holstein district between 1934/1946, her father was. My step-mother did point out that it was "voluntary" to join the party, but the disadvantages of NOT joining made it less than an intelligent choice.

    So, the industrialists and business owners LOVED the Nazi party, the Nazis outlawed independent unions and made the workers literally the "property" of the owners! Many more of the populace were "hoodwinked" by the speeches and promises, or perhaps self-serving egotists who believed they were "better" than their own accomplishments had shown.

    But those who were NOT taken in had NO legal power to contradict Hitler or the Nazis after Hindenburg’s death and the new loyalty oath in 1934. After that moment in time, you were either a Nazi (hard-core or by title superficially), or you were out of a job, out of the military, unable to vote, unable to emigrate (non-citizens couldn’t get a visa), unable to keep a bank account, or perhaps you were in a KZ where you were definitely NOT a citizen of the Greater Reich!

    It sure wasn't like choosing to be a Republican, Democrat or Independent, Labor or Conservative party member in other western nations at the time. If you didn't at least "mouth" the slogans your butt was going to be in a sling in the years of the Third Reich. Is my deductive reasoning flawed here? If so, I apologize.
     
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  4. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    In reading through this thread, I'm disturbed by the fact that we tend to focus on the behavior of the "Nazis", i.e. Germans of a particular fascist political party, when we know full well that the behavior that we all deplore was, and remains, far more widespread than just those regions controlled by the Nazis during World War II.

    During the war, the Japanese engaged in behavior that was just as cruel, brutal, and destructive of human life as any the Nazis perpetrated, and if anything, on a larger scale. They were led by a geeky little marine biologist who was reportedly devoted to his wife and family, and who survived the war. Yet we never refer to Hirohito as an "inhuman monster" even though he knowingly issued, or approved, orders that doomed millions to excruciating deaths. Why is that?

    We know others also shared these traits; the Russians who fought on our side, the Chinese, and more recently, the Cambodians, and a certain middle-eastern dictatorship, not to mention countless human cultures in our more remote history. In fact, the brutish behavior that we would like like to think of as "inhuman" and "monstrous" is so common an occurrence among human groups as to raise the question, is the human that engages in it an aberration, or are we?

    To answer the original poster's question, is it acceptable to depict the Nazis as humans with more or less normal human concerns, I think, if we want to be logically consistent, the answer has to be yes. They did unspeakable things to their fellow humans, but so did Hirohito and the Japanese nation.

    Were the Nazis figuratively human? Many may not like this answer, but I think it also has to be yes, they were human. We cannot honestly disqualify them, much as we would like to, as humans when the evidence is that a significant portion of the human race throughout history has behaved more or less as they have. That doesn't mean we shouldn't criticize such behavior, nor strive to make it unacceptable in the future, but to deny them their humanity is simply a fiction to make ourselves feel better about our humanity.
     
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  5. Stefan

    Stefan Cavalry Rupert

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    Well said (twice in one week, freaky)!

    It is very easy for us to pretend that Hitler was an aberration, to say that those who committed the attroceties were weird or different, look human history though. It is a catalogue of violence, suffering and persecution, usually at the hands of other humans. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, what about Rawanda, Somalia, Vietnam, Korea, Medieval Europe, ancient Rome, history is replete with exampels of societies which have done 'evil.'

    It almost makes one wonder what is a more common human trait, kindness or cruelty. I hope it's kindness but when you look at history, well, I'm not so sure and that is truly horrifying.
     
  6. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Sadly kindness doesn't get the press, nor fascinate as readily as cruelty and "evil". I too hope it is kindness and tolerance, but unfortunately that stuff doesn't get the "ink" or the "air-time", too boring.
     
  7. Richard

    Richard Expert

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    What is a Nazi? A person may be, not in my book. A right wing view point that has been around for many years in many forms, one form took place in Germany under Hitler. We are all humans who have the will to think for ourselves and take a view point for better or worst.

    Stalin killed more than Hitler ever did so why is Hitler regarded more evil?
    Nazism came to a bloody end in May 1945 but the evil behind it goes on in to another form and what ever the Nazis did they were humans not robots.
     
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  8. dgmitchell

    dgmitchell Ace

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    Stefan/Clint -- I think that kindness does eventually prevail. Life gets increasingly better for people on our planet and oppression eventually falls to forces that most of us would agree to be good. We are not a perfect species by any means, but we do tend toward what is right. Sadly, because our species does have free will, there are those who sometimes try to push us towards evil, but so far, whether we call them Nazis or something else, they have always lost.
     
  9. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    As I have noted elsewhere, the worse the thread subject or the worse the provocation - even from what appears to be the reincarnation of Frau Göbbels - the way this works, quite contrarily to the disruptor's intent, is to bring out the best in the forum membership and make them shine like a beacon of wisdom. I'm raising my glass in a collective toast to you all :)
     
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  10. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    I thought so too Za,
    Damned civilised.

    Cheers,
    Adam.
     
  11. J.A. Costigan

    J.A. Costigan Member

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    I am relived this has gone well so far to (knock on wood).
     
  12. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Yes, my blood pressure is maintaining itself well within the acceptable ranges. Of course, that dose of oral beta blocker I take every night may play a small part in that.
     
  13. Seadog

    Seadog Member

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    No matter, the country, religion, or social standing, there are those who trend outside the boundaries of decency and honor. Even those who have been brought up to be moral, can be corrupted by circumstances. There is no war, no army that has not seen atrocities. Often those who are bombarded with atrocity will get desensitized to it, or so angered that they demand retaliation.

    I was just reading about the Mexican-American War and the atrocities committed by 'volunteer' American troops. Our nation prides itself on its honorable military, but there is a constant effort required by every level of command to maintain the training, discipline, and oversight needed to prevent situations that get out of control. Any military that denies those requirements is doomed to create groups of killers.

    The big difference in most wars is that when they have rogues, the winners can hide, or repress many incidents. The number of Russian atrocities was enormous, but many of the cases were buried in history. The Japanese atrocities are legendary, but people tend to accept them more because of a eurocentric belief that asian cultures are more brutal by nature. There are events of shame by all of the Allied nations, whether by their military or their civilian leadership.

    It is the totality of the crimes committed by the Nazis that shocked the world. I think a lot of people feel a shame because they too held attitudes similar to the the Germans in the 1920s and 1930s. Even today, anti-Judaism, in those countries that are the standard bearers for society, exists and flourishes among many groups that have no relation to skin heads and low lifes. We are a flawed species, but one that continues to grow mentally. Those aspects that reflect the worse of our ways, are there. And they are closer to the surface than we want. The animal side of our psyche is always there. Like an addiction, we must control it one day at a time. Many fail, especially in times of stress.

    I consider the Nazis as human beings. I also think that any person that actively supports the mistreatment of any person(s), or overt cruelty to them, deserves the full penalty of society. The problem is whose society. The murder of millions of Americans may be condemned by 95% of world countries, but at any point in time, there are those countries whose governments/populations would welcome such an event. And you can replace Americans with probably any other nation, race, religion, etc. It cannot be condoned or accepted, but it has to be recognized as a human trait.
     
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  14. Seadog

    Seadog Member

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    It is also important to realize that any society that teaches to de-humanize any group, whether it is in the home, church, school, or government, will continue the work of the Nazis.
     
  15. Kruska

    Kruska Member

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    How could I miss on this thread in the first place :eek:

    First of all let me appologize for a (Countrymen?) previous statements, taking into account that he might have used the wrong wordings.

    Nazis are humans - but they are not humane in regards to their actions which is as such defined by the majority. Being a Nazi had nothing to do with Autobahn or unemployment - those people were victims off a hidden Nazi policy and as such supported a Regime of which most of them didn't really know or understand about - until it was too late.

    The Nazi policy/doctrine is to exterminate "any other unsuitable human" that is not worth living according to their doctrine and definition of natures law. The Nazi policy resembles or nutures itself from their interpretation of the animal kingdom - very well portrait in the movie "The Downfall" - with Hitler having supper and talking about monkeys.

    Only the strong and therefore "worthwile" can survive in natures habitat, the weak are doomed by natures law. A crippled animal will be killed first by a predator - it can't hope to be protected by its herd.

    Well this is exactly the point where the Nazis are wrong from the start: in many documentations it is shown how the herd is actually forming a ring of protection around their younger or crippled members.

    As such a human society would indeed have to support a weaker part of its family even more then the animals already do.

    Conclusion:

    Nazis are humans but their thoughts and thus actions are even below the acceptance and behavioral of animals.

    Regards
    Kruska
     
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  16. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I think there are two main reasons:
    A) Stalin was at one time an ally of the western democracies, it's hard to admit you allied yourself with evil. The "Hitler was worse, Uncle Joe was the lesser evil" has a lot of root in that.
    B) There are some possible arguments to support that theory. Stalin, for all his crimes, did not engage in industrialized genocide, the Gulags AFAIK where concentration not outright extermination camps. Death rates in concentration camps are high but the idea behind them is, at least officially, not to kill the inmates but to isolate them until conditions outside change. That bad living conditions, lack of food and medical supplies and unchecked guards brutality blur the difference is true but a difference exists. I may be mistaken but, I believe, the whole idea of concentration camps for civilians started with Kitchener in the Boer war, it was not a Soviet idea.
    The mass killer of the Stalin regime was simply starvation, not the NKVD. This was due to forced reorganization of the agricultural system that caused a production drop, and to deportations to break up possible trouble spots. While the results was a human tragedy on a possibly unprecedented scale the motivation behind it was not "evil" by itself the way outright genocide or ethnic cleansing is.
    My personal opinion is that both are "off the scale" so comparison is impossible.
     
  17. Miguel B.

    Miguel B. Member

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    TiredOldSOldier, I do not agree with some parts of your post. Stalin did killed a lot of people and the ones that died from starvations died because of uncle Joe. His 5 year plan was just criminal. He knew (as did Lenin that's why he didn't press it forward) that reorganizing agriculture and industry would bring death and starvation. But he did it anyway... Now, that's criminal. I use to think (regarding Hitler and Stalin comparisons) in the "as much as" area rather than better or worse.



    Cheers...
     
  18. Lippert

    Lippert Member

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    It is easy to be angry and have fierce opinions about this subject, and many here have done an excellent job being objective.

    I personally think that it is important for us to realize that these people were human beings, despite the atrocities some committed. While there were some horrible things that occurred, and one can argue that facism itself was evil, we need to remember that this happened to people who were at one time or another not a whole lot different from ourselves.

    The true value in the "humanization" is not in giving credit to anyone's acts, creed, or personality. The true value is realizing that it happened to real people and that it is our responsibility to never do it again. It's sometimes difficult to perceive that some were mentioned as being excellent fathers, or animal lovers or that they were capable of even feeling emotions like love. But the emotion of hate is just as human and we have no problem assigning that.

    Slavery in the US, as well as the near annihilation of the Native Americans were not our finest hours - but I still find more people who can justify that and are willing to show some compassion to the executors of those atroticites. (No, I'm not saying that they were on the same scale - but they are in many ways just as evil).

    I'm not defending anyone here. But I am saying, that in my opinion, there is a great deal of value in recognizing that these were real people with hopes, dreams, aspirations, and fears. Some were definitely more askew than others. But lest we repeat history, let's learn from it and see that almost anyone can turn.
     
  19. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Miguel I fully agree with you, I was playng devil's advocate in an attempt to give an answer to Richard's question. I had hoped the final "both are off the scale" should have made that clear. I actually find Stalin more frightening as Hitler was most likely insane, at least at the end, so I can think "he was not like the rest of us". Stalin, apart from a massive dose of paranoia, which is a professional disease of dictators, and most unfortunately not an anti-survival trait for them, is the ultimate "ruthless politician". Most of his actions are of "the end justifies the means" type, criminal but not irrational and that's truly scary. I believe the motivation behind the reorganization of agriculture was to make the field workers, which did not generally support Comunism, more similar to factory workers that were it's power base, the fact that it did cause a mass starvation was an "side effect" in his way of thinking.
     
  20. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    It took me a long time studying history to even attempt to get a visual on what would have been the mindset of a typical German of the ww2 era. Actually, simply recall some of the things we have been told by our gov't about the wars we are fighting now and you have a good start.
    Try to imagine what your life would have been like if you'd been an average German adult person of 1930. Germany had been defeated in the most bloody war in history (you may even have fought in it and lost family members as well). The economy, struggling under horrendous inflation and reparation payments to the allies, is barely worthy of the name, you need a wheelbarrow of reichsmarks to buy a loaf of bread. The government is weak, ineffectual and battling for its existance, while Nazis and Communists fight and murder each other on the streets over who will take control. Your children are hungry and dont know how you'll heat your apartment in the winter, nor how you'll pay the rent next month. Everywhere you look is chaos and disorder. What do you want more than anything else, order, stability, a chance to earn a living! Along comes Herr Hitler, promising jobs, hope, and a return from the humiliation of Versailles and a restoration of Germany's former glory. So you vote for Hitler and lo and behold, his promises quickly come true. Germans are back to work, the thugs are off the streets (because they are now in power!) and there is order once more. The autobahns are built, German industry is steaming along once more, and even the trains run on time. Your children are not hungry and you have work.

    This of course is all the ordinary German wanted - only after it was too late did the German people recognize they had created the monster Hitler and his gang of criminals. By then of course, you could not even criticize the Nazis let alone vote them 0ut of power. So while the Germans were certainly not innocent in Hitler's rise to power, it is unfair to say they were any less human than any of us would have been - every society has its criminals. In the USA we are fortunate in that no matter what sort of person gets into office, even another Hitler - the damage he or she can do is limited by the congress and judicial system - and term limits.
     

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