Location: Germantown, Maryland, United States

Artist, have done many pastels and oil paintings of gymnasts and dancers in the past. Currently focusing on special effects of photos taken from downloaded gymnastics videos and importing frames, sometimes to show the sequences of dance and acrobatic movements.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Slouching Toward

Slouching Toward Kristallnacht

by Maryscott OConnor Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 10:08:19 AM PDT
crossposted from My Left Wing

A fascinating and terrifying excerpt of Milton Mayer's They Thought They Were Free: The
Germans 1933 - 1945Mayer, an American journalist of German/Jewish descent, says of his work:
"How could it -- the Holocaust -- have happened in a modern, industrialized, educated nation ?
The genesis of my interest in the Third Reich lies in my search for an answer to that enigmatic

I know few people who haven't asked themselves the same thing. The first, most likely hypothesis
is that most people didn't know what was happening to the Jews. I may be wrong, but I believe
that's been shot down pretty decisively by now.

The following excerpt from Mayer's They Thought They Were Free... provides some pretty
plausible clues (the emphases are mine)...

Maryscott OConnor's diary :: ::

"What no one seemed to notice," said a colleague of mine, a philologist, "was the ever widening
gap, after 1933,between the government and the people. Just think how very wide this gap was to
begin with, here in Germany. And it became always wider. You know it doesn't make people close
to their government to be told that this is a people's government, a true democracy, or to be
enrolled in civilian defense, or even to vote. All this has little, really nothing to do with knowing
one is governing.

What happened was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to be governed by
surprise, to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believe that the situation was so
complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if people could understand it, it could not be released because of
national security.

The crises and reforms (real reforms too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow
motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.
To live in the process is absolutely not to notice it -- please try to believe me -- unless one has a
much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us ever had occasion to develop.
Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, 'regretted,' that,
unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what
the whole thing was in principle, what all these "little measures" that no "patriotic German" could
resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his
field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.

"You will understand me when I say that my Middle High German was my life. It was all I cared
about. I was a scholar, a specialist. Then, suddenly, I was plunged into all the new activity, as the
universe was drawn into the new situation; meetings, conferences, interviews, ceremonies, and,
above all, papers to be filled out, reports, bibliographies, lists, questionnaires. And on top of that
were the demands in the community, the things in which one had to, was "expected to" participate
that had not been there or had not been important before. It was all rigmarole, of course, but it
consumed all one's energies, coming on top of the work one really wanted to do. You can see
how easy it was, then, not to think about fundamental things. One had no time."
"Those," I said, "are the words of my friend the baker. "One had no time to think. There was so
much going on.""

"Your friend the baker was right," said my colleague. "The dictatorship, and the whole process of
its coming into being, was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who
did not want to think anyway. I do not speak of your "little men", your baker and so on; I speak
of my colleagues and myself, learned men, mind you. Most of us did not want to think about
fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful,
fundamental things to think about - we were decent people - and kept us so busy with continuous
changes and "crises" and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the "national
enemies", without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were
growing, little by little, all around us. Unconsciously, I suppose, we were grateful. Who wants to

"How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I
do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered
that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice - "Resist the beginnings" and
"consider the end." But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings.
One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or
even by extraordinary men? Things might have changed here before they went as far as they did;
they didn't, but they might have. And everyone counts on that might.

"Your "little men," your Nazi friends, were not against National Socialism in principle. Men like
me, who were, are the greater offenders, not because we knew better (that would be too much to
say) but because we sensed better. Pastor Niemoller spoke for the thousands and thousands of
men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the
Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing:
and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist,
and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always
uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman,
and he did something - but then it was too late."
"Yes," I said.

"You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn't see exactly where or how to move. Believe me,
this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for
the next and the next. You wait for the one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when
such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don't want to act, or even to
talk, alone; you don't want to "go out of your way to make trouble." Why not? - Well, you are not
in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also
genuine uncertainty.

"Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows.
Outside, in the streets, in the general community, everyone is happy. One hears no protest, and
certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there will be slogans against the government
painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this.
In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues,
some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, "It's not so bad" or
"You're seeing things" or "You're an alarmist."

"And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can't prove it. These
are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don't know the end, and how do
you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the
Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even
neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought
as you have.

"But your friends are fewer now. Some have drifted off somewhere or submerged themselves in
their work. You no longer see as many as you did at meetings or gatherings. Informal groups
become smaller; attendance drops off in little organizations, and the organizations themselves
wither. Now, in small gatherings of your oldest friends, you feel that you are talking to yourselves,
that you are isolated from the reality of things. This weakens your confidence still further and
serves as a further deterrent to what? It is clearer all the time that, if you are going to do anything,
you must make an occasion to do it, and then you are obviously a troublemaker. So you wait, and
you wait.

"But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you,
never comes. That's the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come
immediately after the first and the smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently
shocked if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in "43" had come immediately after the "German
Firm" stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in "33". But of course this isn't the way it
happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of
them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and,
if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.
"And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you.
The burden of self deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little
boy, hardly more than a baby, saying "Jew swine," collapses it all at once, and you see that
everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live
in, your nation, your people is not the world you were in at all.

The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.

"You have gone almost all the way yourself. Life is a continuing process, a flow, not a succession
of acts and events at all. It has flowed to a new level, carrying you with it, without any effort on
your part. On this new level you live, you have been living more comfortably every day, with new
morals, new principles. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a
year ago, things that your father, even in Germany, could not have imagined.

"Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more
accurately, what you haven't done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do
nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one
had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood. A small matter, a matter of hiring
this man or that, and you hired this one rather than that. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.

"What then? You must then shoot yourself. A few did. Or "adjust" your principles. Many tried,
and some, I suppose, succeeded; not I, however. Or learn to live the rest of your life with your
shame. This last is the nearest there is, under the circumstances, to heroism: shame. Many
Germans became this poor kind of hero, many more, I think, than the world knows or cares to

I said nothing. I thought of nothing to say.

"I can tell you," my colleague went on, "of a man in Leipzig, a judge. He was not a Nazi, except
nominally, but he certainly wasn't an anti-Nazi. He was just a judge. In "42" or "43", early "43", I
think it was, a Jew was tried before him in a case involving, but only incidentally, relations with an
"Aryan" woman. This was "race injury", something the Party was especially anxious to punish. In
the case a bar, however, the judge had the power to convict the man of a "nonracial" offense and
send him to an ordinary prison for a very long term, thus saving him from Party "processing"
which would have meant concentration camp or, more probably, deportation and death. But the
man was innocent of the "nonracial" charge, in the judge's opinion, and so, as an honorable judge,
he acquitted him. Of course, the Party seized the Jew as soon as he left the courtroom.
"And the judge?"

"Yes, the judge. He could not get the case off his conscience; a case, mind you, in which he had
acquitted an innocent man. He thought that he should have convicted him and saved him from the Party, but how could he have convicted an innocent man? The thing preyed on him more and
more, and he had to talk about it, first to his family, then to his friends, and then to acquaintances.
(That's how I heard about it.) After the "44" Putsch they arrested him. After that, I don't know."
I said nothing.

"Once the war began," my colleague continued, "resistance, protest, criticism, complaint, all carried
with them a multiplied likelihood of the greatest punishment. Mere lack of enthusiasm, or failure
to show it in public, was "defeatism." You assumed that there were lists of those who would be
"dealt with" later, after the victory. Goebbels was very clever here, too. He continually promised
a "victory orgy" to "take care of" those who thought that their "treasonable attitude" had escaped
notice. And he meant it; that was not just propaganda. And that was enough to put an end to all

"Once the war began, the government could do anything "necessary" to win it; so it was with the
"final solution" of the Jewish problem, which the Nazis always talked about but never dared
undertake, not even the Nazis, until war and its "necessities" gave them the knowledge that they
could get away with it. The people abroad who thought that war against Hitler would help the
Jews were wrong. And the people in Germany who, once the war had begun, still thought of
complaining, protesting, resisting, were betting on Germany's losing the war. It was a long bet.
Not many made it."

It won't come in the same form. It never does. But it's coming. The lure of fascism is too powerful
for men like the ones currently pissing all over our Constitution.

Probably won't be the Jews. Maybe Arabs. Maybe gays. Maybe "libruls." Who the fuck knows? It
almost certainly won't be recognisable to most people until it's far too late.

If we let it happen.

With thanks to for leading me to
Tags: fascism, parallels, nazis, i need attention (all tags)
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