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November 15, 2019 / Congau

The Nazis Among Us

“That’s exactly how Nazi Germany started!” Mr. Fawlty’s famous claim in reference to his humble hotel guests was slightly overstated and so are many other such sweeping allegations that have little purpose except heaping words of abuse on the opponent. Nazi Germany and the Holocaust were unparalleled events in history, probably the most outrageous thing ever to have occurred, and it was certainly worse than the increase in the price of coffee at your local supermarket and other such injustice that people love to exaggerate out of proportion.

However, much as Nazi Germany went further in atrocities than any other regime, it wasn’t really unique in the kind of attitudes it displayed and even its basic ideology. There’s nothing mysterious about why so many people could be seduced into following Hitler. We see the same phenomena around us all the time; xenophobia is not something exclusively reserved for blatant racists and nationalism (although presented with the euphemisms “patriotism” and “national pride”) is very common. Political tough talk, the promise to be hard on one’s enemies and uncompromising against crime, is popular among voters, and even your peaceful neighbor across the fence can be heard complaining about youth delinquency and urging the need for law and order.

Some of our most ordinary fellow citizens would decidedly have been Nazi supporters if they had been Germans in the 1930s.

Therefore, it may not be out of place to draw a parallel to the Nazis when observing seemingly ordinary behavior. It shouldn’t be used as plain abuse and simplified rhetoric (Godwin’s law reminds us of that), but it’s still appropriate more often than one would think.

This is not to trivialize Nazism, quite the opposite, but some of the worst excesses of that ideology was caused by events getting out of anyone’s hand. If we could recognize this danger in what appears to be trivial occurrences in our time, we would understand the true lesson of Hitler’s Germany.

Most Nazis were not demons any more than most innocent looking supporters of certain ideologies are today.

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