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Mankind always needs a monster Our perpetual search for a villain is an attempt to absolve us of complicity

What if we're the bad guy? (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

What if we're the bad guy? (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


April 16, 2021   5 mins

“Eyes medium, hair medium, weight medium, height medium,” wrote Leonard Cohen in All There is to Know about Adolf Eichmann. We should remember it on the 60th anniversary of his trial in Jerusalem. “What did you expect?” Cohen goes on. “Talons? Oversize incisors? Green saliva? Madness?”

Yes, we expect those things. We desire them. They comfort us. They tell us we have nothing to do with these people. They are an anomaly, a curio, a fascinating oddity that will not come again. A biography of Josef Mengele is being written as I type. It will likely be a best-seller for these reasons, though I do not want to read it.

Martha Gellhorn, who covered the Eichmann trial for the Atlantic magazine, wrote this in 1962 of her subject: “We fear him because we know that he is sane. It would be a great comfort to us if he were insane; we could then dismiss him, with horror, no doubt, but reassuring ourselves that he is not like us.” 

It feels morally necessary to distance oneself from the perpetrators of the Shoah because in that is expiation, the removal of complicity, and, therefore, sanity. But it is not useful, and it teaches us nothing.  Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase “the banality of evil” does not work either. It may be an intellectual’s gravest insult — Arendt the grumpy don judging Eichmann the functional idiot — but ennui is hardly a useful response to a shocking eruption of mass murder.

It is comforting, of course, to see Nazism as the rise of the stupid — Hitler’s credulous army of chicken farmers — but that is not true either. Many of the leading Nazis were highly cultured, or from highly cultured families. The father of Reinhard Heydrich — Hitler’s “man with the iron heart” and Eichmann’s overlord — founded a conservatoire. Hitler’s chief architect Albert Speer was Heinrich Tessenow’s assistant at 22. Members of the Einsatzgruppen, the  elite paramilitary death squad, had a disproportionate number of PhDs. And of the fifteen people who sat around the table at the Wannsee House to plan the Final Solution to the invented problem of Europe’s Jews, seven had doctorates in law and another a doctorate in political science.

For every chicken farmer in the Nazi high command there were two lawyers.  There were ideologues and functionaries; fellow travellers and the ambitious; greedy souls who wanted the Jews’ homes, businesses and the shoes of their children. Some were very odd, of course. Himmler went looking for the Holy Grail (too much Wagner?).

No strategy of emotional distancing works and, anyway, history proves you wrong. Anti-racist education has failed, and anti-Semitism thrives again. It seems its brief absence post-war — a copious pause, an exhaustion, a burning out — was the anomaly. This willingness — this desire — for distance is at least part of the cause.

We cling to the singular monster narrative, but the opposite is true. Nazism would not have thrived without its millions of collaborators and bystanders; as Gellhorn said” “eager thousands obeyed him [Eichmann]
. there was endless work for willing hands”. Without them it would have begun and ended in Munich in the early 1920s, a small, repulsive stain on a city rather than a twelve-year Reich that was supposed to last for a thousand years. One can spend too long imagining parallel futures for the Weimar Republic. But that is comforting too.

They enabled it, and that, in its totality, is its lesson and its terror. That is why it is necessary to put devil’s horns on Eichmann and Heydrich; on Streicher and Mengele. That is why Auschwitz, which appeared most recently in an X-Men film as a creation myth for a superhero, is debased into myth. More than 37% of the vote went to Nazis in July 1932 and this was a full seven years after Adolf Hitler exposed what he wanted in Mein Kampf. They only had to read it. Did they?

The Austrians greeted the Anschluss with garlands of flowers and why not? They requested the union in 1918 and when Hitler entered Vienna 90% of the population greeted him as Jews committed suicide or were forced to scrub the streets with toothbrushes. Later, the Jews of Paris were not rounded up by the Gestapo. They were rounded up by the French police. In Lithuania and Ukraine natives did not wait for the Germans to massacre the Jewish population. They started themselves, knowing their retrospective defence was on its way.

There were rescuers, of course, many thousands of them — remember Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who waged his own war on Eichmann and lost everything, dying in a Russian prison after the war, and Princess Alice of Greece, mother to the Duke to Edinburgh, hiding the Cohens — but they were not representative. It was your neighbours who would send you to your deaths.

Why such complicity? It is disorientating to compile a tidy list of the causes of the Shoah (studying Nazism will give you a horror of lists by itself) but it must be done. And the most important element is not economic collapse, or thwarted nationalism, or the Versailles Treaty, or the implicit weakness of the Weimar Republic or the useful idiocies of Communism.

It is Christianity, and that is as uncomfortable a truth as the realisation that Adolf Eichmann and the rest of his gang of mass murderers were ordinary human beings. (The wife of the commandant of Auschwitz complained that her husband did not sleep with her enough, distracted as he was by the murder of Jews and Roma.) Nazism was its own religion, it is true, but the Shoah flowered amid two thousand years of anti-Jewish hatred, warped by Nazism from contempt into a death sentence. Christianity did not order the death of Jews. It merely wanted them to live in shame. They were more useful that way.

This is the complicity we dare not name. It is easier to pass the devils’s horns from the Jews to the architects of the Final Solution than to understand what enabled the one to kill the other: the deicide myth, the founding story of Jewish power and Jewish malice. This, from the gospel of Luke: “To the cross, to the cross with him!” This, from the gospel of Matthew: “His blood be on us and on our children”. This, from the gospel of John: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do what your father desires”. To Saint Gregory they were “slayers of the Lord.” To Saint John they “surpassed the ferocity of wild beasts”.

“What then shall we Christians do” asked Martin Luther, “with this damned, rejected race of Jews? First their synagogues and churches should be set on fire
” There isn’t a positive image of Jew in European culture before the Enlightenment. Gotthold Lessing’s play The Jews (1749) failed on the Berlin stage because the hero was a Jew. The audience could not believe it.

In his book The Destruction of the European Jews (1961) the historian Raul Hilberg noted that the canonical law and Nazi law proposed many of the same measures. In 1965 the Second Lateran Council retrospectively removed the charge of deicide from almost all Jews — it was passed by 2221 to 88 of the assembled bishops — and that is surely an admission that millions in history have believed these libels.

But millions do not make good villains, either morally, or narratively. They do not make particularly good victims either. That is why Stephen Spielberg ruined his potential masterpiece Schindler’s List by emphasising a pretty girl in a red coat, the only colour in the film. That, to paraphrase Mel Brooks’s The Producers, is your victim.

Instead, we prefer to emphasise the gaudy monsters, which only serves to make the Shoah more mysterious and, in the end, meaningless. For if so few are responsible, who can take responsibility? Nowadays, if you are not committing mass murder, you can consider yourself benign. “The private conscience is not only the last protection of the civilised world, it is the one guarantee of the dignity of man,” Martha Gellhorn concluded after watching the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Or, to put it another way, demonise the few and we cease to be afraid of what we should fear most: ourselves.


Tanya Gold is a freelance journalist.

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James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago

The question should be why is it not the Hammer and Sickle that is the monster from the past? The inconvenient answer is that the Russian revolution traces its history through too much of the political Left for it to be totally repudiated. The Hammer and Sickle has thus become a symbol of the Leftist Ideal. It is not considered the fault of Socialism and Leftist ideology per se that the Soviet Union so quickly devolved into butchery and bloodshed and starvation and privation and dictatorship. It was the Counter-Revolution. It was Lenin’s stroke. It was Stalin. It was anything but the logical outworking of Leftist thought over the previous century. In this sense, the Hammer and Sickle can never be truly stained. There is an entire ideological army out there with a vested interest in protecting that particular monster.

Mark Preston
Mark Preston
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

But the communists had good intentions so anyone who mentions the millions of people that they killed, well that’s just rude and not nice.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Preston

Also the middle classes favour communism but feel other mass movements are a bit common and working class. The author asks why neighbours tell on each other-a French Jewish author was the only member of his family to survive. He later discovered his mother’s family didn’t like his father and were happy for him to be arrested, unfortunately all the family were taken and perished.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

One of the many ironies here is that the Ash Sarkars of this world have never used a hammer in their life and wouldn’t even know what a sickle is for. I write as one who was sometimes paid by a local farmer to chop down the thistles in his fields with a sickle. I even managed not to chop my own legs off, much to my mother’s relief.

David Brown
David Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

 I write as one who was sometimes paid by a local farmer to chop down the thistles in his fields with a sickle. I even managed not to chop my own legs off, much to my mother’s relief.”
Are you sure it wasn’t a scythe? Cutting your own legs off with a sickle would be rather harder than with a scythe.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

Good points.
But I think it boils down to two key distinctions. The authoritarian right tied itself very closely to race and nation, and could only be good for you if you fitted that criteria. Furthermore, in the case of WWII, the alleged German supremacy was defeated, undermining its foundation.
Not only was Communism not as clearly vanquished, but it tied itself to being supposedly for the good of all people, not one specific race or type (let’s ignore the part where you have to adhere to the rules) And how could you not be for that?
Much like BLM have done now, or how non-Corbynites seem to think that because the Left claims to speak for compassion and kindness, if you oppose that there’s something wrong with you.

Last edited 3 years ago by A Spetzari
David NebeskĂœ
David NebeskĂœ
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

being supposedly for the good of all people” – All people but their class enemies, actually.Communism could only be good for you if you (and your known ancestors) fitted some criteria.

Bertie B
Bertie B
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

There is another important distinction, namely that it was Communist Russia under Stalin that defeated Nazism. In the 1930’s and 40’s there was a clear enemy, and defaeting them became paramount over all other considerations. Ultimatally it was Nazism that invaded France and threatened Blighty, and Stalinism that defeated them – it would be hard at a national or European level to re-examine what actually happened.

The 20th centuary was far more morrally complex than we were led to believe in school, and many people aren’t capable of working on that level.

The identification of individuals and events enables communication of wider moral ideas, without the messiness.

During the 1940’s Stalin and Russia killed millions of people (we have no idea how many), many of them Jews, but most of them unintentionally in the greater aim of protecting Russia.

The Nazi’s were the ones who singled you out, recorded you, analysed your usefulness and then murdered millions of people in an automated, mechanised process because shooting people was inefficient.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

The Soviets too singled people out or even selected at random. They did, however have the luxury of time which meant that they could work class enemies and counter revolutionaries to death

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

Agree absolutely that the 20th Century was more morally ambivalent that we would wish and that Nazism threatened the West, when Stalinism defeated Nazism. But the deaths Stalin orchestrated were hardly mainly collateral damage. Look at the Holodomor in Ukraine; the massacre of Polish officers at Katyn; the invasions of Finland in 1940, not to forget eastern Poland in 1939; and the whole systematic terrorisation of the people of the Soviet Union documented in the three volumes of the Gulag Archipelago, from Lenin’s time right through to Krushchev. This was another evil system which likewise found will collaborators and which lasted right into the 1990s in Europe. This is without touching on Mao and China.

Simon Burch
Simon Burch
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

Before casting Stalin and the Communist USSR as the heros that defeated the Nazis, it’s worth remembering that it was Britain (with help from Commonwealth nations et al) and France – not the USSR nor indeed the USA – that made the initial stand against Hitler at great risk to themselves. The USSR did nothing to face down this threat until it was invaded by Hitler’s armies. Indeed, the USSR made a pact with the Nazis and had itself invaded Poland.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

Of course between 1939-41 the Soviets and Nazis were allies

Athena Jones
Athena Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

The Stalinists were the ones who singled you out, recorded you, analysed your usefulness and then murdered millions of people in an automated, mechanised process as well. It was hardly particular to the Nazis.
And Communist China and Pol Pot’s Cambodia certainly made an art of removing those they considered to be inconvenient.
There is so much said and written about the Nazis, not all categorically proven, but commonly believed and so little said and written about other genocidal fanatics that making accurate comparisons remains difficult.
It is easier to take the view that a capacity for evil exists in all humans and certain systems make it easier for evil to flourish. Believing in the inferiority or the danger of another group seems a constant, but a system which demands power and control by a select few will always be liable to excess.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

Nazism was an enormous evil, and the world clearly better off for its defeat. However Britain and France chose war with Germany, not the other way round, as a matter of historical fact. Hitler was in other circumstances rather relaxed about the continuation of the British Empire. A ‘Vichy’ style Britain could have simply executed Gandhi, Nehru et all.

The idea that Stalin’s Soviet Union ‘unintentionally’ killed its millions of victims is a bit ridiculous. The Ukrainian famine may have been partly unintentional, but requisitions were brutally imposed, but there was no change of course while millions died, it served an undoubted political purpose in destroying any semblance of resistance and independence in the Ukraine, and so represents a moral stain almost as bad as out and out genocide.

As for the Soviets defeating Nazism, they did eventually play the major role, but it was touch and go, and had various contingent circumstances gone the other way, it could have been different. The Nazis and Soviets also had a pact for 2 years, one broken by Hitler and not Stalin, and as is well known Stalin refusing to believe it initially. (So in that case he wasn’t paranoid enough about an actual threat to ‘his’ nation). I would say therefore, that the idea that the 3rd Reich’s defeat is a moral plus point for the Soviets is rather dubious. A war was forced on them, in which they eventually prevailed (and not without a huge amount of material support from Britain and the US).

Hitler was a fanatic who believed in his political movement, Stalin on the other hand is a more complex case. A paranoid criminal? Someone who just loved personal power and would have used any means in any society to gain it?

Maybe it’s a difference that makes in the end little difference. Both systems brought about appalling suffering and misery, on an unprecedented scale that is just difficult to contemplate from the comfort of our relatively benign society.

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Film crews followed the tanks into Germany and so the whole horror was seen by everyone.
That is the key difference that explains how the two ideologies are viewed.
If the film crews had been permitted in Russia in the 1920s and 30s, then perhaps the left would not so be so influential. (but then again they still might….)

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

Good point also!

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

Instead, the campus paper once known as the New York Times dispatched a reporter to the Soviet Union and he was given a Pulitzer for carrying Stalin’s water and ignoring reality.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Tom Holland’s book, ‘Dominion’ addresses these points.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

I tried playing Devil’s Advocate on this with some young students who were trying to convince me that “genuine” Communism would solve all the ills of the world – if we could just gloss over its failure every time it has been attempted.
I took the deliberately provocative position of, ‘and if only we could try real Fascism, and get it right this time, that would solve society’s problems too’.
Naturally they hit back with â€œâ€Š but Hitler
” and ” 
 but the holocaust
” arguments, as they were absolutely right to do. Yet couldn’t see that if those examples negated any possible justification for Fascism then  â€œâ€Š but Stalin
” and â€œâ€Š but the Gulags 
” should do the same for Communism.
Frankly wearing a Che T-shirt or a Hammer & Sickle badge in public should receive the same horrified response as sporting a swastika or SS symbol would.
As ever, the left manages to absolve its ideology of its sins without ever noticing the double standard in their thinking.

Athena Jones
Athena Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

One powerful reason why the Russians are not promoted as the source of all evil is because the running narrative has been captured by the Zionists and to satisfy their ‘needs,’ to attempt to justify the colonisation of Palestine, a nation and people which had nothing to do with what happened to Jews in Europe, they have had to inflate the myth that Jewish suffering at the hands of the Germans was the greatest and most evil the world has ever known. It is why all other, often worse suffering and genocide, falls into the shadow of this ‘greater than any other evil known to man’ scenario.

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
3 years ago
Reply to  Athena Jones

You should double-check your league of genocides..see which ones threw live babies into ovens.
And while you’re at it,get a lobotomy.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Dunn

On that basis you will find the Ruanda Holocaust takes Gold.
90% of the intended targets slaughtered in about 42 days, mainly with hand held weapons (pangas), urged on by orders from crystal radio sets.
Presumably because it was ‘Black on Black’ it has been virtually forgotten and ignored.

Chris Hudson
Chris Hudson
3 years ago

That passage from the Gospel of Matthew (‘May his blood be on us and on our children …’) remains troubling for many Christians because of the horrific stain left behind over the last 2000 years. Would fanatics in an angry crowd shout it? Maybe. But why include it in the narrative?
One theory: it was written many decades later, either during (or after) the ‘Jewish War’ which saw Jerusalem and the Temple destroyed in a failed uprising against the Romans. Matthew (a Jewish author) is connecting Jerusalem’s failure to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah with the horrors coming a generation later. (Note the simultaneous lack of rebellion in the North of Judaea, where Jesus had been preaching for three years previously.)
So the Matthew passage could be seen as a terrible consequence visited on one generation in one city and its innocent children… But none of this justifies centuries of persecution. Martin Luther’s hatred especially deserves more exposure, especially amongst Protestants.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Hudson

I agree. I am a Jewish Christian and fine his attitude perplexing. The attitude had been prevalent for a while; the only person who appears Jewish in da Vinci’s painting of Jesus celebrating Passover was Judas.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Hudson

“That passage from the Gospel of Matthew (‘May his blood be on us and on our children 
’) remains troubling for many Christians because of the horrific stain left behind over the last 2000 years. Would fanatics in an angry crowd shout it? Maybe. But why include it in the narrative?”

I was puzzled by this phrase once, but read later that when in ancient Judaism, a (real) lamb was ritually slaughtered, the priest would sprinkle the assembled worshippers with its blood (as it was an holy sacrifice dedicated to God for the ‘forgiveness of sin’). Therefore a later writer, acquainted with the Gospel term ‘the Lamb of God’ (Gospel of John) referring to ‘Jesus’ would see a parallel in this earlier story, but misinterpreted its actual ritual significance in Judaism. What we have to remember is that this particular ritual sacrifice was also ‘part of God’s requirement’, and you don’t generally argue with God. Things might not end well.
So it’s maybe not, as at first appears to us, an acknowledgment of Jewish complicity or guilt in ‘murder’ or injustice, but a sign of the crowd’s acquired holiness through being sprinkled with the blood of the necessary sacrifice specified by God (strange though these supernatural concepts nowadays appear to modern people, though a lecturer at my school sprinkling the nearby staff and pupils with what he called ‘holy water’ accidentally was taken as a joke. But the ancient significance was also realised, obliquely).

Last edited 3 years ago by Arnold Grutt
Campbell P
Campbell P
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

I don’t think you can have read Paul and Peter, who were contemporaries. They were quite clear about the SPECIFIC responsibility of the Jews AT THAT TIME. That the responsibility was then generalised and universalised is indeed a shameful thing. (Matthew, like the other 3 Gospels, could not have been written post 70 AD; simply doesn’t make sense.)

Sean MacSweeney
Sean MacSweeney
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Hudson

Usually the most judgemental people are “Christians”, obviously they forget about those without sin only can cast stones or indeed turning the other cheek.
I find nowadays those who espouse “live and let live” are mostly secular

Last edited 3 years ago by Sean MacSweeney
Chris Hudson
Chris Hudson
3 years ago

I think we’re all judgemental. All the time, we’re sizing people up, establishing who they are or what they represent. The danger comes when we start condemning people as a group… As you just slipped into doing as well! Never mind. We’re all learning.

Colin Macdonald
Colin Macdonald
3 years ago

Christianity? Really? I wonder what Paul Schneider would have made of this. Beaten and tortured at Buchenwald but still preaching the Gospel from his prison cell window. Whose very refusal to compromise his Christian faith led to his murder in 1939.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago

. . . and Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

.. and Maximilian Kolbe. I visited his cell in Ausschwitz.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Pastor Niemoeller. Bishop von Galen of Muenster. Hans and Sophie Scholl and their White Rose companions (one of whom, Alexander Schmorrel has been canonised by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad – the group was ecumenical). The Jesuits Rupert Mayer and Alfred Delp. There is a long list of Christians – Protestant, Catholic and even at least some Orthodox – who resisted Hitler in Germany.
But the lesson for Christians everywhere is this. They were brave, noble and…few. They were a minority within German Christianity. Would we do as well?

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago

There is no reason to think that we would not be able to produce a few men of that calibre. I use the word men deliberately as they all seem to be men listed, possibly women might also rise to the occasion.
Sadly, I think there would also be people willing to betray others. The readiness, which some people have demonstrated, to inform the police when others appear to have broken Covid rules has been quite shocking.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

Sophie Scholl is in my list and she regularly is rated among the greatest Germans ever. There were other women in the White Rose, but Sophie was the only one who paid the ultimate price.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
3 years ago

Amen – glad someone said it Colin – the whole article boils down to “Christianity” did it, as if killing innocent people is what the New Testament preaches. The author might just as well have blamed White Male Supremacy, and gotten over with it. An interesting and useful article turned to trash immediately, one the author found her scapegoat.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pearse

I don’t normally read anything by the author of this piece, the few pieces I have read have been weak and lightweight.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

It was your neighbours who would send you to your deaths.
and so it is today with cancel culture, which does not lead to physical death – at least not usually – but is certainly to “kill” the person deemed to have offended someone somewhere about something. It’s the Salem witch trials without the hangings and drownings, thus far.
The Venn diagram between cancel acolytes and anti-Semites has quite a bit of overlap. It is no small irony that the people who claim such self-righteousness in such matters, most notably the so-called anti-racists – are often exactly what they claim to despise.

Mark Preston
Mark Preston
3 years ago

Two things.
The supine reaction and abject compliance of the UK public to the diktats from Westminster show just how easily totalitarian regimes can get a foothold in the door.
If Tanya would like to talk about convenient monsters perhaps she might do an article talking about the Patriarchy which seems a very convenient monster for feminists.

Nick Wade
Nick Wade
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Preston

Very true. The events of the last year have shown me that it was nothing exceptional that gave rise to Hitler and his policies.

Here in the UK, the public have been duped into surrendering their freedoms, conned into wearing pointless masks, banned from travel, and are happily snitching on their neighbours. They are mostly happy to do all this. Many think it’s not stringent enough. 10 year jail sentence for filling in a form wrong – too lenient think half the people. And all for a virus with a similar fatality rate to the flu, albeit, with an even more predictable mortality profile than the flu!

All the government had to do was scare them. Of course half an hour’s reading on how dangerous Covid is, or how effective face masks aren’t would have put them right. But it seems people are happy to believe any old rubbish when they’ve been terrified. They then seem incapable of educating themselves out of terror.

I never believed it before, but we could have easily had a Hitler situation in the UK. We are no different.

Last edited 3 years ago by Nick Wade
Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Nick Wade

“10 year jail sentence for filling in a form wrong – too lenient think half the people.”

I can honestly say I’ve never heard a single person calling for more than a decade in prison for filling in a boarding card wrongly – not even when covid is involved.
I have heard people from a range of perspectives saying that 10 years is an absurdly severe sentence. But that’s what you get from fake populists who protect statues more than people, and who want to criminalise legitimate protest for being “too noisy” or “a bit of a nuisance” through the latest Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, and who (perhaps more on topic for this article) want to clamp down even more severely than they promised to on the Gypsy / Roma community.

Last edited 3 years ago by Paul N
Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Nick Wade

Exactly. I have expressed a similar sentiment above.

William Gladstone
William Gladstone
3 years ago

I think when looking at the rise of the nazis we should look at a more contemporary rise of extremism the woke.
These movements jar with people they do not look at the reality of life they are ideological and demand that people think in often irrational and illogical ways, self harming type ways. So in order to do that they need money to constantly push a narrative. Now we know that black lives matter for example is funded by the Chinese Communist Party and by Soros (I got censored yesterday probably for saying soros so this will probably never see the light of day) among yes many others. The facts are though the woke agenda is being pushed down peoples throats by the rich.
I will leave you to ponder where the nazis got their money originally but you should pretty much always ask who benefited from the fairly predicatable outcome.
Now once the money was there and the institutions were packed with sympathisers, the laws started changing and the general populace who are not independently wealthy have two choices. Like today they can make a stand and be cancelled or they can go along with the ideaology and try and protect their wealth. Most will obviously do that.
So frankly sure blame the people but there are far more culpable people who are monsters whether they personally commit atrocities or not.

Sam Cel Roman
Sam Cel Roman
3 years ago

The Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare) had a surprisingly even take on Judaism. Comes across as anti-Semitic in modern terms, but for the 17th century, anything short of “Jew = villain” was seen as very progressive.
Also, while this article is focused on what Christians did to Jews, it’s worth mentioning that Christians killed a hell of a lot of fellow Christians over the years (Albigensian Crusade says hi).

Last edited 3 years ago by Sam Cel Roman
Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
3 years ago
Reply to  Sam Cel Roman

I was thinking the same. The so-called “Thirty Years‘ War”, conflict between the Protestants, was lead by the Swedish King, and Catholics was unbelievably cruel. Historic documents show how cruel the population was treated and tortured, whole cities and villages burnt with their inhabitants still in houses. You wouldn’t believe that both sides called themselves Christians.

M Spahn
M Spahn
3 years ago

Is it Christianity’s fault? Perhaps. But continuing on this train of thought we find that Christianity itself was invented by Jews, which leads us to the ironic conclusion that Jews are ultimately responsible for the Holocaust.

Jay Wish
Jay Wish
3 years ago
Reply to  M Spahn

Hitler certainly saw it that way, as this quote from Tom Holland’s article in this series shows; “The Jew who fraudulently introduced Christianity into the ancient world — in order to ruin it — re-opened the same breach in modern times, this time taking as his pretext the social question. It’s the same sleight-of-hand as before. Just as Saul was changed into St. Paul, Mardochai became Karl Marx.”

Tim Bartlett
Tim Bartlett
3 years ago

I’d say it had nothing to do with Christianity, and I write as an angry, militant atheist.

1) First and foremost is your prey weak? A potential victim carrying an H-bomb is unlikely to be selected.

2) Secondly, how fat is your prey? All things being equal a hunting party will select a mammoth over a stick insect.

3) Finally, can your prey hurt you? This is the most difficult one. If members of your group are seen to have destroyed a currency and then profited from the ensuing chaos any latent hostility is likely to become fanatical. Note that perception is as important here as reality.

It doesn’t matter about creed or colour, or even species I’d say. Debate must be welcomed because history can’t be allowed to repeat.

Bertie B
Bertie B
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

That may have explained anti-semetism in the past but it does little to explain it now.

1) First and foremost is your prey weak? A potential victim carrying an H-bomb is unlikely to be selected.

Isrel isn’t weak, it has nuclear weapons, it has one of the largest and best trained armies in the world.

2) Secondly, how fat is your prey? All things being equal a hunting party will select a mammoth over a stick insect.

Jews are not rich, were they ever? Was the Jews have stolen your wealth ever real, or was it a convenient lie. Eastern Europe was in the early 20th centrury far more Jewish than Western Europe – but where were its vast trading empires?

3) Finally, can your prey hurt you?

See above – what threat was Judaism to the vast Empires of Russia and England, Portugal and Spain?

Your point about not mattering about Creed or Colour, or Species was a good one – but it does seem to miss the point that for some inexplicable reason Judaism has been targeted for milenia, and the only real plausible reason for it is that they offend Christians by deneying Christ in their very existence.
I too am an anthiest – but have come to realise for those people who arn’t are frequently open to manipulation due to religions inbuilt racism / xenophopia.

Tim Bartlett
Tim Bartlett
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

I take your points. However, I’d say that no-one seriously threatens Israel now precisely because they have the bomb and I suspect would be prepared to use it.

Jews have often, when left alone, prospered as they’ve tended to work hard and skillfully. It’s not that they stole wealth, I think they simply had it and stronger men wanted it.

It seems insane that anyone can single out a Jew simply because they’re Jewish.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Bertie B

Are there no racists or xenophobes amongst atheists- inbuilt or acquired?

corporaljones42
corporaljones42
3 years ago

…The Second Lateran Council was held in the 1130’s; I think you meant The Second Vatican Council.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago

I disagree that Christianity was an element in the Shoah. The perpertrators were gentiles rather than Christians.
Luther was anti-semitic and it is puzzling why he did not see this as utterly unbiblical. It was unlike him to take on board the views around him.
He lived in a time of anti-semitism. A century earlier da Vinci painted a picture of Christ celebrating pass over in which only one person appeared Jewish and that was Judas.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago

It is the inherent evil present in all humanity, not one particular section of it that is the problem. As soon as you can see another human being as not just inferior (the Jews were superior in many ways to their murders) but sub or non human, then you can kill them as a hunter kills an animal or as an exterminator kills vermin. This ability to dehumanise is within us all. The Jews have throughout their history been scapegoats for the ills of the countries where they live and it has not just been Christians who have killed them / still want to kill them. Whilst there are some valid explanations for why the Jews are seen this way, there are no justifications. Whilst the Jews have had more than their fair share of this throughout history, they are by no means alone – Uighur Muslims are but just one current example.
The lesson has to be to recognise that the potential for evil is in us all and the expectation that we can see “monsters” is indeed to be rigorously debunked, as is trying to just label the truly evil doers as monsters, ie not really human. All humans are human. The bible and other religious texts have metaphors and allegories which are describing this inner aspect of humanity. Indeed the creation of god and the devil is, in my view just a metaphorical expression of our inner selves. I would assert that we instinctively know the difference between good and evil – as evil can kill far more than good can save, our species would have died out if we did not. If we see good and evil as opposite ends of a broad spectrum, then right and wrong sit in the middle. Right and wrong are fluid and malleable. Most of us draw the line on how far we are prepared to flex right and wrong according to many factors including upbringing and circumstance. But the ability to do evil is ever present in both men and women – Fred and Rosemary West, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
Nor should we overlook the power that all organisations, religious or otherwise have to induce the masses to tap in to their inner evil.

Last edited 3 years ago by Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago

Be careful to differentiate between eradication of an ideology, which can be achieved through thoughtful dialogue and eradication of people. Lose sight of that key distinction and you become a Nazi.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

My answer to your thought experiment is the Social Justice movement aka Wokism. I see it as being at best dangerously misguided and an affront to all decent values, at worst the catalyst for a horrifying conflict where lots of people die. Eradicating the woke before they eradicate us is so clearly not the answer. I would however encourage all right minded people to resit and challenge the ideology in every legal way possible. I do not even want to see it eradicated, just the baleful effects it is having on many ordinary lives neutralised.
Eradicating people is never the answer, even in a thought experiment. That is the only real lesson from this series of articles and it is worrying that so few commentators here seem to get it.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

The Chinese are doing a pretty good job of eradicating people, as did Stalin, PolPot etc. So not all Nazi/Fascist.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago

I find the concept of cultured people being evil more threatening than comforting.
Luther’s anti-semitism is puzzling in someone with such a thorough knowledge of the bible. It seems unlike him to take on the surrounding views. However, in the previous century Leonardo da Vinci painted a picture of Jesus celebrating passover in which the only person who looked semitic was Judas.

John Stone
John Stone
3 years ago

Yes, what we have to understand is the mechanism by which people are turned into barbarians. How much have Johnson, Hancock, Ferguson et al changed the culture of our country in barely a year. I don’t think we have become like Nazis yet but it is pretty salutary. We did see recently with the St Vincent volcano eruption how the unvaccinated (unclean people) were left behind. Of course, it barely got a mainstream news report.

Last edited 3 years ago by John Stone
Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  John Stone

Sorry John, I utterly fail to see the parallel between Stay home, Protect the NHS and Save lives, however misguided you may feel it is, and Round up people, Send them to a camp and Exterminate them.

Last edited 3 years ago by Adrian Smith
Susannah Baring Tait
Susannah Baring Tait
3 years ago
Reply to  John Stone

I’ve been following reporting by actual St Vincentians. They say that it is totally not true about non-vaccinated people being ‘left behind’ . In fact most elected to stay on the Island and moved to the south. The two cruise ships had rules in place prior to offering to take people but I’ve been told that very few took up their offer of help. I haven’t verified it but i undestand these left the Island empty. I lived in the area for 9 years , and was there just as Souffriere erupted in 1979. And was also there during Hurricane Allen. The West Indian people are very stoic and help each other in emergencies. They are also very grateful for having masks on hand and accustomed to using them as these are providing protection against dangerous ash fallout. I understand, as of Thursday, there has been only one fatality and that from a stroke.

ralph bell
ralph bell
3 years ago

A very thought provoking article, one of your best.
As a non jew I have visited various holacast sites in Germany and Praque and it never fail to have a profound and shocking effect on me. I have also visited a horrible torture prison in Phnom Penh.

Carl Goulding
Carl Goulding
3 years ago

So many of the leading Nazis were intellectuals and academics…..that’s food for thought .

Susannah Baring Tait
Susannah Baring Tait
3 years ago

My mother, born in 1918, was mildly C of E but had lived in several RC countries. She was horrified at how she perceived the RC church as either turning a blind eye or actively helping to round up Jews. She would have thoroughly agreed with Tanya’s article.

I find it interesting how so many posters have deflected the debate to how Russia and Communists behaved. What aboutism, I believe is the term. And not addressed the article’s central premise. I, myself, have always been repelled by any form of institutionalised religion.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago

Perhaps the author might want to equally examine Jewish attitudes towards Christianity

Rick Schmidt
Rick Schmidt
3 years ago

Fellow travellers aside, the German people cowered from the threat of force and public retribution as much as today’s public cowers in the face of wokism.

Athena Jones
Athena Jones
3 years ago

Perhaps the most horrifying example of the denial of the evil which potentially lives in all of us is the State of Israel, where, Palestinian non-Jews are considered to be sub-human, in rather the same way the Hitlerian Germans came to consider non-Aryans to be sub-human, and because of that are denied human and civil rights and treated appallingly.
Israel was supposedly created as a colonial entity in Palestine in the name of Jews who died in the horrors of the Second World War, and yet it seems the Zionists learned absolutely nothing. Or rather, they learned only the worst of things from such experiences and not the best. I truly believe most Jews who died during that time would be horrified at what has been and is, both claimed and done in their name.
If followers of Judaism, given what they claim, have learned nothing from their experience, about their own capacity for evil, then what hope is there for anyone? Or is the problem when we seek to project all evil onto others and take no responsibility for what happens to us, preferring instead to see ourselves as innocent victims who play no part in our experience?
Or was the problem that the experiences of those European Jews, tapped into a powerful sense of victimhood within Judaism which grew even more powerful in an attempt to defend the indefensible, the theft of Palestine, of someone else’s land, for followers of one’s religion?
To be fair, it is not just religions which become trapped in these pits of victimhood. We can see similar forces at work in cultures and nationalities, like the Irish and Armenians, or for that matter, the Greeks, where people for whatever reason refuse to process and move on from suffering and spend generations and lifetimes, projecting all evil onto those who at some point made them suffer.
Although the irony for Judaism, is that the suffering has been inflicted on innocent victims for the Palestinians played no part in what Germany inflicted on Europe during the Second World War.
Let us hope the Palestinians can be different, and not turn their experiences of genocide and savagery into permanent victimhood.

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
3 years ago
Reply to  Athena Jones

The Arabs [ including those living within the Palestinian Authority/West Bank area] are not the persecuted victims that you and many others seem to think they are. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem declared his support for Hitler during WW2, and the Arabs on several occasions from 1948 onwards declared war on the Israeli state and threatened to drive the Jews into the sea. The Palestinians should have made peace when more moderate governments were in power in Israel – but they preferred to play the role of helpless victims and so they won the support of left wingers in the west. Meanwhile, Hamas stirs up young Palestinians to commit terrorist attacks and so the slaughter goes on. Hardly surprising then that Israel will utilise all means to secure its own existence and that of the Jewish population. If my own survival was at stake, I would be cheering them on.