Memories of Auschwitz

by alphamonkey on September 21, 2007 · 5 comments

in Uncategorized

Photos from AuschwitzI’ve always been struck by the disconnect between the massive evil perpetrated under the Nazi regime with just how painfully, normally human those same individuals were, even in the midsts of committing the most horrific crime against humanity we’ve ever seen.

The New York Times shares images from a photo album that belonged to an Auschwitz officer who served at the camp up until just weeks before it was liberated. What’s so striking is not that the photos detail the horror, but rather the mundane routine of the soldiers.

We’re so much more comfortable with the mustache-twirling evil that we all too often forget that it’s not fate or nature that makes us capable of such evil. It’s just circumstance.

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  • I

    Well put.

  • ginwai

    You just reminded me of a poem I read at school several years ago.

  • mitch

    Nazi soldiers may be following orders. But it was not circumstance that caused Joseph Mengle to experiment on humans for his pleasure. It may have been circumstance that allowed it, but he was a pretty evil guy to begin with in order to do it. I dont think it was like “Hey Joe, you wanna do this job, no one else wants it”. Soldiers are soldiers all around, but lets not forget these guys actually killed people too.

  • Alan

    I have an English father and a German mother. One of my grandfathers was shot running up the beach at Dunkirk by a German soldier. My other grandfather was shot after he was parachuted into Monte Casino by a British soldier. They were both just honest, hard-working men who lost limbs as a result of WW2. They both struggled and raised families, enjoyed a beer and a game of football and became good friends over the years.

    I have travelled extensively throughout Western Europe and have lived in England, France, Spain, Italy, Holland and Germany, and the irony is that there are no two countries more alike that Great Britain and Germany. What you say about circumstance is spot on.

    About 15 years ago I visited Dachau, the site of another extermination camp. The place had a very chilling atmosphere, seeing the actual “showers” where they did the gassing, the bullet marks in the walls where they did the shooting and the ovens where they burnt the bodies was a rather a life changing moment.

  • .alphamonkey.

    Mitch, the Milgram experiment showed that even the most ‘normal’ of us is capable of inflicting extreme pain (and even death) on one another if we’re told to do so by someone in authority.

    But case in point: had Josef Mengele reached his academic maturity free of Nazi ideology would he still have turned out the same way? Was the fact that he was in an environment that encouraged thinking of the camp prisoners as sub-human a contributing cause or just an atrocious enabler of his behavior? We don’t know the answers to that.

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