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Competing photo albums from Auschwitz
September 19, 2007 9:54 AM   Subscribe

You know who else enjoyed Auschwitz? No, not them. That's right, them.

Here, courtesy of the NY Times and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, is a narrated slideshow of the newly discovered photo album of SS-Obersturmführer Karl Höcker, the adjutant to the commandant of Auschwitz, SS-Sturmbannführer Richard Baer. [all pics from the album] [the NY Times Article]

Of course, the other existing photo album from Auschwitz suggests that not everyone was enjoying the experience.
posted by found missing (59 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am confused by the else in your sentence.
posted by doublesix at 9:59 AM on September 19, 2007


Wow. I was about to ask how they could be so full of smiles while on the grounds of unspeakable evil. And yet here I sit listening to music and reading the internet while Gitmo and Iraq continue.
posted by DU at 10:02 AM on September 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


I think the else was implying some other guy.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:03 AM on September 19, 2007


So the SS Helferinnen, or 'female auxiliaries'... what exactly did they do?
posted by anthill at 10:05 AM on September 19, 2007


Apparently Höcker was found after the war working in a bank. He was tried, imprisoned, eventually released, and went back to working in the bank in 1970. For some reason that gives me chills.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:13 AM on September 19, 2007


According to this page (turn down your sound!!!),

The SS auxiliary was made up of females normally between 17 and 30 years of age. They were employed as telephonists, teleprinter operators, and radio operators. Selected female personnel were promoted to NCO or officer ranks after successfully passing special training courses.

posted by miss lynnster at 10:13 AM on September 19, 2007


Wow. I was about to ask how they could be so full of smiles while on the grounds of unspeakable evil. And yet here I sit listening to music and reading the internet while Gitmo and Iraq continue.

I don't think the experiences are comparable, for lack of proximity if nothing else. (Although I think there's a lot else.)
posted by OmieWise at 10:14 AM on September 19, 2007


And on a related note, Pope Guilty says Belsen was a gas.
posted by lodurr at 10:17 AM on September 19, 2007


I noticed the careful restraint regarding the presentation of the new album, as mentioned in the body of the NY Times piece: "Museum curators have avoided describing the album as something like “monsters at play” or “killers at their leisure.” Ms. Cohen [Holocaust Museum historian]said the photos were instructive in that they showed the murderers were, in some sense, people who also behaved as ordinary human beings. “In their self-image, they were good men, good comrades, even civilized,” she said."

This was wise, I think.

(Fascinating post).
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:17 AM on September 19, 2007


Oh yeah, the officers at the concentration camp didn't live like their prisoners.

Marlene Dietrich's sister and brother-in-law worked as part of an entertainment troupe which put on acts for the benefits of the staff at Bergen Belsen. So, you know, that the staff could relax after a long hard day of killing Anne Frank and others. Though she loved Germany, Dietrich hated the Nazis and had worked very hard doing everything she could to help the Allies win World War II. She worked as part of the USO troupes, going as close to the front lines as she was allowed and getting head lice and dysentery. She slept with several thousand GIs, and made recordings of herself singing German songs like "Lilli Marlene", which were then blasted via loudspeakers across to the German lines. After the war, when Dietrich found her sister again and discovered what she had been doing, she did everything she could do to help her sister, and then never spoke to her again.
posted by orange swan at 10:26 AM on September 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


No, not them.

Of course, the other existing photo album from Auschwitz suggests that not everyone was enjoying the experience.

am i the only one who finds this diction to be a little calloused and inappropriate?
posted by milestogo at 10:41 AM on September 19, 2007


photos were instructive in that they showed the murderers were, in some sense, people who also behaved as ordinary human beings.

They didn't behave as ordinary human beings, they were ordinary human beings. Something that most people don't come to terms with is their capacity for acts of incredible cruelty. The acts are described as "inhumane" when they are anything but. To distance oneself from these acts, is to say they were executed by something that wasn't human, something Other. And the blaming of ills on some inhuman Other is what caused that whole mess in the first place.

These were normal, even kind human beings. The capacity exists in us all to be rapists, pedophiles, all matter of monsters, and the only prevention of that is to rationally think about our actions and their effects.
posted by zabuni at 10:42 AM on September 19, 2007 [5 favorites]


the only prevention of that is to rationally think about our actions and their effects.

That's a good topic for debate... were the Nazis rationally thinking about their actions and their effects?
posted by anthill at 10:45 AM on September 19, 2007


Truly fascinating. Yes, they seem very very ordinary, and he likey the women. Of course, at some level the album is notable for what is not in it; not a single prisoner, even as a worker, not a single prisoner facility. You would never be able to fathom the function (in any way) of the facility from the album.

I found the Beisetzung von SS Kameraden mach einem Terrorangriff." (Burying our SS comrades from a terror attack.) under the military funerals post-bombing to be revealing and relevant in the present day.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:47 AM on September 19, 2007


Jeez, I missed the joke on your front page portion and thought you were being a total freak.

Maybe the mods can move the rest to the front? It's not altogether too much, and it is an awesome collection.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:48 AM on September 19, 2007


Marlene Dietrich "slept with several thousand GIs"??
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:49 AM on September 19, 2007


Err... was that a joke?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:49 AM on September 19, 2007


anthill: True, I'd say some were. Pictures like this really don't chill me as much as something like the Wannsee Conference, where men set down to rationally decide the best method of genocide. Granted, I could even see that in a manner, they weren't think of them as human beings, they were just working on the implementation details.

Think about the atomic bomb. The people working on that weren't thinking about the best way to destroy all an entire town, and kill as many people as possible. They were concerned with how to get the highest possible reaction out a pound or so of uranium-235 as quickly as possible.

But the idea of genocide, of how one gets the idea that a portion of humanity is no longer humanity, but a cancer to be exterminated, I have no explanation.
posted by zabuni at 10:53 AM on September 19, 2007


Just a very rough crunching of the numbers here, but to get to a thousand in one year, Dietrich would have to sleep with three soldiers every day, Monday to Friday. That would give her the occasional weekend off. To reach several thousand, she would have had to have been doing this all year long for each year the U.S. was at war.

No wonder she was so cranky.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:55 AM on September 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Maybe she was, you know, actually sleeping?

I mean, I'm sure she got it on now and then, but she never had that kind of Clara Bow reputation for bedding everything that walked swam or crawled.
posted by lodurr at 11:03 AM on September 19, 2007


Kraftmatic, I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed that sentence and thought it seemed weird. The first thing I did was went to wikipedia to see if it was listed there anywhere, and no, not even that bastion of rumors has that one listed that I can see.

So Orange Swan, why do you say that?
posted by KirTakat at 11:04 AM on September 19, 2007


She slept with several thousand GIs

My goodness. She must have been developing a venereal disease superweapon.
posted by cmonkey at 11:06 AM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


there is perhaps no better book to read if you wnt to discover how these people thought of themseves as running a death camp than the autiobiography of Hoss, camp commander. Here is what he had to say about his job, though it is autobiography that tells us what a loving father and good family man he was:
"During the Nuremberg trials, he appeared as a witness in the trials of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Oswald Pohl, and the IG Farben corporation. On May 25 1946, he was handed over to Poland, put on trial for murder, and sentenced to death by hanging on April 2 1947. The sentence was carried out on April 16 immediately adjacent to the crematorium of the former Auschwitz I concentration camp. It is believed that he was hanged on a gallows on which he had once hanged Auschwitz prisoners.[citation needed]

During the Nuremberg trial he stated:

Another improvement we made over Treblinka was that we built our gas chambers to accommodate 2,000 people at one time, whereas at Treblinka their 10 gas chambers only accommodated 200 people each. The way we selected our victims was as follows: we had two SS doctors on duty at Auschwitz to examine the incoming transports of prisoners. The prisoners would be marched by one of the doctors who would make spot decisions as they walked by. Those who were fit for work were sent into the Camp. Others were sent immediately to the extermination plants. Children of tender years were invariably exterminated, since by reason of their youth they were unable to work. Still another improvement we made over Treblinka was that at Treblinka the victims almost always knew that they were to be exterminated and at Auschwitz we endeavored to fool the victims into thinking that they were to go through a delousing process. Of course, frequently they realized our true intentions and we sometimes had riots and difficulties due to that fact. Very frequently women would hide their children under the clothes but of course when we found them we would send the children in to be exterminated. We were required to carry out these exterminations in secrecy but of course the foul and nauseating stench from the continuous burning of bodies permeated the entire area and all of the people living in the surrounding communities knew that exterminations were going on at Auschwitz.[3]

In his autobiography, which was published in 1958 as Rudolf Höß: Kommandant in Auschwitz and later as Death Dealer: the Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz, he portrayed himself as having grown up with a "strong sense of duty" and avowed himself as a follower of the "high virtue of military obedience".
posted by Postroad at 11:11 AM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Just a very rough crunching of the numbers here, but to get to a thousand in one year, Dietrich would have to sleep with three soldiers every day, Monday to Friday. That would give her the occasional weekend off. To reach several thousand, she would have had to have been doing this all year long for each year the U.S. was at war.

"Let's face it-- everything below the waist is kaput!"

Apologies for flippancy; this is an excellent post. I bet if you could ask those girls, posing on the terrace with their bowls of blueberries, how they felt about being part of the machinery of evil, they would reply: But I'm just a radio operator. I'm just a secretary. It seemed like a good job, and it was boring at home.

All the usual banalities...
posted by jokeefe at 11:14 AM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure Orange Swan meant that she slept under the same conditions as several thousand GIs, like in the barracks or something.
posted by Justinian at 11:15 AM on September 19, 2007


Oops. Meant to put the Blazing Saddles quote in small type, too. Nevermind.
posted by jokeefe at 11:15 AM on September 19, 2007


I think the Marlene Dietrich thing may have been an odd joke just thrown in there. I mean, the very idea of someone in the 1940s having sex...pfffff.
posted by DU at 11:15 AM on September 19, 2007


I'm pretty sure Orange Swan meant that she slept under the same conditions as several thousand GIs.

Ah, right, that makes sense. That interpretation never crossed my mind. Which says much about me, probably.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:18 AM on September 19, 2007


Am I the only one who gets directed to a completely different photo after clicking on a thumbnail?
posted by Brocktoon at 11:20 AM on September 19, 2007


Is it possible to get past the Marlene Dietrich derail anytime soon?
posted by Bovine Love at 11:22 AM on September 19, 2007


If you have any questions about this album, let me know. I work at the Holocaust Museum and was present when they "discovered" the pictures of Mengele in the album, which immediately changed the way our archivists approached this collection.

It's impossible to tell how many other artifacts like this one are sitting in people's attics or garages. One of our mandates is to "rescue the evidence" of the Holocaust, and because of the nature of this aspect of history, "evidence" can be anything having to do with the victims or perpetrators. If you or anyone you know has personal items relating to the Holocaust (diaries, photographs, original documents, etc), we would really appreciate a call about them!
posted by arco at 11:32 AM on September 19, 2007 [6 favorites]


"These were normal, even kind human beings. The capacity exists in us all to be rapists, pedophiles, all matter of monsters, and the only prevention of that is to rationally think about our actions and their effects."
posted by zabuni

With respect, zabuni, I think I disagree with your logic, but probably not your meaning.

I think you can perfectly rationalize the effect of your action - you know precisely what you are doing -without locating in yourself the slightest empathy for the victim.

It is an incredibly complex subject.

And I still don't know whether I mean one's capacity for empathy when doing evil is suppressed - or compartmentalized.

(I very much agree, though, with avoiding "Otherness" arguments when discussing mass atrocities.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:32 AM on September 19, 2007


am i the only one who finds this diction to be a little calloused and inappropriate?

No, but we live in the Age of Snark, when any kind of seriousness is seen as the sign of a pathetic loser. If you can make jokes about Auschwitz, that proves you're better than the pathetic loser. (And yes, yes, I know, we can joke about anything, blah blah.)
posted by languagehat at 11:56 AM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Inappropriate way to highlight the contrast between these two artifacts? Maybe. I thought it worked. Maybe it didn’t. But, there’s no call for you to be a dick about it.
posted by found missing at 12:04 PM on September 19, 2007


Maybe. I thought it worked.

For what it's worth, found missing, I'm perpetually po-faced about whether humor can work in this context. And I winced a bit - but I thought your intentions were fine.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:37 PM on September 19, 2007


I haven't read everything in this post/links, but I will say this... Marlene Deitrich, sex life aside, was a tireless anti-Nazi activist. Think about it... after leaving Germany where she was raised & all of her family lived, for many years the only times she went back to spend time IN her homeland were solely to entertain the forces who were fighting against and working to kill and stop her own countrymen.

She was a lot braver than people give her credit for. They prefer to concentrate on who she slept with, that she wore suits, and that she went against the grain of how women were expected to behave at the time. Personally, I can't help but admire her for having the strength to unapologetically be who she was no matter what people thought.

/soapbox
posted by miss lynnster at 12:52 PM on September 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


And I still don't know whether I mean one's capacity for empathy when doing evil is suppressed - or compartmentalized.

Part of the problem with this is the fact that "what is evil" is an open question, one without a universal answer. I doubt any of these men would have said that they were evil, and many of them probably thought the people they were exterminating were. Thus, there was no need to suppress or compartmentalize empathy, as the very existence of the concept of "evil" gives humans a perfect excuse to carry out acts against it, sans empathy.

For example, one of the captions (sorry, I lost track of it and don't have time to search through again) says something like, "so-and-so was hung after the war, from the very same gallows where he'd hung many Jews." That man likely suppressed empathy for his victims in the very same way the men who hanged him did. "Here is a man who is evil. He must die".
posted by vorfeed at 12:55 PM on September 19, 2007


And as long as we're defending Marlene, let's not forget another prominent German film star / sex symbol who worked against type to fight the Nazis.
posted by lodurr at 12:58 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Vorfeed,

Isn't there an important difference though?

The man condemned to hang - it's his legal punishment for his personal role in the atrocity. So your natural empathy can be tempered by the demands of justice.

I suppose I could accept someone saying "I sincerely regret we are forced to hang this man, but what he did justifies the sentence."

Maybe I'm wrong - but I thought this was different in degree to telling yourself a race or tribe has to be exterminated, and thus ignoring (i.e. suppressing/compartmentalising] any fellow feeling for the individual?

(Feel free to ignore this. I'm making a botch of explaining, I think!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:16 PM on September 19, 2007


The first thing I did was went to wikipedia to see if [the claim that Marlene Dietrich slept with thousands of GIs] was listed there anywhere, and no, not even that bastion of rumors has that one listed that I can see.

Maybe someone should fix this obvious oversight on Wikipedia?
posted by sour cream at 1:46 PM on September 19, 2007


The man condemned to hang - it's his legal punishment for his personal role in the atrocity. So your natural empathy can be tempered by the demands of justice.

Let's not forget that the Holocaust was not simply a genocide -- many, many people were sent to the gas for various "crimes against the state". For that matter, what was done to the Jews and other "inferior races" was perfectly legal and perfectly just, by the Nazi definition of both. The fact that one's empathy can be tempered by the demands of justice is fine... until one realizes that there's no universal definition of "justice".

If you look through what the Nazis wrote at the time, a whole lot of people said things very much like "I sincerely regret having to gas these people, but..." They probably meant it, too.

Maybe I'm wrong - but I thought this was different in degree to telling yourself a race or tribe has to be exterminated, and thus ignoring (i.e. suppressing/compartmentalising] any fellow feeling for the individual?

I'm sure quite a few SS men never had any personal role in atrocity, yet most Western people have real trouble having any empathy for them. And before you say, "well, that's the difference between being part of a race and being part of a voluntary group", that's in itself a very modern perspective that's not necessarily universal.

This whole issue is really thorny -- IMHO absolute, universal concepts of "evil" and "justice" don't exist, and our attempts to identify and enforce them often lead to the very same horrors they're intended to prevent.
posted by vorfeed at 1:59 PM on September 19, 2007


They prefer to concentrate on who she slept with,

Anyone who sleeps with thousands of GI and then tries to cover it up is going to attract attention.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 2:03 PM on September 19, 2007


milestogo: that squicked me as well, but I'm willing to attribute it to sloppiness rather than malice.
posted by desjardins at 2:18 PM on September 19, 2007


there’s no call for you to be a dick about it.

Sorry, didn't mean it as an attack on you (though I don't blame you for seeing it that way). It was sparked by milestogo's question, and my normally suppressed revulsion at the need to present every fucking thing in an "ironic," detached way for maximum coolness came to the forefront and produced a comment that was aimed at the entire phenomenon, not at you in particular. Like Jody Tresidder, I thought your intentions were fine. But I think the sad direction the thread has taken (HURF DURF Marlene Dietrich!) is at least in part due to your choice of framing. I could be wrong.
posted by languagehat at 2:22 PM on September 19, 2007


But I think the sad direction the thread has taken (HURF DURF Marlene Dietrich!) is at least in part due to your choice of framing. I could be wrong.

To be fair, it seems to me that just about every 50+-comment thread on metafilter over the last year or so has been heavy on the pointless snark (except, of course, for the ones in which people are angrily divided over whether or not it's OK to snark about such-and-such).

I don't think framing is the problem; even excellent, well-framed FPPs tend to have comments pages with a low signal-to-noise ratio these days. I think the tendency for people to use framing devices that pre-snark their own FPPs ("you know who else blah blah... AM I RITE, LOL$NAME?") is more of a reaction to this, rather than the cause of it.

At any rate, looks like we may be caught in a downward snarkaloop... hope somebody brought the parachutes!
posted by vorfeed at 3:30 PM on September 19, 2007


“were the Nazis rationally thinking about their actions and their effects?”

Yeah. I think one of the nuances there is - not that this disagrees with zabuni but from a different perspective - they were humans somewhat divorced from an aspect of their humanity. Sometimes suppressing empathy is necessary: from simply defending oneself by causing damage to an attacker in a fist fight to killing during war. But it’s never a preferable way to live.
The Nazis, in that sense, traded away their humanity to live within the vision they had.
That might be a rational decision, if one considers Faust rational. And in that light (and vorfeed’s) you have that “evil forever” concept.
Predication on irreconcilability rather than immediate necessity (I have to kill you because you are evil vs. I have to kill you right now because otherwise you will kill me right now).
Which if you buy into can legitimize capital punishment and other forms of execution as well as (potentially) atrocities. Because if you’re ‘evil’, I’m justified in doing almost anything to you.
It’s an extremely selfish point of view which is more an assertion of ego than suppression of an other. Which explains it’s often arbitrary nature (considering Wannasee - what is a ‘jew’ - well, he looks jewish). Once one is resigned that there can be no reconciliation with another - that they will always be ‘evil’ - that die is cast (a big reason I oppose the death penalty).
posted by Smedleyman at 3:42 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


*refrains from Wilt Chamberlin reference*
posted by Smedleyman at 3:44 PM on September 19, 2007


If you have any questions about this album, let me know. I work at the Holocaust Museum and was present when they "discovered" the pictures of Mengele in the album, which immediately changed the way our archivists approached this collection.


Arco, can you tell us more?

The Marlene D. silliness is one of the more pathetic derails I've seen in a while. Please just let it go.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 7:35 PM on September 19, 2007


I was dismayed to discover that this thread has become about how many soldiers Marlene Dietrich slept with, but to answer people's questions, I will say that my source is Steven Bach's biography on Dietrich. Bach does not give a number - he says she slept with "countless GIs". The estimate I have heard since is 2000, but no one really knows for sure. It's possible the number is very high because Marlene really was extremely promiscuous.

She was a lot braver than people give her credit for. They prefer to concentrate on who she slept with, that she wore suits, and that she went against the grain of how women were expected to behave at the time. Personally, I can't help but admire her for having the strength to unapologetically be who she was no matter what people thought.

Very true. I don't know how you people read bios, but I'm always looking for something I can use to live my own life better. I didn't find much to apply in Bach's book, but I did read it with my mouth hanging open. Marlene Dietrich was truly like no one else. Such incredible courage and fortitude, such style and professionalism, such boundless generosity. In the thirties a steady stream of German refugees came to her for help. She gave them all money, and never asked or expected them to be repaid.

And she was reviled in Germany for many years after the war. Dietrich loved Germany, but she hated the Nazis, and it tore her up to have to take sides against her own country. She felt that no one ever understood that.
posted by orange swan at 7:44 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have read that the staff who actually ran the concentration camps, the people who were guards and did the actual hands-on dirty work, were the scum of German scoiety, the kind of people who are normally unemployed because they are unemployable, while the officers who had much more going for them were at a remove, doing work of a more administrative nature. I don't know if it was true, but it would make some sense of how they were able to do what they did. If you're one of society's outcasts, alienated and kind of a mess personally, with perhaps addiction or mental health issues, and you've always been kicked around, not able to relate to others in a positive way, and had trouble surviving, you'd probably get right into being able to control and torture others.
posted by orange swan at 7:56 PM on September 19, 2007


orange swan writes "If you're one of society's outcasts, alienated and kind of a mess personally, with perhaps addiction or mental health issues, and you've always been kicked around, not able to relate to others in a positive way, and had trouble surviving, you'd probably get right into being able to control and torture others."

You don't have to be one of society's outcasts. They've become trite examples, but you've heard of the Milgram experiment and the Stanford prison experiment, right?
posted by krinklyfig at 8:35 PM on September 19, 2007


Of course I have. It would be interesting to know if that was true about the concentration camp guards though. It's one thing to be cruel or domineering to people for a very short period of time. It's another to torture, kill, starve and force people to live in horrendous conditions on a daily basis for years.
posted by orange swan at 5:50 AM on September 20, 2007


The Marlene D. silliness is one of the more pathetic derails I've seen in a while. Please just let it go.

Seriously. Not only is it a rumor that was created just to demean her because she wasn't demure and never took "her place" as a woman, but there are a LOT of men in history who HAVE slept with hundreds of people and nobody seems to care. If anything the rumor made them far more popular. Hello Errol Flynn, I'm talking to you.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:10 AM on September 20, 2007


The derail is unfortunate, however, I feel compelled to read about this lady.

A young friend fell into the habit of making jokes about holocaust. He even had a Hitler speech as his ring tone. He's a South African country boy. So I gave him a slide show of some of the victims, and really chewed him out. He's a decent chap and not remotely stupid. But he was totally clueless how he'd appear to many folks.

The Nazis were just as human as anyone. The German soldiers killed in the war were just as dead as Allied soldiers killed. But we get to laud our dead heroes loudly and openly, they don't.
posted by Goofyy at 9:23 AM on September 20, 2007


"But we get to laud our dead heroes loudly and openly, they don't."

I take your point, Goofyy.

But I think there would be many willing to exchange the right to crow over dead heroes for the assurance that people like your young friend didn't keep growing up clueless.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:58 AM on September 20, 2007


The Nazis were just as human as anyone. The German soldiers killed in the war were just as dead as Allied soldiers killed. But we get to laud our dead heroes loudly and openly, they don't.

While this is true, it's a red herring.

The issue isn't whether or not Nazis were human, of course they were, it's whether or not they condoned, believed in, and sought to further a murderous racist regime bent on world domination. WWII was not like WWI, it wasn't just a bunch of farm boys on both sides sent to die by plutocrats and competing empires. It was a war of expansion started by an elected dictator whose platform was based on the racial superiority and right of the German people.

There were certainly millions of German soldiers and civilians out of the ~7 million who died, who had no choice in the matter of Germany's direction, but the German people as a whole are not simply the loser of the war in the sense that their story is comparable, though unwritten, with the victor's. The German people venerated and followed a racist thug who wanted to rule the world, and they wanted him to, also. They may have been human, but they were deeply wrong, and deserve to be scorned as horrible representatives of what humanity has to offer.
posted by OmieWise at 10:10 AM on September 20, 2007


I remember a girl I met in Germany in 1989 telling me about how she went on an exchange to America a few years before. She said that there were all of these students who thought it was funny to click their heels and salute her, ask her if Hitler was still alive, or make Hogans Heroes references (that she clearly didn't understand). It all really upset and hurt her. I remember her saying, "I didn't do anything wrong. My parents didn't either. And my grandparents were against the Nazis. I hate that I'm supposed to always live in shame for something that happened so long before I was even born."
posted by miss lynnster at 10:13 AM on September 20, 2007


"I didn't do anything wrong. My parents didn't either. And my grandparents were against the Nazis. I hate that I'm supposed to always live in shame for something that happened so long before I was even born."

The issue of collective guilt is really complex, and very personal, ultimately. (I know I don't want to be held responsible for BushCo's actions.) On the other hand, how readily do you think she would have admitted it is her grandparents had been pro-Nazi? My guess is her statements tell you nothing specific about her family's involvement. Nor do her grandparent's statements tell her anything specific about their involvement.

If no one was a Nazi, wither WW2?
posted by OmieWise at 10:26 AM on September 20, 2007


“deserve to be scorned as horrible representatives of what humanity has to offer.”

Yeah, I think that’s the thing though. The Nazis do. The German people are something else. Especially now. I take miss lynnster’s point about feeling shame about something that happened before you were born. They’ve since changed their ways. But look at, f’rinstance, Louisana, currently still a lot of racist stuff going on. So there are people who knowingly (unlike some of the kitch dufuses from examples above) engage in the reviled practices of their forebearers.

(Buddy of mine’s granddad was in a German prison camp. I remember as a kid we loved Hogan’s Heros because...well, we’re stupid kids and the show was slapsticky. We couldn’t watch the show when he was around though, he would curse and shut the t.v. off. He hated that show. In retrospect, it was in pretty bad taste.)
posted by Smedleyman at 10:38 AM on September 20, 2007


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