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    Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    Lenten Reading: One of my Lenten promises to myself was to do more reading. That's not really a sacrifice, but it's a self-improvement type of Lenten commitment that our increasingly touchy-feely parish says is A-OK. I've been reading the first on my list, Victor Klemperer's I Will Bear Witness. A distant cousin of Colonel Klink, he was also a proud German Protestant - who happened to have been born a Jew. The book, in two volumes, is his diary of those years beginning in 1933 when the National Socialist fever was just catching fire and ending with the bombing of Dresden which, though it destroyed his home, enabled him to rip off his Star of David and flee to freedom. No one who survived Dresden had identity papers. A refugee was a refugee was a refugee.

    It's a chilling and depressing book in its description of the slow degradation of a once brilliant culture. The country that produced Luther, Haydn, Beethoven, and Einstein taken over by men twisted with hate. It's fashionable in some circles to compare our current leaders to the Hitler regime. To see in their efforts to stem the tide of terrorism and radical, violent Islamism an echo of the National Socialists and their creeping infringement of the rights of the Jews and other minorities. But there's another echo of Nazi Germany that's making its way around the world today - the complacent enabling of evil by its very victims.

    There is some sort of perverse self-destructive impulse in human nature when it is trying its best to be good. On the one hand, the struggle to be good necessarily involves accepting criticism and using it constructively to improve ourselves. On the other hand, it seems that we are often incapable of distinguishing worthwhile criticism from just plain slander and hate. It's when we're trying our hardest be just and good that we're most blind to hatred and evil in others. Call it the "Why-do-they-hate-us?" Syndrome, if you will.

    We are all too familiar with the syndrome these days, but it was at work among German Jews in the 1930's, too. In the beginning, when Hitler first came to power, Klemperer mourned the silence of those who had the ability to speak out but remained silent - "It's a disgrace, which gets worse with every day that passes. And there's not a sound from anyone and everyone's keeping his head down, Jewry most of all and their democratic press." By 1935, Jews were no longer considered German citizens, but the response had evolved beyond mere silence to an active sucking up to the oppressors. - "...the latest Jewish snobbery was to sympathize with the Nazis. They spoke 'without hate'...." And three years later, they were rewarded with Kristallnacht.

    It would be a depressing book read in any era, but it's been especially depressing to read it in the time of Cartoon Jihad and the new-found "fashion sobriety." It feels at times as if we in the West have all become German Jews circa 1935.

    posted by Sydney on 3/08/2006 10:12:00 PM 1 comments


    You might also be interested in reading "The Ominous Parallels"--a book on this very subject by Leonard Peikoff.

    By Anonymous Ice Scribe, at 5:08 PM  

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