Tangle of forces

In 1952 in sixth grade, I started learning about World War II and Nazism from an Army vet who landed on Normandy, day two, and visited Dachau two days after it was liberated. This vet turned me into a lifelong learner as I tried to understand how and wondered, can it happen again?

One article in my search for answers was in 1976 in Psychology Today in an article titled “Were Hitler’s Henchmen Mad?” by Molly Harrower, a clinical psychologist.

I learned in evaluations done on some of the key Nazis on trial at Nuremberg that concluded “six Nazis showed no serious mental disturbance, and two of them were exceptionally well adjusted.

“Their crimes cannot be blamed on mental disorder … These results … demonstrate that well-adjusted people may get caught up in a tangle of social forces that makes them goose-step their way toward such abominations as the calculated execution of six million Jews and the systematic elimination of the elderly and other unproductive people.

“It may be comforting to believe that the horrors of World War II were the work of insane men, but it is a dangerous belief, one that may give us a false sense of security. It can happen again.”

I wonder, how are decent and sane people convinced to set aside their religious and moral standards? How are humans made comfortable to dehumanize other humans? Does it start with labels, such as “illegal”?

How are fear and hate instilled in some? If people see others as less than human, are they less concerned about hurting or killing those people?

David Young


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