Friday, 27 January 2017

The Roots of Evil

SS-Sturmbannführer Ernst Lerch started adult life working in his father's cafe in Klagenfurt. A secret Austrian Nazi, when war came he served with the infamous Otto Globocnik in the purges of Jews in eastern Europe, being deeply implicated in the extermination programme. After the war, and whilst the British were occupying Kärnten, Lerch sneaked back to more or less openly run the family cafe. Oh, both the Brits and the Austrians tried to prosecute him, but not very hard. A charming schmaltzy character who presided lovingly over the Tanzcafe Lerch whilst tipsy British officers waltzed with dirndl-clad Mädchen. A loved and respected family man, he lived until Tony Blair formed his first government in the UK. A new play here, 'Tanzcafe Treblinka', explores the myriad issues around the astonishing tale of the man implicated in over a million murders. 

Franz Stangl, the commandant of Treblinka, was of course also Austrian. He was captured in 1970, and in the brief period between incarceration and death was interviewed at length by Gitta Sereny, whose book, Into That Darkness, remains one of the most profound and affecting books I have read. She believes that when he finally allowed himself to admit his guilt, the weight of his evildoing crushed him. His heart attack struck him 19 hours after the admission.

When I search for common characteristics, common backgrounds, amongst these people, not monsters of horror but ordinary, dreary men - Arendt's 'Banality of Evil' - I find unquestioning conformity, a willingness to believe, respect for bureaucracy and hierarchy, trust in the establishment, unwillingness to voice contrary opinions, dogmatism and, yes, limited emotional intelligence. All the characteristics, in other words, that you and I spend our time on the interweb decrying, destroying and combating, whether we find them in individuals or institutions. 

Every illiberal bully who wants to ban and control thought and language, to restrict personal choice, to subvert democracy, to limit people's control over their own lives, to coerce and twist and emotionally blackmail, has the potential to grow into an Ernst Lerch or Franz Stangl if allowed enough oxygen. Our work in checking them can never be done.

18 comments:

mike fowle said...

The 2001 Kenneth Branagh film Conspiracy conveys the ordinariness and banality of evil very well. Leading members of the Nazi hierarchy meet to discuss the most efficient and cost effective way of eliminating the Jews. It's like a board meeting or civil service meeting apart from the subject matter.

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

Those last two paragraphs - are spot on.

Anonymous said...

And they were all 'peace loving' I expect too..

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

I notice that the blue haired pussy hat eco warrior contingent stateside are going all Second Amendment

They have a UK branch.

Anonymous said...

Conformity is a key feature of people who join cults like the Nazi party or ISIS.

These are people who want to belong and to be told what to do.

Don Cox

Anonymous said...

I've watched some TV programming on the holocaust in which former camp guards have been interviewed. Without exception none has expressed contrition. I suspect that they couldn't allow themselves to because they'd crack psychologically if they did.

Jay

Cuffleyburgers said...

Group think, conformity, you nailed it Radders.

The British are quite like the Germans in many respects, but by and large in the UK we tolerate eccentricity better and are less prove to groupthink (but by no means immune), another reason why the EU functions so badly - it is rotten with groupthink.

Anonymous said...

Raedwald said:

'Every illiberal bully who wants to ban and control thought and language, to restrict personal choice, to subvert democracy, to limit people's control over their own lives, to coerce and twist and emotionally blackmail, has the potential to grow into an Ernst Lerch or Franz Stangl if allowed enough oxygen. Our work in checking them can never be done.'

Essential reading:

Germany's New 'Ministry of Truth' - The Gatestone Institute

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/9822/germany-ministry-of-truth

With apologies to Churchill's The River War:

How dreadful are the curses which socialism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy.

Police Investigation After Woman Brutally Beaten by ‘Anti Fascists’ for Wearing National Flag Bracelet

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2017/01/25/woman-beaten-antifa-wearing-spain-flag/

Steve

Anonymous said...

Hypnosis of the masses?

Span Ows said...

Outstanding blog-post Raedwald.

RAC said...

This classic rant says it all...........
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9e_vcSut0A

Nick Drew said...

individualism is not at all valued in the Germanic culture (which extends to a great deal of the USA, despite what Americans usually say)

to be willing to stick to your guns, strike out alone, be independent etc is generally considered a virtue in Britain (even if there can be slight negative vibes at the extremes)

but to be considered eigensinnig in Germany is a serious matter (& not in a good way)

Nick Drew said...

PS "Never be the only one in the room laughing" (Homer Simpson)

DeeDee99 said...

"Every illiberal bully who wants to ban and control thought and language, to restrict personal choice, to subvert democracy, to limit peoples' control over their own lives, to coerce and twise and emotional blackmail, has the potential to grow omtp a Ermst Lerch or Franz Stangle, if allowed enough oxygen."

The correlation with Islamism is obvious.

G. Tingey said...

Conformity

Mike Pence
A good model from Heydrich, perhaps?

DD99
Almost - actually any "militant" ( word used properly) religion is a perfect model

Anonymous said...

I believe you are living in Austria. Have you seen this:
http://www.breitbart.com/london/2017/01/29/islamists-plotting-to-establish-caliphate-in-austria-raids-reveal/

James Higham said...

Amen.

Budgie said...

G Tingey, You conform to the current atheism spirit of the age, but I would not be so crass as to compare your conformity to one of the NSDAP Aryanists. I will put your name forward for OTT medal of the week.