Fascinating piece in the NYT today about how popular Hitler was in middle-class Germany in the 1930s, revealed in a new exhibition in Berlin. It akes the Goldhagen thesis and extends it to knitting circles. Money quote:
“This is what we call self-mobilization of society,” said Hans-Ulrich Thamer, one of three curators to assemble the exhibit at the German Historical Museum. “As a person, Hitler was a very ordinary man. He was nothing without the people.”
Understanding this - and constantly exposing it - helps us protect ourselves against it happening again. And yet there's always pressure to brush similar tendencies under the rug if they reappear. Yes, Godwin's Law applies - until it doesn't. In a post looking back at a similar refusal to look away, Letters Of Note blog recalls Rod Serling, of Twilight Zone fame, writing to Playboy to and commending them on running Alex Haley's 1966 interview with George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party in Virginia:
There is a breed of layman social scientist who will forever cling to a concept of "defeating by ignoring". Hence, when out of the muck of their own neurosis rise these self-proclaimed fuehrers, there is this well-meaning body who tell us that if we turn both eyes and cheeks the nutsies will disappear simply by lack of exposure.
My guess is that in this case exposure is tantamount to education and education, here, is a most salutary instruction into the mentalities, the motives and the modus operandi of an animal pack who are discounted by the one aged maxim that "it can't happen here." ...
[W]e have learned to realize that even the most sophisticated society can still fall prey to an invasion of monsters. It is not public exposure that helps these perverters of human dignity. Rather, it is apathy.
(Photo: Children's tin soldiers of the Nazi criminal Adolf Hitler regime are pictured during a press preview of 'Hitler and the Germans Nation and Crime' (Hitler und die Deutschen Volksgemeinschaft und Verbrechen) at Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) on October 13, 2010 in Berlin, Germany. The exhibition will be open to the public from October 15 until February 6, 2011. (By Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)