The Root of the Disease

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In Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt writes this:

“Without Jewish help in administrative and police work — the final rounding up of Jews in Berlin was, as I have mentioned, done entirely by Jewish police — there would have been either complete chaos or an impossibly severe drain on German manpower” (p. 117).

She goes on to quote someone who observed that it was scarcely possible for a few thousand people, most of whom worked in offices, to liquidate many hundreds of thousands of other people without the cooperation of the victims. Moreover, that cooperation frequently consisted of participation in the bureaucratic processing. Before being gassed in the camps, they had to stand in line and fill out numerous forms.

The subtitle of Arendt’s book is telling: “A Report on the Banality of Evil.”

Or, to look at the threat another way, we also have to remember the banality of bureaucracy. At root it is the same banality.

Here is Lewis in the Preface of Screwtape:

“I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of “Admin.” The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.”

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delurking
delurking
8 years ago

This is a very pleasant belief, which I have seen stated elsewhere — that the Jews went meekly to the gas chambers in their destruction, that the black slaves in America cooperated passively with slavery, and so on — but it has very little to do with the facts on the ground. Was there paperwork involved? Yes. But the paperwork is not how the Jews were convinced to walk into the camps, or the gas chambers. They were convinced by German and Polish and Austrian soldiers with guns and dogs and clubs, who beat them and shot them and brutalized… Read more »

Robert
Robert
8 years ago

Starting in WW1,this is how the German-American community was destroyed. The were isolated by an intense and unrelenting propaganda initiated by Britain and the Progressives. The Huns were aggressive militarists, bullies that had to shut down. This is years before the Nazis. The GA went from the second largest ethnicity to virtually extinct in less than thirty years.

Curt Day
8 years ago

Robert,
You might want to note about WWI regarding who resisted and was punished. Socialists like Eugene Debs resisted the war conducted by “progressives.” Helen Keller, another Socialist, also opposed the war as did the IWW. Some were put in jail and some weren’t.

But what those who use labels so enthusiastically won’t tell us is the philosophies and beliefs of the progressives back then and how they are similar to the philosophies and beliefs of some who are not progressives today.

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
8 years ago

“The GA went from the second largest ethnicity to virtually extinct in less than thirty years.”

Hardly.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2408591/American-ethnicity-map-shows-melting-pot-ethnicities-make-USA-today.html

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0762137.html

JohnM
JohnM
8 years ago

There are plenty of Americans with German ancestry, but there is hardly a German-American community, which is what I think Robert meant. Now, that there isn’t is probably due to factors in addition to persecution. Assimilation typically occurs within a generation or two anyway, and the truth is it was and is probably easier for immigrants from western Europe than for immigrants from other parts of the world. However, persecution of German-Americans during WWI is a historical fact.

Robert
Robert
8 years ago

Jane look up Meyer v. Nebraska. Legislation like that was designed to destroy the German American culture. Sure there are lot of a German names, but the Italisns have more cultural identity. And they have far fewer people.

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
8 years ago

Robert, I’ll take that back-tracking and change of subject as an admission that the German-American population wasn’t really destroyed after all, thanks. And JohnM, I think you’re right, but you’re also right that it’s all about assimilation. When we settled Pennsylvania, we didn’t set up a “German American community” any more than they set up a “British American community” in Boston or Jamestown; we just came here to be Americans. And I never disputed the persecution of German Americans during WWI, I’m quite aware of it. I was just disputing Robert’s ridiculous assertion that German Americans were almost wiped out.… Read more »

Jacob Moya
8 years ago

Žižek takes “the banality argument” even further, arguing over and against Arendt’s view of Nazi banality. For Žižek, the extermination of the Jews was treated by the Nazi apparatus itself as a kind of obscene dirty little secret. He sees Stalinism as far more banal than any of the “fascisms.” Žižek offers the following anecdotes: …[T]he difference between the Nazi and Stalinist universes is clear, just as it is when we recall that in the Stalinist show trials, the accused had publicly to confess his crimes and give an account of how he came to commit them, whereas the Nazis… Read more »