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29 Nov. 1996    Why Could Happen ....?

By Pavel Kollar
Germany: One german TV film contering Goldhagen's Statement that all Germans were willingly cooperator of Nazis. I haven't seen the film so I do not know the arguments which were presented in it, so I will try to explain the issue on the basis of personal remeberings and what I read about the theme.

Before Nazis, one concrete German possible had no objections against his/her Jewish neighbour as a concrete man on rationally basis, although the emotional attitudes could differ from those to his/her German neighbour. But there appeared a new authority, making very broad generalizations about Jews, based mainly on emotions. As a result of new propaganda the behavior of this concrete German to his/her concrete Jewish neighbour changed from correct but relatively cold into incorrect and hatefull. The behaviour to his/her German neighbour remained as before, correct and warm. The change in behavior came under the influence of new information launched by the authority. This could be unpleasant for Jews but still not dangerous. The really danger came from the new organization of the society. There was created a strong integrative organization based on loyalty to nation relation. In practice there were created more 'national' organizations and their aim was to involve and put under control the whole German nation. The two German neighbours of the Jew became members of one organisation or another feeling themselves loyal members of one nation. Now when already in control of nation, these organizations looked for practical expression of this loyalty. To find such a practical way for proving their identity they focused on Jews as 'emotionally aliens'. And the two Germans got the role of performer in this or another such organisation. Why they accepted this role? What was the decision base: the not so warm emotions to the Jewish neighboor or the net-gain from the accepting the influence of new authority? The alternative not to accept the influence was connected with "... the authority will consider me as betrayer .... I will loss the group ... isolation ... there is no another group which can protect me ... I won't to differ from my German compatriots ... authority can punish me because it is powerfull ....". And the alternative to accept the influence was connected with " this is my authority .... the same as I .... I feel some obligation to it(and how not when it is the only supplier of life conditions) ... besides this I can earn some material reward .... (greater than that offered by previous authority for the status before changes ...) ..... and for this I would have to sacrifice my Jewish neighbour from whom I had no reward and whom I did not like especially ... so with accepting the influence I could loss nothing what was in stake ...". Can this choice be called "willingly"? In the same degree as the choice of some job: one is making decision for this job because "this is the best alternative of all ....". What could save Jews? Only some opposition to the new authority which would had argued that such attitudes to Jews were amoral and illegal (considering they were citizens .. .) and this opposing information would possible cause some hesitation by the concrete decision maker before accepting the proposal of the new authority. Had opposite information existed it would allow comparison to concrete decision makers with the result that he/she would not accept the proposal so "willihgly" and possible this would inhibite the new authority not to go so far. In cultural and religious tradition of Europe the obedience to authority was a value. Rebels were ever punished, especially if they were from lower classes. Nazis were accepted as authority, especially by the lower class and later from others also. Their first step in power was to eliminate opposition. The another chance for Jews was to have their organization which would warn them on time. The only organization they had was the religious organization but this was not able to give them right signals. So, the extermination of Jews was organized, not spontane. If Goldhagen under 'willigly' means spontanity then he is possible not right in his argument that Germans were 'willigly' cooperators of Nazis. Nazis were organized criminals who deprived not only Jews but also their own nation.
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