Sunday, July 18, 2010

More history lessons

This morning's NY Times includes "Women's Role in Holocaust May Exceed Old Notions .. Research Finds Greater Female Involvement." As if the Holocaust were not awful enough, I suppose one might have hoped that women would not sink as low as men. The new research evokes the argument of Daniel Goldhagen -- that quite ordinary Germans participated in mass murder.

There have been other holocausts and atrocities, but Germany had once been thought to exemplify a higher standard. It is exactly that idea which is examined in an accompanying book review of The German Genius (which goes on the ever growing to-read list). "By 1900, nearly everyone agreed that there was something special about Germans. Their philosophy was more profound -- to a fault. So was their music. Their scientists and engineers were clearly the best. Their soldiers were unmatched." Reviewer Brian Ladd mentions that Nazi propagandists and sympathizers hijacked this view for their own ends. But, "... the educated middle class was too weak to stop Hitler ... it abdicated its responsibility to do so and .. its antipolitical ideals taught a nation to welcome a charlatan's promises of a redemptive community."

As awful as all this is, my impression after several visits to Germany, is that today's Germans have learned from their history.