Video from Yad Vashem
"In the video, "Teaching about Nazi Perpetrators" ISHS staff member Dr. Noa Mkayton broaches the difficult subject of the perpetrators in the Holocaust. Ms. Mkayton stresses the dangers in seeing perpetrators purely as other-worldy "monsters". Taking the case study of Paul Salitter, a German Police officer tasked with escorting a transport of some 1,000 Jews to their deaths, we see a fairly ordinary person, oblivious to the moral ramifications of his actions. In examining his depiction of the events, and contrasting it that of a Jewish deportee on that very transport, we hear and feel Salitter's disconnect from the human beings he is helping murder. In confronting the difficult questions arising from this case - questions we can't hope to fully answer - we deepen the debate over these issues, while encouraging students to be more aware of the consequences of their own actions. The materials discussed in this video are available on our website and in teaching units produced at the ISHS. Dr. Noa Mkayton is a staff member at the International School for Holocaust Studies, Yad Vashem. Part 1: Introduction Part 2: Case Study - Paul Salitter - 2:00 Part 3 : Hilde Sherman’s Testimony - 8:54 Fuller quotes from Salitter and Sherman’s accounts, educational discussion and related materials, available in the book How Was it Humanly Possible?
One thing we have learned from history is yes we learn nothing from history or very little. We first of all have a short attention span and most people don't care to know about the lessons of history, even recent history.
In the months to come we will be looking back at this time in history which actually was not that long ago. Why? Because the same sin, the same trend toward human evil is active and alive in our world to day and yes in our American Culture.
The point is made in the video that the people that called themselves Nazis were ordinary people that chose spectacular evil. Just as today around the world people choose the same sort of evil. 9/11 for example and the genocide of Rwanda. Least we not forget our own sins in the genocide of the Native Americans and the Racism in our country even now.
So could you become a perpetrator? Could you, would you join in a mob and kill people? Would you could you get caught up in our politics and decide to attack and kill someone perceived to be an enemy? Don't say it could not happen.
Can we do evil without being evil? This was the question that philosopher Hannah Arendt grappled with when she reported for The New Yorker in 1961 on the war crimes trial of Adolph Eichmann, the Nazi operative responsible for organising the transportation of millions of Jews and others to various concentration camps.
Arendt found Eichmann to be an ordinary, rather bland, bureaucrat, who in her words, was ‘neither perverted nor sadistic’, but ‘terrifyingly normal’. He performed his duties without any motive other than to diligently advance his career in the Nazi bureaucracy. Eichmann was not an amoral monster as so many had thought.
Around the world and in America today we have many extremist groups many of which are immersed in the same evil dogma as the Nazis where.
Data from the Southern Poverty Law Center suggests the number of hate groups is currently near the country’s all-time recorded high, in 2011. The SPLC reports that as of 2016, there are 917 active groups. (That’s 100 fewer than the 1,108 groups reported in 2011.) The SPLC’s hate map identifies groups by tracking their publications and websites. Of those 917, more than 90 are neo-Nazi groups. California has the highest number with 79, followed by Florida with 63 and Texas with 55.
Prominent neo-Nazi groups include the National Socialist Movement and Vanguard America. According to historian Federico Finchelstein, the KKK, white supremacists and white nationalists are also neo-Nazis, whether they identify as such or not, because they all “exhibit the fundamental traits of Nazism—chiefly racism, anti-Semitism, and the glorification of political violence.” The Anti-Defamation League reports that these groups’ underlying ideology dehumanizes and focuses on the “alleged inferiority of non-whites.” The neo-Nazis in Charlottesville last weekend were recorded chanting “blood and soil,” a Nazi slogan that affirms racial hatred by basing ethnicity on blood descent and physical territory.
The reality is the evils of the Nazis are alive and well.
So lets take a look at the perpetrators.