Updated: Dec 18, 2019
It is infinitely true that we should never countenance efforts to minimize ghastly crimes against Gypsies, Jews, Communists, and others demonized as deviant by fascist Nazis in Germany and in their occupied European realms. This is why some people threaten to turn the debate about what is happening to migrants and their children on the southern US border in 2019 into a kerfuffle about the term “Concentration Camps”. They are right in that The Holocaust deserves a special place in our sense of history. Somehow, we must keep its memory alive to give its victims some measure of honor and dignity which they were unjustly denied in the circumstances of how they were murdered, tortured, exploited, and confined.
Most importantly we should preserve the history of Nazi crimes against humanity to work towards the day when such atrocities are not likely to happen again.
Even the US.
“Never”, unfortunately, can be part of a very self-deceiving and self-defeating formulation about history and human nature. We must be ever so careful about what sense of history we have and are supporting in the public mind. In 2019 should we compare our concentration camps for border crossing migrants with the work camps and death camps run by Nazis during WWII and feel GOOD about ourselves?
Another comparison, perhaps more apt, is between those in Germany who were not active Nazis (and who maybe had uneasy qualms about Hitler) but who said, “Well what else can we do? I wish there were a better way to deal with the problems certain people are causing US who, after all, only want to be left in peace. And anyway, the Russians have their own brutal ways of . . .”
It is strangely provocative to say that Nazis and Fascists are people too. But it is imperative to never forget this essential truth. It’s absolutely crucial to remember this NOT to normalize or excuse torture, neglect, and the demonizing ill-treatment of helpless people, BUT to keep in mind how EASY it is to ignore it, passively support it, and even endorse it without ever getting OUR hands dirty.
The ones whose hands are dirty are, just remember, “only following orders”. And are administrators of our concentration camps to blame if we don’t provide them with enough blankets and diapers ?.... What can they DO?? What can ANYBODY do? Oh well . . . Anyway, the Iranians and Chinese are out to get us.)
There is a common connotation to the word “demonize” which involves depicting certain (often helpless) people in dehumanizing ways. But if you want to create real live actual human demons, just abuse, neglect, and despise them while they are helpless children. A few of them will survive into adolescence and adulthood in ways that will make us feel additionally afraid, superior, and even more crimped in our understanding of human nature.
Meanwhile, the world is watching the US and judging us.
And the vast condescension of history will have its savage say.