By Derek Thomas
I have been listening to Dimitri Shostakovich’s Trio No. 2 in E Minor, op. 67. It is a vivid depiction of the Nazi death camps. And this past week saw the 60th anniversary of a Soviet army officer (Anatoli Shapiro) and his battalion’s arrival at Auschwitz to discover 7,000 starved and emaciated prisoners left behind when more than 50,000 had been marched out to the snow and almost certain death in the Nazi attempt to cover up the evidence of what was taking place. 1.5 million Jews were exterminated at Auschwitz, a place that has become symbolic of the Nazi holocaust. Shapiro, now 92 still recalls the scene: "We came upon groups of people in striped uniforms. They were no more than skeletons. They were unable to talk. They had a blank look in their eyes," the 92-year-old Shapiro told Reuters.
Auschwitz has left its mark on Europe, particularly Germany. It’s modern reluctance to commit troops in battle, the widespread pacifism, the concern for environment, it’s preoccupation with political correctness-all of these are products of its legacy and involvement in the worst example of genocide in human history. The world, however, has not learned anything. One need only mention the massacre at Srebrenica, the atrocities of Bosnia, the genocide in Rwanda, Saddam Hussein’s gassing of the Kurds, or the present situation in Darfur to realize that man’s inhumanity (behavior in a way that violates the way man was created) to see that evil, great evil is still a reality in the world.
But a nagging question remains: How could one small nation have successfully put to death over six million Jews in the space of a few short years? And what possible policy could claim it is right? The Nazi concept of lebensunwerten Lebens (life unworthy of life) led to the death camps of Auschwitz, Dachau, and Treblinka. Jews, gypsies, and others identified as "inferior races" perished in the ovens of the concentration camps. The disabled, the sick, the mentally ill--all these were murdered at the order of the regime, and they were murdered by the millions.
At the end of the war, when the camps were liberated and the ovens were opened, Allied officers forced German citizens from cities and villages near the camps to walk through the gates, walk through the corpses, see the ovens, and know of their own guilt.
The Nuremberg trials showed that Germany's trend toward atrocity began with their progressive embrace of the Hegelian doctrine of "rational utility," where an individual's worth is in relation to their contribution to the state, rather than determined in light of traditional moral, ethical and religious values. As both the British commentator, Malcolm Muggeridge commented over 20 years ago in articles which appeared in The Human Life Review (1977), “the origins of the Holocaust lay, not in Nazi terrorism and anti-Semitism, but in pre-Nazi Weimar Germany's acceptance of euthanasia and mercy-killing as humane and estimable. (The former United States Surgeon General, C. K. Everett Koop made similar observations in an article in the same journal in 1980). "It took no more than three decades,” Muggeridge continued, “to transform a war crime into an act of compassion, thereby enabling the victors in the war against Nazism to adopt the very practices for which the Nazis had been solemnly condemned at Nuremberg."
And today we face a similar philosophy of life when it comes to abortion. Millions of tiny unborn infants killed in the interests of the quality of life of others. We have learned nothing.