Life Unworthy of Life: Racial Phobia and Mass Murder in Hitler's Germany

By James M. Glass | Go to book overview

ELEVEN
THE POLITICS AND PROCESS OF HATE

Auschwitz is a symbol of decimated boundaries, annihilated respect, institutionalized hate, and the disappearance of identity. The Holocaust assaulted physical boundaries and historical identity, breaking them down and decimating civil forms of exchange--for example, the respect for the body; the belief that we will sleep unmolested; the knowledge that if we suffer, individuals or social institutions will respond with care and concern; the security of knowing our families will be there when we need them. These certainties, which make life endurable, disappear when a majority group violates the identity- creating boundaries of a minority group. Without a firm commitment that the majority will respect boundaries, minority groups may suffer fragmentation, disintegration, and, as in the case of Jews, gypsies, and the genetically unfit in Nazi Germany, extermination.

There is no more compelling testimony to the fragility of psychological and political boundaries than the diaries written in the ghettos during the Holocaust. It is a point also powerfully made in recorded Holocaust testimonies. Many Jews went to their deaths not believing that culture, science, and politics wanted them dead simply because they existed. If societies fail to construct barriers inhibiting the pursuit of savagery, the lust for killing finds willing partners with modern technologies and belief systems. The record of the twentieth century gives little comfort. Power tramples civility; and civility and respect

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