The Genocidal Mind: Selected Papers from the 32nd Annual Scholars' Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches

The Genocidal Mind: Selected Papers from the 32nd Annual Scholars' Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches

The Genocidal Mind: Selected Papers from the 32nd Annual Scholars' Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches

The Genocidal Mind: Selected Papers from the 32nd Annual Scholars' Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches

Excerpt

In Nazi Germany and in Stalinist Russia, wrote critic George Steiner, "the cry of the murdered sounded in earshot of the universities; the sadism went on a street away from the theaters and museums."These words suggest something intimate and quite unexpected about the relationship, if not complicity, between literate civilization and mass murder. The Nazi era set the tone: The Final Solution's top leaders—Goebbels, Hess, Speer and Himmler—were university trained. So too were the SD leaders who commanded Einsatzgruppen squads and the medical establishment that supported the Nazi quest for "racial purity."

Other modern regimes exhibited a similar paradox: Newspapermen, missionaries, and educators were committed to plundering and destroying indigenous peoples in North America; the Young Turks trained its technocrats and professional bureaucracy against Armenians; highly educated leaders of the Khmer Rouge orchestrated a systematic assault against the Cambodian middle classes; the U.S. political and educated elite advocated or participated in turn-ofthe-century forced sterilization of the poor and maladjusted; high culture was implicated in genocide in Bangladesh, Nigeria, Rwanda and Paraguay.

The Shoah was not the first act of genocide in the 20th century, nor did it prove to be the last. In a post 9/11 age, in which the uncertainties and fear of terrorism have transcended oceans and continents, the need to understand the human propensity for violence and mass destruction continues to grow. Education's modern legacy is deeply ambiguous. Answers vaporize in response to Steiner's disquieting question, "How to explain those who sing Schubert in the evening and torture in the morning?" Whatever the answers, however, they do not include the possibility of certain moral defect in . . .

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