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This narrative on Nazi Germany is apposite to present day Pakistan… scary

War and violence in any form, are bad for several reasons, but most reprehensible of them is the absolute degeneration of qualities that differentiate humans from animals. Empathy, compassion, kindness and such traits which facilitated human collaboration to create the world we know, is replaced with behavior associated with feral animals. Ordinary, law-abiding, God-fearing family men go on a merciless rampage, plundering, raping and killing. We read about mobs lynching a mentally challenged victim, or a police officer brutally raping and slaughtering a child and wonder – who are these people? Are they even human?

The shocking answer is – they are as human as we are and therefore by corollary, our virtuous conduct is just a thin line away from the evil that lies latent in most of us. What makes a regular ‘next door neighbor’ transform into a rapacious demon and kill without mercy or remorse?

For many decades, psychologists have tried to answer that question, using one of humankind’s most shameful acts as their model.

Between 1941-1945, Germany systematically murdered six million Jews, leveraging their industrial prowess to create what was arguably the Nadir of our species – an industrial infrastructure to not only kill fellow humans but to profit from their deaths. Entire families were rounded up, robbed of their belongings, separated from each other, forced into labor until they could work no more and then killed at an industrial scale. The deprivation didn’t end there. Bodies were harvested for personal effects, their hair was sold, gold fillings of teeth were melted into ingots and even the fat of the bodies was used to make soap and grease. The mechanization of death reached such efficiencies that train timetables to gas chambers were scheduled in the manner which would be most efficient.

The question that psychologists tried to answer was – what could dehumanize an entire country to such an extent that they would not only condone – but in many cases, actively participate in genocide. True, the hardcore amongst the Nazis loathed Jews. Also true, that many of the SS killers were criminals, psychopaths, and hardened sadists. But that still didn’t explain why several million ordinary citizens and professional soldiers would plummet to this level of debasement in literally a matter of months.

11 Mar 2018/Sunday.


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