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Discussion Point

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on January 23, 2013 in News & Opinion |

Sometimes, quite unexpectedly, there is something in the Internet, in one of the forums, a chat room or elsewhere, which is interesting, which provokes a little bit of thought, which excites more than just cursory interest. All it takes is a few well chosen words, a photograph, a link or something similar.

I’m not talking about the hundreds of comments – mainly asking whether what was published is really news or not – that appear on places like Yahoo News, but little things which stir the imagination. So it is in this case, with this one photograph.

Viktoria Michaelis: Discussion Point - Adolf Hitler

There is no doubt that this image stirs many emotions, even amongst those who weren’t there, who aren’t directly involved, who are only going from a form of prejudice inherited from past generations.

I found it on Tumblr today, along with the following discussion which, surprisingly enough considering the subject matter, is remarkably civil. Whether, with additional comments bound to follow, it will remain that way is another matter entirely. However, this is what I found:

Do you understand how scary this picture is

As with all such discussions in the Internet, punctuation and similar tend to take a back seat. However, it is a very good start.

god forbid a real person do real person things he wasnt just a robot who killed people jesus fucking christ

And someone has to swear, of course, because a discussion without obligatory cuss-words just isn’t a real discussion, at least not in the Internet. Leaving that aside, there is a very deep thought caught up in there somewhere. The fact that Adolf Hitler, no matter what we may think of him and his regime, was, indeed, a human being. He did things that other human beings do, including holding a little girl’s hand. Normal, everyday things. Hard to believe, but here’s the evidence.

uh yeah its not like he killed and tortured six million jews or anything

Well, yes, there is that too. No matter what happens, this small (almost) fact will always rear its head. I don’t think we would want it any other way, to be honest, the fact of his regime killing indiscriminately is not something that we can, or should, forget. But, there are other little facts which might be overlooked, such as the idea that only Jews were killed. It’s a little bit like the claim, often heard, that thousands of Americans died in the World Trade Center attack. True, but not quite perfectly true since there were also many other nationalities involved.

Hold on just a tick. Listen, I’m Jewish, so I’m perfectly capable of understanding that what he did was just…..well, there are no words for it. But let’s not round it up to simply Jews that got killed. It was six million people that died in those camps, not just Jews. Did you know that homosexuals were sent there, too? Yeah, I’m sure you did. They had to wear special little symbols on their clothes. Do you know what it was? It was a pink triangle.

It was six million PEOPLE.

But you let that roll over in your mind for a while and you are going to forever see this man as a monster, but that’s not what he was. He was someone who thought he was truly doing something right for his nation, no matter how shitty he was doing it. Believe me when I say that I don’t like him. I really don’t. My grandfather’s brothers died in those camps, and my grandfather escaped to Spain, then to Mexico. He was lucky.

This is not a monster holding hands with a little girl.

This is Adolf Hitler, a man, holding hands with a little girl.

Yeah. It’s fucking scary. It really is. Do you know why?

It’s because you’re seeing that he wasn’t, in fact, a monster. You’re seeing in this picture that he was a man. He was a man, and that’s really the saddest part of it all.

There is the reality. You are seeing that he wasn’t just a monster, if you will allow me to amend the above slightly. You are seeing that there was another side to him too, a human side.

As a History major who specializes in the history of early modern Europe, I’ve studied a lot of dictators in detail, not just Hitler. The number one mistake anyone could ever make in history is making the assumption that only inhuman monsters are capable of doing terrible things.

Stop dehumanizing Hitler just so you can reassure yourself that “normal” humans aren’t capable of doing bad things. Hitler liked children and dogs, he was a vegetarian and he cried like a little boy when his mother died. I’m not saying he was a good, innocent person, but when you stop attributing human characteristics to historical figures like Hitler, it’s how you overlook people just like him in real life, and it’s how people like him end up back in power.

This is the side that most people forget because, well, because it’s easier than admitting that any human could be just like Hitler. Anyone can be a mass murderer given the right motivation, the right tools, and still be a human being with absolutely normal, human reactions otherwise.

It is something that we see every single day of the year: a quiet man going about his business, loving husband and father; a respectable woman with children living in the suburbs somewhere, nothing unusual about her, nothing which stands out as being out of the ordinary; a young man, barely into or out of his teens, usual friends and activities, usual problems and so on.

These are the people who suddenly seem to break, leave the ordinary, normal road they have been treading, take a shotgun and kill their co-workers, their children, innocent schoolchildren.

That’s the real truth: Human Beings are scarier than any ‘monsters’ out there because we’re all born blank slates and BECOME our legacy.

These are the people who, for some reason or another, become monsters in our eyes, through their actions which, after the fact, we could all have seen coming, if we’d bothered to look, but didn’t.

This is the best post I’ve seen in a while.

And why? Because it goes to the very heart of things. It brings out that little bit of truth which we all try to avoid, which none of us wants to accept.

I agree with most of the comments, still the picture is kind of chilling. It may be the disparity of thoughts that come to mind e.g. Hitler and sweet little girl with a flower.

The man could have been anyone: a friend; neighbor; a member of our own family. And, as we all know, that is exactly what these people are: people we know; people we work with; people we study with; people we drink a beer with. They are just like us in many ways, happily posing, holding the hand of a little girl holding a flower. Ordinary human beings.

And the little girl? Has anyone given a thought to who she might have been, or does everyone concentrate just on the monster, on Adolf Hitler?

I ask because she seems to be completely left out of every single discussion, simply because Hitler is in the photograph. Her name is Helga Goebbels and she, like so many others, was also a victim.

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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12 Comments

  • Francois says:

    We humans have a long tradition of forcing a human identity or cloak on things that cannot possibly be human. Constellations, gods, Mickey Mouse, the shape of clouds, the changes of seasons, the motion of light in water…

    Adolph Hitler left a scar on our collective consciousness that is unlikely to ever be erased. The Romanian prince Vlad III, the Impaler, is more likely to disappear from our mythologies than Hitler.

    The death toll is much higher than 6 millions, closer to 25. However, Josef Stalin is estimated to be responsible for 40 million deaths. Mao Zedong, 60 millions.

    Why then are they eclipsed by Hitler? They too held little girls’ hands; perhaps, like Hitler, they painted roses.

    The answer lies not in the manner or the numbers. Stalin and Mao killed to maintain their power, to clean their houses of ideological challenges, of ideas, period.

    For Hitler, the death of his victims was its own purpose, the end in itself.

    A careful reading of Mein Kampf, where it is available, shows that the genocide of the Jews was a “more acceptable first step to the rest of Europe” in a programme of ethnic cleansing that would have encompassed the world should the Nazis prevail.

    “A rabid dog is still a dog” is not a reason to let it live, pet it, or extend any kind of sympathy. There is no treatment, death is inevitable, only deadly danger remains.

    In retrospect, or given a time machine, who would hesitate to destroy little Hitler on sight?

    He may have been born human, a lot of ink flowed about his childhood and he is an object of study for psychoanalysts from Sigmund Freud to Alice Miller (Am Anfang war Erziehung, 1980).

    The humanity he may have had, he left behind forever on Kristallnacht.

  • Peggi Tustan says:

    Amazing photograph. I’ve never seen it before. I just finished reading a memoir written by a man who was a member of the Czech resistance during WWII (under Nazi control) and after WWII (under Soviet control) so Hitler’s legacy of atrocities is fresh on my mind. I was surprised by the strong emotion I felt just looking at his picture.

    Also interesting how you commented on others’ comments. I liked it. Thanks for a thought-provoking blog!

  • Diana Stevan says:

    Very thought provoking. I’ve seen documentaries of Hitler being “human”, laughing, playing with a dog. He had friends, a lover. He, like the other monsters mention, was a man who inspired many to follow him and look the other way. That’s the piece we all need to look at. Not to lose our humanity when someone is losing theirs.

  • Francois says:

    Viktoria, you are aware that Hitler was democratically elected, I am sure. Do not put too much faith in the people when one competent assassin will suffice.

  • Francois says:

    Democracy does not work as intended unless the majority understands that dictatorship of the majority is not democracy.
    As most people do not understand, I remain a Constitutional Monarchist (missing the days of Enlightened Despots, emphasis on “enlightened”).

    There is a furious debate in France now on the topic of submitting the rights of gays to marry to a referendum. “That would be truly democratic” chants the choir of idiots.
    Tell me: is it not obvious that a human right cannot depend on the approval of the majority? That its need to be protected against the majority is precisely why it is enshrined as a human right?

    I am marrying my dog, as pledged.
    Want an invitation? Or you are not comfortable around zoophiliac heterosexual bigamists?

    • Rights cannot, as you say, be altered in such a manner, only the laws which impede those rights. The discussions will continue elsewhere too, hopefully with some good results.

      As to marrying a dog, an American woman married a dolphin not so long ago – but not in the States – so why not?

  • Francois says:

    Why not an invitation? How many guests?

  • Francois says:

    It will be a very dignified event and I plan to hold it in mid-May to coincide with the opening ceremonies of the Kyiv 13th Annual Mini-Skirt Festival.
    I was once again dragged kicking and screaming into the organising committee (will be doing the live broadcast in Braille on Twitter).

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