Sunday, April 1, 2007

Will you tolerate this post?

So I posted here about tolerance. This was the topic of a series of Ideas programs on CBC.

So let me throw something out here to see how you chew on this. I know Naomi has read a lot about the holocaust but essentially she would not be the only one that would agree that the Nazi slaughter of the Jews is a horrible scar on history.

Let me state clearly that my position is that this genocide is abominable.

So then how are we to judge those German citizens, soldiers, and even executioners? They acted under the conviction that they were doing the right thing. Yet we would say they are/were wrong. On what basis should we be given authority to classify their actions as wrong? What do we do with the ignorance that their convictions led them to remain in? Why are/were their convictions less valid than my own?

And you can stop right here thinking that I’m a Nazi-lover or a Jew-hater.

13 comments:

Naomi said...

Dale, since you brought my name into this I thought I better add something! Interesting questions! We can answer those questions with the knowledge of all that happened leading up to the Holocaust and see the WHOLE picture while those that lived during that time only saw what was happening at that moment. We have the advantage to see what the thoughts and ideas Hitler was placing in the minds of the German citizens actually lead to.

But was Rawanda any different? Or Bosnia? How did those things happen after we have the knowledge of the Holocaust? How are people still brainwashed into believing some humans are less than human.

I find it very interesting to read about people that supported Hitler and how he literally became their God. I read a book called "Hansi - The girl who loved the Swastika" and even after Hitler killed himself she still believed he did that for the betterment of the Reich. He could do no wrong in her mind. Interesting read!

Check out these websites about the Holocaust, after seeing and reading these things you wonder how anyone could argue it didn't happen.

http://home.swipnet.se/~w-49276/docs/auschwitz/welcome.htm
http://www.auschwitz-birkenau.org/

INCOMING... said...

Naomi, good take here...
I think we do have a peculiar advantage from our point in history. the same goes for the crusades I suppose.
I wonder if it is possible to gain that vantage point for things that are in our more recent past?

Natasha said...

Being a psychology student, my view is coming from that vantage point... we look and think/judge how on earth anyone could ever commit such brutal crimes, but a lot of psychology studies seem to evidence that "obedience to authority" weighs much greater than any of us realize. There's one study in particular that's quite famous (well, in the psychology realm that is), in which a psychologist set out to figure out the answer to that very question - "how/why could anyone do such a thing such as the holocaust?" The subjects in the study were told to read questions to a person in another room (who was actually a confederate in the study, but the other participants didn't know this) and if they got the question wrong, they were to deliver an electric shock to the man in the other room. The more answers wrong, the greater the electric shock. The man in the other room was instructed to begin crying out in pain (the participants could hear him, but could not see him) and begin begging to stop the study. Many participants grew uneasy, yet when another actor posing as a psychologist running the study would comment something such as "It's part of the study though. You need to.", they would go ahead and deliver yet another shock. Eventually, the confederate in the other room fell silent, as if dead/seriously harmed. However, the shocking thing was, no matter how great of distress the participants were in over what they thought was happening, they kept going shocking people up to 450volts. See, they all believed this person in a "higher authority" must know better than them - and thus obeyed, even when it appeared that they were seriously harming another individual, possibly to the point of death. It was a disturbing study, as it was not what the psychologist expected to find, and spawned on many others similar to it. As such, it's made me really ponder questions of mercy/grace, and to also realize that perhaps Jews were not the only victims, but also the perpetrators themselves. The Milgram study (the one I just described) would actually be illegal today, as it violates ethics because of the large amount of emotional distress that the participants went through when they believed they were shocking this other person. Makes you wonder what emotional torment some Germans who participated may feel. Anyway, an interesting thing in my opinion....here's a link about the experiment in case I didn't explain it very well... http://www.new-life.net/milgram.htm

jc said...

The experiement is an interesting one. It seems 65 percent of the participants followed through the whole procedure. I would question whether the situation in the laboratory actually is analogous to the situation in Nazi Germany. These people came into participate in a study at Yale. Without the brand name recognition the number of participants who went through with experiment dropped down to 47 percent. I think there is some element of the respect the particpants would have for the authority which is encouraging their action. I do not know what sort of image the Nazi party had built up before and during the war that would cause such obedience that they would be able to treat Jewish people so inhumanely. I think a deeper study of this would need to be made before drawing to many conclusions about how this experiment enlightens our understanding of the holocaust. What do you think?

jenivere said...

I don't see how one can dismiss the results of this study when applied to Nazi Germany. The gov't had used extensive propaganda and fear mongering. People either loved the gov't and were commited to its future, or were terrified of it and were trying to avoid the same fate. Participants in this study knew that it was only a study. What were the stakes for the Germans? MUCH higher, I presume. Its easy to see how the gov't was more persuading than the psychologist at Yale.
Check out the second website Naomi suggested. There are journal excerpts from Nazis who worked at Auschwitz. It seems they struggled with their own inhumanity in committing those acts.

INCOMING... said...

I'm not sure jc was dismissing the study Jen but I would agree that the study is significant. It would be impossible to recreate the conditions that affected the German situation but I do think the study does tip us off to some general conclusions about human behaviour.
What I am really interested in is how we end up judging the German people/Nazis. You see I think most of us would contend that what they did was wrong and that even those people who refused to do anything about the situation one way or the other are complicit in allow this attrocity to occur. That's the advantage of history like Naomi suggested. Whats wierd to me is that we do not see oursleves in that same light with respect to the concentration camp like conditions in our first nations reserves. Is that becuase we don't have the advantage of time? or is that because we have this innate ability to ignore evil when it is convenient to do so?

Natasha said...

Well, obviously the study can only be applied to a certain extent, but the point is that I don't think we as a human race yet fully understand how powerful various influences are in our lives. That study was done with "normal" every day people just like you and I, and by the end of it, the majority of them were willing to seriously harm another human - this transformation took place not within days or months, but within hours. How much more for those who were being subjected to Nazi propaganda and pressure for years? I seriously question what I myself would have done had I been a participant in that study. It's easy to judge and think that we would never, but it's clear that people just like us, did.

Naomi said...

I just finished reading another book I found about the Holocaust. "The World of Anne Frank" complied by the Anne Frank House. "In this collection of photographs of Anne Frank's world, we get a sense of what things were like during her lifetime". It was very interesting to see how Hitler came to power and how he used the economic situation Germany was finding itself in to increase his followers. In the book it talks about how Germany was in political and economic crises in the 1920's and "from 1929-1932, industrial activity drops by 65% in Frankfurt. By the end of 1932, more than 70,000 of the city's population are unemployed, while a quarter no longer has a steady income. The working class is particularly hard hit". Hitler recruits these people that are out of work and gives them jobs. No wonder he got a following. It was over many years that Hitler began his "Final Solution" and made changes slowly. Hitler wins the German elections in 1932 and begins to make changes. The impression I got from reading this book was that Germany was so powerful that most people just complied because they thought it would be easier on them if they didn't put up a fuss. This quote is referring to the Netherlands early days of German occupation. "After the inicial shock and terror of the invasion, most Dutch citizens are relieved that the Germans are behaving 'properly'. The majority do not question the Germans' right to impose new laws. Some measures, such as the blackouts, seem reasonable. Others, such as the introduction of the ID card, are bearable. In the face of Germany's apparent invincibility, it seems sensible to adapt to the inevitable...This widespread Dutch obedience provides the German authorities with crucial information that makes the persecution of Dutch Jews an easy next step".

You bring an interesting topic to the table with the question of the Native reserves. Are we allowing this form of 'native ghetto' to exist because of prejudice and anti-native feelings we have? Do we allow it to continue because it is just easier to leave 'them' live over there where they aren't in our face? Interesting! I was thinking about that issue and also the issue of the homeless. Are we doing anything to prevent the cycle and situations the homeless find themselves in? Is it the same as the Jews is Europe in the 1930's and 40's? Can we place these events next to each other? If not, why and if yes, then are we any different than all those Germans that seemed to just comply and stand to the side? Interesting thoughts Dale.

Natasha said...

Dale, I think I was posting at the same time as you.... interesting twist tying in the First Nations. By the way, your new eyeball thing creeps me out.

INCOMING... said...

I really appreciate this discussion. I wonder what principles we could draw out here in regards to tolerance. Like when should we expect to be able to impose our values on other people? You know what I mean? Like is there a time when we can say no we will not tolerate this behaviour becuase it is injust or wrong? What gives us that authority?
And on the other side if we tolerate the kind of people who perptrate this sort of injustice are we implicated with them in thier actions?
Like for instance, many of the Islamic religions advocate practices that we would consider degrading to women. Is it our responsibility to address that in some way? And if we do nothing are we complicit in this degredation...

jc said...

I wasn't dismissing the study's significance. I was questioning about how one is to apply this study to Nazi germany. Are the conditions in the study analogous to the conditions in Nazi Germany? If I am going to participate in a study at a local university then I go in with certain expectations. I assume that no one is really going to get hurt and that the experiment is going to be controlled fairly well. I also have some knowledge that the psychology department is not in the habit of accidentally or purposefully killing of participants of a study. So there is a certain amount of trust that I have with regards to the university. With the other study that was not associated with the university the results dropped. My question is how do we know what sort of respect and trust the German people had for their Nazi government? Were they not guilty of the horrific acts of the holocaust simply because they were just obeying orders of a trusted authority? Or did they buy into a philosophy that justified these acts? In my opinion this study might apply to some section of the German people quite well, while others not so well.

Anyways I think we are able to judge those who participated in horrific crimes within a certain context. I think the study has shed some light on that context in which people might be judged for their acts but I am not sure it tells the whole story.

Why do you think that atrocities like the holocaust under Nazi rule, slavery in the USA/UK or residential schools canada were stopped? Why did the idea that these things were wrong eventually win out? Another thing I am curious about is why the holocaust is always pointed to as the ultimate evil[and it was evil don't get me wrong] but 40 million dying under soviet rule is barely mentioned?

Naomi said...

jc,

You are right, we mention certain atrocities but not others. Ryan was telling me about how many hundreds of millions died in Communist China because of the oppression they were put under. We don't mention that either. The Holocaust has been more heavily publicized and so gets the attention, as it should because of what happened. But we must try not to forget the other horrific things that have been done to people throughout the world.

Dale you raise an interesting question ("many of the Islamic religions advocate practices that we would consider degrading to women. Is it our responsibility to address that in some way?") Interesting. If some of the Islamic population had never moved to Canada we wouldn't be faced with this situation. I am in no way saying people shouldn't immigrate to this country, I am just stating that now that we have such a mix of people, we feel we are in a place to make judgments on how they live out their faith. Is saying nothing about this tolerance, or just respect for their beliefs? Is it the same thing?

INCOMING... said...

i think it is reasonable to hold that when you enter someone else's domain you need to accomodate yourself to their customs - it is courtesy. For instance if I have the habit of wearing my shoes in the house all the time, I still need to take them off when I come over to your house to visit. The question is should you expect me to take them off? What if I forget to offer you that common courtesy or am ignorant that you would prefer me to run around your house with socked feet? That's whenthe question of tolerance somes into play - I think.