Recently I published a post about a crackpot who walked around with a T-Shirt with this slogan:
Those members of the armed forces obeying the orders of Obama are traitors of the United States and our constitution.
This comment would have resulted in a trial for high treason in Nazi Germany and the offender would have been executed by guillotine.
I finished the book Every Man Dies Alone recently. It was the first major book in decades that I have read in the original German language. This gave me added insight and color and an understanding of many of the subtleties that surely would have gotten lost in the translation.
The story is fictional, but it is based on real events, real people, whose names are actually shown in imaged documents. It takes place in Berlin in the period between 1940 and 1943, at the height of the Hitler regime, before losses in the war started wearing the regime down.
If you have ever wondered how an entire country of 60 million plus people could have turned evil, attacked all its neighbors, killed 6 million Jews, devastated all of Europe, you should read this book. It all becomes understandable and obvious. A criminal and nefarious leadership started instituting totalitarian practices, slowly at first, and deliberately and systematically as it went. Children were brainwashed to spy on their parents. Over time, every bad apple enlisted with the dark side, where brutality, sadism, corruption and murder were completely accepted, as long as they benefited the ruling elite. Every thug got a uniform, and that uniform, without any checks and balances, authorized him to brutalize the citizenry as he saw fit. The acts were done by the military, who controlled everything, including the police, the court system, the business establishment and the social system.
Those that didn’t agree with what was going on could not only not publish their opinion, they could not even speak it to anyone, since they never knew who was a snitch. Your own family and “friends” could have been undercover spies. Fear permeated all of society. Pretty soon, half the country was busy arresting and locking up, and often executing, the other half.
In Every Man Dies Alone, the protagonists are the little people. Field hands, children, shop keepers, factory workers, housewives, policemen, detectives. The Germany of the Nazi regime comes to life through the eyes and feelings of the “small” people. We get to watch their lives, their fears, pains, the little joys left to them, and their perishing.
One message I took away from this: Freedom of speech is hugely important. Secrecy and non-transparency is the start of totalitarianism. It is a slippery slope, from hiding the truth, government lying to the people – like about WMD in Iraq – to slow subjugation of the people and their rights. There are people in our country today who are willing to start walking on this slippery slope just because there might be a terrorist in our judicial system who slips through the cracks of a technicality.
Read Every Man Dies Alone and then tell me if you are willing to take the risk of allowing the slightest type of censure, seeing what it can lead to within just a few short years of abuse.