Something good in Hitler?

January 27, 2018

In the Washington Post on January 25, 2018, there appeared an article concerning Reich Baud’s comment that she saw something good in Hitler. She was referring to Hitler’s talent as an artist (a judgment which is very subjective, of course). This assertion resulted in a lot of flak in article’s comments section, some declaring Hitler to be “pure evil.”

I have always thought that marrying Eva Braun shortly before his death was a good act by Hitler. Evidently Hitler had told Eva Braun that he would marry her once it would not interfere with his dedication to the German Volk. A totally evil person would not have bothered with this promise when he was getting ready to commit suicide. But Hitler did keep his promise and he did marry Eva a few hours before their joint suicide.

And how does Hitler compare with the ancient Israelites who conducted a holocaust on the people of Jericho and Ai? It almost seems as though he took a page from the playbook of those Israelites. The rule of action called for the total destruction and slaughter of all the people (and even animals).

Now the degree of evil is not mathematical, as though Hitler were worse than the ancient Israelites because he killed many more people. In this regard Hitler and the ancient Israelites followed the same rule, i.e., total annihilation of the hated people, and so where it does not matter whether it be tens or tens of millions.

Jesus indicated that a man looking at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart.* This should be understood to mean that if that man had the opportunity he would actually commit adultery physically. This leads to Immanuel Kant’s thinking that it is not the action which makes someone moral or immoral; rather it is the principle of that person which leads to an action that is the standard for such a judgment. As an example we can imagine someone having a principle which calls for the killing of all Jews and gypsies whenever it could be done safely. Such a someone might never have an opportunity where this could be done safely and so, with respect to action, could be considered a moral and upright person. But with respect to the heart, there would be no moral difference between this person and Hitler; it would be only a difference in opportunity.

* This ties in with the verse in Proverbs: As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.)

In an extreme and academic effort to conceive of Hitler as a moral person, we can take a cue from the earlier history of the Europeans and Americans where some people were sincerely thought to be vampires and witches, and where it was proper and right to kill them to protect innocent people. Hitler (again, in this hypothetical sense) may have sincerely believed that Jews and gypsies were incapable of recognizing the rules of morality, i.e., no sense of right and wrong, and thus on the same level as the vampires and witches of that earlier time.* If this were true about Hitler’s thinking, then this would put him in the company of such as Don Quixote (ignorant or insane) who sincerely believed that a windmill were a disguise for a murderous giant, and who risked his life to destroy the giant and, accordingly, should not be counted as seeking to destroy property (which would have been the obvious take on his actions).

* Here are two articles concerning the state of science with regard to differences in the races at the time of Hitler: White Supremacy and American’s Wall.

The important lesson here: it’s not the action that determines the evil of an action, but only the principle leading to the action; it’s not the number of people murdered that counts, but only the principle leading to the murder, and there is no moral difference between hating and wanting to murder one person, but unable to find an appropriate opportunity, and hating and actually murdering ten million.

Addendum 7/12/2019. Recently I have been much taken and, as an American, even disturbed by an essay entitled the Hitler Vortex of April, 2018, in The New Yorker magazine, where we learn that Hitler was very much impressed by the way the Americans had dealt with the Native Americans and had killed them and taken their land. He saw it as a model for dealing with the European Jews and with the lands of the Ukrainians and the Russians. For example we read:

“America’s knack for maintaining an air of robust innocence in the wake of mass death struck Hitler as an example to be emulated. He made frequent mention of the American West in the early months of the Soviet invasion. The Volga would be ‘our Mississippi,’ he said. ‘Europe—and not America—will be the land of unlimited possibilities.’ Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine would be populated by pioneer farmer-soldier families. Autobahns would cut through fields of grain. The present occupants of those lands—tens of millions of them—would be starved to death.”

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January 2018

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