I recently read a book about life in Nazi Germany leading up to World War II. What struck me most was how ambiguous and mixed peoples’ feelings were. Today the horrors of the Nazi Party are black and white, but not leading up to the war.
- Most people thought claims of “inevitable war with Germany” as needlessly stirring the pot. Even seeing the Nazi Party’s early brutalities and feeling Jewish citizens, they saw it as someone else’s problem.
- The U.S. government cared more about Germany paying off its debts than stopping their discrimination.
- Many believed Germany’s claims to want peace, and that they were only working for equality among other European countries. This was even as the country’s explosive military growth made it apparent they were stalling before declaring war.
- The U.S. ambassador the story follows was mildly anti-semitic himself, and agreed with Germany about there being a “Jew problem.”
- When the ambassador’s daughter arrived at Germany, she was enamored with its changes and saw it as an admirable rise to its former glory.
It took until the Night of the Long Knives with its hundreds of estimated deaths for others to see the Nazis’ true nature. Even then, no other nations spoke out. They kept hoping the party would become too radical to sustain itself.
Right now, we could be in a similar setup for any number of countries. Where our “it’s complicated” views could get much less complicated and more obvious in hindsight. It’s unsettling but makes me want to learn more and catch this shift before it happens. To not think “if only I’d seen it then” after history’s next dark chapter.
Of course, if some random coder in Connecticut could figure it out, wouldn’t those in charge have already done that?