Yesterday I spent a good part of my day off reading a book on WWII and then watching a documentary about the same. That war still fascinates me. Not just the breadth of it, but the deception that fueled it, and how many intelligent people actually believed the lies. One of the things that scares me today is that the younger generation is no longer being taught much about it. So much so, that as I quoted a few weeks back, when asked: "70 million Americans (obviously the younger generation) did not know that Germany was our enemy in WWII." And we can be sure that if they do not even know that Germany was our enemy, they surely do not know the tactics the Nazi party (not just Hitler) used to persuade so many to do so much evil.
That's why I share today's thought. It comes from the best-selling author Andy Andrews, and is titled: "How Do You Kill 11 Million People? Why the Truth Matters More Than You Think." It is rated "PG-13" and is not for the faint-hearted. Yet I encourage you to read it -- and share it -- since I believe the old adage is true: "He who Does Not Know History Is Condemned to Repeat It." It's a well-researched and insightful little book that would take less than an hour to read. It has its sad parts, but would be well worth your time. In our era of media spin, when truth seems to matter so little to so many, and its hard to know what to believe when you see numerous quotes of reports online -- it is a sobering wake-up call. Read with caution.
"How do you kill 11 million people? Obviously, most of us have never even considered such a thing. Yet when I began to closely research our world's recent history -- the last one hundred years -- that particular question made its unsettling way into my mind. How do you kill 11 million people? 11 million. The number is so large when the word people is attached to it that it becomes almost impossible to take seriously. "Why 11 million?" you might ask. What is the significance of that number? Actually the number is 11,283,000 -- the number of people killed by Adolf Hitler between the years 1933 and 1945.
Incidentally, that particular figure only represents institutionalized killing. It does not include the 5,200,000 German civilians and military dead. Neither does it include the 28,736,000 Europeans killed during World War II as a result of Hitler's aggressive governmental policies.
Within the same parameters, we could have used the number of Cambodians put to death by their own government: slightly more than three million between 1975 and 1979. Three million -- from a population of eight million. We could have used the exact figure of 61,911,000. That is the number of people who were murdered by the government of the Soviet Union, shown by their own records, between the years 1917 and 1987. But only 54,767,000 of the men, women and children put to death by the Communist Party were officially Soviet citizens. (That's almost 2500 per day for 70 years.)
During World War I, the highest leadership council of Turkey's Young Turk government decided to exterminate every Armenian in the country, whether a soldier fighting for the government or a pregnant woman... all two million of them. We could have used that number instead. Or, three million in North Korea, more than a million in Mexico, Pakistan, and the Baltic States. The choices available, and numbers of dead killed at the hands of their own government, are staggering. And in other places around the world, they are just getting started.
But for our purpose, let's focus on the number that is the most well known to us -- the eleven million human beings exterminated by the Nazi regime... To be absolutely clear, the method a government employs in order to do the actual killing is not in question. We already know the variety of tools used to accomplish mass murder. Neither do we need to consider the mind-set of those deranged enough to conceive and carry out a slaughter of innocents. History has provided ample documentation of the damage done to societies by megalomaniacal psychopaths or sociopaths.
What we need to understand is how eleven million people allow themselves to be killed? Why, for month after month and year after year, did millions of intelligent human beings -- guarded by a relatively few Nazi soldiers -- willingly load their families into tens of thousands of cattle cars to be transported by rail to one of the many death camps scattered across Europe?...
The Answer is breathtakingly simple. And it is a method still being used by some elected leaders to achieve various goals today... You lie to them.
According to testimony provided under oath at the Nuremberg Trials (including specific declarations made in court on January 3, 1946, by former SS officers), the act of transporting the Jews to death camps posed a particular challenge for the man who had been named operational manager of the Nazi genocide -- Adolf Eichmann. "The Master" as he was known, was directed by written order in December of 1941 to implement The Final Solution. Eichmann went about the task as if he were the president of a multinational corporation. He set ambitious goals, recruited enthusiastic staff, and monitored the progress. He charted what worked, and what didn't, and changed policy accordingly. Eichmann measured achievement in quotas filled. Success was rewarded. Failure was punished.
An intricate web of lies, to be delivered in stages, was designed to ensure the cooperation of the condemned (but unknowing) Jews. First, as barbed wire fences were erected, encircling entire neighborhoods, Eichmann or his representatives met with Jewish leaders to assure them that the physical restrictions being placed upon their community (in what later became known as ghettos) were temporary necessities of war. As long as they cooperated, he told them, no hard would come to those inside the fence. Second, bribes were taken from the Jews in the promise of better living conditions The bribes convinced the Jews that the situation was only temporary... After all, they reasoned, why would the Nazi's accept bribes if they only intend to kill us and take everything anyway? These first two stages of deception were conducted to prevent uprisings or even escape.
Finally, Eichmann would appear before a gathering of the entire ghetto. Accompanied by an entourage of no more than thirty local men and officers of his own -- many unarmed -- he addressed the crowd in a strong, clear voice. According to sworn statements, these were very likely his exact words:
"Jews: At last it can be reported to you that the Russians are advancing on our eastern front. I apologize for the hasty way we brought you into our protection. Unfortunately, there was little time to explain. You have nothing to worry about. We want only the best for you. You will leave here shortly and be sent to very fine places indeed. You will work there, your wives will stay at home, and your children will go to school. You will have wonderful lives. We will all be terribly crowded on the trains, but the journey is short. Men? Please keep your families together and board the rail-cars in an orderly manner. Quickly now, my friends, we must hurry!"
The Jewish husbands and fathers were relieved by the explanation and comforted by the fact that there weren't more armed soldiers. They helped their families onto the rail-cars... each was packed with no less than one hundred human beings and quickly padlocked. At that moment they were lost. The trains rarely stopped until well inside the gates of Auschwitz."
Though all the blame often gets laid on Hitler, he did not act alone. He had a very intelligent and capable crew of master planners with him -- planners who were very gifted at the art of controlling the media, deceiving a nation, playing on people's national pride, and silencing all opposition. In a day when we have less and less ability to control what we see, or the agenda and message behind it, a little glance back at recent history can be helpful.
As Andrews stated regarding his whether or not he had a "political agenda" for writing the book: "Of course. Here's mine. I want America's present and future to live up to America's core values as written by our Founding Fathers and set forth in the constitution. In addition, I want the public to vigilantly hold them accountable for doing so."
I would encourage one more thing we need to hold people in positions of power accountable to. It's found in the Bible: "You Shall Not Bear False Witness." For when truth doesn't matter, as history shows, people's lives are at risk.
In the Service of Jesus, Pastor Jeff