Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Parallels

I've just finished reading Antony Beevor's The Fall of Berlin 1945. There was one passage that struck me. Now, before I get to it, I want to assure everyone that I'm well aware of Godwin's silly law about internet discussions and the Nazis. I also want to assure everyone that I'm not going to push the parallels too far. The scene takes place on April 15th, 1945, as the people of Berlin (never a political stronghold for the Nazis) are becoming increasingly angry with the deprivations of war and the country's imminent defeat. The Russian Red Army has just occupied East Prussia and will be attacking Berlin within a week:

a sixteen-year-old Berliner called Dieter Borkovsky described what he witnessed in a crowded S-Bahn train from the Anhalter Bahnhof. 'There was terror on the faces of people. They were full of anger and despair. I had never heard such cursing before. Suddenly someone shouted above the noise, "Silence!" We saw a small dirty soldier with two Iron Crosses and the German Cross in Gold. On his sleeve he had a badge with four metal tanks, which meant that he had destroyed four tanks at close quarters. "I've got something to tell you," he shouted, and the cariage fell silent. "Even if you don't want to listen to me, stop whingeing. We have to win this war. We must not lose our courage. If others win the war, and if they do to us only a fraction of what we have done int he occupied territories, there won't be a single German left in a few weeks." It became so quiet in that carriage that one could have heard a pin drop.

Okay. Now, I'm not saying that we in Canada are in the same sort of danger as the people of Berlin in April, 1945 were. I'm not saying that Canada has been as barbaric in Afghanistan as Germany was in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

But what I thought of when I read that passage (after I thought about what might have been going through the minds of those Berliners in that seconds after the soldier had spoken) was that the processes that allowed something like that moment in the Fall of Berlin to happen are the same processes that afflict us today.

With all seriousness, the people who cheerlead this war are just as brain-dead stupid as the people who cheered all the way up to the end of 1944 for Hitler. With all seriousness, I believe that only a few minor adjustments would be necessary to allow Christie Blatchford or Rosie DiManno to write turgid love-letter columns about "our boys" in the Ukraine, fighting the Communist hordes in Stalingrad.

The "Blogging Tories" who constantly yammer about the insidious Muslim threat, attempting to gnaw away at Canada's vital organs from the inside, unless we WAKE UP and listen to the alert few (themselves) who advocate stripping these people of all their human rights and deporting them, are the same sort who saw the Jews as the enemy within.

The imbeciles who have responded to credible evidence that we're handing over innocent civilians to a prison system that is widely acknowledged to practice systematic torture by withholding evidence or screaming that they simply won't believe what you're telling them, are the same folks who buried their heads in the sand about what Germany was doing in the USSR.

The difference is that while the people who didn't want to know or didn't rise up to resist in Germany 1933-45 were living under a brutal dictatorship, while the people of Canada who act similarly are just assholes.

And the people who just tried to stay neutral. The people who did what they were told. The people who were then grumbling about how Hitler had brought them to this sorry state, and who were now sitting in silent terror as the consequences for their country's actions were about to become painfully real, they're just like the people in Canada today who ignore politics, who lamely blather "they're all crooks!" without a second's hesitation or reflection, who want to cheer for "Team Canada" as it puts plastic discs into nets. Those Canadians who can't be bothered to do anything but complain when things screw up and inconvenience them, they'll be the ones who will wake up, perhaps too late, after "Canadian" becomes a term of contempt and our country becomes known as one where we allow our government to be complicit in war crimes with impunity, and they'll ask "What happened?" as the soul of their country, our country, turns into some dark, ugly thing.

2 comments:

Mentarch said...

Exactly.

Hear, hear.

no_blah_blah_blah said...

With regards to Nazi Germany, I've always wondered what the general populace knew about the extent of horrors being perpetrated by their government. My social studies teacher from years ago said that a lot of people feigned ignorance after the Allied victory... That seems plausible to me.

As for other German institutions and bureaucracy, it was downright creepy and evil how nothing was done to stop the Holocaust... in fact, everything worked together to make it happen...