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This is an extraordinary ethical dilemma, historically speaking and thus reflected through the novel, because, from a utilitarian point-of-view, the action of allying with the Soviets during the Second World War is just: choosing the lesser of the evils to defeat the greatest evil manifesting itself at that time, the evil one is fighting. On the other hand, given the later implications, the evil force that the Soviet Union came to represent, we are wondering whether or not it was the actual just decision to make.
On a micro level, we have small, individually addressed ethical dilemmas, like the one Gunther Behn is having. It is interesting to point out towards this ethical dilemma because, in some ways, it seems as if such small, micro dilemmas, are tying in to the title of the book.
Gunther was a decorated German soldier during the First World War and then worked as a police office during the Nazi regime. However, his very promising career was affected by one minor detail: his wife was Jewish and this could have affected his perspective.
As several other Germans, he faced an ethical dilemma on whether to remain married and be degraded or whether to divorce his wife and continue his successful career. He chose to divorce his wife and from a just perspective, we are bound to believe that this was definitely not fair.
On the other hand, he is seeking redemption by collaborating with the authorities in order to identify and capture war criminals and members of the Nazi regime. A 180 degrees turn for someone who obviously supported, at least tacitly, the Nazi institutions, committed to working for them and performing an excellent job as a policeman, only to turn around and use himself in order to capture people that may have helped him in the past. Just from a historical perspective, given the connotations of the Nazi regime, but not very fair if we think of the fact itself.
Another character facing ethical dilemmas is Emil Brandt, Lena's husband, although his actions really make us wonder whether or not he is actually thinking about these ethical dilemmas or it is the reader that faces them for him. He is the type of scientist of whom you are often bound to ask yourself whether the ethical norms and ethical framework is in accordance to the general human society agreement or whether he is living by his own ethical framework, generated by the science field he is contemplating. In this case, it is most likely that it is the latter, as we understand that Emil Brandt was significantly implicated in the experiments and studies committed by Nazi Germany, to a degree to which we understand his difficulty in judging right from wrong and his total adherence to science and scientific research, no matter what the implications and no matter what the final goal of the clients.
A person such as Emil Brandt would have probably never have found his place in a post war Germany where all persons implicated in the Nazi regime would have found their proper place. On the other hand, as previously mentioned, we are looking at a Germany where the winners, especially the two superpowers, United States and the Soviet Union, are looking forward to divide the conquests of war and scientists from the Nazi Germany are one of the most important weapons to use one against the others.
It is because of this utilitarian perspective that the type of scientists that Emil Brandt is representing are blending in with the new conditions and why the winners are likely and willing to forget the past for such characters: they can still be useful to one or the other.
As we can see from this analysis of some of the main ethical dilemmas in the book, it is difficult to point out who will be responsible for ensuring that social justice will prevail. At a macro level, the countries responsible for this achievement have failed, because of their wartime alliance with one of the non-ethical elements. On the other hand, at a micro, individual level, such as the two cases presented, redemption is probably individual. In the case of Gunther, he has found that using his detective skills to catch war criminals is a way by which his individual conscience can be cleared and that social justice, at this individual level, can be obtained.
1. Kanon, Joseph. The Good…[continue]
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