At this point, it is easy to see how Hitler was able to be a success in his plans and how he used the basic human need for order to carry out his plan. However, one still must wonder why no one resisted. Regardless of the order that his methods created, what he did was horrific by any standard. One has to wonder why the people did not simply rise up and stop him. The answer lies in his ability to soften the language used for his tasks. For instance, his officers were dubbed "sanitation officers" who were asked to dump a sack of "disinfecting chemical" through a slit in a roof. They were not allowed to ever go into the building, thus distancing them from what they were actually doing. The soldiers did not have to face up to what they were really doing. They thought that they were helping to "clean" something to keep it orderly. Any resistors were "cleansed" themselves. People were motivated to keep themselves from become considered "dirt."
Could it Happen Again?
Many have the belief that a horrible act such as the holocaust could not happen again. We pride ourselves as a society in our advancement and maturation. We comfort ourselves with the idea that the reminder are still there and we would not let anything happen like this again. However, if we only look at several recent events in our society through the lens of cleanliness and order vs. dirty and chaotic, one begins to realize that several times in our recent history we were on the tipping point of something similar.
No one will argue that the 9/11 bombings of the World Trade Towers created chaos in an otherwise "ordered" American society. Everyone got up and went about their business that day. Then suddenly within minute a grand building, that was a symbol of order and power tumbled to the ground in a cloud of dirt. There was chaos everywhere. All flights were grounded, the military scrambled and a hijacked flight was still out there headed to an unknown destination. The chaos that interrupted that quiet American morning created mass fear in the public.
Immediately, the first question on everyone's mind was "who did this?" Everyone wanted answers fast. If they could find someone to blame for this chaos, then they could begin restoring order to their world. When it was discovered that the bombers were Muslim, it unleashed a fury of racism against Muslims. Even though the actions of the bombers had absolutely nothing to do with a vast majority of Muslims in America who are good, upstanding citizens, the blame quickly generalized to anyone of the Muslim faith (Smith, 2004). Anyone of Middle Eastern decent was put under the microscope.
Now, nearly a decade later, persons of Middle Eastern decent, or who "look" Middle Eastern are more likely to be the target of racial profiling by the authorities (Winston, 2009). Even now, we now know more of the circumstances that surrounded the attacks and the profiles of the ones that actually committed the acts, many Americans are still wary of anyone of Middle Eastern decent. Sikhs were targeted to avenge the American lives lost, all in the name of restoring order to society (Winston, 2009). It is not difficult to imagine many of these same feelings were present among the German people as Hitler rose to power and began his campaign of death.
We like to comfort ourselves by saying that we are not as naive as the German people and that we would never allow it to happen here. However, if one looks at 9/11 through the lens of dirty and clean, it is easy to see how some of these same feelings were present during the rise of Hitler. People were desperate for someone to restore order to their chaotic world, just as American society was desperate for the same after 9/11. Even the most recent actions with much protested increases in airline security are evidence that Americans are still feeling the effects of the chaos created by 9/11 and that airline officials are trying to fulfill the need to restore a sense of order and quench the fears of the flying public.
When one begins to examine how Hitler successfully rose to power using the need of the people for order in their lives, it is easy to understand how he was able to exploit a basic human instinct. Now, in our post 9/11 world, we are faced with a similar situation. The racism that arose towards those of Middle Eastern decent is not that different from the feelings that permeated Germany. When a Sikh is bombed, how much weight is it given when compared to the event that started this war? Is it given the same weight when innocents lose their lives, or it is passed off as simply "unfortunate?" When one looks at these similarities, it is easy to see that American society is frighteningly close to the conditions that allowed Hitler to get away with the holocaust.
Bauman, Z. Modernity and the Holocaust. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, New York.
Jewish Virtual Library. 2011. History of the Holocaust -- an Introduction. [online] http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/history.html [Accessed January 15, 2011].
Smith, S. 2004. Stoking racism after 9/11. SocialistWorker.org. September 24, 2004. [online] http://socialistworker.org/2004-2/513/513_04_Scapegoating.shtml [Accessed January 15, 2011].
Albert Speer, "Die Bauten des Fuhrers," Adolf Hitler. Bilder aus dem Leben des Fuhrers (Hamburg: Cigaretten/Bilderdienst Hamburg/Bahrenfeld, 1936, pp. 72-77. German Propaganda Archive. [online]. http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/ahbuild.htm [Accessed January 15, 2011].
Winston, I. 2009. Documentary focuses on racial, religious, discrimination after 9/11. November 21, 2009. SMU Daily Campus. [online] http://www.smudailycampus.com/2.6641/documentary-focuses-on-racial-religious-discrimination-after-9-11-1.961265 [Accessed January 15, 2011].