Thursday, September 27, 2007

Last year, during and right after the Lebanon War, I had a short but very insightful and enlightening correspondence with an American DBI reader, about - among other things - my love-hate relationship with the USofA ( mainly love, plus admiration and apprecitation for the young men and women who risk, and too often ruin and give, their lives far away from home, now just as much as 60 and 90 years ago ). This reader is a former US Marine. He wrote something interesting regarding the war in Iraq. His lines stuck with me: " There is one hope, however. America has historically never been afraid to admit its failings and errors, and try to set things right. It may not happen until 2008, but I suspect it will happen. There is too much at stake for us to not correct our course ".
This week he sent me another beautifully written and very helpful e-mail, following my posting about the photo album of SS officer Karl Hoecker. Here is what he wrote me ( I received his permission to quote him ):
" I can say nothing profound to compare with Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil" comment during the Eichmann trial, but can add only my observations - seen from the perspective of a Marine, and later, a police officer - of how easy it is to turn off one's identification with those who are suffering, particularly when that is the organizational ethos. This is not to say that those concentration camp guards relaxing on their benches, were not evil. Evil transcends the temporary culture. Perhaps you, yourself, as an IDF soldier, saw this mentality in action also (*). To me, the great danger and tragedy, is when we ourselves lose our identification with the victims. This is what made it possible for these guards to relax in the sun, whilst the screams from the gas chambers and yards filled the air. My point is that there was probably nothing unique - or uniquely German - about the callousness of the Auschwitz SS auxiliaries' behavior. It was the same callousness that we see whenever the perpetrator completely loses any sense of identification with the victim as a fellow human being. I like to believe that Jewish ethics and teachings, make us resistant to this disconnection, but I realize there is no foolproof prophylactic. To me, the difference between a good warrior and a bad one, is the ability to understand that whilst the enemy must be destroyed, the enemy could be us."

(*) I never did. Thank G'd I did all my tours of reserve duty at a quiet basis in the Negev desert, far away from any contact with civilians or armed enemies.

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