Lest We Forget.....

Being German-born, this holds a special significance for me…….

(we should never become complacent)


Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, “regretted,” that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these “little measures” that no “patriotic < citizen >” could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.
You see,“ my colleague went on, “one doesn't see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next.
Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows.
And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can't prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don't know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.
But your friends are fewer now. Some have drifted off somewhere or submerged themselves in their work.

“Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven't done ( for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood. A small matter, a matter of hiring this man or that, and you hired this one rather than that. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.

Excerpts from the book By Milton Mayer

“They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-1945”,
University of Chicago Press. Reissued in paperback, April, 1981.

  • ethics/lest_we_forget.txt
  • Last modified: 2020/01/06 11:11
  • by becker