I recommend as a great historical documentary The Goebbels Experiment, now on DVD at Blockbuster, Goebbels being the famous German propaganda minister. The movie is remarkable for having not a single word, and nary a single image, that is modern. Instead, from the very beginning, nothing we hear comes from anything but Goebbel's personal diary, and every picture, moving or otherwise, comes from that era... which turns out to be all too modern indeed.
It has certainly gotten me thinking about the dynamics of that time and culture, and the dynamics of our own 70 years later.
Back then, my grandfather was studying at Purdue and thinking about the field of hail insurance, and his father, an Indiana Senator of Scottish descent, was pursuing farming, crop insurance, and his concern about the dominance of ethnic purists in Indiana politics. Goebbels, over in Germany and the same generation as my grandfather, at precisely those moments was becoming frustrated in his own lack of career progress, nursing bitterness against educated, "up-tight" bourgeois Germans... and Jews. He felt like a nobody, and needed a way to gain respect. He found one by drumming up hysteria against the "threat" of a minority.
It would be wrong to think that Germany was all that different. A striking impression are the movies of normalcy of street life in Berlin, which could have been filmed in Indianapolis, as German peers of my grandfather's generation walked to work in an environment of beauty and peace, passing buildings that look like the Columbia Club, the central library, or the Atheneum.
Imagine saying the following to a German of the age of my grandfather, but one continent away:
"Shortly, you will be either looking the other way from, or even supporting, measures that will denude your Jewish engineering professors of their rights of citizenship, because of your distaste for them... well.. not for your personal professor or tutor, who might be friends, but for 'Jews', who really will not be... well...'German' enough.
"Then your alma mater will strip your professor of his ability to support his family, including his spouse who is sick. You will think that somebody maybe should have done something, except you will be too busy and you will not want to risk your own career by being identified as a friend of the Jews... not any Jew specifically... after all some , some will be friends...but.. you know... 'The Jews.' Anyway, your professor, from whom you learned much and upon whom the department depended for at least one area of expertise, will leave for another place, America, where a university will be willing to employ him. You will think that is regrettable, but perhaps think it was just as well. Especially, since his position will open for somebody who will truly be a friend, and not some abstract, unfortunate Jew.
"You will protest that what follows then will be the actions of others, not your own, for it would be unreasonable to pin on you and your inaction the fact that your beautiful and peaceful Germany will go on to invalidate Jewish marriages, to attack Jewish participation in all economic life, and to drive Jews from their neighborhoods. When the rights of Jews are being stripped in their early stages, all those things will appear too absurd for you to imagine. The Jews who will protest will appear unreasonable and alarmist, and all the more distasteful for it. After all, yours will appear to be a civilized society; though it will become uncivilized because of the actions of others, it will not be because of you. You couldn't be blamed for what happened later... not the ghetto... not the extermination.... not the destruction of the peace, beauty, and civilization. Who will have thought?"
Nice little mental game, isn't it?
Meanwhile, many professors did migrate to America, a land of freedom and equality, and their children and grandchildren have have lent their strength to America's academies and economy. Now history, displaced to a new continent, is repeating itself. A Jewish community of generally European descent has united in opposition to the leadership of an aggression perpetrated by some Hoosiers of Germanic name.... Brandt Hershman, James Bopp, Eric Miller, Brian Bosma, Jeff Drozda.... who claim virtue over a minority, and are starting by amending the Constitution so that it doesn't cover gays. We're hoping another Hoosier of Germanic name.. Bauer... will serve as a check on this indecent aggression. Maybe he will, but alas there is no reason to be optimistic. You think you are only a spectator, and not an active participant complicit in a monstrous outcome, which your silence makes possible.
The Jewish community isn't silent. They've seen this movie before. They know it doesn't end well.
(Cross posted from First Republicans:
FIRST REPUBLICANS BELIEVE in equal rights, equal protection, equal justice, equal opportunity and equal responsibilities for all people, regardless of race, religion, creed, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or national origin.
FIRST REPUBLICANS BELIEVE the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights is the bedrock of American freedom. The individual rights and freedoms established in federal and state constitutions must be protected from amendment and defended from encroachment.)