I just finished watching a show on the History Channel called "Valkyrie: The plot to kill Hitler". You may recall that a movie was recently released starring Tom Cruise about this event. To refresh your memory a group of German officers decided to assassinate Hitler because they believed that would be the best thing for Germany. They also believed that Hitler was probably insane at best but more probably just evil. The plot ultimately failed and some seven hundred conspirators were rounded up and over two hundred were executed. Just a few months later Hitler took himself out. Being the coward that he was, he couldn't face the wrath of the world. World War II was Germany's second attempt at world domination and her second total failure.
There were other messages in the television show that came through clearly. The first thing that was discussed was the rise of Adolph Hitler. He was a relative unknown who came out of no where with a great oratorical ability and apparently nothing more. He gave rousing speeches promising all things to those who had previously been denied. Jobs, health care, and prosperity. All the German people had to do was pledge total allegiance to him and he would provide. Does any of this sound vaguely familiar?
Of course you know the rest of the story. World War II and Hitler ultimately cost the world fifty million lives. Countries were devastated. Billions were spent to conduct a war that basically was started by one individual. Hitler was responsible to be sure, but what about the German people? Did they have a role? In the end, Germany was also devastated. She was split into four different sectors, basically divided up by her victors. It has taken decades for Germany to return to prosperity and sanity.
In the late 1950s I was in Germany and I tried to communicate with some Germans in an attempt to try and understand what happened and how. I spoke with many citizens who were adults during Hitler's rise and his fall. To a man they all said it wasn't their fault. They were not political. It was those dirty Nazis. They were just trying to survive. They believed it was unfair to hold them accountable for the actions of their elected leader.
In the world today similar things are going on. Iran is an example where the leadership is apparently at odds with its citizens. To hear them talk, it is those dirty religious zealots who run the show who are to blame. It's not the citizens' fault. This thing is certain however, unless someone decides to change the regime in Iran and soon, millions of lives will be at stake. The world is not going to allow Iran to have nuclear capabilities.
There are other examples other than Iran where this is going on as well. So who is at fault? Who should be held responsible for a country's atrocities and war crimes? Are the citizens accountable? When a dictator commits genocide against citizens of their own country or any country because of some perceived difference, are all the citizens responsible for the crime?
My answer is yes. If my President acts with my tacit approval to commit crimes, I am also responsible. Why? Because it would be my duty to stop him. It would be the duty of all the citizens to stop him. We are not allowed the luxury of living our private lives, unaffected, while our government commits genocide, nor is any other country or people.
At the end of World War II then General Dwight D Eisenhower, upon discovering a Nazi death camp and crematorium, required at gun point the citizens of the nearest town to come to the camp, witness the atrocity, and bury the victims. He held that there was no way they could not have known what was going on. They were also guilty of atrocity by their silence. They were guilty because they didn't do anything to try to stop it.
This couldn't happen again, could it? We, as Americans, wouldn't just stand by and let our government do what Hitler did, would we? Would we have the courage to correct the situation? All I can say is God, I hope so.
Ron Scarbro February 28, 2010
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