Mass murder, while remaining “decent”

Guy Walters discusses the Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Brevik and argues that he is not necessarily insane at all, that certain convictions can make it quite logical to commit evil actions.  In doing so, he quotes from a speech by Heinrich Himmler, who makes the case that one can exterminate Jews, lining up a thousand corpses, while still being a “decent person.”  He links to the entire speech, which is also available as an audio file as well as a transcript in the original German.  It’s short, so I’ll just quote the whole thing.   Himmler was speaking to a group of SS officers on October 4, 1943, in the city of Posen.  It’s just a chilling combination of evil and self-righteousness:

 [0:00] What we accomplish in our armaments factories … even though it will only be at the end of the war when we can first assess it — prove it … will be a remarkable and noteworthy accomplishment. [pause]

[0:20]I want to also mention a very difficult subject … before you, with complete candor. It should be discussed amongst us, yet nevertheless, we will never speak about it in public. Just as we did not hesitate on June 30 to carry out our duty as ordered, and stand comrades who had failed against the wall and shoot them — about which we have never spoken, and never will speak. That was, thank God, a kind of tact natural to us, a foregone conclusion of that tact, that we have never conversed about it amongst ourselves, never spoken about it, everyone … shuddered, and everyone was clear that the next time, he would do the same thing again, if it were commanded and necessary.

[1:27] I am talking about the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish people[1]. It is one of those things that is easily said. [quickly] “The Jewish people is being exterminated[2],” every Party member will tell you, “perfectly clear, it’s part of our plans, we’re eliminating the Jews, exterminating[2] them, a small matter”. [less quickly] And then along they all come, all the 80 million upright Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. [mockingly] They say: all the others are swine, but here is a first-class Jew. [a few people laugh] And … [audience cough] [carefully]… none of them has seen it, has endured it. Most of you will know what it means when 100 bodies lie together, when 500 are there or when there are 1000. And … to have seen this through and — with the exception of human weakness — to have remained decent, has made us hard and is a page of glory never mentioned and never to be mentioned. Because we know how difficult things would be, if today in every city during the bomb attacks, the burdens of war and the privations, we still had Jews as secret saboteurs, agitators and instigators. We would probably be at the same stage as 16/17, if the Jews still resided in the body of the German people.

[3:23] We have taken away the riches that they had, and … I have given a strict order, which Obergruppenführer Pohl[3] has carried out, we have delivered these riches [carefully] to the Reich, to the State. We have taken nothing from them for ourselves. A few, who have offended against this, will be judged[4] in accordance with an order, [loudly] that I gave at the beginning: he who takes even one Mark of this is a dead man. [less loudly] A number of SS men have offended against this order. They are very few, and they will be dead men [yells] WITHOUT MERCY! We have the moral right, we had the duty to our people to do it, to kill[5] this people who would kill[5] us. We however do not have the right to enrich ourselves with even one fur, with one Mark, with one cigarette, with one watch, with anything. That we do not have. Because we don’t want, at the end of all this, to get sick and die from the same bacillus that we have exterminated[2]. I will never see it happen that even one … bit of putrefaction comes in contact with us, or takes root in us. On the contrary, where it might try to take root, we will burn it out together. But altogether we can say: [slowly, carefully] We have carried out this most difficult task for the love of our people. And we have suffered no defect within us, in our soul, or in our character.

via Himmler’s 10/04/43 Posen Speech, “Extermination,” English.

A big tip of the hat to D. E. Hinkle for showing this to me.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    I’m sure someone else will point it out, but Breivik was Norwegian, not Swedish.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    I’m sure someone else will point it out, but Breivik was Norwegian, not Swedish.

  • Pete

    “But altogether we can say: [slowly, carefully] We have carried out this most difficult task for the love of our people. And we have suffered no defect within us, in our soul, or in our character.”

    The parallel with abortion is rather chilling.

  • Pete

    “But altogether we can say: [slowly, carefully] We have carried out this most difficult task for the love of our people. And we have suffered no defect within us, in our soul, or in our character.”

    The parallel with abortion is rather chilling.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Sorry, Snafu. I’ve been reading those Swedish mysteries! I’ll change it.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Sorry, Snafu. I’ve been reading those Swedish mysteries! I’ll change it.

  • Tom Hering

    Pete @ 2, I don’t see the parallel. Are abortions being performed to protect the good and pure American people against a threat posed by traitorous, parasitic fetuses? Are issues of racial purity involved, or of national strength, treasure, and destiny? There are lessons to be learned from what happened in Nazi Germany, but they’re related to issues other than abortion (unless we’re talking about abortions in Nazi Germany).

  • Tom Hering

    Pete @ 2, I don’t see the parallel. Are abortions being performed to protect the good and pure American people against a threat posed by traitorous, parasitic fetuses? Are issues of racial purity involved, or of national strength, treasure, and destiny? There are lessons to be learned from what happened in Nazi Germany, but they’re related to issues other than abortion (unless we’re talking about abortions in Nazi Germany).

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    The parallel is to the taking of someone else’s life without regard to their God given right to live.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    The parallel is to the taking of someone else’s life without regard to their God given right to live.

  • Tom Hering

    sg @ 5, your parallel is so broad there’s no need to talk about Nazi Germany, specifically. But the topic IS about what happened in Nazi Germany, and how that’s related to Anders Brevik’s thought and actions (eliminationist). A closer parallel in American history would be the Indian Wars.

  • Tom Hering

    sg @ 5, your parallel is so broad there’s no need to talk about Nazi Germany, specifically. But the topic IS about what happened in Nazi Germany, and how that’s related to Anders Brevik’s thought and actions (eliminationist). A closer parallel in American history would be the Indian Wars.

  • Dan Kempin

    “certain convictions can make it quite logical to commit evil actions. ”

    Of course! Evil is not some distant and abhorrent tale, as the horrors of WWII have become, but our heart’s inclination and the outcome of all fallen reason.

    Take this speech. This is a great speech, with a high view of vocation and love for neighbor. Or at least it WOULD be a great speech, if not for the faulty premise that the Jews were a clear and present danger to the German State and the solution was extermination.

    Think about it. If you replace the content with, say, deporting instead of exterminating, and known muslim terrorists (aka mass murderers) instead of Jews, then you might give a rousing cheer for that speech.

    Or how about executing pedophiles–lawfully, of course–to protect the children?

    Don’t confessional pastors use the same logic for excommunicating heretics from the church? They must be willing to bear the burden of being called cold and uncaring in order to protect the people from the danger of false doctrine, right?

    In other words, this speech is wrong in its premise (Jews as a threat and extermination as the solution), not in its logic. The very line you chose out, about a “decent person” carrying out execution, is supported by Luther himself, who says that a Christian can serve as an hangman in good conscience.

    (I won’t even bring up the controversy of global warming, for the proposals are logical if the premise is true.)

    That’s how Satan would work in us, you see, with solid logic driven by lies.

  • Dan Kempin

    “certain convictions can make it quite logical to commit evil actions. ”

    Of course! Evil is not some distant and abhorrent tale, as the horrors of WWII have become, but our heart’s inclination and the outcome of all fallen reason.

    Take this speech. This is a great speech, with a high view of vocation and love for neighbor. Or at least it WOULD be a great speech, if not for the faulty premise that the Jews were a clear and present danger to the German State and the solution was extermination.

    Think about it. If you replace the content with, say, deporting instead of exterminating, and known muslim terrorists (aka mass murderers) instead of Jews, then you might give a rousing cheer for that speech.

    Or how about executing pedophiles–lawfully, of course–to protect the children?

    Don’t confessional pastors use the same logic for excommunicating heretics from the church? They must be willing to bear the burden of being called cold and uncaring in order to protect the people from the danger of false doctrine, right?

    In other words, this speech is wrong in its premise (Jews as a threat and extermination as the solution), not in its logic. The very line you chose out, about a “decent person” carrying out execution, is supported by Luther himself, who says that a Christian can serve as an hangman in good conscience.

    (I won’t even bring up the controversy of global warming, for the proposals are logical if the premise is true.)

    That’s how Satan would work in us, you see, with solid logic driven by lies.

  • CRB

    “But the enemy I see, wears a cloak of decency.” – Dylan

  • CRB

    “But the enemy I see, wears a cloak of decency.” – Dylan

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Jews as a threat and extermination as the solution

    That statement appears to have at least two premises.

    Jews are a threat.

    Extermination is the solution.

    Jews were already discriminated against, but still outcompeting Germans slightly in some areas. The fear was that they could become a market dominant minority and from there become a threat. Still it would not follow that they should be exterminated, as they could instead have been expelled. That would not totally solve the competition problem, because they would make any hospitable competing nation more competitive against Germany, and would still violate the rights of Jews, albeit arguably their civil rights not their human rights.

    I won’t even bring up the controversy of global warming, for the proposals are logical if the premise is true.

    Nah, the alleged solutions I have seen wouldn’t do anything to solve carbon emissions, and may in fact increase them.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Jews as a threat and extermination as the solution

    That statement appears to have at least two premises.

    Jews are a threat.

    Extermination is the solution.

    Jews were already discriminated against, but still outcompeting Germans slightly in some areas. The fear was that they could become a market dominant minority and from there become a threat. Still it would not follow that they should be exterminated, as they could instead have been expelled. That would not totally solve the competition problem, because they would make any hospitable competing nation more competitive against Germany, and would still violate the rights of Jews, albeit arguably their civil rights not their human rights.

    I won’t even bring up the controversy of global warming, for the proposals are logical if the premise is true.

    Nah, the alleged solutions I have seen wouldn’t do anything to solve carbon emissions, and may in fact increase them.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 6, yeah, I agree.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 6, yeah, I agree.

  • Jonathan

    We now have a former VP, to the mad applause of evangelicals, hawking a memoir in which he defends and advocates the practice of torture against those ‘we’ don’t like. These methods, approved and defended by the last administration, are not new. The very phrase to describe them – “enhanced interrogation techniques” – was coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable; the methods were understood in 1948 as war crimes and punished by death.

    “But altogether we can say: [slowly, carefully] We have carried out this most difficult task for the love of our people. And we have suffered no defect within us, in our soul, or in our character.”

  • Jonathan

    We now have a former VP, to the mad applause of evangelicals, hawking a memoir in which he defends and advocates the practice of torture against those ‘we’ don’t like. These methods, approved and defended by the last administration, are not new. The very phrase to describe them – “enhanced interrogation techniques” – was coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable; the methods were understood in 1948 as war crimes and punished by death.

    “But altogether we can say: [slowly, carefully] We have carried out this most difficult task for the love of our people. And we have suffered no defect within us, in our soul, or in our character.”

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 11

    I don’t see the parallel.

    The Nazis were exterminating people, probably at least half if not the majority were children, and virtually none were suspected of any crimes. Rather, they were easily rounded up specifically because they were so law abiding. The comparison of the extermination innocent civilians to severe harassment of armed enemy combatants is egregious.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 11

    I don’t see the parallel.

    The Nazis were exterminating people, probably at least half if not the majority were children, and virtually none were suspected of any crimes. Rather, they were easily rounded up specifically because they were so law abiding. The comparison of the extermination innocent civilians to severe harassment of armed enemy combatants is egregious.

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    Jonathon,
    “…practice of torture against those ‘we’ don’t like.”
    Whether one supports or opposes the practice, this is not a fair or accurate description it.
    We weren’t coercing dissidents, or ethnic groups, or even enemy soldiers. We were coercing a few individuals who were concurrently involved with active acts of violence and who had information which could save lives. If Mr. A is engaged in an act of violence against innocent Mr. B, then one is justified in using force to stop Mr. A.
    I know that in practice it is not simple, or that one can not always make generalities, which are all the more reason to make distinctions.

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    Jonathon,
    “…practice of torture against those ‘we’ don’t like.”
    Whether one supports or opposes the practice, this is not a fair or accurate description it.
    We weren’t coercing dissidents, or ethnic groups, or even enemy soldiers. We were coercing a few individuals who were concurrently involved with active acts of violence and who had information which could save lives. If Mr. A is engaged in an act of violence against innocent Mr. B, then one is justified in using force to stop Mr. A.
    I know that in practice it is not simple, or that one can not always make generalities, which are all the more reason to make distinctions.

  • –helen

    We apparently were still using methods to “extract information” for which Germans were tried and convicted after WW II.

    If that is true, what made it right for us, when courts established & staffed partly by us declared it wrong for them?

  • –helen

    We apparently were still using methods to “extract information” for which Germans were tried and convicted after WW II.

    If that is true, what made it right for us, when courts established & staffed partly by us declared it wrong for them?

  • George A. Marquart

    Found this a few days ago and thought it was relevant.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

    Church officials asked West Germany to help Eichmann in 1960
    According to Der Spiegel, church leader Wilhelm Mensing-Braun – Superintendent of the Protestant Church for Upper Austria – described Eichmann as ‘fundamentally decent,’ ‘kind-hearted,’ and characterized by ‘great helpfulness’.
    By Danna Harman Tags: Holocaust Nazi

    PARIS – Protestant church officials in Austria and Germany lobbied the West German government to help Adolf Eichmann after his 1960 arrest, Der Spiegel reported yesterday.
    According to the German paper, church leader Wilhelm Mensing-Braun – the Superintendent of the Protestant Church for Upper Austria – described Eichmann as “fundamentally decent,” “kind-hearted,” and characterized by “great helpfulness,” in a letter to the foreign affairs department of the Evangelical Church in Germany. The letter was sent right before Eichmann was to go on trial in Jerusalem for his part in the the murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust.
    According to the Spiegel report, Eichmann’s family had enlisted Mensing-Braun – who was based in the Austrian city of Linz where Eichmann was born – because they hoped the church leader might help get Eichmann tried by an international court rather than an Israeli one.
    Bishop Hermann Kunst, the representative of the Evangelical Church at the West German government, sent the letter to the West German foreign ministry with the note that the assessment was “at least interesting,” Der Spiegel reported. That means that not only an Austrian church official, but a German one as well, effectively lobbied on behalf of Eichmann, the paper said.

  • George A. Marquart

    Found this a few days ago and thought it was relevant.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

    Church officials asked West Germany to help Eichmann in 1960
    According to Der Spiegel, church leader Wilhelm Mensing-Braun – Superintendent of the Protestant Church for Upper Austria – described Eichmann as ‘fundamentally decent,’ ‘kind-hearted,’ and characterized by ‘great helpfulness’.
    By Danna Harman Tags: Holocaust Nazi

    PARIS – Protestant church officials in Austria and Germany lobbied the West German government to help Adolf Eichmann after his 1960 arrest, Der Spiegel reported yesterday.
    According to the German paper, church leader Wilhelm Mensing-Braun – the Superintendent of the Protestant Church for Upper Austria – described Eichmann as “fundamentally decent,” “kind-hearted,” and characterized by “great helpfulness,” in a letter to the foreign affairs department of the Evangelical Church in Germany. The letter was sent right before Eichmann was to go on trial in Jerusalem for his part in the the murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust.
    According to the Spiegel report, Eichmann’s family had enlisted Mensing-Braun – who was based in the Austrian city of Linz where Eichmann was born – because they hoped the church leader might help get Eichmann tried by an international court rather than an Israeli one.
    Bishop Hermann Kunst, the representative of the Evangelical Church at the West German government, sent the letter to the West German foreign ministry with the note that the assessment was “at least interesting,” Der Spiegel reported. That means that not only an Austrian church official, but a German one as well, effectively lobbied on behalf of Eichmann, the paper said.

  • Dan Kempin

    sg, #9,

    Not sure of your point.

    George, #15,

    Not sure the point of your quote. Are you appalled that Eichmann was perceived as kind hearted and decent by those who knew him? Or did you expect that such a sinner as he was would be fundamentally different than the rest of us, you know, decent sinners.

  • Dan Kempin

    sg, #9,

    Not sure of your point.

    George, #15,

    Not sure the point of your quote. Are you appalled that Eichmann was perceived as kind hearted and decent by those who knew him? Or did you expect that such a sinner as he was would be fundamentally different than the rest of us, you know, decent sinners.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Perhaps we are conflating crimes with sins.

    I mean, all crimes are sins, but not all sins are crimes.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Perhaps we are conflating crimes with sins.

    I mean, all crimes are sins, but not all sins are crimes.

  • George A. Marquart

    Dan Kempin @ 16 The reason I thought this was relevant is that in the original posting I came across the following sentence, “In doing so, he quotes from a speech by Heinrich Himmler, who makes the case that one can exterminate Jews, lining up a thousand corpses, while still being a “decent person.” “He”, in this case, is a mass murderer. But ordinary, respectable people can also justify mass murderers on the grounds that when they are not massmurdering they are kind and decent folk.

    George

  • George A. Marquart

    Dan Kempin @ 16 The reason I thought this was relevant is that in the original posting I came across the following sentence, “In doing so, he quotes from a speech by Heinrich Himmler, who makes the case that one can exterminate Jews, lining up a thousand corpses, while still being a “decent person.” “He”, in this case, is a mass murderer. But ordinary, respectable people can also justify mass murderers on the grounds that when they are not massmurdering they are kind and decent folk.

    George

  • Dennis Peskey

    To sq #17 – “all crimes are sins” – Are you serious? It is a crime for our soldiers in Iraq to drink a beer – do you honestly believe this is a “sin”? My solution – leave!
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    To sq #17 – “all crimes are sins” – Are you serious? It is a crime for our soldiers in Iraq to drink a beer – do you honestly believe this is a “sin”? My solution – leave!
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “It is a crime for our soldiers in Iraq to drink a beer – do you honestly believe this is a “sin”?”

    Dennis, wouldn’t you consider that criminalizing non-criminal behavior? It reminds me of the pastor arrested for talking to women outside an abortion clinic. The city made it a crime for prolifers to talk to people outside the clinic. I mean, talking to folks is not a crime just because some fools pass an ordinance against people of a certain opinion talking to people.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “It is a crime for our soldiers in Iraq to drink a beer – do you honestly believe this is a “sin”?”

    Dennis, wouldn’t you consider that criminalizing non-criminal behavior? It reminds me of the pastor arrested for talking to women outside an abortion clinic. The city made it a crime for prolifers to talk to people outside the clinic. I mean, talking to folks is not a crime just because some fools pass an ordinance against people of a certain opinion talking to people.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Anyway, was Brevik insane, or is he responsible for his crime? Himmler, sane and accountable or insane and therefore not as responsible for his own actions/statements?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Anyway, was Brevik insane, or is he responsible for his crime? Himmler, sane and accountable or insane and therefore not as responsible for his own actions/statements?

  • michael henry

    @ Tom: Sir, I wasn’t sure how he was making the link either, but after reading your response some things did come to mind. Once the “in the event of rape, incest, or life of the mother being in danger” argument became ludicrous after some 30 years (something less than 1% of cases), and after choice became not so much (after all, if it’s a woman’s choice then 50% of the fetuses had no choice), and after the “it’s not human yet” argument became scientifically invalid, rabid feminism had to have a new argument.

    A present and trendy argument goes along the lines of the woman’s body being hers and her alone to command, to wield as she wishes, with no pre-conceived controls or limitations. Therefore, she chooses to carry the fetus at her pleasure, as long as she pleases. Since it is a living being (the not being a fetus argument having been abandoned even by the extreme left of feminism) and now resides in the woman’s body, it can at any time be considered an invader, a parasite and worthy of abortion if she so decides at any time.

    It is I think, or at least an essay I read termed it as such, considered to be the “lesser of 2 evils”. The greater evil is considered to be ignoring the sovereignty of the woman’s body , so the greater good to society is viewed as supporting her right.

    I’m not sure if in any case the OP meant anything along these lines, but your response struck a cord that reminded me of the argument, not that you were wrong in any sense, I was strained to make the connection also. However, when any case of mass and/or historical evil takes place, abortion takes a back seat to nothing, and will often pop up in a conversation.

  • michael henry

    @ Tom: Sir, I wasn’t sure how he was making the link either, but after reading your response some things did come to mind. Once the “in the event of rape, incest, or life of the mother being in danger” argument became ludicrous after some 30 years (something less than 1% of cases), and after choice became not so much (after all, if it’s a woman’s choice then 50% of the fetuses had no choice), and after the “it’s not human yet” argument became scientifically invalid, rabid feminism had to have a new argument.

    A present and trendy argument goes along the lines of the woman’s body being hers and her alone to command, to wield as she wishes, with no pre-conceived controls or limitations. Therefore, she chooses to carry the fetus at her pleasure, as long as she pleases. Since it is a living being (the not being a fetus argument having been abandoned even by the extreme left of feminism) and now resides in the woman’s body, it can at any time be considered an invader, a parasite and worthy of abortion if she so decides at any time.

    It is I think, or at least an essay I read termed it as such, considered to be the “lesser of 2 evils”. The greater evil is considered to be ignoring the sovereignty of the woman’s body , so the greater good to society is viewed as supporting her right.

    I’m not sure if in any case the OP meant anything along these lines, but your response struck a cord that reminded me of the argument, not that you were wrong in any sense, I was strained to make the connection also. However, when any case of mass and/or historical evil takes place, abortion takes a back seat to nothing, and will often pop up in a conversation.

  • Martin

    SG: Your #20 seems to contradict your #17:
    17-”I mean, all crimes are sins, but not all sins are crimes.”

    20-”I mean, talking to folks is not a crime just because some fools pass an ordinance against people of a certain opinion talking to people.”

    Unless I’m misunderstanding your assumption about what makes a crime in #20.

  • Martin

    SG: Your #20 seems to contradict your #17:
    17-”I mean, all crimes are sins, but not all sins are crimes.”

    20-”I mean, talking to folks is not a crime just because some fools pass an ordinance against people of a certain opinion talking to people.”

    Unless I’m misunderstanding your assumption about what makes a crime in #20.

  • Jonathan

    @13 Only fools debate whether patently illegal programs “work.” Did Jim Crow “work”? Some things are always bad.

  • Jonathan

    @13 Only fools debate whether patently illegal programs “work.” Did Jim Crow “work”? Some things are always bad.

  • Pingback: NY Times reports in 1906 that Russia’s „6,000,00 jews“ facing a final „solution“ of „systematic and murderous extermination“ | Seit über 10.000 Jahren Erfahrung in Versklavung

  • Pingback: NY Times reports in 1906 that Russia’s „6,000,00 jews“ facing a final „solution“ of „systematic and murderous extermination“ | Seit über 10.000 Jahren Erfahrung in Versklavung


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