You Can Justify Almost Anything if You Like the Person

You Can Justify Almost Anything if You Like the Person August 18, 2016

Bild 146-1968-101-20ABrunhilde Pomsel worked for a man who was very nice in the office. If you heard him speak, however, he would act as if he were angry and bad.

You had to know him to see what a clean, upstanding man he really was. There were two of him: the man with the manicured hands and the man who played a part in order to do good for his people.

His manicured hands helped kill millions of people and bring on a global war.

Brunhilde Pomsel, now 105, worked for Joseph Goebbels and she is unapologetic about her job. He was a fine boss. She describes the Holocaust as “the  matter of the Jews.”

We wish that people like Brunhilde Pomsel were monsters, but they have only one quirk: they were willing to overlook a “fault’ in a person who was decent to them. Goebbels was in the inner circle for some of the worst people who ever lived, but they did not seem bad to themselves or to those who knew them.

Their good qualities, such as they were, covered for evil.

Here is a basic truth: you can justify almost anything, or at least soften it, if you like the person. Good old “Uncle Joe” may have killed millions of Ukrainians, but he was helpful to the United States during the Second World War so Uncle Joe Stalin has never received the condemnation he deserved. Horrifically, there were Christians willing to overlook Nazi “crudity,” “bombast,” or “political talk,” because Joseph Stalin was so bad in the Soviet Union.

Sure Hitler was a bad man, but he was not as bad as Stalin. Who could be as bad as Stalin?

Down that road: justifying the Brown shirt that might be nice to me to avoid the Redshirt that will kill me puts my community and me in extreme moral peril. We cannot avoid one vice by embracing the seeming opposite sin, because the opposite sin is just sin. It will all devolve to ugliness, hatred, and death.

Brunhilde Pomsel became monstrous without becoming a monster. She isn’t scary looking and probably is an “old dear.” She worked and aided one the worst men that ever lived and never gained the moral clarity to condemn him. She doesn’t even feel the need to justify her behavior, she did what she was paid to do. What other choice did she have?

We should stop and think about this just now. The worst evils are done by decent people who overlook great evil because the villain is nice to them.


This image was provided to Wikimedia Commons by the German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv) as part of a cooperation project. The German Federal Archive guarantees an authentic representation only using the originals (negative and/or positive), resp. the digitalization of the originals as provided by the Digital Image Archive.

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