“I Know Nothing! I See Nothing! I Hear Nothing!”
The mental state of the ordinary German in the late 1930s and all of the 1940s during the Nazi times is encapsulated by our textbook author, Benjamin Sax. He writes, “Mere suspicion of opposition or lack of enthuisaism caused the police to act. Not only the Gestapo but also the Criminal Police Force held this distorted conception of the priniciple of preventive measures…this amounted in practice to ruling the lives of men and women in a manner entirely incompatible with human rights.”1. We talked in class about the German glance, die Deutsche Blick, of looking over your shoulder to see if anyone else was listening to your conversations. This is very telling; it speaks of a universal, national paranoia. There was a very popular television comedy series named Hogan’s Heroes (you can view excerpts on You Tube) which was broadcasted originally from 1965-1971. The series was a comedic parody about an allied Prisoner of War Camp during WWII. The supporting acting role of Master Sergeant Hans George Schultz was portrayed by John Banner (1910-1973). It was clear in the series that Schultz was content to be a prison guard and did not want to go to the Russian Front. While this series was wildly ridiculous, the role of Sergeant Schultz speaks to a truth. Schultz, wisely, was afraid of everything; he was afraid of his superiors, the Gestapo and any situation which could get him into trouble. This is why he constantly said, “I know nothing!”. If you didn’t see anything, hear anything or know anything you were not put in the position of having to get involved. While this attitude verges on the ridiculous, there is a particle of truth in taking this position. In reality it would have to be on a much smaller scale than to the situations Schultz was exposed.
1. Benjamin Sax and Kuntz. Inside Hitler’s Germany. (D.C. Heath. Lexington MA. 1992). 330. 2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MainPage. (John_Banner_as_Schultz).