How does one stumble onto the path of losing one’s humanity? One stone in the path, is the unforeseen seduction of the power of “enemy.” The concept of enemy – a being, force, object, or idea, that threatens “the good,” is a pervasive phenomenon present in all human communities. The need for enemy is as strong as the desire for the good. Comparing oneself to enemy defines one as a higher being. Enemy is a useful concept; whatever the enemy is assigned to, is naturally attacked by members of society to preserve the good. The enemy also has a tendency to terminate critical thought by causing a psychological shortcut, a person assumes that the association discredits whatever the term enemy has been assigned too. As a label it not only discredits, but also requires hatred of the evil for social acceptance by peers who preserve the good.
Göring: Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood.But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.
Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.
Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.(Goring 1946)
Goring makes the point, that the manufacture of evil is a tool powerful enough to make people kill, die, put aside what is desired and good. People will do what it takes to make the Evil go away when they are convinced it threatens the good.
One side effect of militarization is the separation of the enemy, and the good. One has two options, either support the enemy and destroy the good, or destroy the enemy and defend the good. This is a false choice of course, but appeals strongly to the emotion of fear and desperation. Spielvogal describes the Nazi dichotomy:
The Nazis were obsessed with a dualistic scheme of reality. An ideal Volksgemeinschaft consisted of national racial comrades. Those who were not racially German were enemies who must be removed or eliminated. Those who opposed the regime in any way were also enemies. The SS police state and its system of terror were designed to deal with both kinds of enemies.(Speilvogel 2014, 119)
The thought of neutral, or gray was eliminated. There was only those who conform to the Nazis, and those who are enemies of the Nazis, even not supporting any group was enough harm to be thought of as enemy.
Again in Browning(1992) the Jews are defined as enemy by Major Trapp, “If it would make their task any easier, the men should remember that in Germany, bombs were falling on women and children…The Jews had instigated the American boycott that had damaged Germany…There were Jews in the village of Jozefow who were involved with the partisans.”(2) Trapp insinuates that the Jews in the village are connected to the chain of cause and effect that lead to the bombing of women and children in Germany, thus making them enemy.
Evil does exist in the world, and when individuals and groups are committed to acts of evil against others, they deservingly may be labeled as enemy. The terrifying aspect of the use of enemy, is the lack of discretion and critical thinking that sometimes accompanies its assignment with little regard for the consequences to humanity. It is important to question who is assigned the role of enemy and why, because the use of enemy, as we see here, can be used for nefarious purposes. Someone can be labeled enemy because they stand in the way of economic or political interest. They could be labeled enemy to prevent them from seeking justice from the corrupt powers of government. They could be labeled enemy because a scapegoat is needed…
“In an interview with Gilbert in Göring’s jail cell during the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials (18 April 1946),” Wikiquote.org, https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Hermann_G%C3%B6ring
Spielvoglel, Jackson J., and Redles David. Hitler and Nazi Germany: A History. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc., 2014
Browning, Christopher R. Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. New York: Harper Collins, 1992.
Pinterest.com. Accessed 12 Nov 2015. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/1c/82/97/1c829789d6116ac336c937b7b38a80a0.jpg