Lack of Emotion: Normalized killing
Just imagine, you wake up one morning and there is a police officer at your front door. You and everyone who lives in your home are all brought into the living room. The officer then proceeds to tell you that you must pack a bag with only essentials. You are only allowed to one extra pair of under garments that you can wear on yourself, and you may only have an allotted amount of money on you. Once you are finished packing, you are told that you are being “resettled” and you must be escorted to you designated meeting place. Here your bag is taken from you, but it is okay it will rejoin you later after the trip. After waiting what seems like days, you are finally loaded onto a train.
But wait! Where are the seats? Where is the restroom? Finally, you realize that you are in a cattle car! There is barbed wire on the sad excuses for a windows, but they just keep putting more, and more people into that same car. Being forced to stand, pressed against many other people. It hurts to breath there is so many people in the car. The door to the car slams shut! Officers are reinforcing the door, to make sure it stays shut. After hours sometimes even days, with the heat so bad that some people have died. Which is bitter sweet, because now you have a little more room but the smell of the rotting flesh only worsens in time.
When the train finally stops, you step off the train, weak from the journey. You are either sent to work, or sent to death.
How would this make you feel?
Taking the time to sit and imagine what these people went through, I was able to come back to the reality of the horror that they had to face. To a point I lost this while reading Ordinary Men, by Christopher Browning. I started not feeling anything, for the people being killed or the horror in the events laid out in front of me. I now attribute this to how matter of fact the officers were not only able to list how many people were transported on a given day. Not thinking about the conditions the passengers were in, only that they (the officers) did not get enough to eat because some of the food spoiled. In the book, there is a short list of all the Jews who were shot and killed each day. The way the officers spoke of these things as if it was a production factory and they were just doing their job. Different battalions started to compete on who could kill the most. The killings became normal and a way of life. I think this what it made easier by not thinking of the Jews as people, only numbers. Yes, this helps for a little while, but just as it happened to me I came to the conclusion, that killing these people had to have taken something, if not everything from these officers. One can only distance themselves from the fact that they are taking the lives of innocent human beings. These so called ordinary men were defiantly not ordinary anymore.
Browning, Christopher R. Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. ( New York: Harper Collins, 1992)
Benjamin Sax and Dieter Kuntz, Inside Hitler’s Germany: A Documentary History of Life in the Third Reich (Lexington: D.C. Heath and Company, 1992)