Re: Auschwitz

From: David Preiss (
Date: Tue Jan 27 2004 - 22:17:00 PST

I don't think what would be an official CHAT answer to your question, Iraj.

My humble thought, however, it is that genocides, however its nature, are
anchored in a culture, any culture, that makes of criminal behavior a
universal principle of what is good as a behavior. I mistrust any
instinctual (or purely instinctual approach) to genocide aggression.

How could we explain, then, the psychology of an Adolph Eichman, for
instance? As Hanna Arendt --who was also a great "psychologist"-- noted, it
is not was aberrant in him what explained his behavior but his
susceptibility to make of collective killing a military or a professional
"career", as lots of people did then and do today. I may add that Eichman's
absence of remorse originates not in what there was left of animal in him,
but in how Totalitarianism extinguished any trace of his/our instinctive
propensity to sociability, sympathy and species identification.

The contemporary media portray some forms of contemporary genocide as
barbaric, and hide some others in the name of "highest" values. I believe
the distinction is a vain (and racist) one: in most of the cases, what has
been lost is a basic reserve of sympathy by the other.

Indeed, as the culture we inhabit trains us for oblivion and involuntary
complicity, as it makes of multiple forms of murder a form of collective
entertainment, we all are not totally immune to the psychology of Eichman.
What the Holocaust teaches me, so, is not a gross distinction between Evil
and Good but the potential of any culture to become, on the one hand, a
normative background that legitimates collective killing and, on the other
hand, a set of tools that implements it.


----- Original Message -----
From: "IRAJ IMAM" <>
To: <>
Sent: Tuesday, January 27, 2004 7:17 PM
Subject: RE: Auschwitz

Thank you Mike for sharing your moving story.

Perhaps as long as we are able to care and cry for the suffering of other
people who are different from us, there is hope--especially, if we are
willing to do something about it. And yes, we are the only specie who is
cable of comfortably destroy its own kind.

I just saw the film Cold Mountain. My wife insisted. She had read the book.
She thought the book was more centered on the adventures of the man. And the
film focused on the woman and on the love story--with beautiful and
expressive photography of nature and of the Civil War scenes. It showed the
war as a machine- social technology-that turns humans to criminals and
killers, regardless of the sides. A hungry soldier for food (or for women)
will kill civilians to get to it. And when a soldier is tired of the war and
killings, has no place to go--both sides want to kill him. At the end, it
was the caring for others, the love, and the 'village' that kept the
man-soldier and the woman sane--sort of.

Why is that possible for us to feel self-righteously comfortable in killing
other humans? The higher the technology, the more we have killed.

What does CHAT suggest about that?

Iraj Imam

The Center for Applied Local Research

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Cole []
Sent: Tuesday, January 27, 2004 3:14 PM
Subject: Re: Auschwitz

Thank you David, for reminding us to remember.

In the early summer of 1962, having taking a boat from Odessa to Naples
and a motor scooter from Naples to Vienna and then Prague, we set out
for Krakow and a little village nearby where my wife's family came from.

Auschwitz was in our route, but we would have gone anyway.
Many filmic representatins of Hitler's final solution have passed before
my eyes since that time, but nothing will obliterate the memory of that
visit. It was terrifying from the time you enter the gates, and continues
to be so decending into the gass chambers, and all of the usually pictured
parts of that factory of death. We managed to keep our composure through
a room with dislays a thousands of prosthetic devices, tooth brushes, and
other personal belongings which, for some reason, were not destroyed. But
when we entered a room filled with small, cheap suitcases, each with a
name written on it, no self control sufficed. At any moment we dreaded
the names of our kin from that little town on one of the suitcases, and
we fled, unable to retrain the tears.

Many many years later we visited the Holocaust museum in Washington. We were

a little early, so we thumbed through the books in the bookstore near the
entrance. Opening one, at random, there was a picture of a great uncle and
his son, from my wife's family, from a time shortly before the war when
hell descended on the Jews, Gypsies, and other rif raf of Poland.

Thanks for reminding us, once again, to remember. And, lest we forget, to
be reminded, too, of the repititions of such human behavior in many parts
of the world, some of which, such as the slaughter in Rwanda, have gone
on barely noticed by a world in which newer and more deadly forms of death
dealing have been used far too frequently.

The other day, reading for professional reasons about human evolution,
I ran across the remark that human beings are the only species for which
con-specifics are the greatest threat to life.

I vote against genocide. And I do not want to be forced to accept holy wars
as the lesser of two evils.

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