Jonathan Littell, 2009, 992 p.
I’ve finally given it up. The only reason I stuck with The Kindly Ones for over 500 pages is because there were a few moments of amazing philosophical brilliance in this novel which left me yearning for more. So, I would slog through about 70 or 80 pages of Nazi officers (like Overcoatfuhrers and Underwearfuhrers–the Nazis were quite fashionable) discussing their opinions of which Jews to kill and how to kill them in order to get to the next section of brilliance. I was like a drug addict jonesin’ for a fix, and then finding that the much-anticipated high only lasts for about 30 seconds. What a let down! I’m quitting this one cold turkey.
The Kindly Ones wasn’t a complete waste of time, though. I learned quite a bit from it. Most of the novel centers on Nazi dogma, especially their conviction that the “Aryan Race” was destined to rule the world. The Nazis were Social Darwinists, and I decided to look up some information on it at work home during my free time. The ideal Aryan was tall, fair, strong and athletic. All other peoples were judged to be inferior, and those who were perceived to be genetically unfit were disposable (and disposed of during the holocaust). In case you’ve forgotten, in addition to the millions of Jews that were exterminated, gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally/physically disabled, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian oppositionists and many other “genetically unfit” people were also murdered.
I don’t want to make this into a huge history lesson, but I do want to clarify Social Darwinism a little bit. Social Darwinists believe that:
1. Biology governs every living thing, including humans.
2. Uncontrolled population growth will eventually decimate our ecosystems and natural resources.
3. Physical and mental traits are largely inherited, therefore humans should reproduce with the fittest mates they can find.
4. Natural selection and genetics lead to the extinction of inferior species and the evolution of superior species.
5. All of the above can be applied to society, thus our philosophies, religions, political systems and ethical values can also be attributed to natural selection.
When I finished reading these tenets, I became quite agitated because I believe in the first four of them (the last one is just dumb). Does this make me a Social Darwinist? Am I a racist, classist murderer like the monstrous members of the Nazi elite? Am I some kind of evil skinhead type who should move to Couer d’Alene to help them prepare for their imagined war between Caucasions and African Americans? Should I move to El Paso and patrol our borders with like-minded gun-totin’ redneck vigilante racists? Should I become a (gasp) Republican? I’m a terrible person!
Luckily, as I continued to read about Social Darwinism, I realized that I’m not one of them. You have to believe in #5 to be a true Social Darwinist. I really don’t believe in much of anything, especially if it has to do with organized religion or governmental/social constructs, so I’m off the hook.
After breathing a sigh of relief (especially about my close call with Republicanism), I continued on my e-journey, where I found one of the best academic websites I’ve ever run across. It’s a site filled with Nazi propaganda, and you can find it here. Some of the words and images are quite disturbing. Here is an example:
This picture is one of many in a picture book entitled Trust No Fox on His Green Heath and No Jew on His Oath. German children actually read this in school. Unbelievable!
Here is the text that accompanies the illustration:
But the Germans — they stand foursquare.
Look, children, and the two compare,
The German and the Jew.
Take a good look at the two
In the picture drawn for you.
A joke — you think it is only that?
Easy to guess which is which, I say:
The German stands up, the Jew gives way.
The German is a proud young man,
Able to work and able to fight.
Because he is a fine big chap,
For danger does not care a rap,
The Jew has always hated him!
Here is the Jew, as all can see,
Biggest ruffian in our country;
He thinks himself the greatest beau
And yet is the ugliest you know!
Here’s another picture from the website which further demonstrates the Nazi mindset:
The Jewish man in the picture is depicted as Satan.
That’s enough on this subject. Next week, I’m going to focus on upbeat subjects, like flowers and butterflies!