The Who-Is-A-Nazi Parlor Game

July 8th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 30 comments

For those of us under the age of 100, the name of journalist and radio commentator Dorothy Thompson may not ring a bell. Yet, when her picture appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1939, the accompanying article compared her influence to that of Eleanor Roosevelt. A few years earlier while working in Germany, Ms. Thompson had interviewed Hitler. Her uncomplimentary write-ups about him made her the first American journalist to be expelled from that country as the Nazis ascended to power.

This is to say that her article published in Harper’s Magazine in 1941 entitled “Who Goes Nazi” bears attention. Ms. Thompson creates an imaginary party at which she divides the mingling guests into four categories. She tags them as, “…the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers,” as well as those,  “who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis.”

She asserts that being a Nazi is not a matter of nationality or ethnicity. She is using the word Nazi as a shorthand for those who, while they may be educated and sophisticated, are capable of and likely to buy into an ideology of hate, cruelty and destruction. In this experiment, Jews can be Nazis and Aryans can fall into her last, noble category. In an imaginary party that she posits, Ms. Thompson goes around the room, putting each guest into one of the four categories. While she elucidates her thinking throughout the article, she writes that she sees a generation rising that is ripe for becoming Nazis. As she says of this youth, “His body is vigorous. His mind is childish. His soul has been almost completely neglected.”

Doesn’t that sound like a good description of many university students (and members of Congress) today?

While Dorothy Thompson is long gone, Professor Robert P. George is, thankfully, alive and active. A professor of jurisprudence and the director of the James Madison program at Princeton University, you would do well to become familiar with his writings.

My husband is honored to consider him a friend, and recently Professor George shared his own experiment. He sometimes asks his students if, had they been white Southerners before abolition, they would have participated in the fight against slavery.  Amazingly, each and every student insists that he or she would have done so.

With more maturity, wisdom and honesty, Professor George knows that this is rubbish. He proceeds to tell them that he will accept their answers if they can point to a situation in their own lives where they risked social alienation and professional and economic damages for standing up for unpopular victims of injustice.

That is the equivalent of asking them to follow in the path of John Adams defending the British soldiers of the Boston Massacre or of those who provided a safe space on the Underground Railway in the 1800s risking jail, physical harm and/or damage to their property. In today’s terms, it might mean being one of the tens of thousands who post their messages on the #Walkaway movement page. Getting applause by virtue signaling that you are racist because of your skin color or that you support BLM doesn’t cut it.

The question is not why all good people did not assist runaway slaves or hide Jews during the Holocaust. I certainly do not know that I would have done so. Not surprisingly, in Nazi-occupied Europe, people’s responses differed in countries where the penalty for hiding Jews was jail vs. countries where the penalty was being sent to a concentration camp or watching your children murdered before your eyes. While I venerate those who risked their lives to save others, I do not know if I would rise to their level. I think it more likely that, especially as a mother having to put her children’s lives on the line, I would not. I’m not being modest; I’m being honest. However, that is highly problematic. What in blessedly quiet times is prudence may, in momentous times, be cowardice. What calls for discretion in quiet times can demand reckless courage in consequential times.

Recently, author Izabella Tabarovsky wrote about an oft-shared quote by Sergei Dovlatov. He was a Soviet dissident before the communist regime collapsed. (Full disclosure: I had no idea who he was until I read her article.) It seems that Mr. Dovlatov’s words are often quoted pointing out that cursing Stalin for his murderous and evil regime is fine, but Stalin could not have done what he did had millions of ordinary people not been willing to denounce their co-workers, neighbors and relatives.

Neither Hitler nor Stalin nor Mao built their following by saying that they wanted to murder millions or that their policies would lead to ruin and poverty for their nations. They spoke of valor and brotherhood, of fairness and undoing the wrongs of the past. Step by step, they built a culture of fear and punishment.

I recently read a question from an individual who didn’t know how to respond to a message from senior management announcing that, on a specific day, everyone at work would wear a t-shirt the office was providing that said, “Black Lives Matter.” The writer was asking what he should do. He judges the political BLM movement to be anti-American, anti-freedom and dangerous. Yet, not wearing the shirt would most likely damage his chances for promotion if not altogether cause him to lose his job. Most of those who responded to his dilemma urged him to call in sick. I certainly do not have the moral fortitude or virtue to recommend that he take a stand, but I fear that all of us are increasingly being called upon to do exactly that.

I don’t risk my job by writing these words, though admittedly, during the Obama administration the American Alliance of Jews and Christians and we personally received more tax audits than one might expect. Paraphrasing Dorothy Thompson, people with dark skin can be racist and those with white skin can champion true freedom and love for all. Among those who speak of an end to racism are those who are actually saying, “I suffered and now it’s my turn to make others suffer.” There are also those who see a vehicle they can use to advance their personal fortunes. These are not the majority by any means, but their violence and evil are enabled by those who do not speak against them.

Were she alive, Ms. Thompson might call these haters the “natural racists.”  Many more people fall into the category of those, “whom democracy itself has created, [and] the certain-to-be fellow-travelers…” As Sergei Dovlatov pointed out, just as slavery and Jim Crow laws existed for too long because even those who were horrified by them did not necessarily speak up, the cancel culture that is poised to end freedom of speech and expression in America cannot win if only the truly racist, power-hungry and hate-filled advocate for it. That, my friends, lays the burden upon us.

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30 comments

Lynn Leonard says:

Thank you for writing such a thoughtful, honest look at the conflicts we are facing. I do agree with the idea of trying to do the best, but not sure if I could or would make that choice freely without concern for consequences. I begin to understand the prophets questioning and seeking God’s wisdom in these conflicts. I do believe God is in control and I need to listen more to Him.

Tief Gibbs Jensen says:

This essay is one of the most powerful pieces you have written. Thank you.

celesta says:

Agreed!

Eric Travis says:

In the gutwrenching and heartbreaking book ‘The Gulag Archipelago’, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn stated:

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

He was a leader in Stalin’s army, until they came for him, and he spent the nearly the rest of his life inside gulags. Watching others, both prisoners and guards, and coming to grips with the fact that he could have just as easily been one of the guards as one of the prisoners. The prisoners who died quickest were the ones who clung to the certainty of their ideology (ie. Stalin is great, communism is great, etc.), where as the ones who were strangely least affected were those who clung tenaciously to their religious beliefs (ie. God is eternal, love thy enemy as thyself, etc.).

It is both convenient and arrogant to look at our predecessors and judge them by the standards that we hold today. As though the act of declaring “I certainly wouldn’t have been like that” is sufficient to make it true, let alone meaningful.

Thank you, Susan, for everything you and your husband do to inspire and challenge and educate.

Judi Anderson says:

Dear Susan,
Thank you for this insightful and important writing. We must be able to stand up to this tyranny and let companies that support organizations like BLM know that we will no longer be using their products as long as they support a Marxist organization. I am 75 years old so I won’t be out in the streets and I am not a devotee of social media but I do have a facebook page which I am posting things like this writing and also programs of YouTube videos of well known religious speakers to my facebook page. I will not read the hate mail that will come but I will continue to post. It is the only way I know to combat all the liberal hate I see posted in facebook. This will be my small contribution to our cause of liberty and freedom. Susan I so appreciate you and Rabbi Lapin, you both have been instrumental in helping me to reconnect with my faith which is the Catholic Church. Your writings and teachings told me how wrong I was about not needing a relationship with a traditional religion. My life has more meaning and there is more peace in my soul. God bless you both for the work you do.

I vonihm says:

That’s a nice letter yourself! The testimony of Jesus being the spirit of Prophecy and prophecy is not always predicting the future. Its God in you welling up and pouring out, all those right thoughts feelings emotions insights. If alone just thrilling in them, that changes things that we do not know of that we could not imagine but is real. Not trusting mankind or myself because of results I’ve seen seems to lead me to a place where I have to trust in God and then I can’t even trust in my trust as I see that fail as well, but I can trust in his Trust that God will not deny Himself, we are all part of him. Seeing that make us all more a family and willing to stand up for each other.
Thank you for your letter and your Life.

Bill says:

How true ,” He will not deny Himself !”

This is an excellent article. It describes today’s problem in a fascinating historical context. My observation is that most of the Black Lives Matter supporters know at some level how terrible that organization is, because the evidence is right out in the open and on their website. But for various reasons they choose to ignore it.

Brett says:

Great article, enjoyed learning about Dorothy Thompson, she made some amazing observations, had not heard of her before. Thank you for using this lens to focus on timeless wisdom we can apply to our own life and pass to our children, we are always one generation away from losing or preserving our freedom. It is much harder to get those freedoms back if lost. A quote you use in particular is on key in observing an individual that has been neglected in understanding Gods laws and pursuing righteousness, “His body is vigorous. His mind is childish. His soul has been almost completely neglected.” Also to hear that we still have educators like Prof. Robert George is encouraging. Many Blessings

Great post, Susan! Thank you.

Susan,

Recently the company I work for revised their social media policy. It now calls for punishing those posting anything others may find offensive. Mentioning the company has always been forbidden, but now personal posts are under the microscope.
Given that I’m openly Capitalist, Christian, Veteran, and anti-BLM, I offend the Socialists by even existing. No doubt the Thought Police will come to my door soon for many of my posts about the truth in America right now. The time were we take a stand with real economic consequences is here. Let’s pray there is a change of direction before our lives are in danger.

Thank you for your wonderful article,
John Fritsche

Mark says:

How are you supposed to know in advance what someone may find offensive? Especially in a time when many seem so eager to exclaim how offended they are. The company you work for would be more honest by simply forbidding you to post anything at all. Sicker and sicker.

Bill Ped says:

There is an exclamation which I often hear exclaimed over the most mundane things and occurrence, “ Oh my God!” I cringe when I hear it uttered, even more so by those who claim to follow Him .
Truly if this expression can be spoken, it is today in light of what you’ve written Susan!
With respect to all , “Oh my God “ save our nation . His Word is carved into stone throughout our nation , made great by the fact that even the stone cutter’s children were taught to believe it. My paternal grandfather immigrated to this country about 100 years ago , a non practicing Jew.
I’m not of the Jewish faith , but recognize, my faith in God as a Christian comes through their hands as His chosen ones !
At 68 years old , I’m grateful that I was raised in a home that recognized ,”all
(people ) are created equal “ and in His eyes we truly are! I weep over what you have written today Dear Susan , my country, your country our country is going down a pathway of disaster, again I cry out, “Oh my God”, save us !

Janet McIntosh says:

Great article and unfortunately so very true. I’ve found myself in the position more and more these days having to assert my point of view. As a Christian and student of Ancient Jewish Wisdom I have learned so much about how the world really works. I’m finding it easier to express my beliefs and stand up for what I believe. My goal is to hopefully help others to understand that we are not fighting a physical war but a Spiritual one. It’s also my prayer that I’m able to share just a fragment of how the world works in an effort to help save them. Thank you for your continued ministry.

James says:

You speak of Nazis. Several years of my life I spent in the Bundesrepublik (West Germany). We lived on the third floor of an old house. A lady who lived on the first floor used to open intelligent dialogues with me because I speak the language. One evening she said to me: ‘Do you know why all this Nazi evil went down here? Why and how they could get away with it? The answer is Angst. FEAR. They know where you live, they know where your family lives. So they knock on your door at 2:00 AM and take you away, never to be heard of again: fine. But they can also detain and destroy your entire family, and were known to do so. And maybe you did nothing wrong, yet a neighbor who always disliked you for any reason could denounce you, turn you in just for spite, just to get even.’
There is ‘white privilege’ no longer. There has long been no ‘systemic racism’ in America. Black men of character and reason such as Herman Cain and Larry Elder are recognizing this publicly. A black man can become a brain surgeon today; he only has to make the right choices, self-sacrifice and work hard.
But now BLM the virulent Marxist organization has reinvented systemic racism: they are making it a detestable stigma, a plague, a crime to be white. We will not even discuss their demonstrated hatred of people of God. They ignore the guiding principle of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘to judge a man not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character.’ And now major US corporations are blindly showering BLM with millions of dollars in donations: to what purpose? To arm companies of black-clad thugs like those that marched armed through Stone Mountain Park, GA on 4th of July?

Yael says:

Thank you.
I’ve spoken about the Trajectory of PC since it raised its nasty head.
Never has it been about compassion.
It’s always been about control, silencing opposition, emotionalism , shaming .
Adolf used the same tactics.
We are at a crossroads.
Lose ones job for speaking out.
Lose ones life for not speaking out.
Liberal Jews today haven’t learned from the German first Jews in the 1930’s.
Evil is never appeased.
Silence is consent.
Cowardice can not be the luxury today .
If Biden wins, welcome in a a World Dictatorship, under the guise of Globalist Unity.

Richard J says:

Amazing, what a TRUE and honest position.
Wisdom not heard from the talking heads.
Keep up the good work.

James Dezelan says:

Do you know if this Walkaway group is inspired by Ursula K. Le Guin’s story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Olemas”? It would certainly fit. Thank you for the article and the info on this movement, I just ordered some of their merchandise.

Paula says:

Certainly food for thought, and very timely. I see that many conservatives are afraid to speak out because they don’t want the bullying, physical attacks, and people calling their employers trying to get them fired. There is skin in the game now, and we’re not allowed to even justifiably defend ourselves without the probability of dire personal consequences. But if we don’t, there goes our republic and the last bastion of true freedom in the world. If we fall, so do others.

Great article, thanks!

Rich Flink says:

Hi Susan,
Your post this morning reminded me of a speech given in the late sixties or early seventies by Rich DeVos (Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos’s father-in-law). The speech was called “Selling America.” In the speech, Rich made the point that when people hear others denigrating America and don’t speak up, those speaking are emboldened and continue and pretty soon people think that everyone thinks that way. Certainly, the courage to speak up today doesn’t rise to the level Dorothy Thompson must have had. However, if we don’t speak up today, there may come a time when our lives or the lives of our children or grandchildren may be imperiled if we don’t.

Thanks for giving me the means to share my opinion. Also, perhaps it wouldn’t be such a bad idea for people to listen to Rich’s speech every decade or so.

Monsieur Walker says:

Dear Susan,

You article is poignant and essential at this time. Many of us are facing quandaries like the ones you mention re BLM, Nazi, or previously dubious political alignments (on behalf of the civilian) or indecision based on an unawareness of which consequential eventualities a given alignment/position might bring about.

I believe some very distinct language and review of the ideologies which stand to profit from an unwillingness to acknowledge or forgive previous atrocities and the harm done to those involved and their ancestors needs to be fairly put in place.

For example, reparations for the Namibian Massacres before WW1 or the famous post Holocaust Weidergutmachung monetary reparations were supported as a form of compensation/acknowledgement/ reconciliation regarding the causal damages for the above mentioned atrocities.

A sense of urgency emerged when I read the eye opening sentence regarding the truly racist, power-hungry and hate-filled at the end of your article.

As Christians, there needs to be a way to influence a overriding fairness to the language and intentions we contribute to the present state of societal discord.

Hope this helps.

My Best,

Monsieur Walker

Deborah says:

Years ago, I remember having a discussion about Star Wars with our kids. We asked them, who the bad guys were in the show. They enthusiastically responded, “Darth Vader and the Emporer!” We told them that while Darth Vader and the Emporer were certainly evil, the real evil in the movie was the huge numbers of people willing to be Storm Troopers. Without those who stand in support of them, and most certainly those who are able to perform actions for them, The Emporer and Vader are nothing.

Susan Lapin says:

I am tremendously appreciative of all the comments. While I usually try to respond to each comment on my Musing, I am not doing so today because I think so many of these stand for themselves and I am too busy reading them.

Kenneth Martindale says:

A timely and honest commentary when so many are avoiding the risk of speaking out against Communist methods of destroying civilization in order to exercise control over every human being. To quote the words of Roger Kimball in the Epoch Times;
“We are witnessing an assault by the forces of barbarism on a supine establishment that has been pretending to represent the authority of civilization”

Lauren Brooke says:

A photo popped up in my Facebook news feed some time ago of a man with his arms crossed and he was in a group of people all giving the Nazi salute. That took courage. I wish I had saved that image.

Michelle Susan Leigh says:

Your article is thought-provoking. It’s some of the best writings I’ve read regarding the topic. As you pull together racism of the past and the present, it challenges my thoughts as to how I would react to peer pressures. Thank you, Susan!

Larry says:

So appropriate for these times. Bless you!

Mark says:

Thank you, Susan. What you wrote is full of subtlety and insight and food for thought. And I am also one of those who heretofore had not heard of Dorothy Thompson.

Carl August Schleg III says:

WOW-GO GIRL, YOU ROCK!!!
GREAT Article and THANKS for showing TRUE GRIT!!! Our society has created cowards of all sorts. Having lost jobs and many ‘fiends ‘ due to thinking outside the box and costing me money too, I laugh. Decades ago while getting my degree saw this insanity start, earned the distain of my parents(GOD BLESS THEM, though they did scratch their heads and wonder) and family. Lasted 5 years in the Navy and squeaked out with an Honorable Discharge(trained as a Hospital Corpsman medic with the Marines).
To those who ‘risk’ loosing a job, I suggest listening to ‘The Strangest Secret’ by Earl Nightingale. With GRIT there are other ways to create wealth.
Over time I have developed the saying ‘They cannot promise me Viet Nam’ a second time(Goes over so many heads-too young to remember the ‘Draft’.
Another saying I use that will separate the sheep from the doers is ‘My GOD knows no color, IF your god knows color, we do not serve the same GOD!’.
HAVE A GREAT DAY!!!, Now to attack ‘Honey DO’ chores, I read the small print in my Wedding Contract….

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