The Nuremberg Trials...and Homeschooling?!
- Monday, September 24, 2012
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
Why, again, are we doing this homeschool thing?
I think if God could, He would grab each of us by the shoulders, look deeply into our eyes, and press into us His earnest answer to that question! Let Him do that now. Still your weary mind, open your yearning heart to His leading, and listen to a story...
A boy was born in March 1906. His mother died before his tenth birthday. His father was a soldier and a miner. Young Adolf (not the one you’re thinking of) never did graduate from high school but instead helped at the mine and worked as a mechanic and traveling salesman. A friend suggested he join a rising political group with career opportunities. Adolf Eichmann was eventually promoted through the ranks, becoming a top SS official in Nazi Germany. He directed the imprisonment, torture, and extermination of millions of Jews, determinedly working toward his boss’s “Final Solution.”
After the fall of Hitler, the victorious Allied armies hunted this notorious war criminal, but the soldiers who arrested him under a false name did not realize he was Eichmann and thus took no special measures to hold him. The mass murderer was able to escape, hiding first in Germany and then in Italy. Some priests helped him get Red Cross paperwork for Argentina, and he eventually blended into Buenos Aires society.
But he wasn’t the only European who moved to Argentina after the war. So did a Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivor who had suffered under Eichmann, and whose daughter had unknowingly—due to an alias—befriended Eichmann’s son. When her father discerned the man’s true identity, Israeli intelligence swooped in, smuggled Eichmann out of Argentina, and set him before the world in a dramatic Jerusalem trial (1961), eventually hanging him.
During that trial, many expected to see on the witness stand a crazed killer, a flailing megalomaniac. Eichmann was, after all, a mass murderer! Millions died unspeakable deaths, the ovens and gas chambers were busy, at his hands! He oversaw the herding of humans into those awful trains...and was not moved to guilt or compassion, not even when all was recounted during the trial!
What the world saw, instead, was a commonplace man—he looked like anyone’s balding uncle—who had most recently been an Argentine factory foreman, daily riding the bus to and from work and bringing flowers to his wife on their recent twenty-fifth anniversary. In other words, he was ordinary.
Did he deny the heinous crimes? No, he only denied guilt, because he was merely “following orders.” This was the same alibi given by Nazi war criminals at the earlier Nuremberg trials and now called the “Nuremberg Defense.” (A powerful film on this topic, Judgment at Nuremberg, stars Spencer Tracy.)
One Jewish website1 I checked claimed Eichmann was not even anti-Semitic, just bureaucratic. He was, in his mind, simply a good citizen going with the national flow. This morally exempted him, he felt.
A German-Jewess and political theorist, Hannah Arendt, who had escaped to America, witnessed and wrote about Eichmann’s trial . . . and this is what we want to specifically consider as homeschoolers. “She coined a phrase, ‘the banality of evil’ to describe Eichmann,” explaining that it stems from “thoughtlessness—the tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without critically thinking about the results of their action or inaction.”2
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