Nations Have the Right to Kill: Hitler, the Holocaust and War
Author: Richard Koenigsberg
Review of Nations Have the Right to Kill
Charles K. Bellinger, Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics, Brite Divinity School, discusses “The Sacrificial Meaning of the Holocaust” (Chapter II of Nations Have the Right to Kill) in his book, The Trinitarian Self: The Key to the Puzzle of Violence.
Koenigsberg argues that Hitler did not simply want to sacrifice the Jews; he wanted to sacrifice his own soldiers. He wanted war to be a vast altar on which human sacrifices would be made to the glory of the German nation. The killing of the Jews, Koenigsberg argues, was actually a secondary, derivative goal that followed Hitler’s logic of Hitler’s desire to sacrifice the flower of Germany’s youth.
Since the idol worshipped by Hitler was the (horizontal) state, it was unthinkable that anyone would be exempt from the sacrificial unanimity. Hitler thus portrayed the Jews as egocentric individuals who would try to escape from the duty to serve the state above all other loyalties. They must not be allowed to do this; they must be forced to participate in the state as unwilling symbols of the sacrifices being made willingly by those who obeyed Hitler’s orders. In Hitler’s words:
Volksgemeinschaft [peoples’ community], overcoming bourgeois privatism, means unconditionally equating the individual fate and the fate of the nation. No one is excepted from the crisis of the Reich. This Volk is but yourself. There may not be a single person who excludes himself from this joint obligation.
Hitler was saying to the German nation that all people must be willing to die for the nation; if you are not, you will be killed.