We now understand the ideological proposition—the logic—that led to Nazi mass murder: If the state is willing to sacrifice the lives of its soldiers, why should so many resources be expended to keeping mental patients alive? If the nation is willing to kill its most valuable possession—those who make the greatest contribution to the state—why can’t it also kill human beings who have no value—make no contribution to the state?
Still, the question remains: Why are nation-states willing to sacrifice the lives of soldiers?” This is “the totem secret” (Marvin): the question Hitler refused to ask, that Germans refused to ask (after the First World War)—and that we refuse to ask to this present day.
Why do we believe that Nations Have the Right to Kill (Koenigsberg, 2009)? Academics boldly “deconstruct” nearly everything. However, they are hesitant to go where men and women fear to tread: to question the nature of our belief in the value of sacrificial death.
Hitler refused to question the death of his own comrades: “After all, were they not dying for Germany?” Yet—as a soldier who fought in the First World War—Hitler was deeply disturbed by what he had seen and experienced. But instead of abandoning the idea of sacrificial death (for a nation), he embraced this ideology more fervently and deeply than anyone ever had.
And in a reductio ad absurdum, he insisted: “Well, if young German men (soldiers) can die for the country, why not mental patients, why not Jews (enemies of the German people)—and why not civilians as well.”
Hitler fetishized the idea of “dying for the country,” extended this idea, brought it to a bizarre conclusion.
Richard Koenigsberg, PhD
Director, Library of Social Science