Sunday, July 22, 2012
[Start][Previously on]

The Shadow of Heidegger

Colonel Rolfe, I asked after seeing the films, if anything had made me doubt the veracity of this information, it wasn’t only the gross allied propaganda and its disgrace in lowering itself to any means. They speak of six million executions, and of more. They say that, in the final months of the war, the Führer gave the order to accelerate those executions. They say that a rate of killing ten thousand a day was reached. My doubt was reasonable, it is impossible to kill so many people in so short a time. Consequently, they were lying. I ask you, Colonel Rolfe, were they lying?
Werner Rolfe pondered his answer. Did he still need to mull over this question? Hadn’t he asked himself the question that concerned him thousands of times? Maybe not, and if not, how was that possible? What kind of man was he? What types of beings did I teach philosophy to in Freiburg? (Did I teach philosophy? Or was it Rosenberg’s version of philosophy? And Heidegger, which did Heidegger give?)
Let’s be clear about something, professor, he said.
He said that and exhaled a resigned sigh, as if it exhausted him to have to explain these questions to inferior beings incapable of understanding them.
He continued:
We didn’t kill people. We killed Jews, Gypsies and enemies of the nation and the Führer. Ten thousand a day, is that number unfeasible or frightening?
For now, unfeasible.
It’s not like that. See, our glory is in our efficiency. We were not irrational nor inhuman monsters. Such monsters couldn’t have planned things with our exquisite precision. There, in Auschwitz, those of us killing Jews were as rational, as brilliant, as intelligent, Professor Müller, as those that, you amongst them, taught classes in the universities. Only intelligence can direct such a feat. We had one order: kill. Kill millions of people. How to do so? Here, our German rationality, our tradition as an educated people, our labored intelligence, professor, found its way out. Another people wouldn’t have managed. Not for moral convictions, but from limited intellectual formation. I’ll be brief: we told them they would take a shower. We put them in sheds. Instead of water, gas came out of those showers. They died in by the thousands. The problem was another. The problem that obliged our reason, our intelligence to reach beyond of the unrealizable was another: how to destroy the cadavers. We also resolved that. Shall I tell you?
I can imagine.
No, you can’t imagine it. You cannot imagine that. You were a man of ideas. Ideas make demands actions. And action demands men like me. You and I were parts of the same cause. But the hardest part, the part that put the greatest demands on out patriotism, remained in my hands and the hands of those like me. That is why we wait for Eichmann, the best of us. And concerning the numbers that might torment you, avoid them. Remember, time and again, what I’ve told you: they weren’t people.


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