One of the related articles that was suggested for my previous post was an article titled Hitler Was Not Evil by an anonymous writer. I chose not to include that article in the list of related articles but I think it might be worthwhile to go over it. The writer is not a Nazi, as you might expect, nor did the article make the argument that Hitler’s actions were, in fact, virtuous. Anonymous’s problem is deeper than that. He does not believe there is such a thing as evil.
Unlike most of the rest of the world, I do not see Adolf Hitler as the “personification of evil” or the most “evil” person that has ever existed.
Hitler was simply a politician like one of the many politicians today. And just like almost all politicians today, his actions were defined by a core belief, greed, ego and a certain love for the country he ruled.
The more sensitive readers would react now with “whoa! whoa! Hitler and love?! Hitler is EVIL! EVIL!”
Evil does not exist, but is a concept of the human intellect. What do we define as evil? We tend to associate unjust things with evil, or things we do not agree with. Essentially, what we feel or think is evil is simply what we do not agree with.
“Who cares about a technical definition? What Hitler did was EVIL! ”
Aiming to wipe out the Jews, that must be evil, right?
As I just said, no one does anything without a reason. And like I just said, any man’s actions are trigger by his own ego, greed, and his core belief.
Hitler believed that the Jews were harming Germany. Hitler believed that the Treaty of Versailles was unjust. Hitler believed that Austria and the Third Reich should become united.
These all came from his belief.
“His beliefs are EVIL!”
Like I just said, we define something as evil when this something does not agree with our moral standards.
Americans defined Communism as evil during the Cold War because they did not agree with it. Everybody being equal and controlled by the State did not agree with the “freedoms” of America. And because it did not agree with these Freedoms, Communism was defined as “bad” and “evil”.
Now in retrospect, can it really be defined as evil? No.
Of course I am not saying that what Hitler did was right. Of course not. I am saying that Hitler was not evil, but simply a man who did what he believed was right for the German people at that time. Of course, just like any politician today, his actions were also motivated by greed, ego and more greed. But it is important to make the distinction that Hitler was not an exception. He was simply a statesman who didn’t get away with it.
And as a history major allow me to assure you, when comparing what the Japanese Imperial Army did in the 1930s and 1940s in South East Asia, the gas chambers of Auschwitz can be considered merciful.
“But Hitler brought misery to all of Europe! He is Evil!”
This might be what the more persistent readers will be saying/thinking.
Perhaps why the perception of Hitler being evil is so deeply rooted in so many peoples’ minds is that after WWII, the Allies needed to have a focus. The Meiji leaders of Meiji Japan perhaps are not remembered as completely evil because after WWII, the Western powers sought peace in Asia and Japan was a great trading partner. This left Hitler and Mussolini.
And naturally, Hitler got the Spotlight of Evil in history textbooks.
Yet, Hitler is not an exception even by today’s standards.
America’s War on Terror may be justified by the core belief of 9/11 and that the American Way is right without question. It is ironic that it seems that very few people have ever thought about why there is this hate to begin with.
This is moral idiocy and historical ignorance. America’s War on Terror is usually justified by the fact that Islamic terrorist flew planes into the sides of buildings. I would not say that the American Way is right without question, but a society that values freedom of expression and equality is superior to one that values religious persecution and aggression against the infidel. A government that guarantees basic human rights is superior to one that suppresses all freedoms. Our Way is superior to Islam. It is superior to Communism.
While the atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army have not gotten the attention that they should have, perhaps because the victims were Asians, there were war crimes trials in Japan after World War II and several offenders were hanged. By the way, the Meiji period refers to the reign of the Emperor Meiji who reigned from 1868-1912, in which Japan moved from feudalism into a modern society. The leaders of Japan during the war were not the Meiji.
It is true that Mao and Stalin got away with their tyranny, while Hitler did not. So what? If I were to commit the perfect crime and never got caught, it would still be a crime. The fact that Mao and Stalin died peacefully and escaped punishment in this world, does not mean their actions were right, nor does it mean that Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were statesmen or typical politicians. They were not.
Anonymous claims to believe that good and evil are simply human constructs and that what we regard as good or evil is simply a matter of personal preference. I wonder if he really believes this. If I were to go to his home and start taking his possessions, would he simply allow me, or would be try to stop me? What if I explained that his objection to my actions is simply because it is against his particular moral standards, but not mine, so that what I am doing isn’t wrong? I think he would go ahead and call the police.
I don’t thing anyone, or at least very few, really believe that there is no such thing as a standard of good and evil. As C. S. Lewis pointed out, people in a quarrel invariably appeal to some higher standard of justice when making their case. Even the worst criminals often try to justify their actions. The bank robber robbed banks because they cheat the poor. The rapist’s victim deserved it because of the way she dressed. The conqueror invades and despoils a country to bring the light of civilization, or the true faith to the hapless natives, or to avenge past wrongs. Even the sociopath, who lacks a conscience, is quick to recognize when an injustice is done to him. The fact that people often try to justify bad actions with pleasant reasoning does not mean that there is no standard of good or evil. I think this fact actually strengthens the case for such a standard.
It is true that people do not always agree on what is good or evil. This doesn’t mean that that good and evil do not really exist, only that people that people can be mistaken. Slavery is almost universally regarded as immoral in the modern world, yet no one objected to slavery in ancient times. This does not mean that the question of slavery is simply a matter of social convention. The ancients also believed that the Sun went around the Earth. We have learned that they were mistaken about the relative positions of the Earth and the Sun. In like manner, we have learned that they were mistaken about the acceptance of slavery. Anonymous concludes:
So, do not brainlessly brand Hitler as pure evil. If you strictly judge, he was simply a man who did what he believed was right, along with greed and ego as motivators (just like any person today). Nothing more, nothing less.
Hitler was not pure evil. Like any human being, he was a mixture of good and evil. His actions were unquestionably evil. He may well have believed that he was doing the right thing. Most people do. That doesn’t change that he was mistaken. We need not adopt a stance of idiot moral relativism.