Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Monsters all

Sorry to continue the theme of our sin and misery...

The Bellingham Herald linked to an article on a Bellevue man who some are accusing of being a former member of a WWII Nazi death squad. (Seattle Times link here) An effort is underway to get Yugoslavia native Peter Egner's citizenship revoked.
"A complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle alleges that Egner (now 86 years old) was not a conscript, but instead served as a guard and interpreter with the notorious Nazi-run Security Police and Security Service (SPSS) in Belgrade, Serbia (then Yugoslavia) from 1941 through the fall of 1943, when he was wounded. During that time, the complaint stated, his unit participated in the roundup and systematic killings of tens of thousands of Serbian Jews, Gypsies and political dissidents."
Apparently he can't be charged with what they have. I have mixed feelings about this move to revoke his citizenship -- and it doesn't have much to do with pity on an old man.

We should learn from this though. Few in our generation can imagine what kind of person could commit the atrocities attributed to the Nazi's over a decade. What they should realize is that it doesn't take an especially cruel or identifiably "bad" person to participate in cruelty and wickedness. All it takes is human nature. That means we all qualify. That means we are all capable.

Oh, you say, then our environment must be at fault. After all, how could so many people in that era agree implicitly with Hitler's "final solution" unless they were coerced or brainwashed? That is the wrong question. Here is the correct question: How in heaven's name were there actually some that did not go along with Hitler?

You see it doesn't take much for us to rationalize our way out of guilt feelings. One of my favorite stories is one by Shirley Jackson called The Lottery. It's a story everyone should read because it portrays, in my opinion, an incredible portrait of society and individuals who use it to legitimize sin. The scariest part about the story is that Jackson made it so believable.

What makes any of us think we are so special as to be able to resist evil when the whole world is calling it good?


<< Home 3 Comments:
Blogger Jesse said...

It's things like this that make me wonder about the way we deal with criminals and crimes, especially those that happened a lifetime ago. Doesn't the fact that the man lived a quiet life and is near his death have any weight in the matter? It seems a little heartless to now say he ought to pay for things that, if he's anywhere near normal, have probably tortured him his whole life.

My own opinion would lean toward letting the man live his life in peace. It's not going to make the victims of the Holocaust any less dead to punish him now, and if he isn't already convinced of the wrongs committed by him and his associates, revoking his citizenship isn't going to change a thing.

Anyhow, I think you're on track, Mark, to say that many can't imagine the kind of society in which this kind of atrocity can take place. And yet we see in this culture an acceptance of abortion as just fine, as long as they don't have to talk about it or think about it too hard. There's a litany of other cultural evils as well, which might not be as systematic and organized in their execution, but are just as heinous in the eyes of God as anything the Nazis did. We shouldn't be pointing fingers at this man as somehow worse than the rest of us.

5:00 PM, July 22, 2008  
Blogger Ruth said...

"But for the grace of God, there go I..." Interesting post! Recalls a project I did two years ago; it was a case-study of killers like this man who gunned down innocent & unarmed men, women and children. The book's title speaks volumes; "Ordinary Men". (by Christopher Browning)

5:28 PM, August 19, 2008  
Blogger Mark said...

Jesse, only one thought:

Who is normal? I would be willing to say many of these men who lived through this were able to live with it after. I'm not saying they would act different than you or me, I'm just recognizing the capacity of the heart to be hard and yet still appear "normal." (thankfully, the criminal justice system doesn't judge based on the heart).

Ruth: I've heard about that story. It's a scary one. And yes, it goes right to the heart of the issue I think. We just can't grasp how much we are broken by sin. We continue to be shocked by sin and the depths of human depravity every day, and our reaction is usually to distance ourselves mentally whenever we see it. We shouldn't.

1:13 PM, August 26, 2008  

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