This will come as no surprise

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Hannah Arendt writes, in her masterpiece Eichmann in Jerusalem:

there had existed two categories of Jews in the camps, the so-called “transport Jews” (Transportjuden), who made up the bulk of the population and who had never committed an offense, even in the eyes of the Nazis, and the Jews “in protective custody” (Schutzhaftjuden), who had been sent to German concentration camps for some transgression and who, under the totalitarian principle of directing the full terror of the regime against the “innocents,” were considerably better off than the others, even when they were shipped to the East in order to make the concentration camps in the Reich judenrein [“free of Jews” — ed.].    (In the words of Mrs. Raja Kagan, an excellent witness on Auschwitz, it was “the great paradox of Auschwitz.  Those caught committing a criminal offense were treated better than the others.”  They were not subject to the selection and, as a rule, they survived.)   [1] 

Think about any fundamentally lawless regime, ruled by a dictator, using terror, the threat of certain, merciless, violent reprisal, to enforce its absolute will in the face of potential resistance.   These regimes conduct one-sided unappealable show “trials” without witnesses or evidence, where loyalists take oaths in vain and vote on straight party lines to endorse their leader’s abuses of power and obstruction of justice.   These trials can also be used to publicly humiliate, convict and eliminate all enemies, real or percieved.   

In totalitarian societies actual criminals are often regarded as a lawless (outside of the leader’s will, which has the force of law) regime’s bold and beautiful, rewarded as men worthy of respect because they take what they want, rejecting weak, liberal social constraints, and the restraints of liberal “conscience” on their great appetites.  Criminals are the natural aristocrats of a totalitarian society, as long as their crimes remain above politics, or are committed in the service of the leader.  Punishment is for the weak and the timid, for the millions and millions of cowering losers who, even momentarily, seem to refuse to obey blindly.  They must all be made examples of!

Here’s another angry Jew, Eli Valley, a fine artist with brilliant brushwork, and a wicked sense of humor,  making a related point that some will find overwrought.   We who read history somberly, taking careful notes, never dismiss the murderous power of an angry crowd whose passions are stoked by a master of enflaming grievance and rage.  There are many, many, many examples of irrational appeals to fear, resentment and rage resulting in mass murder. 

Of course, even though it’s happened here many times, more times than most of us are aware of,  it can’t happen here.  Of course, of course!

 

 

[1] Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, Hannah Arendt, (c) 1963-64   Penguin Classics edition,    p. 214

 

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