Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The First Nazi Concentration Camp and the Oldest Jewish Cemetery in Europe

The very ordinary look of mass murder. This small industrial building in 
Hesse was the very first site of slaughter in the Nazi regime, in operation the month after Hitler took power.

In the state of Hesse, I visited the first concentration camp of the new Nazi regime. It was a pair of industrial buildings near a railroad track in a small town. The state of Hesse authorized the site in anticipation of Hitler's need for prison facilities for enemies of the Reich.

Hitler took power in January and the next month Hesse provided the first Concentration Camp. Soon it was a jail for communists, journalists and other enemies of the regime, and, of course, Jews.
"One People, One Nation, One Leader" 

But the facility is an illustration of how authoritarian regimes commit greater and greater outrages--those who want to impress the leader find ways to anticipate his needs. Eight years later, the SS would industrialize the transport and murder of Jews in Auschwitz and other camps. The subordinates, anticipating the Hitler's desires, found a way to kill on a much greater scale than the Nazi leadership thought possible.
The little camp in the state of Hesse was the site of the torture and death of small numbers relative to Auschwitz, but it anticipated Hitler's desire to imprison and kill his enemies out of sight of the population. In that, this facility is sadly significant.

Later in the same day, we visited Worms where Luther was put on trial for heresy nearly five centuries ago.  Not far from the great cathedral is a small Jewish cemetery, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe, nearly one thousand years old.  Berlin ordered the cemetery destroyed, but the Mayor of Worms resisted. He did not openly defy Berlin, but as one bureaucrat to another, he continually was faced with other priorities. He said he would comply when questioned, but then another emergency would present itself. In a country that was being bombed and then faced Soviet invasion, there was always an emergency and the cemetery still stands today.

The Mayor, instead of anticipating the demands of the tyrant, stood for civilization against barbarism.  Tyrants are always barbarians, whether they wear suits or animal skins. And even when they have the pretense of supporting civilization, the barbarism becomes the center of what they do. Every tyrant is self-seeking scum who will eventually destroy his own nation through greed and arrogance.

Admiration of other dictators and strong men is an infallible sign that the leader wants to be a tyrant even if he has not yet shown his hand.

The Philosopher of War and Terror and Politics: Hannah Arendt

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