GOVT 317 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Greater Germanic Reich, Real Change, Western People

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23 Jun 2016
Course
Professor
Danielle Moore Sept 23 2014
IA250-Von Wahl
“Night and Fog” Response
Alian Resnais’s 1955 film “Night and Fog” portrays the Holocaust in a raw, brutally honest lens,
showing the aggression of the Nazis and their systematic extermination of those they found subordinate
and even less than human. Resnais argues that the Holocaust was the advent of genocide, making it a
modern phenomenon rather than a time old atrocity. While mass killing has been around for
generations, the Holocaust was one of the first times where a government formed an entire system with
the singular goal of eliminating entire groups of people to create a “perfect” race nationally and
eventually globally. Both Resnais and Eric Weitz feel that the Holocaust was propelled by a new sense of
nationalism and racism, creating the perfect storm for such an atrocity. In addition, the close of the film
claims that while people mourn the Holocaust, nothing has truly changed and therefore humanity will
always be vulnerable to genocide as the Nazi empire recedes farther into the distant past.
In times before, St. Augustine and Thomas Aquianas’s theory of “just war”, where people needed a
moral obligation in order to enter a conflict, held strong with Western people and their governments.
The National Socialists turned the theory on its head, using racism and nationalism as justification to
attack groups of people rather than a moral obligation. Adolf Hitler’s past experience with the Jewish
people and culture as combined with the blatant rejection of his paintings are said to have propelled
him into his extreme anti-Semitism and with his position as Chancellor, he had the resources to claim
revenge on a world that tried to push him to the sidelines. His charisma as a leader drummed up support
in the Nazi party, and over time his employees were able to go day by day humiliating inmates without a
second thought. For example, Doctor Johannes Paul Kremer wrote in his diary in 1942 that “Dante’s
Inferno seems to me almost a comedy compared to this” but in the following days rather than
questioning the barbaric practices he speaks of his meals and his divorce in a tone that is detached from
the realities of the Holocaust (Weitz 102). In addition, Resnais comments that the buildings that
composed each concentration camp were built “like any other”, making hospitals, watchtowers, and
even homes in similar fashion to those available to free citizens. While there was no difference in an
architecture sense, it was the barbed wire, dead land, and constant fear that split concentration camps
from the outside world. Inmates would spend their days in and around buildings similar to those back at
home, but they were no longer free and members of the SS had no qualms about treating people that
they had once lived and worked with as if they were toys for them to push around and even kill in the
name of the state. The overwhelming nationalism at the time can be pointed at for a source of such
detachment, since those involved were led to believe they were heading towards a perfect nation rather
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