Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Nazis and Ethics

Last year I took a class on World War II. Most of the class focused on facets of the war that aren't studied as much such as events in the Pacific and military action in northern Africa. We did, however, spend some time on the Holocaust, and while watching Schindler's List, I remembered some of the things I had heard in that class.

One of the most horrifying aspects for me was the fact that many Nazi leaders really thought they were doing the right thing by exterminating Jews. Rudolf Hoess, the commander at Auschwitz, said he believed he was doing the right thing by executing women and children. In his memoirs, he gave specific examples of watching women and children enter the gas chambers. Hoess was responsible for millions of deaths. He never showed any remorse for this, and he wrote in his memoirs that his only regret was that he didn't spend enough time with his family. Looking at the lives and testimonies of Nazi leaders, it appears that ethics didn't exist in the country.

Schindler showed, however, that personal responsibility still existed. He risked his life to give life to others. In a world of men who loved to kill, he gave everything he had to keep people alive. In the end, he gave the credit to the people who had suffered the most, and he blamed himself for not trying to save one more person.

Ethics shouldn't disappear when times are hard. People shouldn't forget about personal responsibility when risks appear. A truly ethical person will be willing to give up everything to defend certain values. Schindler exemplified this in the Nazi state.

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