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  • Jerome Kocher

#3. The Good German.

In studying pre-war Germany in the 1930’s there is a common question that defies a simple explanation. Why didn’t the good German speak up?

In the wake of the Nuremberg Laws that restricted the economics and culture of the Jews, to Kristal Nacht which outwardly promoted violence against them, to the mandated wearing of a yellow Star of David as a shaming identification, and to the eventual progression of events leading to work camps and ultimately the Final Solution to the “Jewish Problem” . . . one asks the inevitable question. Why didn’t the good law-abiding German say anything, do anything to protest this violation of decency and law. The answer often given was that the political culture of fear, repression, censorship, and reprisal demanded a silence if one were to preserve one’s way of life. It is hard to fathom that all that happened in the center of what many would consider the most scientific, cultural and sophisticated heart of Europe. It is hard to understand the extent to which people were watched and reported on . . . for what they said or did. They lived in fear of reprisal.

But sadly, now I can understand. I am a good law-abiding citizen. And I begin to self censure what I say in public and private. One could lose their job, be banned on social media, censured financially, be shamed and targeted. Who wants to bring that on themselves and their family. Silence is survival.

Why didn’t the good German say anything before it was too late? I now understand.

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