In the early days of the Internet, before what we now know as social media, people exchanged ideas in forums and Usenet groups. After observing many such discussions an attorney named Mike Godwin postulated an argument that has become one of my favorite things to spring from the entire online enterprise. He said, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” In other words, the longer an online discussion goes–regardless of topic or scope–someone at some point will bring up a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis.
This statement is now known as Godwin’s Law, sometimes called Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies.
The problem Godwin highlights is most comparisons are glib involving neither a valid historical nor philosophical basis. Godwin himself says he wants people “to think a bit harder about the Holocaust.” If you have spent any time at all online you know Godwin’s Law to be true. At times I’ve seen a non-participant jump into a rapidly fraying thread with the single word “Hitler” or “Nazis.” By skipping ahead to the inevitable they demonstrate the degeneration taking place in the discussion.
But, what happens when a comparison to the Third Reich is warranted? Should it be ignored? Because the comparison has been worn out are there never appropriate parallels? So recklessly and mindlessly has Hitler been invoked to use the comparison almost automatically invalidates one’s argument. It is seen as an admission of a weak, unsupportable point of view. This knee-jerk reaction speaks both to the shallow analysis of the over-user and the intellectual laziness of the person who would dismiss the argument out of hand.
The very nature of the Holocaust demands earnestness of thought. Our concept of genocide, indeed the coining of the term, has arisen as a result of Hitler’s Final Solution. Raphael Lemkin, in his work Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (1944), coined the term by combining Greek genos (γένος; race, people) and Latin cīdere (to kill). Though other genocides have taken place in the last 100 years (i.e., Armenians, the Rwandan Genocide, and Srebrenica Genocide), “Holocaust” is generally reserved for the attempted total extinguishing of European Jewry by Hitler’s Third Reich.
One area of clear parallels with the Third Reich is the abortion-on-demand mindset in America. Children have been linguistically reengineered in ways that would make Orwell seem positively straightforward. Since January 1972 some 50 million lives have been artificially and often violently ended before birth in the United States. Comparison to the Nazis are real, valid and ongoing. These articles are only intended to start your own thinking process, not to raise every conceivable point. However, on this 4oth anniversary of Roe v Wade these ideas are worth our consideration.
More than three decades ago Notre Dame professor James T. Burtchaell published a series of essays on abortion. Compiled into the book, Rachel Weeping: The Case Against Abortion, it remains a blistering assault on national pro-abortion policy. No less than the Los Angeles Times called it “a searing, impeccable documentation,” while the Library Journal said it offered “extensive information and profound reflection.” “Unassailable” and “unequaled” could easily be added.
Each is worth reading (the book itself should be added to every personal library), but the two historical essays comparing abortion to American slavery and the Holocaust should not be missed. I cannot emphasize strongly enough the power in these writings. Today we will look at abortion and the Holocaust.
Burtchaell is careful to distinguish arguments and process used by the Nazis from the Nazis themselves. In other words, he does not equate pro-abortion advocations to the Nazis in a direct parallel. He does, however, draw clear comparisons to the arguments and mindsets used in both cases to introduce scenarios beforehand thought improbable, impossible or unthinkable.
Ponder the Germanic scenario. There must be an answer as to why millions and millions of human beings died without hearing or trials. There were no hearing or trials because no victims were accused of any crime; they simply were not wanted. Burtchaell asks and answers.
Who did this to them? The SS, the Gestapo, the German Wehrmacht, military and civilian medical and hospital personnel, conscripts from subject countries like Lithuania and the Ukraine, the police of Germany and its tributaries, the governments of cooperative regimes, and the German government in its many ministries: military, Reichsbank, Propaganda, Interior, Transport, Economy, Food and Agriculture, Finance, Labor, Security, Foreign Affairs, and Justice. Many tens of thousands of people–mostly but not exclusively Germans–merged their wits and their efforts that many millions of their fellow humans–not as soldiers nor as criminals–might be destroyed. (pgs. 144, 145)
In Burtchaell’s mind there were “seven factors in the Holocaust which may help us to understand it as an archetype of massacre that is acknowledged only after the fact.” [Emphasis mine.] We will look at five of these in brief–two today and three in the next post.
1. Depersonalization of the victims.
Germany did not simply awaken one day to find its citizenry acquiescent to a genocidal culture. Many years of treating certain groups as sub-human or not human prepared the normal German to view Slavs, Jews and others as life not worthy of life.
When Dr. Eugen Haagen, professor of hygiene at Strassburg University, was receiving prison inmates in batches of two hundred to be injected with typhus, a question was raised whether some of the experimental subjects might be Alsatians. Haagen’s assistant explained reassuringly that “the experiments would not be conducted with prisoner but only with Poles” as “Poles really are not human beings.” Slavs, in the National Socialist racial scale, were classed as subhumans, Untermenschen, only one grade above Jews. (p. 145) Emphasis in original.
Himmler once cautioned his SS generals not to tolerate the stealing of property which had belonged to dead Jews. “Just because we exterminated a dead bacterium,” he said, “we do not want, in the end, to be infected by that bacterium and die of it.” (p. 147)
There are endless examples of dogmatic racial superiority and eugenics in Nazi Germany and well before. It was all over medical texts, psychiatry and psychology teachings, propaganda, and even math books.
Below is a list of words and phrases used in the “transformation of nomenclature for the unborn.”
The unborn has been designated as “protoplasmic rubbish,” “a gobbet of meat protruding from a human womb” (Philip Wylie); “a child-to-be” (Glanville Williams); “the fetal-placental unit” (A. I. Csapo); “gametic materials,” “fallopian and uterine cell matter” (Joseph Fletcher); “a part of the mother” (Oliver Wendell Holmes); or “a part of the mother’s body” (Thomas Szasz); “unwanted fetal tissue” (Ellen Frankfort); “the products of pregnancy” or “the product of conception” (HEW); “sub-human non-personhood” (F. Raymond Marks); “child Who-Might-Have-Been” (James Kidd); “so much garbage” (Peter Stanley)…”a collection of cells” (Malcolm Potts)…”potential life” (Mr. Justice Blackmun)…and “a non-viable fetus ex-utero” by the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. (p. 196, 197)
2. Euphemistic language to cover torment
Speaking of language and the end result, Burtchaell notes, “The most common outcome was death, but, to avoid all open mention of death and its violent forms, official documents developed an elaborate, almost elegant, euphemy” (p. 152). Think Orwellian and you will get the idea.
I’ll forego the German and list only some English translations:
evacuation, resettlement, clean-up, labor in the East, cleansing, disinfection, special treatment, return undesirable, departed, special actions, forwarded for special measures, inoculated off, separately quartered, transit camp, bath houses, clean-up of the Jewish question. (pg. 152, 153)
And most well known of all the “final solution to the Jewish question.”
This pastel colored language of the grave–this whitewashing of tombs–did not appear only in words and phrases. It was found in the corridors of official life.
There was the 1933 Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Posterity (which affected prevention through sterilization or death); the Reich Committee for Children (which destroyed them); the Reich Committee for Research on Hereditary Diseases and Constitutional Susceptibility to Severe Diseases (which identified those to be eliminated); the Non-Profit Patient Transport Corporation (which conveyed them to the clinics where they would die); the Charitable Foundation for Institutional Care (which paid for it); and there was “euthanasia” and “mercy death” (which was what it was all about). (p. 153)
The Nazis, of course, addressed all issues of potential dilution to the master race including the crippled, retarded and infirm. “These victims were characterized as ‘useless eaters’ and ‘socially unfit.’ Their treatment, as one book described it, posed ‘The Problem of Abbreviation for Worthless Lives'” (pg. 154). Death as abbreviation; how lovely.
The same euphemistic obfuscation was present in the move toward legalized abortion and continues to this day.
“termination of potential life,” “termination of pregnancy,” “therapeutic abortion,” “treatment,” “life-rationing,” “post-conception planning,” “menstrual extraction,” “insure non-pregnancy,” “non-meaningful life,” “unwanted child” (pgs. 202, 204, 205)
Since publication of Rachel Weeping we can add others: “women’s health and reproductive freedom,” “private family matters,” “ensuring fetal demise,” “women’s rights,” and perhaps the most Orwellian of all: “choice.”
And where, exactly, might one go for “post-conception planning”? At the time of Burtchaell’s writing he knew of at least these:
In Pittsburgh there is Women’s Health Services, where the services have little or nothing to do with women’s health. In Florida there is the Orlando Birthing Center, which will handle second-trimester abortions but no births. In Leiden one finds the Center for Human Reproduction, which is concerned to arrest reproduction, as also the Water Tower Reproductive Center in Chicago. In Missouri, Parents Aid aids women to avoid being parents, while in Chicago “Family Guidance” guides people to prevent families. Pre-Term and Pre-Birth in Chicago preclude full-term births. (p. 204)
Be reminded: he is not saying these people are Nazis. He is saying the same “language as smoke screen to the truth” was used in both instances. Any convincing disproval is unlikely.
Next up: 3. Disavowed malicious intent, 4. Once initiated, killed indiscriminately, and 5. Found it an occasion to acquire wealth.