How could the Germans in WW II not know they were on the wrong side of history? It genuinely puzzles me. I was watching a WWII documentary tonight and it reminded me of one of the funniest things I've ever seen, which happens to be on this topic (from Mitchell & Webb)...
And it's humorous, but it seems to me there's also a lot of truth to it as well. Obviously it's not just the death's head rings and other paraphernalia, but so many of the obvious policies and practices which I would have thought screamed out a warning to the population that they were becoming the baddies!
- How could those in the military not think it very suspicious and dangerous to swear allegiance to an individual (Hitler) rather than their fellow men or their country? How were the people not thinking, "I don't know about this... This seems a little egotistical and weird. We haven't done this before. It sure seems like a very bad idea."
- Surely the pre-WW II belief that Germany needed vastly more land, lebensraum (living space), implied a significant territorial expansion and war to achieve that end; and while I understand the scarcity of some natural resources (like oil), otherwise Germany was hardly a tiny nation with a population density problem, didn't most people in Germany think, "Well, it'd be nice if we had more land, but we don't really need the extra room *that* much."
- Even if you weren't a diverse multicultural sort of person, and even if you don't know people will be killed as a result, don't you see them rounding up Jews, gypsies, gay people, mentally challenged people, etc. and think, "Hmm, I may not like these people, but this seems a bit much. Should we really be doing this? At the very least isn't it going to make us look bad to the rest of the world?"
- Didn't the German people think it was a bit strange that their nation kept making and then a few months later going against agreements they made with other countries? I know they had their own nuanced view of why the commitments could be ignored, no doubt casting themselves as the innocent parties, but still, they made and then went against quite a lot of agreements in quite a short time, resulting in war with the Czechs, the Poles, the Russians, and ultimately the rest of the world. I would have thought many of them would stop and think, "Gee, everyone sure seems hostile to us all of a sudden. I know Hitler is telling us we are getting screwed over by, but we do seem to be the ones bombing other people's cities, and leading our tanks and troops into their countries, not vice versa. Maybe we are being a little rash in our diplomatic response here."
- Didn't the German people think the SA, the SS, and the Gestapo were kind of unseemly? The SA at the very least was notoriously and blatantly thugish. Wouldn't a lot of people have thought, "Hmm, I'm not sure I can get behind a leader who supports and is supported by these sorts of groups . I think we need someone a little more enlightened."
- And what about the Hitler youth? Only a few parents thought it pretty vile that their children were being so obviously indoctrinated? I get that all children are indoctrinated, in the modern age by cartoons, by the Boy Scouts of America, by their church, by their friends, by their friends' parents, by their nation, by brands, by social media, by..., etc. but still, there was little subtlety going on so far as I can tell in Germany at this time. Wouldn't parents think, "I heard Hans singing a new song he learned today and I'm a little uncomfortable with all the references to Jews and the promise to serve Hitler."
Obviously hindsight is 20/20, and I know a lot of people (though an effective minority) did oppose Hitler, and I get that Germany was coming out of a deep depression following WWI, and I get that Germany is in no way unique here, that any other populace in similar circumstances may have reacted in effectively the same way... but I just find it perpetually shocking that it happened, that all the normal rules most of us imagine exist to govern human behavior and make us better than bad can be somehow suspended and that the German people wouldn't realize, on some level, that in that situation, they were the baddies.