A wonderful old Minnesota peacenik named Dick Bernard writes a blog called “Thoughts Towards a Better World.” His most recent post, a curtain raiser in advance of the recent State of the Union message, eventually worked around, as Bernard often does, toward the importance of peace and the foolishness of war.
Bernard brought up a quote from Nazi bigwig Hermann Goering that I don’t recall having ever seen, although it packed a punch when I read this week).
Field Marshall Goering — one of Hitler’s earliest, longest lasting associates, the top German military figure during World War II, and for a long-time Hitler’s designated successor —was the highest-ranking Nazi to survive the war and be tried, convicted and sentenced to death at the Nuremberg Tribunal (although he managed to kill himself with a cyanide capsule the night before he was to be hung).
Gustave Gilbert, an American psychologist fluent in German, worked as a translator with the Nuremberg Tribunal and interviewed Goering in the days between his conviction and his suicide. Gilbert then wrote “Nuremberg Diary,” a 1947 book based on interviews with Goering and other Nuremberg defendants.
Gilbert asked Goering how it was possible to build and sustain public support for a war effort, especially in Germany, which had barely recovered from the still recent disaster of World War I.
Here’s Goering’s reply:
“Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” Goering shrugged. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood.
“But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.”
“There is one difference,” [Gilbert] pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”
“Oh, that is all well and good, [replied Goering] but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”
Have a nice day.