How Evil Grows

Dad on far left

My dad died, today, 29 years ago and I think of him often. Growing up with a father who’d been in the Luftwaffe (he joined in 1936), made me sensitive to the issue of being “the bad guy.” Because I knew my dad loved me and that he was a good person in spite of his previous uniform and war history, I’ve always been curious about what makes evil succeed.  Dad was a smart guy, after all. How did he get sucked into the Nazi cause? 

Here's what I've come up with:

One huge ingredient necessary to grow evil is ignorance. This is happening in Russia right now where the mass media manipulates the truth leaving the average Russia in the dark. Goebbels was a mastermind of propaganda during the Third Reich. He controlled newspapers, radio, and film. It’s harder now with the internet so prevalent, but Putin is making every effort to control that, too. 

Goebbels
Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1968-101-20A / Heinrich Hoffmann / CC-BY-SA 3.0

For those who can’t be brainwashed, there’s evil’s second enabling tool . . . fear. Russian protesters are in jail, dead, jobless or leaving the country. Nazis had their concentration camps and even beheaded young people for printing flyers encouraging resisters. (see Red Orchestra and White Rose).

Ignorance and fear can be fought with knowledge and with courage. My dad was a voracious reader after the war and I have a solid collection of his books. He worked at re-educating himself. He was also a courageous man, forging a new life in a new country and bravely admitting to his past. Today, it's Ukraine's president who models courage to his people and to the rest of us.

My dad paid for his youthful ignorance with the loss of his young family, five years in a Soviet gulag and most of all, a deep sense of shame for his    cheerleading of the Führer.  But he was open to learn and he was brave to admit when he was wrong. 

Dad with his first-born, Peter
My dad was a humble man . . . a broken man. Maybe that’s what I loved most about him . . . his humanity.  What is that Japanese art using broken pieces called?  Kintsugi.  It makes broken things more beautiful than they were before. 

Rest in peace, Dad. Peace to our world, too. 

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