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This week saw the 72nd anniversary of Operation Overlord, which is known to most by its more famous name -- D-DAY.
On June 6, 1944, the Allies launched their long-anticipated assault on Nazi-occupied Europe. Operation Overlord was the largest amphibious landing in history. More than 150,000 troops supported by nearly 25,000 paratroopers, waded ashore on five beaches on the French coast of Normandy.
The massive attack was not without its setbacks. Short term goals were not all met. Everything took longer than expected. The weather was no help at all and the cost in blood was horrific. The Allies lost more than 4,000 soldiers, and another 6,000 were wounded, while Germany lost 1,000. Yet it was the beginning of the end for Nazis. From that tiny toehold, the Allied forces began the steady march toward Berlin and the end of Europe's nightmare of enslavement by Hitler's Third Reich.
Having said all that, this column is really about leadership rather than history. I believe one could design an entire leadership course based solely on this one great battle, but in lieu of just such a course here are three important leadership lessons from D-Day.
"Pigs in a Blanket, fry 'em like bacon." That was the chant repeated over and over again at a recent march led by an organization which calls itself Black Lives Matter. The marchers and their megaphone-wielding leaders were oblivious to one of two things:
1) The fact that a deputy sheriff in Texas had just been brutally executed.
2) That such incendiary language seems to endorse that murder or even call for more.
I cannot believe that no one, not one single person in the entire organization said, “Hey, I just saw on the news that a law officer was gunned down yesterday.” No one? They had no idea this had happened? That is inconceivable. They do not live in some impenetrable news vacuum. They knew it. They were deaf to it. They claim to care about lives. Evidently
Three years before he died, Martin Luther wrote what may very well be among the most virulently anti-Semitic books ever produced, The Jews and Their Lies (Von den Juden und Irhen Lugen). In this scurrilous work, which, by the way, was venerated by the Nazis, Luther spent 65,000 words denouncing the Jewish people as demoniacal filth "wallowing in the feces of the devil." In no uncertain terms, the man known as the founder of the Protestant movement, called for a wave of persecution against Jews, including razing their homes, burning their schools and synagogues and forbidding their rabbis to preach. He went so far as to call for driving them out of Germany and even skated perilously close to calling for their mass murder.
Roland Bainton, Luther's most famous biographer, claimed Luther's anti-Semitism was "theological" and not "racial," whatever that means. Presumably, in Bainton's mind, this difference without a distinction somehow makes Luther's a better kind of anti-Semitism. Certainly Martin Luther did not create the Nazis, but that they drew aid and comfort from his writings is absolutely undeniable.
Modern Israelis are probably more painfully aware of Luther's anti-Semitic writings than are modern Protestants. Knowledgeable Israelis likewise are aware of the rising tide of anti-Semtism in the American academy. Draping itself in the language of social justice, this new wave of campus hatred claims to be nationally anti-Israel without being "racially"
(Warning graphic content. Reader discretion advised.)
For the Nazis, the eradication of the Jewish population of Europe was a complex problem of arithmetic, science and logistics. It was never about ethics or the morals of mass murder. The challenge was numbers. They needed a solution, a final solution. How could they dispose of such huge numbers? That was the Nazi's only question. They wanted to kill millions, not only Jews but communists, Gypsies, homosexuals, and others. Deciding whom to kill or imprison was never really the issue. Anyone they deemed less than human, was the easy answer to that easy question. Nazi "science" so called, embraced a fundamental genetic distinction between themselves and such sub-humans. Choosing the victims and dismissing any ethical issues around killing them was hardly ever the questions. The means to do it was the real Nazi dilemma.
The horrific international machine of murder devised by the Nazis, arose from one philosophical proposition; the assignment of "less than human" status to several strata of society, beginning with the Jews. The real challenge was a matter of how to do it fast and efficiently. Once the ticklish little matter of morals was brushed aside, the problem for the Nazis became finding the means to concentrate such large numbers in central locations, an economical instrument for putting so many to death (bullets were after all expensive) and a way to dispose of so many bodies. But these were questions of planning and logistics, not ethics. The Nazis saw what they did, not as mass murder, but as the " final solution" to an international problem.
Criminal behavior is nothing new. Since Cain used a rock to bash in his brother's skull, the criminal element has been a constant. Until Jesus comes it will not go away. Certainly America has had more than its fair share of vicious hard cases. From the outlaws of the old west, such as John Wesley Hardin to the likes of Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, the cold-blooded mass murderer is hardly a new monstrosity.
There is however a chilling new development in America that may reveal something just as concerning, in its own way, as the cannibalism of a necrophiliac like Jeffrey Dahmer.
As she sobbed pathetically on one end of the couch her husband scowled on the other, only the length of the sofa between them, and yet light years apart.
"I hate it when she cries like that." His face was a mask of anger, perhaps even rage. "I can't stand her emotionalism."
Apart from the fact that he himself was at least as emotional as his wife, he was guilty of a common and unfortunate misnomer. He had confused at least two and perhaps three words which are frequently confused and misused in a way that actually causes problems in leadership as well as relationships.
Two very different events happened on July 31, forty years apart: the first in 1941 and the second in 1981. How strange to me that I was not yet born when the first of these events occurred and I was a married man well into my thirties at the time of the second. The first one seems like ancient history played out by diabolical figures in some kind of horrific and far-fetched movie. The second I remember well as a major news item of my young adult life.
The "huge" and massively-reported event of July 31, 1981 is, by comparison with the 1941 historical moment, so flimsy as to be meaningless. The two events seen in juxtaposition make clear in a quite startling way the difference between famous and important. One event was a secret meeting unknown at the time to any but the attendees. The other was televised, radio-ized, written about, and argued over by talking heads within minutes of its conclusion.