Saturday, April 24, 2010

What About Hitler?

As Jack and I have been discussing back and forth in the comments, there are some dilemmas and ethical issues this nonviolence stuff brings up.....situations that don't have clear cut answers?. 

It seems that "What about Hitler?" is not only a question those who believe in UR must find a way to answer.  Those who believe that nonviolence is a viable, realistic, workable way to settle conflict must also deal with the Hitler question.  Could Hitler have been stopped by nonviolent means? 

There are many who say yes...if the means had been started before he had risen to the lofty heights of power where he was almost invincible, untouchable.  I read several articles that detailed nonviolent protests that actually worked.  From an article called Hitler and the Challenge of Nonviolence 

In Bulgaria most of the country’s 48,000 Jews were saved when leaders of the Orthodox Church and farmers in the northern stretches of the country threatened to lie across railroad tracks to prevent Jews from being deported. This pressure encouraged the Bulgarian parliament to resist the Nazis, who eventually rescinded the deportation order, saving almost all of the country's 48,000 Jews.

The German army was well prepared to meet armed resistance, but less able to cope with strikes, civil disobedience, boycotts and other forms of nonviolent action. A famous example is when the Norwegian teachers were told to join the Nazi party and teach Nazism in schools or face the consequences. When 12,000 teachers signed a declaration against the new law, 1000 were arrested and sent to prison camps. But the strike continued and after some months the order was canceled and they were allowed to continue their work. In a speech, Quisling summarized: ”You teachers have destroyed everything for me!”

We can just imagine what would have been the consequences if many professions had followed in the footsteps of these teachers. Or if they had prepared such actions well in advance and even had exercises prior to the invasion.

In another article I happened upon entitled "The Ironies of Peace "   it talked about a successful protest that took place in Berlin in 1943, long after the German war machine began carrying out "The Final Solution" the extermination of the European Jews.

In March of 1943, Gestapo headquarters in Berlin ordered the arrest and deportation of the remaining Jewish men who had been left out of the roundups so far because they were married to ‘Aryan’ wives. But then a totally unexpected thing happened. First one, then another of those wives began to converge on the detention center on Rosenstrasse demanding their men be released. By the end of the weekend, they were nearly 6,000 strong and refusing orders to disperse though Gestapo headquarters was only a few blocks away.

And the Gestapo caved in—they released the men. Moreover, as we have learned only recently, in Nazi-occupied capitals all over Europe, officials carefully watched the failed experiment and decided to leave their own Jews who similarly had Aryan spouses alone. In other words, an unorganized form of nonviolence carried out spontaneously by untrained people with no organization and no followup “stopped Hitler’s armies” in their most virulent form, saving tens of thousands of people.

Another who bravely stood in opposition to Hitler's regime was Deitrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor/theologian.  More on him tomorrow....

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