In the culture wars it is not recommended to the defenders of Life that they talk about the Nazi holocaust as a parallel to the holocaust of the living unborn. This is primarily a matter of strategy or tactics. The accidental details of the horror of the holocaust which took place in the Nazi death camps are so visceral that in the public imagination it is incomparable with anything else in human history. Inviting comparisons is thought to be ridiculous – if not downright obscene.
But is it? Are there not strong parallels? Is evil not evil in whatever packaging it is presented to us?
Both of these evils have their root in one great evil – the denial of humanity. Both of these evils also share a common characteristic which mark them out in their own time, the characteristic of banality which was highlighted for the world in the case of the Nazi holocaust by Hannah Arendt.
The entire Nazi project for the extermination of the Jews – and others – was based on a view of the human race which raised the Aryan embodiment of that race to a level which placed all other Nazi-classified embodiments on an inferior level. The Semitic peoples it placed on a level where their very humanity was denied. Their very existence was a threat to humanity and for that reason they warranted extermination.
Am I exaggerating if I say that those who adhere to the ideology of choice now prevailing in many of the world’s national jurisdictions, and who are driving the practice of abortion through this ideology, share this same common denominator. In both cases, at the heart of their doctrine is a denial of the humanity of their victims. The pro-abortion movement, under the specious pretext of defending the rights and best interests of women, have built an ideology which not only denies but which has also closed off all debate on the essential humanity of the child awaiting delivery from its mother’s womb. This radical misunderstanding of humanity is one of the great fault-lines dividing the peoples of the world today.
On the foundation of this false and unexamined principle – which with each day that passes science shows to be more and more false – they have built the narrative that all those who oppose abortion are bent on denying women their fundamental rights. This ideology has now asserted itself across the world and established the right in law in countless jurisdictions to terminate the lives of millions on the basis of denying the humanity of children before birth. Sleepwalking, millions have subscribed to this ideology – just as millions of Germans were half asleep as millions of their fellow human beings went to their deaths in the camps.
What is the difference? I see none. There may be accidental differences, but for those who identify themselves as sharing their humanity with, on the one hand, the Jewish people, and on the other, with children from the moment of their conception, palpable evil is the common denominator which they share.
It is here, contemplating this evil, that we also become aware that the truth of Arendt’s description of the evil of the Nazi atrocities as banal also applies to the evil stalking our world today.
In 1961 Arendt covered the trial, in Jerusalem, of Adolf Eichmann – following his kidnapping on a street in Buenos Aires, and resulting in his death sentence and execution by hanging in Israel. Her reports appeared in The New Yorker and were later published in book form after his execution as Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1963. For all sorts of reasons the book inflamed debate over the holocaust. One of those reasons was her characterization of Eichmann as an exemplar of what she described as the “banality of evil”. There is perhaps less agreement now* over whether it can be properly applied to the person and career of Adolf Eichmann himself but the idea that much of the evil in the world is perpetrated in the most banal circumstances rather in spectacular and sensational ways is hard to deny.
Arendt rejected the overblown rhetoric of the chief prosecutor, Gideon Hausner, who portrayed Eichmann as a sadistic monster. She insisted that Eichmann was no more than a colourless bureaucrat, a shallow operative who had had “no motives at all”. Acting out of “sheer thoughtlessness”, Eichmann “never realized what he was doing”, for he worked in a system that made it “well-nigh impossible for him to know or to feel” that what he was doing was wrong, she maintained
Maybe yes, maybe no. It now seems probably “no” in the particular case of Eichmann. But there is no question that the “system” for which he worked – and helped create – had many operatives, cooperating agents, sleepwalking participants in this great evil for whom their participation was banal, ordinary and mundane. It is in just the same way that acceptance and, in some cases, participation in the culture of death which is abortion, is banal, ordinary and now just a part of everyday life. Such is the routine way in which doctors – like many Kermit Gosnells – daily propose to mothers that they would be wiser to abort the child they are carrying; or so-called counselors advise and facilitate the same; or parents advise their pregnant daughters, or boyfriends their girlfriends. It is everywhere and the world has just become accustomed to it all.
Thankfully the horror that was the Nazi holocaust is now universally recognised – excepting some pockets of nutty, if still abhorrent and dangerous, anti-semitism. The same is not so with the modern horror of abortion. The blinding god of Individualism has dulled the consciences of millions into accepting this human sacrifice as just one more event on the daily round. Those entrusted with the promotion and protection of the common good have just nodded their heads in agreement, buying the lie, the lie which is at the heart of both holocausts, that the victim being sacrificed is not human. In this holocaust they have swallowed the deception that the object of their violence is just a clump of cells (which we all are), a “foetus”, not worthy of the name “child”, and fit only for the incinerator – if the so-called quality of life of those on whom it depends for its life, seems to require it.
It is that very banality which makes us dull and restrains us from comparing this holocaust with the other. Let us tell the truth and call this what it is, a holocaust of the most horrendous proportions, a human sacrifice to the false gods of modernity, more terrible than Moloch, Astaroth, or others of the ancient world who demanded young lives as sacrifices. When enough people in the world eventually accept the truth that its victims are human beings, we will hang our heads in shame that it was allowed to go on for so long.
*See Bettina Stangneth’s Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined life of a mass murderer reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement, February 27, 2015.