How Do You Kill 11 MILLION PEOPLE?
WHY THE TRUTH MATTERS MORE THAN YOU THINK
By Andy Andrews
Copyright © 2011 Andy Andrews
All right reserved.
For you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."
Those are probably the most famous words ever spoken on the subject of truth. Most of us accept that particular sentence at face value. It certainly resonates with our spirit. It just feels right. But what does it mean, really? And have you ever contemplated the meaning that comes to light by inverting this principle?
If it is correct that "you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free," then is it possible that if you don't know the truth, its absence can place you in bondage?
As a boy, I quickly learned that if someone found out the truth, I might get in trouble or I wouldn't get chosen or I wouldn't be as well liked. Yet my parents urged me to tell the truth and went so far as to promise I would not be spanked—if I only told the truth.
At Heard Elementary School, I told my fourth-grade classmates that Elvis Presley was my cousin. I suppose it was my way of courting popularity at the time. But Elvis was not my cousin. What I had publicly declared in the cafeteria was not true, and for a time, though it didn't seem possible, I became even less popular.
It was a good lesson and helped me determine that, in the future, I would tell the truth.
Once, when I was fifteen, a man in our neighborhood told me that he would pay me fifty dollars for a particular task of yard work. When I finished, he gave me twenty dollars and said that was the amount upon which we had agreed. It was the first time someone had ever looked me directly in the eye and purposefully told me something that was not true. I took note several years later when he was publicly shamed and financially penalized for another instance—entirely unrelated to me—of not telling the truth.
Through my formative years and on into young adulthood, the truth became a touchstone, a goalpost, something to strive for. The truth was always within my sight, usually respected but sometimes compromised.
Once, I watched on television as the president of the United States resigned his office in disgrace. At that time, it didn't occur to me that the nation was in so much turmoil—and the president was in so much trouble—not because of what had been done, but because he had lied about it.
As an adult, I have become a student of history. For some reason, I am fascinated by what people said and what nations did so many years ago. I am also interested in results—the outcomes these civilizations produced as they reacted to what people said and what nations did so many years ago.
I often wonder, do those outcomes have any bearing on us today? Should we be more careful students of the events and decisions that have shaped the lives and nations of those who have gone before us?
A long time ago I decided that if history were to be of any value in my life, I could not succumb to the temptation of convenience in regard to my personal beliefs or desires. In other words, I would not be able to categorize people and nations as "good guys" or "bad guys" to suit my political or religious beliefs. The truth in what I uncovered would have to trump everything I had ever been taught or believed. Quietly, I could only hope that what I had been taught and believed was true.
Sometime during my study of the Dark Ages and Middle Ages, I uncovered an odd paradox that exists in our minds about time gone by. It is a difference most people don't discern between history and the past. Simply stated, the past is what is real and true, while history is merely what someone recorded.
If you don't think there is a difference, experience an event in person and then read about it in the newspaper the next day, after witnesses have been interviewed. It might be shocking for many of us to realize that what we know as "history" can actually be a total fabrication, created from the imagination of someone with an ax to grind. Or perhaps, and it certainly happened in the Middle Ages, history was simply recorded by the man with the sharpest ax.
On into world conquest I read, now aware that to be assured of accurate information it would be vitally important that I confirm records and stories with transcripts and eyewitness accounts where possible.
The records surrounding the life of Joan of Arc—her triumphs, capture, fourteen-month trial, execution, retrial of nullification twenty years after her death, and subsequent canonization—particularly fascinated me. Hundreds of eyewitnesses testified over a period of almost thirty years as to what they personally saw or did not see.
Do we know the truth about the life and death of Joan of Arc today? One would hope so. She is the patron saint of soldiers, martyrs, prisoners, and the entire nation of France.
World history, for those who continue to study it, becomes more defined during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, particularly during the American Revolution. Records by opposing forces and differing beliefs remain in relatively good shape and can still be examined by those wishing to do so.
The people of our present world retain a general awareness of historical time lines and a few specific dramatic events that shaped our lives. We occasionally read history or watch history presented on film. But in terms of why we do what we do, how we govern each other, what our society allows and why—very few of us intentionally connect the truth of the past with the realities of where we have ended up today.
So is the truth of the past even important? What about the truth itself? Beyond the elusive moral ideal by which most of us were raised—being honest and doing good—does the truth really, really matter?
To answer that question effectively, I would ask you another question ...
How do you kill eleven million people?
Obviously, most of us have never even considered such a thing. Yet when I began to closely research our world's recent history—the last one hundred years—that particular question made its unsettling way into my mind.
How do you kill eleven million people?
Eleven million. The number is so large when the word people is attached to it that it becomes almost impossible to take seriously.
"Why eleven million?" you might ask. "What is the significance of that number?"
It is true: there is no singular significance in that number. And the actual number is 11,283,000—the number of people recorded who were killed by Adolf Hitler between the years 1933 and 1945. Incidentally, that particular figure only represents institutionalized killing. It does not include the 5,200,000 German civilians and military war dead. Neither does it include the 28,736,000 Europeans killed during World War II as a result of Hitler's aggressive governmental policies.
Within the same parameters, we could have used the number of Cambodians put to death by their own government: slightly more than three million between the years 1975 and 1979. Three million—from a total population of eight million.
We could have used the exact figure of 61,911,000. That is the number of people who were murdered by the government of the Soviet Union, shown by their own records, between the years 1917 and 1987. But only 54,767,000 of the men, women, and children put to death by the Communist Party were officially Soviet citizens. That is 14,322 human lives for every word in this book.
During World War I, the highest leadership council of Turkey's Young Turk government decided to exterminate every Armenian in the country, whether a soldier already on the front lines fighting for the government or a pregnant woman. This government institutionally killed their own famous scholars, their own religious leaders, their own children, and ardent patriots of their own country. All two million of them. We could have used that number instead.
In fact, during our world's last one hundred years, there are many different figures from which to choose. Three million in North Korea. More than a million each in Mexico, Pakistan, and the Baltic States. The choices available, and numbers of dead killed at the hands of their own governments, are staggering. And in other places around the world, they are just getting started.
But for our purpose, let's focus on the number that is probably the most well known to us—the eleven million human beings exterminated by the Nazi regime.
There are many lessons we have learned from that tragic period in history, but one particular part of the story remains quietly hidden from even the most brilliant of scholars. It is the answer to one simple question.
How do you kill eleven million people?
Only a clear understanding of the answer to this question and the awareness of an involved populace can prevent history from continuing to repeat itself as it already has, time and again.
To be absolutely clear, the method a government employs in order to do the actual killing is not in question. We already know the variety of tools used to accomplish mass murder.
Neither do we need to consider the mind-set of those deranged enough to conceive and carry out a slaughter of innocents. History has provided ample documentation of the damage done to societies by megalomaniacal psychopaths or sociopaths.
What we need to understand is how eleven million people allow themselves to be killed.
Obviously, that is an oversimplification, but think with me here ... If a single terrorist begins to shoot automatic weapons in a movie theater containing three hundred people, the lone gunman couldn't possibly kill all three hundred. Why? Because when the shooting started, most of the crowd would run. Or hide. Or fight ...
So why, for month after month and year after year, did millions of intelligent human beings—guarded by a relatively few Nazi soldiers—willingly load their families into tens of thousands of cattle cars to be transported by rail to one of the many death camps scattered across Europe? How can a condemned group of people headed for a gas chamber be compelled to act in a docile manner?
The answer is breathtakingly simple. And it is a method still being used by some elected leaders to achieve various goals today.
How do you kill eleven million people?
Lie to them.
According to testimony provided under oath by witnesses at the Nuremberg Trials (including specific declarations made in court on January 3, 1946, by former SS officers), the act of transporting the Jews to death camps posed a particular challenge for the man who had been named operational manager of the Nazi genocide. Adolf Eichmann, known as "The Master," was directed by written order in December 1941 to implement the Final Solution.
Eichmann went about the task as if he were the president of a multinational corporation. He set ambitious goals, recruited enthusiastic staff, and monitored the progress. He charted what worked and what didn't and changed policy accordingly. Eichmann measured achievement in quotas filled. Success was rewarded. Failure was punished.
An intricate web of lies, to be delivered in stages, was designed to ensure the cooperation of the condemned (but unknowing) Jews. First, as barbed-wire fences were erected, encircling entire neighborhoods, Eichmann or his representatives met with Jewish leaders to assure them that the physical restrictions being placed upon their community (in what later became known as ghettos) were only temporary necessities of war. As long as they cooperated, he told them, no harm would come to those inside the fence.
Second, bribes were taken from the Jews in the promise of better living conditions. The bribes convinced the Jews that the situation was indeed temporary and that no further harm would befall them. After all, they reasoned, why would the Nazis accept bribes if they only intend to kill us and take everything anyway? These first two stages of deception were conducted to prevent uprisings or even escape.
Finally, Eichmann would appear before a gathering of the entire ghetto. Accompanied by an entourage of no more than thirty local men and officers of his own—many unarmed—he addressed the crowd in a strong, clear voice. According to sworn statements, these were very likely his exact words:
Jews: At last, it can be reported to you that the Russians are advancing on our eastern front. I apologize for the hasty way we brought you into our protection. Unfortunately, there was little time to explain. You have nothing to worry about. We want only the best for you. You will leave here shortly and be sent to very fine places indeed. You will work there, your wives will stay at home, and your children will go to school. You will have wonderful lives. We will all be terribly crowded on the trains, but the journey is short. Men? Please keep your families together and board the railcars in an orderly manner. Quickly now, my friends, we must hurry!
The Jewish husbands and fathers were relieved by the explanation and comforted by the fact that there weren't more armed soldiers. They helped their families into the railcars. The containers, designed to transport eight cows, were each packed with a minimum of one hundred human beings and quickly padlocked.
At that moment they were lost. The trains rarely stopped until well inside the gates of Auschwitz.
Or Treblinka ...
A list drawn up by the German Ministry in 1967 names more than 1,100 concentration camps and subcamps accessible by rail. The Jewish Virtual Library says, "It is estimated that the Nazis established 15,000 camps in the occupied countries."
And that is how you kill eleven million people.
Lie to them.
But wait, you say. This didn't happen overnight! How did things get so out of hand? How did it get to this point?
The National Socialist German Workers' Party, led by Adolf Hitler, rose to power during a time of economic uncertainty in a nation of people longing for better times. Germany was a modern, industrialized nation whose well-informed citizens enjoyed ready access to information by way of print and radio broadcast media.
Hitler was a man of the common people—not long before, he had been an army lieutenant—and his speeches were exciting and passionate. He promised more and better and new and different. He vowed rapid change and swift action.
According to record, what Hitler actually said in his speeches depended very much upon the audience. In agricultural areas, he pledged tax cuts for farmers and new laws to protect food prices. In working-class neighborhoods, he talked about redistribution of wealth and attacked the high profits generated by business owners. When he appeared before financiers or captains of industry, Hitler focused on his plans to destroy communism and reduce the power of the trade unions.
"How fortunate for leaders," Hitler said to his inner circle, "that men do not think. Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it."
In Mein Kampf, Hitler's autobiography, he wrote, "The great masses of the people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one." The book was widely read by the German people at the time.
The masses believed him anyway.
Or at the very most, they ignored him. It is a fact that fewer than 10 percent of Germany's population of 79.7 million people actively worked or campaigned to bring about Hitler's change. Even at the height of its power in 1945, the Nazi political party boasted only 8.5 million members.
Excerpted from How Do You Kill 11 MILLION PEOPLE? by Andy Andrews Copyright © 2011 by Andy Andrews. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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