Epistles of Thomas

September 20, 2011

Why were the Nazis evil?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 4:25

Why were the Nazis evil?

That’s a jolly good question but not one that psychologists were able to solve according to Howard Triest a translator involved in interviewing Nazi leaders after the war.

He says that, despite the psychiatrists’ best attempts, no great insight was gained into psychological source of the Nazi mentality.

“Did we learn anything from these psychiatric tests? No. We didn’t find anything abnormal, nothing to indicate something that would make them the murderers they would become.

“In fact, they were all quite normal. Evil and extreme cruelty can go with normality.

Imagine that, they were all “quite normal.” I would go as far as to say that not only can evil and extreme cruelty go together with “normality” but it is normality in a world lost without a Saviour. Watch End of the Spear for another great example.



  1. This is a topic I have been pondering myself lately, and I have determined there can be only one conclusion: the Nazi’s were not evil. Now, before I go any further, the word “evil” needs to be defined.
    Evil (n,v,adv) : A state, action, or quality characterized as being unnecessary, morally wrong, and without a purpose or form of gain (be it physical, psychological, or philosophical).
    The purpose for defining it as such is to differentiate “evil” from “wrong”, which can be defined as: “an unfavorable choice, action, or moral alignment from a particular point of view”. To be wrong implies a matter of perspective. A person can perform a just deed that another perceives as wrong, but an evil action cannot be interpreted or perceived in any other way.

    Everyone is familiar with the popular phrase “Choosing the lesser of two evils”, as there are often situations in life where one must choose one wrong over another (provided doing nothing is either not an option, or a wrong in itself); but how can an act be evil if its motivation is due to lack of options and not malicious intent, and how can there be varying degrees on a state of absoluteness? The simple answer is that it cannot/there aren’t and the phrase should therefore be amended to state “Choosing the lesser of two wrongs”.
    Putting semantics aside, how does “wrong” really differ from “evil”? Take, for example, the act of killing. Most people would agree that killing, in general, is evil. However, people kill animals, plants, and other people in every society and the individuals doing the killing are often accepted or even respected by the communities that supposedly condemn the act. The reasoning behind this is that the motivations/reason for killing are what make the act moral or amoral. As you can see, already the act of killing does not fit my definition of “evil”.
    What are some reasons for taking the life of another? A soldier kills for his county, a hunter kills(animals) for his meals, a terrorist kills for his ideals, a mercenary kills for his livelihood, a farmer kills(plants) to cultivate life, and a serial killer kills for his pleasure. So who defines which forms of killing are acceptable? Nearly everybody would agree that hunting and farming are acceptable forms of killing because they are necessary for the continuation of our species. On the other hand, Soldiers are often praised in the country they represent, and demonized in the eyes of their enemies. How can this be? How can the same individual be both hero and villain? It all comes down to a matter of perspective. In the end, it is usually the more powerful/victorious/larger group that ends up defining the heroes and villains of history.
    With that in mind, consider applying the same logic to the act of murder. In the murder’s eyes, the acts are usually justified in that they (attempt to) accomplish some sort of idealistic or psychological goal. That goal could be as simple as the pursuit of joy or satisfaction or as complex as the careful extermination of a perceived lesser being. Regardless of the reasoning, the act is not wrong from the murder’s perspective, else they would not be committing the act. However, from society’s standpoint, the act is an egregious wrong, and the murderer is often branded as “evil” because the society does not agree with, and often cannot even comprehend, the murderer’s motivations.

    There have been thousands of individuals throughout history that are remembered for their notoriety and have been labeled as “evil” by societies of the past and/or present. However, these individuals differ very little, both physiologically and psychologically, from their peers. Furthermore, there are customs and practices that were commonly viewed in a positive light by past societies that today’s world would likely define as evil. For example: slavery was an economic necessity for early Americans; gladiatorial combat was as common and loved by the people of Rome as football in the USA; cannibalism was practiced for thousands of years by South American tribes for various reasons; Public mass executions in France served essentially the same purpose as Jerry Springer; rape was often necessary for reproductive purposes by early Etruscan settlers, Vikings, and a number of other (mostly nomadic) cultures; racial cleansing was practiced in varying degrees by a dozens of ancient societies; and genocide was committed in the name God by Christians of the middle ages.
    All of these acts were not viewed as evil, wrong, or even questionable by the societies that practiced them; so there can only be two conclusions: 1)That the individual members of the societies that practiced these acts were evil/wrong by nature, or 2)That none of these acts are intrinsically wrong or evil. Since humanity, as a species, hasn’t changed in nearly 200,000 years, the first conclusion can be voided on the basis that to admit otherwise would be to accuse humanity, and thus oneself, as evil or wrong by nature.

    Now that we have determined that “wrong” is a matter perspective, we can apply that logic to the Nazi party in an attempt to view them from a positive (their own) perspective. The Nazi’s invaded countries, destroyed homes, and attempted to exterminate a race in order to regain the power and glory of the former German Empire; to avenge the injustices, shame, and debt imposed by Entente forces following conclusion of WWI; and to forge a utopian world consisting of (perceived) biologically perfect people in an attempt to usher in the next stage of human evolution and a new age of prosperity. As deluded and twisted as they may have been, they were lofty goals to say the least, and one would be hard pressed to define them in themselves as “evil” or even wrong.

    The existence of the metaphysical concept of “evil”, by my definition and in a literal sense, does not exist. Every act, no matter how wrong, is done for a reason, even if the one committing the act knows not what that reason is. If reasons represent goals, and the attainment of any goal is a positive thing, then measuring the net result is a matter of perspective and not a universal absolute. Furthermore, any conceptual reality in which evil exists would contradict life/existence itself along with any notion of God entirely; the logic being, that nothing positive can result from an equation that multiplies by zero.
    The significance of this conclusion is the realization that society is responsible for defining moral right and wrong. There are no “givens” in life. People like to believe there are “certain inalienable rights” because they take responsibility out of their hands and place it in a higher power. In reality, those rights need to be actively defined and upheld by the societies that value them if they are to be realized and/or guaranteed. To blame the atrocities of WWII on the “evil” nature of the Nazi party is not only incorrect, but unfair and irresponsible. I think by now it should be clear that the people of the 21st century need to take responsibility for the state of their world, the actions of their societies, and the direction of their “progress”. To ignore such responsibility is to risk the destruction of everything one holds dear.

    Comment by 50crowley — October 20, 2011 @ 0:50 | Reply

  2. If there is no such thing as evil then clearly the Nazis were not evil but if there is such a thing as evil then I think we can agree their actions were evil. I didn’t intend to blame the “atrocities of WWII on the ‘evil’ nature of the Nazi party” but on evil itself (i.e. Satan is a real force in this world and the actions of the Nazis, and others throughout history, are a graphic example of Satan at work through those who are lost).

    As regards your conclusion “that society is responsible for defining moral right and wrong” I think you are wrong and since I as the blogger define right and wrong on this blog you should accept my verdict or find a new universe to inhabit. 😉 Society is a reflection of its beliefs and actions taken in relation to those beliefs. I believe we need a foundation for our collective beliefs and practices outside ourselves. Every society in history has tried to provide that through religion, tradition, story, or scientific method. But if there is truth (both right and wrong, good and evil) then there is also untruth and not everyone can be right. I believe the Truth has found me in the Revelation given by our Creator God and ultimately expressed in the sending of Jesus to accomplish his desire to provide the world with a Light. Without that Light there is indeed no way to know evil from good but within the realm of that Light both become obvious.

    We are probably talking past one another because I live in a world that has both good and evil whilst you state that it is relative. In my world it is also relative but only in relation to God. I could agree with your definition that wrong is “an unfavorable choice, action, or moral alignment from a particular point of view.” However, I believe that there is a particular point of view from which to view the situation, namely God’s Point of View. I am quite happy to accept that God’s nature defines choices, actions and moral alignments as wrong and thus evil. As a being created in the Image of God (imago dei) my True nature is thus to agree with how his nature defines choices, actions and moral alignments. However, the Fall took place and sin entered the human race and you probably know the rest. Thankfully God has provided a way for my to regain my True nature as a human being created in imago dei and thus I can know good from evil, right from wrong. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Light and on one comes to the Father except through him. i.e. no one can truly know good and evil without knowing Jesus and recognising who they Truly are as a human being.

    Comment by Thomas — December 1, 2011 @ 4:34 | Reply

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