That’s what people do-and that should truly frighten us

I require every new FBI special agent and intelligence analyst to go to the Holocaust Museum. Naturally, I want them to learn about abuse of authority on a breathtaking scale. But I want them to confront something more painful and more dangerous: I want them to see humanity and what we are capable of.

I want them to see that, although this slaughter was led by sick and evil people, those sick and evil leaders were joined by, and followed by, people who loved their families, took soup to a sick neighbor, went to church and gave to charity. Good people helped murder millions. And that’s the most frightening lesson of all — that our very humanity made us capable of, even susceptible to, surrendering our individual moral authority to the group, where it can be hijacked by evil.

In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland*, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn’t do something evil. They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do. That’s what people do. And that should truly frighten us.

Former FBI Director James Comey speaking at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s 2015 National Tribute Dinner, April 23, 2015

Watch the video of the speech here

*The Truth about Poland and the Holocaust

the Terrifying Truth

Introducing a (60 Minutes) story about Nazi Adolf Eichmann, a principle architect of the Holocaust, (Mike) Wallace posed a central question at the program’s outset: “How is it possible…for a man to act as Eichmann acted?...Was he a monster? A madman? Or was he perhaps something even more terrifying: was he normal?”

Normal? The executioner of millions of Jews normal? Most self-respecting viewers would be outraged at the very thought.

The most startling answer to Wallace’s shocking question came in an interview with Yehiel Dinur, a concentration camp survivor who testified against Eichmann at the Nuremburg trials. A film clip from Eichmann’s 1961 trial showed Dinur walking into the courtroom, stopping short, seeing Eichmann for the first time since the Nazi had sent him to Auschwitz eighteen years earlier. Dinur began to sob uncontrollably, then fainted, collapsing in a heap in the floor a sthe presiding judicial officer pounded his gavel for order in the crowded courtroom.

Was Dinur overcome by hatred? Fear? Horrid memories?

No; it was none of these. Rather, as Dinur explained to Wallace, all at once he realized Eichmann was not the godlike army officer who had sent so many to their deaths. This Eichmann was an ordinary man. “I was afraid about myself,” said Dinur “… I saw that I am capable to do this. I am…exactly like he.”

Wallace’s subsequent summation of Dinur’s terrible discovery – “Eichmann is in all of us” – is a horrifying statement; but it indeed captures the central truth about man’s nature.

Charles Colson, Who Speaks for God?

the brave doctor

Shortly after Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia, a doctor in William E. Wallner's parish was sent to a Nazi concentration camp. The doctor, a Jewish convert to Christianity, encouraged his fellow prisoners "to die bravely, with faith in their hearts." As a result, he became a target of Gestapo officers.

Although struck with an iron rod until one of his arms had to be amputated, the doctor would not be quieted. Finally, as DeMille's autobiography recounts, "one Gestapo officer beat the doctor's head against a stone wall until blood was streaming down his face." Holding a mirror before the doctor, the Gestapo officer sneered: "Take a look at yourself. Now you look like your Jewish Christ."

Lifting his remaining hand up, the doctor exclaimed, "Lord, never in my life have I received such honor—to resemble You." Those would be his last words on Earth.

Distraught by the doctor's proclamation, the Gestapo officer sought out Wallner that night. "Could Pastor Wallner help him, free him from the terrible burden of his guilt?"

After praying with him, Wallner advised, "Perhaps God let you kill that good man to bring you to the foot of the Cross, where you can help others." The Gestapo officer returned to the concentration camp. And through the aid of Wallner and the Czech underground, he worked to free many Jews over the years that followed.

John Murray writing in the Wall Street Journal