Sept. 1 marked 80 years since Hitler invaded Poland and started World War II. Three years later, he launched the Holocaust that murdered six million European Jews.
A key question facing historians is how could an enlightened society that produced our civilization’s greatest philosophers, poets, painters and composers also produce its most notorious mass murderers, along with millions of ordinary upstanding citizens who just went along? Was the Holocaust a peculiarly German phenomenon, or are other enlightened societies capable? How about our own American society?
Jewish Nobel laureate, Isaac Bashevis Singer, gave a clear answer when he wrote: “To the animals, all people are Nazis.” Singer’s message is that we are all capable of oppressing the more vulnerable sentient beings in our midst, frequently without even thinking about it.
Our own enlightened society has translated the arbitrary Nazi dictum “the Christian lives, the Jew dies” into an equally arbitrary “the dog lives, the pig dies.” Only the victims’ names have been changed. The blissful, self-serving ignorance of the death camps and slaughterhouses in our midst remains.
Our very first step on the long road to end all oppression should be to drop animals from our menus.