I think the only way for us to even come close to trying to understand this topic and coming to a well-informed (or at least thoughtful) opinion on a subject like this one, of a situation so alien and terrible probably most of us can't even begin to understand, is to try to make it more personal.
My family watches a lot of those investigation documentaries on crimes (especially murders), where someone has been murdered or some crime has been committed, and the courts are trying to figure out what happened based on the evidence. I've gotten so I almost can't stomach these kinds of things anymore though, because at some point, though at first I was mostly detached even if I did feel bad for the families from the standpoint that these things seemed so far away and so rare, I started to imagine what it would be like if these things were to happen to me or my family.
What would it be like, with all my dreams, with all my projects which I get so excited about, with my daily life that I have moments of joy and moments of pain that I try to deal with, or my dad, or my mom, or my teenage sister, who still have plans for their futures and interests and pursuits of their own, if that random robber, or stalker/rapist, or racist, shot or tormented me or one of my family, instead of someone I didn't know? How would I feel, if something happened to my sister, and they had
the guy who did it, but some court let him go on bail, or he got out of jail a few years later? Would I want to be merciful and understanding of someone who took the life of someone I cared about and then showed absolutely no sign of remorse?
Let's take it a step further: a crime is committed against you or your family, but you have no recourse to go to because the authorities are more ruthless and cruel than criminals, more inclined to kill anyone they don't like, or they consider you a lesser citizen and not in deserving of justice or basic human rights. The little physical pains of everyday life and the frustration of being patronized or seeing your opinions derided is bad enough without having to imagine actual intentional torture and the unimaginable pain and fear that would come with that, and not being allowed to express an opinion that differed from your leader's. The oppressiveness of such a situation is hard to imagine.
I really find this subject really interesting. What would happen if we eliminated anyone who had a negative effect on society? Would that society improve? Would people develop mental illnesses? Just think about how different our world would be if Hitler's Aryans succeeded.
I think it may be easier to understand the horror of what Hitler lead his country to do for people who have loved ones who are disabled, or friends of other races. There's a man at my church who is very active in ministry who has a daughter who was born severely mentally disabled, who can't walk or talk. He and his wife take care of her with such care and dedication and they have given up a lot to do so, but they still love her tremendously — she's like a newborn baby who will never grow up. According to Hitler, she doesn't contribute to society, so she would be eliminated, and I can't imagine how that would affect the family.
Also, many of us have friends or may be people of other races that have been persecuted in the past, such as African American, or Asian, and the potential of these wonderful people we know would never have been realized. There's a Korean girl about my age at my church who I've talked to quite a lot, who's in her first year of college and intending to becoming a doctor, and she's so funny and works so hard and is so considerate of others, and in the past Asians have been subordinated in the US and looked down upon for no reason other than they were Asian. Slavery in the US dictated that blacks were less as individuals than whites, even though they felt all the same emotions and were just as aware and intelligent as whites.
It may be nice to fantasize about eliminating disease, or illnesses, or a race of superior beings, but ultimately it comes down to this: would you
be willing to sacrifice yourself or a family member for the sake of that kind of ideal? Because that was the cost of what Hitler tried to do. I think it's a case of the cure being far worse than the disease.
The real question is what defines evil? Is it murder? Meaningless murder? Being selfish? Keep in mind that Hitler was probably insane long before he became the leader of Germany. Amon Goth, who was in charge of the death camps, went insane as well.
What defines evil? Well, I admit, it can be a hard thing to determine for people who don't believe in an absolute sense of morality, or in a higher power (such as God) that defines morals, right and wrong. Just talking about things from the standpoint of humanity though, I think a good place to start is the golden rule: 'treat others how you want to be treated.' Also, the purity of motivations is another factor I would take into account, and the true (or lack thereof) sense of regret or sorrow over committing injury to others. (That's pretty vague I know, but... this post will go on forever if I try to get into that too much right now X3)
(As a kind of side note, I just want to mention that, yes, I know that Hitler may have done some good in giving the German people hope — but at the same time, when someone commits an evil act, they're still guilty. If, say, Ghandi, who lived a great life of peacefully fighting for peace and human rights and performed a lot of great, brave acts that saved thousands of lives, if he murdered just one person for no reason, all the good in the world wouldn't make up for that bad act. Or maybe a better example would be a serial killer who is active in the community and doing good things. No matter how much good he's done, it wouldn't waive his sentence.)
Hitler was responsible for millions of deaths, but was his intent to just kill? No. He was trying to create a master race of Germans, also know as Aryans.
In this case in particular... I would answer that meaningless murder, or murder that's just for fun is just one kind of evil. Murdering for some purpose, such as for the end result of getting rich, or becoming the leader of the country, or, in this case, to create a super-race and try to perfect humanity, (as though people were machines that, if defective, were worthless) doesn't change the fact that it is murder. The last one might seem grander or more awe-inspiring in some ways, but ultimately seems just as depraved to me when it's boiled down the bare essentials.
That's because we are all human beings, and most of us are capable of understanding the insecurities people naturally have about how important their existence is. Because I think most of us feel that depressing feeling, the anxiety of wanting to be needed and wanted and not sure how much we are, of being afraid of dying, of wanting to live our lives. To directly attack or realize those insecurities of others for such a insignificant reason as wanting to create a new 'super-race' to replace the old... I understand that there are many reasons people commit murder that are, while not condonable, understandable, and not necessarily the act that another ordinary person in the same situation wouldn't have also done. Hitler's reasons do not strike me as one of them.
I know we tend to romanticize the idea of 'ideals', that even if the ideal is wrong, if the person is fighting for some
ideal then on some level they can still be great and respectable. But when the ideal is just absurd and horrible things come out of it... Well, think of Damon Kronski in The Time Paradox
. Kronski really believed in the ridiculous ideals that humans should rule the world and animals that didn't contribute to the human existence should be destroyed. When I read it, I kind of laughed a little, because it seemed so ludicrous (I think the whole thing was pretty much meant to be satirical), but I also found it chilling, because real leaders have really advocated ideas on nearly the same level of absurdity.
Even if Kronski hadn't been more concerned with holding onto his own leadership than those ideals, would that have made him any more respectable as a character? They were selfish, ridiculous ideals, and it was clear a lot of living things suffered for those ideals. I don't see that a super-race is any greater of an ideal in the end than humanity standing on the neck of the animal kingdom: Germans, humanity, it's the same principle. In that sense, Hitler is no more respectable as a leader than the likes of Kronski.
I'm so happy I got to incorporate Artemis Fowl into this conversation somehow...
Please note that I'm just being facetious here. I'm just trying to get some type of big reaction to make things interesting.
lol, you must be someone who really likes to argue then, hm? (; You probably don't believe me, but I tend to be pretty non-confrontational. But anyway...
Eh, sorry, I don't know if any of this is clear, I feel like I'm all over the place. Mainly I just feel strongly on topics like this because I tend to be a philosophizing intellectual who stays cooped up and safe from the dangers of the outside world, and the only way for me to not approach topics like these in the detached, almost cold way of someone who has had no experience in things like this and who's tendency is not to say anything that's too judgmental is to try to put myself into it and make it personal, and explain these things to myself in a way that I can try to understand them.