Godwin’s Law infamously predicts that as any Internet discussion continues, the probability that Hitler will be mentioned approaches 100%. I’ve wondered about this. Both Stalin and Mao murdered many more people than he did, so why does Hitler hold this uniquely dishonorably honor?
It might be because the German horror strikes closer to home for English-speaking Internet users. Most of us trace a large portion of our heritage to Europe, not to Eurasia or China. Many of us have a personal connection through family members who fought, maybe even died, fighting Hitler. Some have an even more direct—and tragic—connection to the Holocaust.
But I have another theory to add to this. Hitler and the Nazis didn’t just set out to murder millions, they tried to kill humanity—not every human being, but humanness itself. As bad as the killings were, I have been even more revolted by knowing that these murderers used their victims’ hair as material to manufacture rugs, socks, and mattresses. Dachau, Auschwitz, and the other killing places were not so much death camps as death factories, where Hitler’s troops turned human beings into parts to be processed with maximum scientific efficiency.
Hitler is gone, thankfully, but there remains in contemporary culture a strong dehumanizing impulse. Weak theories of human personhood are being applied to support abortion (especially selective abortion of the handicapped), euthanasia, strange theories of “animal rights,” and more. That’s bad enough, but the predictable further result will be loss of freedoms even for the lucky who live; maybe (hopefully) not like Nazi Germany, but in some seriously undesirable form (I predict) if we do not staunch this loss of humanness.
There is more to be said. My BreakPoint column on this topic has just been published under the title “The Abolition of the Person.”