We will shortly be observing the two days of remembrance, the two minutes of silence on Armistice Day (11th November) and Remembrance Sunday (2nd Sunday of November). 70 years ago the world was engulfed by warfare on a scale never seen and, across Europe, Hitler’s armies seemed to be unstoppable with most of the continent occupied and controlled by Nazi Germany. The tide was soon to turn, and the allies fought back and defeated fascism.

But nothing had prepared the allied troops for the horrors they found at the German prisoner camps. The films and photographs of pits piled with corpses shocked the world. Nazi leaders were brought to trial at Nuremberg for the crimes and the Holocaust inflicted by the Nazis. Dozens were hanged for their crimes.

Many vowed that “Never Again” this should happen.

The Jews had been particularly targeted by the Nazis, but often overlooked were the other groups that they persecuted and murdered. These included:

  • the disabled,
  • people with incurable mental and physical illnesses,
  • social misfits such as the homeless and unemployed,
  • gays,
  • gypsies,
  • Jehovah Witnesses,
  • the Polish
  • and political opponents.

All in all, the Germans deliberately killed about 11 million non-combatant, a figure that rises to more than 12 million if foreseeable deaths from deportation, hunger, and sentences in concentration camps are included.

But how could such a thing have happened? How could the Germans reached a stage where by they enacted the industrialised process of killing people on such an enormous scale?

In this extract from the BBC series Planet Word, Stephen Fry’s takes us back to Germany in the early 1930, a time of world wide economic crisis and austerity not unlike today.  Stephen talks about the language used by the Nazis to change the opinion of ordinary humans in a manner that would dehumanise groups of people whom the Nazis would then proceed to kill.

In my next post I will explore the idea of rhetoric and propaganda further, and see if there are lessons we can apply to our current economic challenges.

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