With sterilization and Lebensborn being to slow to establish the mythical Aryan master race in Germany, and exile for “inferior” people being impractical, Nazi leadership embraced the “final solution.” Kill them!
I have seen the newsreels of bulldozers pushing bodies into mass graves. I have stood within touching distance of lampshades made of preserved tattooed chest skin. I have read accounts such as Shirer’s “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” I have heard accounts of survivors. But the depravity and depth of evil of the Holocaust is beyond my vocabulary to express. It is truly ineffable. If you are too young to remember or too old to sit in school for classes on genocide, then you may take the journey through the pertinent historical literature to learn the facts. I shall stand in solemn silence with head bowed before those victims.
Of those who perpetrated the deaths, some enjoyed it, some felt it a duty to the Reich, some felt a twinge of conscience, some tried to rationalize their guilt away. I’ll tell you of one soldier designated a firing squad executioner. He said that if he had to execute a family, he always shot the parents first and then shooting the children was something of a mercy because they had become orphans and there was no one to care for them!
This is called a rationalization.
When I was in charge of St. Anne Parish in New Bedford, there were Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings in the school hall or rectory basement hall several times a week, and I would often sit in. The other attendees shared what they gained from examining the excuses they gave for lapsing. Don’t we often try to give rationalizations for our behavior? Excuses or rationalizations — they all stink!
In our nation and across the globe, so many people are finding a final solution to a problem pregnancy with death for the innocent. Are these rationalizations? You betcha!
I am a senior citizen now, an old man. This human entity that I am has been around for a long time. Years ago, in the prime of life, this human entity had a different appearance. The same can be said of my appearance as adolescent, pre-teen and toddler. As a new-born I was the same human entity. I was the same human entity from the moment two gametes came together in my mother’s body.
O Christian! Can you recognize the innate dignity of every human entity of whatever color, nationality, wealth, health, disposition, intelligence, education or any other metric?
For those suffering from addiction, I think I did my part. My presence at the meetings supported them in their struggle. The New Bedford outreach program Positive Support Action Against Chemical Addiction (PAACA, Google it) began in my rectory living room and its first furniture for its first walk-in site consisted of chairs from St. Anne School.
Put aside all rationalizations and hear the words of Jesus regarding the final judgment: “I tell you solemnly, insofar as you did this to one of the least these brothers of Mine, you did it to Me” (Mt 25:40).
Reflections of Rabbi Raphael Kanter, a friend and colleague of Father Buote:
In Genocide III Father Buote touches on the murder and mass killings of Jews that we have on film, visual proof of those atrocities. Those victims were the result of many fine people rationalizing horrible and evil actions that took them to the bottom of the human ethical ladder and then into hell.
The meditation on rationalization by Father Buote is a warning that any bad or evil can be rationalized. We can agree that there is always a danger of rationalization in the area of ethics. Faiths can approach controversial issues with different responses and yet every person must look into their heart, take account honestly, using the Divine word to guide the response. That is the primary directive and ultimately leads us to the path of redemption.
Father Buote is a retired priest of the Diocese of Fall River, and a regular Anchor contributor.