By Daniel Williams
We often consider the end of a way of life, of a mindset, to be apocalyptic. We make films about the collapse of society we know it and label them apocalyptic, dystopian. It’s hard for us to comprehend a life after our understanding of society.
Perhaps that is part of why it is so difficult for us to understand how people came to grips with the end of Nazism. Nazism’s collapse was, as detailed in the Reckonings reading, a very difficult matter for regular people, many of whom had enjoyed their years living with the Nazis. Even writing this, I found I had to correct myself in writing “living *under* the Nazis”. But the truth is that many people were glad to live with the Nazi government in power, many were happy to live with its regulations, and happy to turn a blind eye to its many faults.
The article deals primarily with the concept of guilt compared to victimhood. It’s interesting when comparing this article to the previous week’s discussion on victimhood, namely whether it is possible for multiple different sorts of victims to coexist in a space, and if different victims had differing degrees of importance. In this case, we add another layer to the discussion, guilt. Who is and is not guilty, whether it is important to determine this so broadly, and how different groups and individuals managed their guilt.
Could victims also be guilty? Could nazi sympathizers still have suffered from the regime? Can we claim that those who are ‘guilty’ of sympathizing with the regime truly understood what it was they supported, even if the crimes of the regime were many and on relatively public display? Must everyone who did not engage in direct resistance be labeled guilty?
These are all problematic questions, and the segment Discomfort Zones approaches this from trying to explain how the perpetrators of supporting the Nazi regime felt like they had to defend themselves from unspoken accusations of guilt. But it also mentions a lack of closure, and that is the most important factor. There is no good answer to the above questions. Indeed, trying to understand life after a way of life is cripplingly difficult.