Mirror, mirror . . . sowing the seeds of vengeance

Elie Wiesel on hatred for the Germans
Published: 1996-01-01

Immediately after the Second World War, the Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung wrote [Essays on Contemporary Events, London: 1947, pp. 51f.]:

"One should not for a moment imagine that anybody could possibly have escaped this play of opposites. Even a saint would have to pray unceasingly for the souls of Hitler and Himmler, the Gestapo and the SS, in order to repair the harm done to his soul without delay. The sight of evil kindles evil in the soul. There is no getting away from this. The victim is not the only sufferer, for the murderer and the whole human environment of the crime have been injured. A piece of the abysmal darkness of this world has broken in, poisoning the very air we breathe and imparting a stale, nauseating taste of blood to the clear water. It is true that we are innocent, we are even the victims, robbed, cheated, outraged; and yet for all that—or precisely for that very reason—the flame of evil flares up in our moral indignation. It must be so; for it is indispensable that someone should be indignant, that someone should act as the sword of judgment in the hand of fate; an evil deed calls for atonement; otherwise, either the wicked will destroy the world completely, or the good will suffocate in their rage, for which there is no outlet; and in either case no good will come of it."

But, says Jung, while judgment and retribution are essential for the preservation of moral equilibrium, exceptional care must be taken to avoid falling into a pit dug by the enemy:

"When evil breaks into our order of things at any one spot, the whole of our psychic protecting circle has, so to speak, been broken into. Action unavoidably calls for reaction, and, in point of destruction, this turns out to be just as bad as the crime, and if possible even worse; for evil must be completely worsted."

It is against this Jungian backdrop that I contemplated the odd symmetry in two passages I happened on in books I was reading recently; one being Legends of Our Time [Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York: 1968], a memoir by Elie Wiesel, and the other, Unhealed Wounds [Methuen Publications, Toronto: 1985], a case study of the Klaus Barbie trial by Erna Paris, a student of French and Jewish history.

In Chapter 2 [p. 39], titled "The Early Life and Times of Klaus Barbie," Erna Paris writes of the values cherished by the Nazis in Hitler's Germany:

"Hatred, defiance and passion were the 'genuine' qualities of the Volk, according to Alfred Baeumler, professor of philosphy at the University of Berlin and one of the leading theoreticians of the Third Reich. These were the Nordic, soldierly virtues that needed to be inculcated into the young. Adolescents were scolded by their elders, who warned that the German people had forgotten how to hate and that 'virile strength' had been replaced by 'female lamentations.' 'He who is unable to hate cannot love, either,' chided SA leader Ernst Rohm in 1928. 'Fanatical love and hate- their fires kindle flames of freedom...' he added." [George L. Mosse, ed., Nazi Culture: Intellectual, Cultural and Social Life in the Third Reich, Grosset and Dunlop: New York, 1966, p. 103]."

What is interesting is that many of the motifs describing Nazi values may be seen in the following passage from Elie Wiesel's Legends of Our Time. Here Wiesel, an Auschwitz survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, meditates on the lessons of the Holocaust [p. 142]:

"There is a time to love and a time to hate; whoever does not hate when he should does not deserve to love when he should, does not deserve to love when he is able. Perhaps, had we learned to hate more during the years of ordeal, fate itself would have taken fright. The Germans did their best to teach us but we were poor pupils in the discipline of hate. Yet today, even having been deserted by my hate during that fleeting visit to Germany, I cry out with all my heart against silence. Every Jew, somewhere in his being, should set apart a zone of hate—healthy, virile hate—for what the German personifies and for what persists in the German. To do otherwise would be a betrayal of the dead.

What do you think? Is this genuine synchronicity or mere happenstance, these two passages being freighted as they are with identical motifs, and even identical wording?


CODOH comments: There are no meaningless gestures, and damned few coincidences. Thank you for sharing this insight which reflects the ancient wisdom that hate does not resolve hate, it only amplifies itself.

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Author(s) Orest Slepokura
Title Mirror, mirror . . . sowing the seeds of vengeance, Elie Wiesel on hatred for the Germans
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Dates published: 1996-01-01, first posted on CODOH: Dec. 30, 1995, 6 p.m., last revision: n/a
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