Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Evil's Neighborhood

For many years, I've conducted research on the management proclivities of dictatorships. [Eventually, those findings will go into a book.]

Recently, while reading Michael Burleigh's Moral Combat, I recalled an observation by Malcolm Muggeridge that no dictatorship ever suffered from a lack of personnel applications. A look at the operation of the Nazi concentration camp system reveals a mass of administrative employees who handled matters as routine as personnel files, leave requests, and training records. Some, of course, also handled purchase orders for poison gas and tattoo ink.

Routine quickly ceases to be routine and becomes chilling.

Burleigh writes of the issue of collaboration in the occupied countries; of the people who, for sake of an income, did business with the Germans. He raises interesting questions of why some professionals, such as entertainers, are excoriated for their performances before the occupiers while those who supplied the Germans with less exotic commerce are not.

We all like to hope that we would behave honorably in such circumstances. This question, however, is worth exploring: At which point does one cross into a territory that, although not as clearly wrong as murder, puts one in the company of murderers?

No comments: