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They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, (Phoenix Books) | icimtevastras.cf

Back to top. Milton Sanford Mayer was a journalist and educator. He was the author of about a dozen books. He studied at the University of Chicago from to but he did not earn a degree; in he told the Saturday Evening Post that he was "placed on permanent probation for throwing beer bottles out a dormitory window. He wrote a monthly column in the Progressive for over forty years. He worked for the University of Chicago in its public relations office and lectured in its Great Books Program. Evans puts the book in historical and contemporary context.

We live in an age of fervid politics and hyperbolic rhetoric.


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They Thought They Were Free cuts through that, revealing instead the slow, quiet accretions of change, complicity, and abdication of moral authority that quietly mark the rise of evil. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press.

Footnotes and other references included in the book may have been removed from this online version of the text. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it. The Germans, Milton Mayer But Then It Was Too Late "What no one seemed to notice," said a colleague of mine, a philologist, "was the ever widening gap, after , between the government and the people.

Just think how very wide this gap was to begin with, here in Germany. And it became always wider. All this has little, really nothing, to do with knowing one is governing. And all the crises and reforms real reforms, too so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter. It was all I cared about. I was a scholar, a specialist. Then, suddenly, I was plunged into all the new activity, as the university was drawn into the new situation; meetings, conferences, interviews, ceremonies, and, above all, papers to be filled out, reports, bibliographies, lists, questionnaires.

You can see how easy it was, then, not to think about fundamental things.


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One had no time. There was so much going on.

They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-45

It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway. Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Unconsciously, I suppose, we were grateful. Who wants to think? One day it is over his head. Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now.

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One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men? Things might have. And everyone counts on that might. Men like me, who were, are the greater offenders, not because we knew better that would be too much to say but because we sensed better. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something—but then it was too late.

Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none.

You know, in France or Italy there would be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say?

They Thought They Were Free : The Germans, 1933-45

On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have. Some have drifted off somewhere or submerged themselves in their work.

You no longer see as many as you did at meetings or gatherings. Informal groups become smaller; attendance drops off in little organizations, and the organizations themselves wither. Now, in small gatherings of your oldest friends, you feel that you are talking to yourselves, that you are isolated from the reality of things.