Friday, July 17, 2009

Multi-ethnic communities - Adolf Hitler's contribution

I finished my last post, Multi-ethnic communities - history's lessons, with this comment:

Now that I have got this particular obsession (the capacity of very different
ethnic groups to live together in harmony), it might be interesting to see just
what history tells us about multi-ethnic success stories, as well as

Dealing with a failure first. The picture that Mark Mazower paints of the administration of Hitler’s empire in occupied Europe is absolutely chilling. Hitler should not have lost this war. He lost because his own narrow racist obsessions destroyed the very things he required for success.

The difference between Italian leader Mussolini and Hitler can be simply summarised: whereas Mussolini was driven by visions of Rome recovered, Hitler was driven by visions of Race. Other things came in, but that really sums it up.

Hitler’s only contribution to civilised life, and it is not an insignificant one, is that in his mad obsession he crystallised, took to their logical extreme, ideas that had been built into European thinking and thus discredited them. In doing so, he laid the basis for the Nuremberg trails and for subsequent international action against war crimes.

No matter how weak and conflicted present international approaches to problems like Ruanda or Darfur, the very idea that the international community has the right to intervene to try to limit genocide is largely due to Adolf Hitler.

In The importance of international law - a note, I noted the importance of international law in constraining blind national self interest as well as human savagery.

This remains my view. International law is the first building block in encouraging different ethnic groups to live together in harmony because it imposes sanctions especially on official leaders who want to play the race or ethnicity card.

Of course they will continue to do so, but it is a start.

Note to readers: You will find a full list of posts in this series here.

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