Tuesday, July 17, 2018

“Thus the world was lost”

A chemical engineer, working in a “defense plant” (“a war plant, of course”), tells Milton Mayer that the world was lost on a day in 1935. The engineer was required to take an “oath of fidelity,” refused, and was given twenty-four hours to reconsider. The next day, he took the oath:

“There I was, in 1935, a perfect example of the kind of person who, with all his advantages in birth, in education, and in position, rules (or might easily rule) in any country. If I had refused to take the oath in 1935, it would have meant that thousands and thousands like me, all over Germany, were refusing to take it. Their refusal would have heartened millions. Thus the regime would have been overthrown, or, indeed, would never have come to power in the first place. The fact that I was not prepared to resist, in 1935, meant that all the thousands, hundreds of thousands, like me in Germany were also unprepared, and each one of these hundreds of thousands was, like me, a man of great influence or of great potential influence. Thus the world was lost.”

Quoted in Milton Mayer, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933–1945 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955).
Also from this book
Principiis obsta and finem respice

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