Despite the hyper-version of "Godwin's Law" (1990) which suggests making any comparison to Hitler in debating a contentious issue means losing your credibility, I am going to use a 4-letter N word that conjures Hitler: Nazi. I can't help it: reading McEhinney and McAleer's haunting true-crime story Gosnell: The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killerforces a comparison, even if the book doesn't make it.
Beginning then and ever since a piercing question has often been forced upon ordinary German civilians, soldiers, bureaucrats, and others: "What did you know about the camps?" What, for instance, did Brunhilde Pomsel, Goebbel's secretary who recently died at 106, know? The subject of a 2015 documentary, A German Life, she said,
"I know no one ever believes us nowadays – everyone thinks we knew everything. We knew nothing, it was all kept well secret….We believed it – we swallowed it – it seemed entirely plausible."
But those Germans who courageously opposed the Nazis were not "nice" — in the old sense of the word, that is, "unknowing":
[nice]: late 13c., "foolish, stupid, senseless," from Old French nice (12c.) "careless, clumsy; weak; poor, needy; simple, stupid, silly, foolish," from Latin nescius "ignorant, unaware," literally "not-knowing," from ne- "not" + stem of scire "to know." …"agreeable, delightful" (1769); … by 1926, it was pronounced "…. a mere diffuser of vague and mild agreeableness." [Fowler]
But ignorance, willful or semi-willful (the heart is deceitful) is not unique to Germany, and does not seem much different than the grand display of such "nice" Americans, including well-educated officials and media, turning blind eyes to the death camp run by Dr. Kermit Gosnell, Philadelphia abortionist doctor now serving three life sentences for murdering born-alive infants, among other crimes.
There were many signs of something not right at the "clinic"; complaints were made to health officials for years. Nothing was done. No investigations. It didn't fit what most people wanted to hear and report about an inner city abortion mill. The physical contents of his mill and the manner in which babies and women were treated there can only be described as nightmarish and hellish. (Investigators were creeped out by the place. Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said, "I felt like people were touching me in side that building.")
By many accounts, Gosnell was a community leader, a charming and nice man. Except he wasn't so nice to hundreds of children aborted past Pennsylvania's legal limit, born alive, then stabbed to death. (Sorry, it's ugly). The place contained shelves of bottles of dead babies and hundreds of preserved tiny severed feet.
Reading the book's grim eyewitness accounts, I couldn't help but think of those Nazi camps my dad talked about. Well, in 1978 Dr. Gosnell visited Auschwitz. The authors quote his account:
"What was most impressive were the bins where they kept the children's shoes … hair … clothing…. [T]he sheer volume of it was very impressive." That was the only adjective he used: "impressive." Not heartbreaking or tragic or horrific. No, Gosnell thought the storage of the little shoes, clothing, and remains of small, innocent Jewish children who were massacred by the Nazis was "impressive."
Big media refused to cover Gosnell's trial until shamed into it by social media exposure and Kirsten Powers' mea culpa column in USA Today. They were dragged to the trial like those German civilians were dragged to the death camp. The media's enlightenment didn't last. Those today who seek to expose the truth about abortion, like David Daleiden with his uncover videos, are hated and are not "nice." Gosnell sold out at Amazon in 3 days and reportedly ranked 4th in book sales (non-fiction hardcover). Surprise–the New York Times did not include Gosnell in their bestsellers list. Nice.
Some people want to make America great. Some think it is already great. They may fight each other about it. But as long as a nation refuses to face its crimes and repent of such bloodshed, it has no chance of being great. It could, I suppose, aspire instead to being both Nazi and nice. My hat's off to authors Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer.