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Growing up in Nazi Germany

The opinion-page article ``Schindler's Mystery,'' Jan. 5, contains this thought-provoking statement: ``One of the questions of the Holocaust is: How did so many basically `good' people surrender their consciences to a madman?''

I think that I am able to answer that question, or part of it, because as a boy and teenager I lived under the National Socialist system. During the 1920s and '30s, relatively few people knew and understood what fascism, National Socialism, or right-wing extremism really was, because there seemed to be no historic precedent for them. Today almost every child knows.

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So many good people got fooled and became party members because a subtle psychological pressure and dependency made it almost impossible not to do so. When people began to recognize the demonic character of the leaders and their dogma it was too late.

In my middle teens I became aware of things that didn't seem to make sense: If we Germans are so good and the British so bad, why then are the small countries near us so anxious to get away from us and seek help from the British? But then, ``a good German shouldn't doubt''; ``Trust the Fuhrer.''

The propagandists such as Joseph Goebbels were sly and foxy. The media were under the total control of the dictator/government, and the ``great'' Fuhrer Adolf Hitler was always portrayed as the most noble person since Christ Jesus. According to the high-pitched propaganda, he was the only one who worked for peace and the good of Europe and the world. Only the others - Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin - were portrayed as evil warmongers who were dragging their people into a war against us good Germans.

Regarding the Holocaust, the mass of the German population didn't know what was going on. Sure, there were rumors sometimes, but nobody I knew took them seriously: ``The Fuhrer would never do something like that.''

Even when the war was over and the truth came out, at first it was hard to believe. ``It's just propaganda.'' But then, gradually, the terrible facts began to sink in that we Germans were not so good as we were conditioned to believe. Alfred W. Kubbos, Allston, Mass.

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