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World War 2; my grandpa; good and evil

I recently read a novel by D M Thomas which revolves around morality and complicity in the WWII extermination of the Jews. (By the way: The White Hotel by D M Thomas is my number one novel of all time and I recommend it to anyone, it's an amazing book to read.)

Also, my grandpa Tom Beardsworth died recently. He was a great man, and it seems that throughout his life he was a real gentleman - that was a strong theme in the tributes that we got to him. He was a navigator in WWII and was even shot down more than once. He clearly gave a lot for the war effort. Afterwards he was involved in setting up the civilian air infrastructure, and then spent a lot of his career in the police force.

Reading this stuff about WWII and Auschwitz and so on, many things strike me. There must have been many good people in the German forces too, maybe some people a lot like my grandpa. Many died on both sides, of course, but maybe some fought just as valiantly as my grandpa and survived to a ripe old age, still working for good moral purposes. I wonder how they feel/felt.

From our current vantage point we are quite clear that the Nazis were morally wrong: their treatment of the Jews (as well as other groups) was horrifyingly despicable. But that wasn't why we were fighting against them - the stories of Auschwitz etc didn't really emerge until the war was ended (although some things were known in around 1942). We fought them because of the German invasion of Poland and their intentions to conquer many more territories. Those reasons still have a good-vs-evil angle to them, but the urge to acquire territory is much more "understandable" given that Britain recently had an empire itself, and given that various such things continue to this day (e.g. the various moves to claim Arctic territory, the Falklands War, Russia in Georgia).

Was it coincidence that the losers of WWII were also the morally wrong? Was it coincidence that those two moral wrongs (empire-building aggression, and racist extermination) were bound up in the same side? It's hard to even talk about such large issues. "Coincidence" is not the right term since there were definitely connections between the two motives, and also between those motives and the way they were carried out and the reasons Germany lost the war. And of course there must have been many patriots in Germany who fought for their country but would not have supported the extermination camps; I don't know how widely in Germany awareness of the camps extended, or more specifically awareness of the exterminations (see wikipedia link above for some opinions on that).

I know I can't add much new to the discussion of these things. But the moral extremeness of The Final Solution, and its massive scale, come home when you try to integrate it into your view of an ordinary world populated by ordinary people.

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