“I once spoke to someone who had survived the genocide in Rwanda, and she said to me that there was now nobody left on the face of the earth, either friend or relative, who knew who she was. No one who remembered her girlhood and her early mischief and family lore; no sibling or boon companion who could tease her about that first romance; no lover or pal with whom to reminisce. All her birthdays, exam results, illnesses, friendships, kinships—gone. She went on living, but with a tabula rasa as her diary and calendar and notebook. I think of this every time I hear of the callow ambition to ‘make a new start’ or to be ‘born again’: Do those who talk this way truly wish for the slate to be wiped? Genocide means not just mass killing, to the level of extermination, but mass obliteration to the verge of extinction. You wish to have one more reflection on what it is to have been made the object of a ‘clean’ sweep? Try Vladimir Nabokov’s microcosmic miniature story ‘Signs and Symbols,’ which is about angst and misery in general but also succeeds in placing it in what might be termed a starkly individual perspective. The album of the distraught family contains a faded study of Aunt Rosa, a fussy, angular, wild-eyed old lady, who had lived in a tremulous world of bad news, bankruptcies, train accidents, cancerous growths—until the Germans put her to death, together with all the people she had worried about.”
― Christopher Hitchens, Hitch 22: A Memoir
I am not sure what reminded me of the historical WWII movie (not a film, really, it was made for TV) Conspiracy – but I did a search and found it streaming on HBO Max. I had seen a good bit of the short (hour-and-a-half) work before. I had searched it out because I had seen a documentary on and was interested in the life and death of the Nazi Reinhard Heydrich – a particular hideous man assassinated by a team sent by the Czech government in exile.
So I re-watched it and it was crackerjack. It is the story of the 1942 Wannsee conference, set at a posh estate outside of Berlin. A group of top Nazis meet and develop the monstrous plan to settle the “Jewish Question.” It is based on the only surviving transcript of the meeting and is an awful, yet illuminating record of the thoughts of the butchers involved.
What first struck me was the illustration of Hannah Arendt’s idea of the banality of evil. Despite the apocalyptic subject being discussed, the men are obsessed with jockeying for power, style, and the food being served. It is truly a slice of genocidal bureaucracy.
I watched it with the subtitles on so I could follow the exact language. The way the couched the subjects, the way they pounded on the table, the way they insisted what they were doing was not only legal, but the only moral imperative – was chilling. Absolute, pure evil was disguised and couched in the language of duty. Think about this the next time you watch a Zoom meeting where a disastrous or immoral conclusion is arrived at without anyone talking about what is really going on.
Oh, now I remember what reminded me of this movie…. The algorithm presented me with a YouTube video showing someone that had a tiny, bit part (a radio operator) in the film. I always enjoy spotting a future star with a background part in a film.
I guess it’s inevitable that Loki would be present at the conception of the Holocaust.