As I write, world leaders are gathering in a European Union country to remember the arrival, 75 years ago, of the Red Army at the gates of Auschwitz to discover a horror unique in the annuls of our tortured species.
Using the tools which a newly industrialised world had created, one of its present member states had set about the extermination of an entire people.
It would be wrong to say that the state in question was unaware of the evil it was perpetrating, as it tried every means possible to hide what it was doing. What it did believe fervently was that, in the fullness of time, when the world woke up to the fact that the twelve million Jews of Europe had vanished, it would ‘applaud the courage’ of the country that had risen to the challenge and done the unthinkable.
What warped form of logic could ever make an otherwise cultured people harbour such thoughts? The answer is simple. If a criminal gang gains control of a country and spends two decades reigniting ancient hatreds using all the means of modern propaganda and pseudo-science, an entire people can be brought to the edge of madness.
Right up to the advent of Hitler, Germany was no more anti-Semitic than any other country in Europe (actually less so than many). Jews fought with distinction for the Kaiser, gaining hundreds of Iron Crosses. They considered themselves safe and at home and loved their Fatherland, the birthplace of Goethe, Beethoven and Schiller.
Had a similar criminal gang gained control of another European country – at a time of acute economic distress and political humiliation following the vengeful Versailles Treaty – and employed the same brainwashing techniques as did the Nazis, that country would have ended up the same. We have only to look at North Korea today to see what brainwashing can achieve.
Two things allowed Nazi Germany to take matters to their logical conclusion. The first was the astonishing rapidity and breadth of its conquests; the second was its industrial might and legendary efficiency.
Only a large and advanced state would have the means to embark on such a programme, and within every country there are people in a criminal class willing to do the really merciless work. So complete and fixated was the determination of the monsters who drove that programme that, even as their resources were stretched to the limit on the battlefield, they still were prepared to risk defeat than redeploy enormous Holocaust resources to the front and perhaps save the day.
Genocides have been a regular feature of our benighted species, but none have so scarred our conscience as that which ended seventy-five years ago. Thankfully, it can never happen again. Our 24/7 news cycle, cameras in every pocket and inability to prevent whistle-blowers and email leaks will make any such repeat effort impossible to conceal from the world.