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Bystanders allow room for extremists -- Naomi Chesler

November 16, 2018

Friday’s State Journal had an Associated Press article describing Holocaust survivor Walter Frankenstein’s memories of Germany from Nov. 9, 1938. The line that caught my eye was this: “Frankenstein, now 94, was describing Kristallnacht -- the ‘Night of Broken Glass’ -- when Nazis, among them many ordinary Germans, terrorized Jews throughout Germany and Austria.”

First, I object to the implication that Nazis were not ordinary Germans. They were, just as white nationalists today are ordinary Americans.

Second, ordinary German citizens who were not members of the Nazi party and who did not actively perpetrate the terror and violence on Kristallnacht nevertheless abetted the Nazis through their inaction as bystanders, as so many people did in Charlottesville, Virginia, during the white nationalist march there in August 2017.

Indeed, much of the violence, terror and murder of the Holocaust could not have occurred without the active and passive participation of all ordinary Germans. All ordinary Americans would do well to realize the consequences of standing by as evil is done in the name of nationalism.

Naomi Chesler, Madison

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