How professional and efficient atrocities are conceived
On February 20, 1942, the senior officers of the German Nazis held a meeting at a private villa outside of Berlin. The meeting was hosted by SS chief Heinrich, and there were 14 participants, each with a different weight, and therefore a different attitude.
The film “Die Wannseekonferenz” is based on the proceedings of this meeting. The majority of the film is in the meeting, the general process is the initiator of the meeting proposes the topic, other participants elaborate on the actual situation, solutions and proposals, and then the initiator makes decisions, and then discusses the next topic, almost no-nonsense, no tit-for-tat arguments, no demolition, no bullshit unrelated to the topic, even to communicate feelings of small talk is not in the conference room The whole process is a textbook interpretation of a workplace meeting.
This professional and efficient is very convincing, but if you know that this meeting is about how to exterminate 11 million Jews, I’m afraid you will only feel creepy! That’s about it.
Indeed, it was this highly effective plan that led directly to the death of over 6 million Jews by the end of World War II in 1945. All those who attended the meeting, discussed various technical issues, cost issues, cost issues, and then the issue of the boundaries of responsibility of their respective departments and how to collaborate, no one ever questioned the general topic, and so a historical tragedy was deduced and smoothly implemented.
This is a movie that requires patience because the conference room takes up the majority of the scenes and all the plots are advanced by lines of dialogue, but if you look into it, you will see that this is the characteristic of bureaucracy: objective, calm, clear sense of procedure, clear boundaries and corresponding coordination mechanisms. Talking and laughing, millions of people were to be displaced and thus physically removed. These Nazi elites crowned a series of so-called policies that violated human nature with highly abstract discussions that brought to mind the phrase: one death is a tragedy, 10,000 is just a number.
As long as one is far enough away, there is no burden to make any kind of decision.
In the course of the meeting, representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hoped that the order would not challenge the law and that more detailed amendments would be needed; representatives from the Ministry of the Interior reminded that the distinction between intermarried people and their next generation should be made clear; other issues related to how to arrange for the concentration of Jews, how to arrange for vehicles and transportation, and what methods could be used for more “efficient” mass Other issues included how to arrange for the concentration of Jews, how to arrange for vehicles and transportation, and what would be a more “efficient” way to process the bodies in bulk, how to dispose of the bodies afterward, and the effectiveness of the incinerators and the scale of expansion needed. Concentration camps and gas were chosen only because they were calculated to be cheaper than bullets, and they even seriously discussed the possible psychological effects of disposing of so many corpses per day on the corresponding German soldiers and measures to deal with them. …… Such proposals and discussions were based on an already tacit consensus –the Jews had to be exterminated.
But, why was this?
Because it was proposed by the Führer, and the Führer must be right, and this is the general premise that the conference must accept, and is often the problem with modern bureaucracies – only concerned with the “how” and “what “, not thinking about the “why”. And many “man-made disasters” occur because of the lack of “why” – no longer pursuing the meaning, but only emphasizing action. The evil of mediocrity is the neutering of the “why” from the top down, turning people into machines that carry out orders.
This is a re-enactment of an executive meeting, a microcosm of real history. There are countless discussions and films related to it, and it is indeed a unique perspective to focus on restoring the meeting scene.
Thus, it is worth reflecting not only on that history but also on the banal evil created by the bureaucracy – only efficiency, profit, and loss, no effect, good and evil, right and wrong. The only way to inject humanity into such a system is to think about and break through the meaning.
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