Ernst Janning: There was a fever over the land. A fever of disgrace, of indignity, of hunger. We had a democracy, yes, but it was torn by elements within. Above all, there was fear. Fear of today, fear of tomorrow, fear of our neighbors, and fear of ourselves.
Only when you understand that – can you understand what Hitler meant to us. Because he said to us: ‘Lift your heads! Be proud to be German! There are devils among us. Communists, Liberals, Jews, Gypsies! Once these devils will be destroyed, your misery will be destroyed.’
It was the old, old story of the sacrificial lamb. . . What difference does it make if a few racial minorities lose their rights? It is only a passing phase. . . The very elements of hate and power about Hitler that mesmerized Germany, mesmerized the world! We found ourselves with sudden powerful allies.
Things that had been denied to us as a democracy were open to us now. The world said ‘go ahead, take it, take it! . . . And then one day we looked around and found that we were in an even more terrible danger. The ritual began in this courtroom swept over the land like a raging, roaring disease.
What was going to be a passing phase had become the way of life. Your honor, I was content to sit silent during this trial. I was content to tend my roses. I was even content to let counsel try to save my name, until I realized that in order to save it, he would have to raise the specter again.
You have seen him do it – he has done it here in this courtroom. He has suggested that the Third Reich worked for the benefit of people. He has suggested that we sterilized men for the welfare of the country. He has suggested that perhaps the old Jew did sleep with the sixteen year old girl, after all. Once more it is being done for love of country. It is not easy to tell the truth; but if there is to be any salvation for Germany, we who know our guilt must admit it… whatever the pain and humiliation.
I add this quote today because I have been thinking a lot lately about our world. More specifically, I have been thinking a lot about individuals and the battle going on in each of us. This quote makes it very clear that FEAR leaves us open for takeover. It is the destroyer of hope and faith. Truth can be distorted and men made to do the most horrendous things if fear creeps into our lives.
I think we would all be wise to study history. For, as George Santayana said, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”