Even though I was born in 1946, the Second World War seemed remote. Growing up in Norwich and then Coventry I was surrounded by its impact - bomb-dumps, old ammunition casings, Coventry Cathedral - but I don't remember feeling that it was close.
What I was very aware of were some of the attitudes that it formed and were commonly articulated: "I will fight to the death for your right to free speech" or "The Nazis used torture - we don't".
People would talk about how extraordinarily detailed were the concentration camp records putting it down to Germanic orderliness. Everything was documented and recorded, down to the tiniest detail, even the names of those killed and shovelled into mass graves.
This was brought to mind by an article in today's New York Times. It reports that two prisoners held by the CIA suffered water torture 266 times - one of them 185 times in March 2003 alone. That's one session every four hours continuously for a month.
Put to one side for a moment the inhuman cruelty and think about it's documentation. Were the German (and American) witnesses to these various depravities simply busying themselves with displacement activities? Had they become numb to their own humanity? Did they have some perverted justification? Or did they just pick up their clip-boards and get on with the daily business?
Posted by Nicholas Moore 12:19:58 pm