I’m currently reading Albert Speer’s Inside the Third Reich. It’s a remarkably personal take on what it was like to be around Hitler between 1933 and 1945. In the book, Hermann Goering comes off as such a pompous buffoon that it’s hard to believe he was Hitler’s hand-picked successor. I wanted to learn a little more about Goering, and in doing so I came across the following remarkably current quote from this page on the Nuremberg war crimes trial. In it, a psychologist named Gustave Gilbert is observing that, contrary to what Goering is implying, the people don’t want war.
Goering: “Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.”
Gilbert: “There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”
Goering: “Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”
That’s a good one to keep in mind as election time rolls around.