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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776
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There Was No Good Hitler

My own grandfather, Max Schoenwalter, received a letter from the Nazi regime informing him that his paint company was to be liquidated and Judenrein or “Jew free.” That letter was sent to him in January of 1938.


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In an article recently printed in a pro-Kremlin newspaper, Andranik Migranyan, head of a pro-Russian organization here in Manhattan, suggested that had Hitler stopped in 1939 he would be considered a “good Hitler.”

“One should distinguish the difference between Hitler before 1939 and Hitler after 1939” said Mr. Migranyan who argues that if Hitler had stopped after the “bloodless” reunification of German lands “he would have gone down in the history of his country as a politician of the highest order.”

How Mr. Migranyan could make such a statement despite the fact that by this time Hitler had already organized Dachau (the first concentration camp), Kristallnacht, and carried out dozens of Nuremberg racial laws, is beyond me. My own grandfather, Max Schoenwalter, who lived with his family in Germany, received a letter from the Nazi regime informing him that his paint company was to be liquidated and Judenrein or “Jew free.” That letter was sent to him in January of 1938.

But an even deeper question arises: Why would a Russian, representing the current Russian government make such a statement? The Soviet Union lost more than 20 million people fighting the Germans during the Second World War. Communists despise Fascists. How could Migranyan say this?

The reality is that until Germany attacked Russia, the Soviets were largely unaffected by what the Nazis were doing to Jews and other groups they deemed non-Aryan. It wasn’t until the Nazis invaded Russia that the Soviet Union was impacted by Fascism. And so liquidating people’s business, implementing discriminatory laws, instigating pogroms and sending Jews to concentration camps dosen’t make Hitler a bad person. Only attacking Russia does.

The world becomes a very dangerous place when a leader’s morality is evaluated by how he or she treats one people but not by the way they treat another.  It may seem obvious but a person can only be deemed ethical if they behave civilly and fairly to all people. Hitler tried to demonstrate that only some people deserve to be treated with dignity but the Jewish Biblical teaching that all people are created in the Divine image demands that all humanity, irrespective of race, creed or religion be treated with respect and kindness. And so there was never a “good” Hitler, not even before 1939.

Rabbi Mark Wildes

About the Author: Rabbi Mark Wildes holds a BA in Psychology from Yeshiva University, a JD from the Cardozo School of Law, a Masters in International Affairs from Columbia University and was ordained from Yeshiva University. He currently teaches an Outreach Training Seminar at Yeshiva University’s Rabbinical School.


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