The legacy of the twentieth century could be manifold – technology, culture, and every other asset of human society came along leaps and bounds between the reign of Queen Victoria and the beginning of the new millennium.
We might wonder who we have to thank for this – no doubt certain scientists and cultural icons stand out as being testament and archetypal of their given fields – but we must also consider that one or two international, and obviously terrible, events play as large a part as anything else.
Take for example: April 15th, 1912. A date long imprinted in Western memories by any number of recounts, re-enactments and re-imagining. The RMS Titanic, the most luxurious cruise liner that had been built to date – in its short run the cruiser played home to some of the most wealthy and famous people in the world. It is funny to think, but since that date, the ship, as well as the iceberg, has become almost infamous. Or at least the event has. The event caused the deaths of more than 1500 of the 2224 people aboard – the famous ‘unsinkable’ ship fell to the bottom of the ocean and the world gasped.
…the biggest shift that, the much outdated, maritime legislation had ever seen…
The Titanic, one of the deadliest of peacetime maritime disasters ever recorded. Its legacy, as with the twentieth century, could be manifold – but perhaps most important of them all is the effect that its sinking had upon the international recommendations and rules that govern maritime safety. The sinking of the Titanic resulted in the biggest shift that, the much outdated, maritime legislation had ever seen – and so, since the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, there has not been a single reported loss of life or property as a result of collision with icebergs. So here above lies an example of a tragedy from which we have stolen a silver lining.
But now for a legacy that is perhaps without saving – Nazi Germany is a nation that many see fit to disassociate with modern Germany. Hitler’s reign, between 1933 and 1945, is not merely a reign of wartime – but also a reign wherein the German economy and infrastructure were reinvented to suit the modern world. Under the Fuhrer’s guidance the country was able to break free of the crushing poverty and bankruptcy that had been left to it by the First World War and under his leadership the country thrived.
…the idea of superior races…
Of course Hitler’s views are tainted with such despicable ideas that to this day his reported genius is fettered with labels of insanity and evil. His government was once that maintained highly racist, especially anti-Semitic, ideologies – Hitler believed, as many readers will know, in the idea of superior races.
And so, what might have been a legacy of growth and prosperity for a struggling country was turned into a legacy of blood and war. Rather than being remembered as one of the greatest saviours of Germany, Hitler is remembered as one of the greatest murderers in history. And that is not the end of it.
…attempted deportation of Nazis from the USA…
Hitler and the Third Reich’s legacy punctuate human society even now, so many years later. In July of this year, a Swiss Bank was forced to pay out a staggering 1.24 billion dollars, assets left by Jewish persons that had died in the holocaust. A news report in August of this year reported that male Holocaust survivors tend to live, on average, six months longer. Again, in August of this year, the US Senate is considering granting the right to Holocaust survivors to sue the train company that transported them and their ancestors during the war.
In recent news, there has been a lot of media interest in the attempted deportation of Nazis from the USA. Four known ex-Nazis remain in America following a number of years and a number of orders to deport. The problem being, according to Eli Rosenbaum, head of the Justice Department Agency, that, ‘Governments of Europe refuse to take these people back.’ Furthermore, cases have to be closed through a lack of usable evidence – human rights will not allow for the deportation of a suspected Nazi War Criminal without solid and incontrovertible evidence to support the claims. And so, it could be that the four alleged ex-Nazis will live out their remaining days in the USA, on benefits claimed from the US government – potentially unpunished for the horrifying events that they may have played a part in. It is ironic, perhaps, that their human rights are exactly what defend them from facing punishment for the robbery of rights from victims of the Holocaust.
…abuses of power…
The backlash of an event, or series of events, like World War II lasts far longer than the event itself. I began by speaking about the legacy of an event – to this day it is hard to find the silver lining in Hitler’s legacy – it is hard to see that he did any good. He built an economy and then tore it back down with war, he gave pride to a nation before ripping it away from them with uncounted abuses of power, he built from the ground up a strong economic infrastructure just so that it could be ever marked with tank tracks and boot stamps of a mobilising German army.
I could never say whether the men hiding in the US or in any other country deserve the punishments that many would see upon them – I could never say if they still deserve their human rights. As with the legal system, I would rather not pass judgement without the evidence to say, without a shadow of a doubt, that those men did commit the acts with which they are accused. I would rather not condemn a man to death for a crime that I cannot be certain he committed.
However, what I can be certain of is that the legacy of Nazi Germany, of the Third Reich, is one tainted with the blood and distaste of extreme prejudice. I can be certain that a man who might have been great made sure that any memory festered along with every other tyrant in the long, bloody story of human history.