Olivier Maurel to Harald Welzer

Olivier Maurel to Harald Welzer
Sunday January 27, 2008

Barbara: It shocked me to read the logical letter by Olivier Maurel, and I find it hard to believe that the causes of the violent German history are so grossly distorted and played down by a book which claims that it is “normal” if such crimes are committed. The use of this word is also misleading, as if one wants to explain apologetically the past and those who caused its horrors. But we must learn from history and face the truth that what is done to children remains stored in their brains, waiting like a ticking time bomb to be recalled and implemented into unscrupulous actions by power-crazed, dangerous politicians.

It is dismaying that Harald Welzer – although he mentions Alice Miller’s work – does not seem to take any notice of her research and realizations, as if the cruelty of allegedly “normal people” were the most normal event in the world. Alice Miller has clearly shown, above all in her “reflections” on hatred at the end of her book “Paths of Life,” how the inhuman and therefore not at all “normal” way of mistreating children led to the Holocaust and the gruesome crimes of Germany.
(See also: “What is Hatred?” on this website)

Olivier Maurel’s letter presents plausibly and convincingly the illogic conclusions and the dangers of this ignorant and clueless point of view and is printed hereafter.

Dear Mr. Welzer,

With great interest I have read your book «The Perpetrators» (Les Executeur) in French and have found in there many interesting analyses, which amended or corrected what I already knew from Browning und Goldhagen. But in a fundamental matter I do not share your point of view. I am actually most astonished that – as a reader of Alice Miller’s «For Your Own Good, » which is also mentioned in a footnote – you do not refer at all to what she has written and proven.
She does indeed describe in her book how Germany at the turn of the 20th century generally lived under the yoke of an authoritarian, repressive educational manner. It was custom to beat children almost everywhere in Europe and all over the world, but Alice Miller indicates that cruelty and discipline had a special place in the German methods of education. This is why it is so surprising that you have left it out of consideration.
You often use the expression «normal» or «most normal humans» – and this already in the under title of your book – and you strive to demonstrate that these humans can become mass murderers if circumstances permit.
But can one characterize humans as «normal» who as children had to suffer cruelties from their parents and did not question it? They are of course normal insofar as they conformed to the norms of the education of their time, but are they «normal» by comparison with children who were met and treated with respect? Would you consider such animals as normal – for example dogs or horses – if it had become miraculously possible that their parents should have treated them with the same kind of violence that most German children experienced previous to Nazi times? And this during all of their childhood and youth and sometimes also after they came of age? Would you then not say that these animals became diseased and that they behaved abnormally? Today, the repercussions of educational violence are better known. We know of their manifoldness as well as that the beatings, which parents hand out during the time of the implementation of the brain, become impressed into its deepest layers and impact the innate behaviors of the child.

In order to simplify, one could compare the individuals with vehicles and claim that this education increases the power of their engines, lessens the efficiency of their brakes and makes their steering imprecise.
This education increases the children’s potential for violence by offering them early on behavior patterns which are marked by cold or wrathful violence. As they are forced to accept the beatings without any reaction, rage accumulates within them that will attempt to take itself out on all scapegoats that happen to be available. It has shown them that violence can very well be done onto others «for their own good». In other words, it revealed to them that it is normal and convenient – in the name of some abstract notion of «goodness» – to inflict violence onto defenseless beings.

In addition,