Letters to the Ethical Spectacle

War Crimes
Dear Mr. Wallace:

I have looked at some of your articles on war crimes and feel that you have not really researched the field of military ethics. Many of the concepts involved with military ethics are contraversial as they involve the 'utilitarian' and the 'ethical' views of war.

IMO, you are using too many 'black and white' ideas in a subject that is mostly involved with 'shades of grey'.

Typically the US people do not like 'grey' areas and really want to see the world in black and white terms. This can be seen in our attitudes towards the native americans. 40 years ago it was the "gallant settlers vs. the evil indians" now it is the "noble indians vs. the evil settlers". Neither attitude does justice to the cultures involved nor to the pressures on either side.

FYI, I have done much study on the subject of military ethics and the law of war (which does exist as a set of minimum standards which _all_ individuals and governments can be held accountable).

Colin Campbell colin@ni.net

Colin is the author of the article on Kent State in this issue.

An Auschwitz Alphabet
Dear Mr. Wallace:

Thank you for remembering..and for passing it on.
"My heart aches and in my mouth taste recedes and the words grow cold, who is there to talk to anyway?"

Charity Martin camartin@linknet.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

The name of Doctor B is Hans Munch.

Leon Charles AJCHERT la16@calcanet.calcacom.fr

Dear Jonathan,

I have spent the past three hours reading your Website, "Auschwitz Alphabet" in its entirety after seeing it mentioned in the "Idees Fortes" section of "Wired" (August 1996). First, I would like to commend you and thank you for creating it. When it seems that the greater majority of Websites exist mainly to promote a business, a product, or some other mundane or ego-gratifying and useless pursuit, "Auschwitz Alpahbet" is a reminder why it is important for us to examine our own humanity and our own hearts from time to time.

I am a 36-year-old American. I am not Jewish, nor were any of my ancestors. I am not religous whatsoever in the theologic sense. I know Auschwitz (and the many other labor and death camps in Europe) existed, and that Jews, while greatest in number, were not the only victims. Since seeing "Night and Fog" as a 14-year-old high school student as my introduction to the Holocaust, I've been interested in the Holocaust not for the associated stories of horror and suffering in and of themselves, but because it has caused me to ask why, and whether I, in their place, would act any differently than the Nazi or the camp prisoner who did whatever possible to survive.

And now, upon reading "Auschwitz Alphabet" and especially "What I Learned >From Auschwitz," you have left me to ponder not only the killer inside of me, but also the existence of God in the face of such evil. Upon seeing not only the Holocaust but also the genocide that has occurred in Rwanda and the Slavic nations, I have asked the same question. I generally believe God does exist, but taken in the context of the Holocaust, perhaps we are better off now knowing for sure. If we were to discover that there truly is no God, we would have no reason to make a place for goodness and compassion within ourselves -- the very things that are needed, at best, to eliminate genocide or, at worst, to keep it from spreading unchecked when it does occur again.

But I am quite perplexed by the question of whether my own capacity for goodness and compassion would diminish (or disappear completely) if I were ever faced with the prospect of being caught up in a wave of ethnic hatred similar those those that rolled over Germany, the Slavic nations and Rwanda. I know that at present, I harbor no hatred toward any man over his race, creed or religion, yet I certainly do not feel that we Americans are any better than the Nazis, or that America is immune from the possibility of its own fascist regime. And as you correctly pointed out, plenty of Americans took part in the slaughter of Indian tribes more than a century ago. They were probably very decent folks otherwise, but heck, slaughtering Indians was the acceptable thing to do at the time. And who's to say that I, like those who became disciples of the Nazis, would not have the same capacity to hate in the name of a cause.

Is there a killer within me? I believe so. It is the killer within me that made me want to take that woman by the neck as did Andrei, the Sevastopol sailor, and beat her to death for turning her back on her child. As a father of a three-year-old daughter who I love more than life itself, I can hear the cries of the mothers and children being separated on those platforms, and it is those stories above all others associated with the Holocaust that have the most power to make me depressed. These are the most painful and difficult stories for me to read, and it is the killer within me that would enjoy nothing better than to be able to mow down all those who would have a hand in forcing parent and child and brother and sister apart. And it is the killer within me that would also have been able to hunt down and execute the Nazi as easily as Liebgott did.

Could I, given the chance even today, murder those responsible for creating the Holocaust? I truly believe I could. But if it became the policy of this country to round up Negroes and exterminate them, could I shoot them and dump their bodies into a pit simply because someone decided the need for our own "Final Solution"? No, I could not, because I would not believe in that cause, nor do I harbor that hate to begin with. If there is such a thing as murder by degree, so be it.

After visiting your Website, it comforts me a little that by reflecting upon your words, perhaps I do possess a little of the quality needed, as you pointed out, to help us all climb out of the mire -- in spite of the killer within me. But in the frightening event that someday in the future I find myself caught up in some hateful, evil cause that sweeps our nation, I pray that I will remember the image of a little boy, unable to keep up, stretching out his little arms and crying, "Mama! Mama!" And I pray my heart hurts then as much as it did when I read it for the first time today.

Thank you again so very much.

Scott Buckner

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I would like to suggest you read Death Dealer. It is a reprint of Rudolph Hoss's memoirs. You can order it at www.Amazon.com.


Dear Mr. Wallace,

I just finished a tour of your Web Page. Let me say that I am very impressed and will certainly pass the URL along to friends of mine.

In July I visited Poland with a friend of mine from work. Although it was primarily a business trip, our travels took us to Krakow, and we took the time to go to Auschwitz for the better part of a day. I learned for the first time that there had been three camps under this name and that Birkenau, not Auschwitz I, had been the true killing factory. We had both been to Dachau last November on another trip, but Auschwitz was different. People have asked me to describe how I felt while I was there -- usually after exclaiming "I don't know if I could have done that!" -- but I really can't answer them. The feeling wasn't the shock or sense of horror I anticipated; it was far more of an overwhelming numbness. I felt this again to a degree as I read your page.

A few comments and questions:

1. Shortly after I returned from Poland I watched Schindler's List for the first time. It may surprise you if I write that I did not feel, as you suggested in your essay, "...hopeful and relieved, feeling that the Holocaust had been handled." I was actually left with the sense of futility that you feared the movie would not convey. Nonetheless, you are probably right in suspecting that many others did not feel this way.

2. On the way back from a visit to the salt mines south of Krakow, we passed a field hidden by a low grassy ridge. Behind the ridge I could see a tall sculpture, funereal and sorrowful. I asked our translator what it was and she replied that it was related to the Holocaust, but she could not provide any more details. Something makes me suspect that this was the camp from Schindler's List. Do you happen to know if I am right?

3. The photo of the "Arbeit Macht Frei" gate that you used with the letter "A" differs from my recollection of the gate that I saw last month. Is it possible that I saw a reproduction? The same phrase, I noticed, appeared over the main gate into Dachau. Was it used at the other camps as well?

4. During our visit to Dachau, my friend and I noticed that the signs posted throughout the camp went to great lengths to point out that, although a gas chamber had been built there, it had never been used; all of the Jews who were murdered at Dachau were shot. However, we met an elderly gentleman there who claimed to be a survivor of the camp. According to his story, told in pretty bad English, he had been saved when the camp was liberated and had assigned himself in his later years the duty of acting as an unofficial (and very much unsanctioned) tour guide. It was his strong assertion that the Germans most definitely had used the gas chamber; he walked us around the crematorium to show us the entry stalls on the (I think) south side, through which the inmates were led. He then pointed out where the Zyklon B was introduced and showed the path of the pipes into the shower room. His story was full of convincing details, and let's face it, the alleged gas chamber was only a few feet from the crematorium. We couldn't make up our minds about this: there was no strong reason we could see for the Germans to deny that they had used gas at Dachau if they had (they were pretty frank about everything else that had happened there), but the old man's claim was so emphatic that we almost had to believe him. As I said, your page is quite informative, and I thank you for taking the time to put it together -- and to read this note.

Tim Leahy

A Shaggy God Story
Dear Mr. Wallace:

Is Og the name of your tiny but immensely powerful inner force Does it not require faith to believe in such a force?

Philip McMullan psmjr@ecsu.campus.mci.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I just hit your web site and found the "Shaggy God" essays engrossing ( I have yet to read them all).

Your site is now on my hotlist.


David E. Jones David_Jones@csg.mot.com

Sex, Laws and Cyberspace
Dear Mr. Wallace:

I read the book mentioned above and found it to be one of the most interesting that I have read in the last several years. I particularly enjoyed the gripping story of the Michigan college student, and also the chapter on PGP. I think you all have a real winner of a book.

Best wishes,
Louis Knoepp lknoepp@ns1.upstate.net

Dear Mr. Wallace,

A quick note to let you know I enjoy reading The Ethical Spectacle. I have my Masters degree in Social Work and I am a D.S.W. (Doctorate of Social Welfare) candidate in the area of "Policy, Planning and Administration.." I found your issue relating to the "role of government" to be particularly interesting. I hope to see future articles on the philosophical differences that regulate our lives as citizens and perhaps, some suggestions/points of view on how to bridge this gap.

Keep up the good work :)

Elissa Giffords

Greetings WebMaster!

Your Internet site has been reviewed and rated by The McKinley Group's online editorial team. We are delighted to designate your resource as a "3-Star" site. Our sincerest congratulations! This rating is a special mark of achievement in Magellan, McKinley's comprehensive Internet directory of nearly 2 million sites and 40,000 reviews. As a Magellan 3-Star site, you are being awarded a special logo to recognize the hard work that has gone into establishing and maintaining your site.


The McKinley Group, Inc.

Thanks but no thanks. I have already received a batch of these things, including the ubiquitous "Top 5% of the Web" (my ballpark estimate is that about 30% of all websites now carry the top 5% badge). No disrespect to you, but I do not have the time to investigate the bonafides of each of these awards and I have a nagging suspicion that most of them are a means of building the award-giver's name recognition, with an eye to an eventual IPO. Given the way Web-related companies are going public without products or revenues, its really not too wild to imagine a start-up appointing itself the Web's arbiter. It gives awards and suddenly its own trademark is ubiquitous, splashed across every Web page in sight. Very impressive to investment bankers.


Good work. Your heart is impressive. Congratulations for finding a way to speak the truth. I ran for Congress in the California March primary and lost to the special interest candidate. My main issue focused on corporate ethics and how that impacts our society. I've kept my web page and invite you to have a look: www.publictrust.com

I will enjoy reading your publication. If you are interested, I have written a proposal entitled "Reengineering America's Corporate Social Contract." It proposes an National Ethics Act (similar to the Malcolm Baldridge Act), which sets forth ethical standards of excellence for corporations to follow in the areas of employee relations, consumer relations, community relations and global relations. Let me know if you're interested in reviewing it. If so, I'll need a mailing address since this is printed in booklet form.

Also, I have been looking for any statistics on ethical behavior among American youth, employees and business managers. Do you have any resources you can suggest?

Finally, I enjoyed reading your biography. I became politically active at fifteen years old the day after Robert Kennedy was assassinated. I look forward to hearing from you.

Truly, Elisa Charouhas powerin@jovanet.com