Iconic. This particular image is borrowed from this site.
Journalist Milton Mayer traveled to Germany in the wake of World War II to find out how ordinary, normally decent, educated German people got caught up, co-opted or neutralized in the horrible devolution of the country that ended in the atrocities with which we are all so familiar — and a World War that cost countless lives.
The book he wrote should be better known: They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 was published in 1955 by the University of Chicago Press.
There is an excerpt at the link, a chapter called “But Then It was too Late.” Under provisions of the U. of C Press copyright notice, included below, part of the excerpt is reproduced below.
“What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it…
“The dictatorship, and the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting.
It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway. I do not speak of your ‘little men,’ your baker and so on; I speak of my colleagues and myself, learned men, mind you. Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and ‘crises’ and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the ‘national enemies,’ without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing….
Each step was so small, so inconsequential,