I caught a piece of some WW2 documentary recently late at night, mere moments before I went off to bed. A former Soviet prisoner, a captured Red Army grunt who had an unpleasant stay at one of the concentration camps barking out something which sounded awful (Russian is not exactly a "sexy" language to being with), which the subtitles translated to something to the effect of "Those Nazis...they were monsters. What they did to us (I assumed "us" meant fellow captured Soviets), and those people...". He was asked a follow question regarding what he thinks of the Holocaust, and basically repeated the same thing.
Any snarky comments aside about the not-so-humane treatment Soviets treated the POWs they got their hands on, I found the comment...odd. I can only imagine the hell he went through, and surely he has every right to make disparaging comments towards his captors, but to sum up the most tragic event in the 20th century as being perpetrated by "monsters" is too easy. It's convenient and narrow-minded.
The same fire-from-the-hip analysis we give when news of a captured serial killer hits the airwaves, and we him or her arraigned in court for the first time and say to ourselves "what a monster" isn't easily translated to a mass murder of the magnitude we saw in during WW2, is it? When so many individuals are complicit in an atrocity of the highest order, and your brain flickers like a bad spark plug trying to rationalize the "why", and you simply utter "monsters", are you satisfied? Probably not, but many still do it. Genocide is ugly and terrible, but it must be carried out by several, so were they all just "monsters?" When does one become a "monster"? Is it at birth? Is there a switch that turns on when a group of "monsters" who have been suppressing their maniacal and perverse view on humanity in the name of morality suddenly get together? We seem just fine brandishing them as "monsters", which really means "not human", so you tell me.
The psychology of groupthink, realities of economic and social disparity, and anything else one can throw out to explain the worst in human behavior has been well documented and explained time and time again, and it's a discussion perhaps best saved for those who want to spend the next several hours all coming to the same conclusion I can wrap up in a sentence; these things happen because we're human. Doesn't mean these behaviors should be excused or condoned, and the sanctity of human life should be protected most of all, but the answer sadly lies in the mirror.
The "monsters" are us.