Sunday, December 07, 2008

End of an era.

I'm not a regular churchgoer - but I attended this morning's service at St Mary's in Welshpool. It was both a sad and special day. The service, included the 'laying-up' of the Standard of the Montgomery Branch of the Royal Army Service Corps Association to the Vicar of Welshpool. In other words, after many year's as an independent association, the local branch is merging with the Shrewsbury Branch. At least there's no sillyness about working across Offa's Dyke here. As I become older, those serving in the Armed Forces seem to me to be so young. I think more about the sacrifice that young people have made to protect the freedom that my family enjoys today.

This is what the President actually said during the Laying-up Ceremony;

"I commit this sacred Standard of the Montgomery Branch of the Royal Army Service Corps Association to you as Vicar of Welshpool for safe-keeping in this church for evermore."

During his powerful sermon, the Vicar talked about the meaning of religion. He listed some of the reasons that are given by those who are opposed to the very idea of religion, one being the number of people that have been killed throughout history in it's name. He named Hitler and Stalin. What occurred to me was that Mao had got away with it again. I do not know the accurate figures, and maybe someone will inform us in comments - but the ball park figures in my mind are 1) Mao at 50 million murdered, 2)Stalin at 20 million, and 3) Hitler at 6 million. In my book, that makes Mao Tse Tung (or Zedong if you prefer) the most evil person who ever lived.


The Half-Blood Welshman said...

Slightly more than 6 million for Hitler Glyn - that was only the number of Jews murdered. The gays, gypsies and disabled may have been between 500,000 and a million more, although for a very good if very unfortunate reason they tend not to be talked about so much (see below).

Also depends a bit on how you count it. If you consider that Hitler was directly culpable for every death in World War Two (which might be an overstatement of his personal influence on the genesis of the conflict, but is still a tenable position) then that inflates the figure really quite substantially - even leaving the war with Japan aside, it leaves 30-35 million extra in the dead column - a mind-bendingly huge figure.

At risk of sounding really geekish, however (and also really uncaring, but if this is to be done on the figures...) there's the question of proportionality. 6 million Jews out of 8 million = 75% (the other groups I listed suffered a still higher mortality rate, particularly the disabled who were almost totally annihilated, although the actual numbers were smaller) 20 million Russians out of around 170 million = 8.5%. 50 million people out of a population of around 750 million (which is a guess, I don't have the figures in front of me) = 6.something%. On those figures we would also have to add for consideration Pol Pot, who murdered 2 million people out of a total of 8 million people in Cambodia (25%). For the number of victims against the potential pool of them, then, Hitler still comes out well on top.

There comes a time when the figures just merge into numbers and you are simply talking about serious evil. All of your three and my own suggestion would certainly meet that criteria, and there are plenty of others who might be suggested (Pinochet, Botha, Ceaucescu to name a few). I think what particularly appals people about Hitler is that he deliberately set out to murder an entire group (in fact, several entire groups) whereas the rest tended to be murderous more or less at random - there wasn't quite the same level of planning behind it. Also, crucially, Hitler got caught when the camps were overrun by Russian troops - Stalin and Mao died in office, Pol Pot escaped, etc.

The final unique factor about the Holocaust was that the repatriation of Jews to Palestine in its aftermath led to the birth of Israel, which has done much to keep alive the memory of Nazi war-crimes although, as I noted above, it tends to marginalize the other groups who suffered by funding particular research on Jewish suffering (although I do not necessarily think it is deliberate, merely a reflection of their priorities).

Sorry to write such a very long comment on almost a throwaway line of your original post, but the topic is one that interests me and I have always felt it to be very important. I hope that the new RASCA has a long and fruitful life continuing to do sterling good work!

PS verification word is "holli" - very seasonal!

JPT said...

Unpalatable as it may be, Mao 'gets away with it' on two counts in this modern Liberal world.

1, He was a 'Left Winger'.
2, He was non white.

As I say, unpalatable (especially number 2) - but true.

Glyn Davies said...

Half Blood - Thanks for informative comment. Real evil is very difficult to understand.

JPT - I think its because we've seen comparatively litle of Mao's evil on our screens - and it wasn't aimed at us.