Friday, January 28, 2011

Designing a Crematorium

Today's entry is on the depressing side. I ran across a link to a site that discusses the German companies and engineers that were involved in the design and construction of the crematoria used in the Holocaust, something that most of us as engineers and scientists have probably never thought about. I think it is perversely ironic that they even applied for a patent on the design.

While that part of the article is disturbing at face value, it also disturbs me in a way that probably differs from most, in that it repeatedly refers to the users of the ovens as "Nazis". That is at least partially true, but also misleading. It gives too much power to the tag; it creates the idea that the Nazis were a separate group of people, almost like invaders from another planet that came and took over the government and were all killed in the war (or at the Nuremburg trials) and that they are gone forever. The history of mankind (even since WWII) has shown that that is not the case, and that people in all parts of the world can become demons capable of unleashing unimaginable harm to other people. Such situations do have a few demons at the top, but rely on an ever increasing array of support from people below, people who are brought in slowly to the situation, perhaps with some subtle pressure. If dropped into the final environment, the people would strongly fight back, but when the changes occur slowly, pliability can be found and taken advantage of. Maybe these engineers believed in the cause and maybe they didn't. In this case, it was probably quite clear what the intended use was and that there wouldn't be other uses, in contrast with the manufacture of other items that can be both harmful to people but also beneficial (guns, drugs, pesticides..).

But to me, the bottom line is clear. The authors are trying to put too much separation between this aspect of humanity that we wish we did not have inside ourselves, but we do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have a amazing flair of drafting.Good Luck and get going.And yes i have tweeted your site .