‘What Some Might Call Evil’
This morning I was listening to the local National Public Radio station on the way in to work, and heard a feature filed by a reporter who is travelling with the Pittsburgh Symphony in Salzberg, Germany. The reporter interviewed a member of the orchestra — possibly a violist, though I wasn’t paying close enough attention at the time — about his visit to Adolph Hitler’s summer house, which was mostly bombed by the Allied forces during World War II, but the remnants of which are open to tourists.
What made me sit up and take notice was the musician’s over-careful characterization of the former inhabitants. He referred first to all the “important figures” who had been there, and then, almost as an after-thought, he said that “some might call them figures of evil” who brought “what some might call evil” to the world.
Excuse me? He’s talking about the leadership of the Nazi party and their allies. If you’re writing a history book, it makes sense not to demonize the side that lost; it makes sense to present, factually and dispassionately, the military objectives of each side, their strengths and weaknesses, their successes and failures, how their propaganda portrayed themselves and their opponents, etc.
But if you’re a tourist gushing over the gorgeous fireplace that Hitler and Mussolini huddled around, and marveling at the engineering feat of drilling an elevator shaft through the core of a mountain, well, I think being this kind to the memory of fascist dictators is a sign of rhetorical tone-deafness.