On an Administrative Conference

The United States is a nation of laws. In other posts, we have talked about how the courthouse is at the center of the county administration in the various towns and cities in the US. This is different from some of Europe where the church is often the center of town. Not that laws are not important to Europe, because they are. The point is that Americans believe strongly in the rule of law, and that concept lies at the center of American democracy. All American law springs from the US Constitution. So it is imperative that if some administrative action is to be enacted in the United States that it be codified into a law.

That concept is not unique to the United States, of course. I am thinking on this day of the codification of certain concepts in Germany 81 years ago. On January 20, 1942, a collection of administrators, including several licensed attorneys, eight of them holding doctorates, met in a villa in a suburb of Berlin to discuss the changing of citizenship laws in the country and how to deal with the movement of displaced persons in areas under their control.

From a purely superficial, administrative perspective, this meeting was necessary. The organizers argued that the war had created increasingly large areas of Europe to administer and had produced a large number of refugees going in all directions. By 1942, the military gains by Germany required a reshuffling of German citizenship law. And, being mostly attorneys and administrators, they all recognized the need to have these changes codified.

These reclassification proposals targeted 11 million people in Europe.  Again, you can begin to see that the administrative tasks were overwhelming in the minds of these administrators. You had to deal with transportation issues, food, clothing, healthcare, as well as housing. Not to mention the fact you were dealing with several different languages all across German occupied Europe. And the people were from several other nations and ethnicities.

And, again, these same types of questions are facing the United States today. Should we in the US grant these people any kind of civil rights that are normally reserved for citizens only? What obligations do we have for their welfare if they are not, to put it not politically correctly, of our kind? Maybe we don’t grant these refugees any rights at all, some people argue. Sadly, there are politicians in the United States who are treating the refugees as less than human.

And it may not surprise you that every one of those administrators at this conference in the outskirts of Berlin in 1942 felt exactly the same in dealing with the influx of what they considered “others.”

In fact, the codification of laws that the Nazis discussed at this meeting held in Wannsee on January 20, 1942, ultimately decided that the best and most efficient way to deal with the Jews was simply to kill them all.


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