Indifference is here to stay

Richard Gott's review of Eric Johnson's The Nazi Terror (Books, 10 April) emphasises that the road to Auschwitz was "paved with indifference" (rather than a mass desire for genocide). This surely has to be true. The insistence of Lyell and Darwin on invoking no forces other than those seen today to explain the evolution of rocks and of life must also apply to history.

Today, as yesterday, we see active malevolence from a few - particularly towards asylum-seekers. There is indifference from the many, and active help from some - largely from the churches, among which are found the opposition in this case, as happened in Nazi Germany.

Indifference seems to be necessary to human existence. You can't get the harvest in if you let yourself be buttonholed by Socrates-figures jabbering about what really matters. That's why an evil minority get the opportunity to make nasty kinds of history all around one.

Robin Oakley-Hill
Sevenoaks, Kent

This article first appeared in the 24 April 2000 issue of the New Statesman, Are the loonies coming back?