A deep exploration and personal journey of a Holocaust survivor through the root causes and consequences of extraordinary evil in a village in Germany–and around the world.
Katz takes us on two very different personal paths to examine the contribution of ordinary German citizens in supporting the systematic extermination of their Jewish neighbors. In this final installment of his trilogy on the roots of state-sanctioned evil, Katz travels to his hometown of Oberlauringen in southern Germany to confront his own terrifying childhood experiences. Growing up in such a chaotic environment–-where the eradication of Jews was glorified in marching songs–-so traumatized the young Katz that for 30 years he could not speak even his native language, German, or even acknowledge his Jewish heritage. Living in Israel was the catalyst that activated these dormant issues and set him on a life-affirming journey to reclaim his past. Returning to his village, he encountered universal silence surrounding the treatment of Jews under Hitler. The sole exception was his babysitter, who sheltered and fed Jewish townspeople against government orders. The encounters fueled his search for answers to such phenomena, which launches him on his second, more dispassionate journey as a sociologist. Here, Katz reiterates and amplifies the concepts of riders, local moral universe and immediacy, all introduced in his previous two works, Ordinary People and Extraordinary Evil (1993) and Immediacy (2003). He successfully applies his framework to the analysis of recent events such as the Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel and the tragedy of 9/11, stating that fervent moral certainty in the service of a greater good or a better afterlife was the primary motivating force behind these extraordinary acts of evil.
With a riveting story, Katz has demonstrated inspiring courage in embarking on a path to rediscover his childhood experiences and to use his scientific knowledge to find tentative solutions to curtailing the evil tendencies within each of us.