The Monster in the House

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

I read with interest Ron Waterman’s guest view in the March 19, 2024 Independent Record regarding Hitler’s and the Nazi’s attacks on Jewish people and our own Country’s slide toward authoritarianism. I agree with his commentary.

What piqued my further interest, however, was what I had just read about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in Naomi Klein’s newest book, Doppelganger.[1]

According to the author, we tend to regard the Holocaust as a one-off tragedy, a frenzy of death, without historical precedent, birthed in the mind of a diabolical dictator and carried out by Der Führer’s equally evil minions.

Make no mistake, the Holocaust was an industrially efficient, genocide of Jewish people, and included the extermination of LGBTQIA+ people, people of color, people with mental and physical disabilities, “useless eaters,” “brutes,” Gypsies and anyone else who didn’t fit into the model of Hitler’s “Christian,” Aryan Master-Race.

Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction of a group of people because of their ethnicitynationality, religion, or race.[2]

But, genocide did not begin with Hitler.

In his 1871 book, The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin observed that “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world.”  Sadly, some of those genocides have taken place already; worse, some are happening now. Keep in mind that the races that are “savage” are in eyes of their exterminators.

To that point, genocide was created by man, and its historical roots are traceable, at least, back to the great Greco-Persian City-States.  In fact, Thucydides reports on the slaughter of the people of Melos during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, 431-404 BCE.

Then there were the Catholic Crusades, between, 1095-1300 CE, tasked with wresting control of the Holy Lands from Moslem rule. These eight or nine Crusades resulted in the deaths of 1.7 million people.[3]

Other genocidal events are listed in a Wikipedia article at: The table runs 2+ pages of small type.

By my count, prior to WWII, there were two-dozen genocidal events taking, at a minimum, 6.6 million peoples’ lives.  Hitler and the Nazis accounted for, conservatively, 10 million deaths during WWII, 1939 to 1941. Since WWII the article reports some 20 genocides taking, at a minimum, 3.2 million peoples’ lives.

Not included in the table are the estimated 100 million indigenous peoples’ deaths during the last five centuries caused by Europeans and their descendants and attributable to their colonialism, institutionalized racism, religions, wars and repression.[4]  Then, to that we must also add the 2 million to 60 million deaths resulting from the transatlantic slave trade, again attributable to Europeans and their descendants.[5]

Finally, we must account for genocidal events that are presently ongoing:  In the Ukraine, an estimated 40 thousand+ deaths attributable to Russia[6], and in the present Gaza conflict, over 32,000 Palestinian deaths attributable to Israel and 3,000 Israeli deaths attributable to Hamas.[7]

This synopsis is neither exact nor comprehensive and, in all likelihood, grossly undercounts the numbers of actual deaths.

But nearly all reported genocides have been perpetrated by white, nominally Christian, Europeans or Anglo-Saxons and their descendants.

As Klein notes, when, in 1941, Hitler remarked that concentration camps were not invented in Germany, but, rather, were invented by the English, he was speaking an element of truth.

So, asks Klein, “What if full-blown fascism is not the monster at the door, but the monster inside the house, the monster inside us—even we whose ancestors have been victims of genocide?”

Our next Presidential election may well answer her question.


[1] Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, NY, 2023, pp 267-277.







James C. Nelson a retired Montana Supreme Court justice. He lives in of Helena.