Essay:Capital punishment supporters are responsible for the Nazi Holocaust
In this essay I would like to explain why supporters of capital punishment bear personal responsibility for the Nazi Holocaust of six million Jews and around 5 million non-Jews (including, in no particular order, Jehovah's Witnesses, GLBT people, Roma, Sinti, dissident Christians, Poles, Soviet POWs, trade unionists, Communists, Socialists, and others).
There is no doubt about the fact that Adolf Hitler was a fervent proponent of capital punishment. Adolf Hitler supported capital punishment with zest. How many people were sentenced to death under Hitler's reign? Did the Nazis decrease or increase the scope and frequency of this punishment — they made more crimes eligible for it, and they increased its use in practice. The Nazis were as fervent death penalty supporters as they come.
Let me ask an important question — would the Holocaust have happened if Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were opposed to capital punishment? Reflect on this for a moment. The answer, it would seem, is most likely the Nazi atrocities would have been far less, or even there would have been none at all. In the Nazi mind, all Jews were criminals — guilty of conspiracy against the German people and the German state. The allegations were at their core delusional — but what matters at the level of causation, is not their falsehood, but the fact that many Nazis (especially Hitler) honestly believed in them. And if you honestly (however delusionally) believed they were guilty of such crimes — and if you were a supporter of the death penalty — would not such crimes be grave enough so as to deserve the ultimate penalty? Thus there is a direct line of causation from support for capital punishment to Nazi genocides, war crimes and crimes against humanity. If Hitler and the Nazis were opposed to the death penalty, it is highly likely that the Nazis atrocities would have never occurred, or at the very least they would be greatly reduced in extent and severity. They quite possibly would still have discriminated against them, deported them, confiscated their property, imprisoned them, etc., and some quite possibly would have died as a result. But industrial-scale mass murder would have been far less likely to occur if the Nazis were wholeheartedly opposed to capital punishment.
This is not limited to the Nazi crimes, by any means. Support for the death penalty is a causal factor in all cases of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. If we study history, it will be found that in almost all cases, perpetrators of these crimes were advocates of the death penalty. Support for the death penalty leads to genocide, mass murder, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, in two ways. Firstly, by acclimatising one's mind to killing people in cold blood, it lays the psychological groundwork for mass murder. Secondly, by establishing the idea that some people are so bad that they deserve to die — it is not from there a far jump to conclude that members of a hated group (e.g. Jews) are so bad that they all deserve to die.
Thus, supporters of the death penalty are through their support laying the ground work for war crimes, mass murder, crimes against humanity and genocide, and thus bear responsibility for these crimes when they occur. Even if the crimes in question happen on the other side of the globe, supporting capital punishment in one country serves to legitimise support for it in other countries; thus, supporters of capital punishment anywhere bear personal responsibility for such crimes wherever they occur.
Their responsibility is personal, because every person who supports capital punishment legitimises and thus supports other people in their support for it. Even if they personally never flick the switch or pull the trigger, even if they personally never vote in favour of it, their support eggs on others to do the same, and thus they share in the responsibility of others for it. Capital punishment is a form of murder, and all supporters of capital are guilty of murder, and therefore murderers.
How can someone be responsible for the Holocaust when it happened long before they were born?
By supporting and furthering and continuing the mindset which lead directly to the Holocaust, capital punishment supporters collectively bear responsibility for all the fruits of that mindset, in the past, the present and the future. There will almost certainly be other like events to the Holocaust in the future — thankfully, it is unlikely that anything will ever be repeated on the same scale, but in history, mini-Holocausts are a dime a dozen. And capital punishment supporters are holding back the day when these mini-Holocausts finally cease.
However, it is easy to absolve oneself of this responsibility — just publicly renounce support for capital punishment. Say "Capital punishment is nothing but state-sanctioned murder", and if that is honestly meant, then the responsibility instantly evaporates. Would it not feel great to have that immense weight, of responsibility for millions of innocent deaths, lifted from your shoulders?
Reductio ad hiterlum is the name for fallacious arguments of the form Hitler supported X, so X must be wrong. The term "Godwin's law" is frequently used in relation to these arguments, although to be precise, Godwin's law does not label any comparisons to Hitler fallacious or inappropriate, it merely states that in any lengthy argument such comparisons are eventually inevitable.
There can be no doubt that some arguments based on Hitler are clearly fallacious: "Hitler was a vegetarian, therefore vegetarianism is wrong". "Hitler liked dogs, therefore dogs are evil". etc. But that does not mean that all such arguments are. An argument from Hitler is fallacious if it tries to sully some innocent activity with the stain of Hitler's crimes when there is no genuine causal connection between the two. Although Hitler was indeed a vegetarian, and he did indeed like dogs, there is no legitimate evidence to suggest that these proclivities had any connection with the atrocities his regime produced. By contrast, there is a clear causal link between his support for capital punishment and the mass murder his regime committed. For this reason, the argument from Hitler against vegetarianism, or against dog-keeping, is clearly fallacious; but the argument from Hitler against capital punishment supporters is not. There is a clear causal link between Hitler's support for capital punishment and the atrocities of his regime; there is no clear causal link between his vegetarianism or his dog ownership and any of those atrocities.
Who in history is most famous for using gas chambers to kill people? Two countries — Nazi Germany and the United States of America. The United States of America first executed a person with cyanide gas in 1924 — Gee Jon was executed in Carson City, Nevada, on 8th February 1924 — Nazi Germany did not begin to use cyanide gas to execute Jews until over fifteen years later. Were the Nazis influenced by the Americans in this decision? Who can know. But without doubt, there is a deep similarity in heart between the two regimes. While the Nazi gassings stopped in 1945, the last time the USA gassed someone was in Arizona in 1999, when it gassed the German national Walter LaGrand — over 50 years after the fall of the Nazis, the Americans were still at it! In six US states (Arizona, California, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri and Wyoming), the gas chamber is still legal. The spirit of Nazi Germany lives on in the USA.