CHAPTER THREE

Making Meaning OF Being Bad

IN A TALK I once gave to the New Haven Jewish community, I referred to Hitler as a bad leader. The words were hardly out of my mouth when a member of the audience rose to differ. “Hitler may have been ‘bad’ as in ‘ethically bad,’ ” he said. “But he was a good leader in that he was very effective.”

The man was right. Given the ideology of National Socialism and the particulars of the Nazi agenda from 1933 to 1941 (when Germany made the mistake of invading the Soviet Union), Hitler’s political and military strategies were nearly impeccable. Moreover, even between 1941 and 1945—the period leading up to Germany’s defeat—at least one of Hitler’s most cherished objectives, the annihilation of European Jewry, ...

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