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How Do You Kill 11 Million People?

Andy Andrews is best known for motivational and what some call fuzzy fictional stories that inspire. So how does a successful New York Time bestseller leave his comfort zone and write a book with a title like How Do You Kill 11 Million People?

For those who have visited the author’s website History Summer Camp Series, perhaps that question is not so hard to answer. Andrews is an admitted late-blooming history wonk. But his interest goes far beyond that of a collector of facts. He is more concerned with how often we fail to make logical connections between the past and present.

How we govern each other, what our society allows and why – very few of us intentionally connect the truth of the past with the realities of the where we have ended up today. (p. 15)

Be forewarned; this book is short, blunt, and sobering. In typical eBook spoiled brat fashion, one Amazon reviewer gives the book two stars for this reason: “Although the basic idea is a good wake up call, it really should not have the selling price it does by any means. $1.99 would have been the fair price for the Kindle version of this book.” If you share the attitude that the value of the words of a book is solely determined by its length and format, I would suggest you not waste your time reading any further.

Did I mention this book is blunt? The first twenty pages introduce us to some staggering numbers that chronicle what populations allowed to be done to themselves in the last century. Consider the number of people exterminated by their own governments from 1914 to 2000.

  • Mexico, Pakistan, Baltic States – 1 million each
  • Turkey – 2 million Armenians
  • Cambodia – 3 million (nearly half the population)
  • Soviet Union – 69,911,000
  • Nazi Germany – 11,283,00

The sobering part of Andrew’s premise is that in many ways the Holocaust victims of Nazi Germany “allowed” themselves to be killed. He asks the question this way:

Why, for month after month and year after year, did millions of intelligent human beings – guarded by relatively few Nazi soldiers – willingly load their families into … cattle cars to be transported by rail to one of the many death camps scattered across Europe? How can a condemned group of people headed for a gas chamber be compelled to act in a docile manner? (p. 22)

What follows is the author’s brief yet detailed account of how Hitler and Eichmann managed to carry out their “Final Solution” as the citizens of Germany and for a good while the rest of the world looked the other way.

The question Andrews seeks to answer this: how could a modern industrialized nation like Germany whose well-educated citizens had ready access to print and radio media become what they did in such a short time? Well-documented reasons often given include that Hitler rose in a time of severe economic uncertainty, and he was common man promising answers for the common man.

Numerous social, political, and economic reasons are given for Hitler’s success. But the bottom line is much simpler and more insidious. In essence, Hitler was a master liar who tapped into a population’s willingness to be lied to.  This famous quote sums up his plan:

How fortunate for leaders … that men do not think. Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.

The bottom line answer is simple yet difficult to swallow. These words near the end of How Do You Kill 11 Million People? state the author’s premise the best:

The danger to America is not a single politician with ill intent. Or even a group of them. The most dangerous thing any nation faces is a citizenry capable of trusting a liar to lead them.

In the long run, it is much easier to undo the policies of a crooked leadership than to restore common sense and wisdom to a deceived population willing to elect such a leader in the first place. Any country can survive having chosen a fool as their leader. But history has shown time and again that a nation of fools is surely doomed.

Some will accuse the author of connecting the dots between the current administration and Nazi Germany but his aim is much broader and deeper than that. A surprising statistic in the book is that, at its height, the Nazi Party only accounted for less than 10 percent of the total population of the nation.

So the remaining 90 percent of Germans – teachers and doctors and ministers and farmers- did … what? Stood by? Watched? Eventually, yes. Mothers and fathers held their voices, covered their eyes, and closed their ears. The vast majority of an educated population accepted their salaries and avoided the uncomfortable truth that lingered over them like a serpent waiting to strike. And, when the Nazis came for their children, it was too late.

Now consider that 100 million eligible American voters did not vote in the last three presidential elections. Andrews seeks to connect the dots, not between two men, but rather between similar patterns of willful ignorance. He is calling us as a nation to take a look at ourselves as a collective body. Have we become a nation with a collective leaning toward being lied to? Evidence toward the positive can be found in how dishonest we are with ourselves as citizens.

We must recognize that, as voters, we sometime accept a lie when it suits our own self-interest. That’s why polls sometimes show that Americans are in favor of throwing everyone out of Congress except their representative (at least among those knowing who their representative is.

It has become an accepted political strategy for politicians to tell voters the lies we want to hear. We, in turn, reward them with elected positions even when we know we’re not being told the truth.

Though Andrews never names a political party and repeatedly disavows any particular agenda, I have no doubt various and even opposing ideologies will attach themselves to his words. Such will be a disservice to the truths presented here. Liars and a willingness to be lied to are not the sole territory of one party. This book and history shows there is plenty of that to go around and be shared by all.

Andy Andrews is the author of The Noticer, The Final Summit, The Butterfly Effect, and many more New York Times Best Sellers. Hailed by the New York Times as a “modern-day Will Rogers who has quietly become one of the most influential people in America,” Andy Andrews is an internationally known speaker and novelist whose combined works have sold millions of copies worldwide. He has been received at the White House and has spoken at the request of four different U.S. presidents.

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