February 8, 2008

How Democracy Produced a Monster


To the Editor:

Re ”How Democracy Produced a Monster,” by Ian Kershaw (Op-Ed, Feb. 3):

The rise of Hitler was indeed a unique episode in history. But we need to remember, as we look at countries where democratic means are used by authoritarian rulers and where human rights are ignored, at best, that during the unique episode of Hitler’s rule, the unique phenomenon of the rescuers also occurred — people like Raoul Wallenberg who risked their own lives to save the innocent and to enforce human rights even when those were taken away.

Although this was a unique time in history, the actions of these rescuers should remain as an example and a lesson no less than Hitler’s rule.

It is true that democracy can bring rise to the cruelest forms of government. But it is also true that individuals can still do the right thing and have a lasting impact on the values of democracy.

Abigail Tenembaum
New York, Feb. 4, 2008

The writer is executive director of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.