Today I read a New York Times article about a Nazi doctor called "Dr. Death," actual name Dr. Heim (which is quite ironic, because "heim" means "home"). I read this article as I read all items on the internet, with a kind of absorption that, when I finish, makes me find it odd that I am sitting in my room, not in the world of the article. This time, though, that feeling was even more profound, or perhaps evinced a different kind of profundity. This man did awful things. Of course that's obvious - what Nazi doctor did nice things? or rather, you don't get called a "Nazi doctor" if you do nice things (if you do nice things you get called "a doctor who worked for the Nazis, but"). But this man did terrible, terrible things, things you couldn't ever in any way justify as medicine, things you'd have trouble even justifying as psychopathy, the kind of things that your mind turns its face against as you read them. And when I came out of the article I thought to myself, These things happen. I live my life talking at my lunch table about topics I think are profoundly important, or I think my life troubles are grievous cruelties, but all the while these things are happening, or have happened: these things are not abstractions but terrible, terrible realities.
I don't mean this thought as the kind of banality it looks like: "Oh, my sorrows are so small when I compare them with this tragedy!" I mean that learning of such deeds, and that they were performed by a person, a person who escaped capture and went on to live a life in which he appeared to be a normal man, causes in me a kind of incomprehension of the world's construction. That I should live my tiny life, with its midget sorrows and its easy assumptions of importance, while these great and horrible vilenesses are occurring, have occurred, are capable of occurring...this seems to me impossible. The world should be commensurate, and in discovering these acts while living the life I do, I see, profoundly, that it is not.