Rhetoric in the Wrong Hands

During last weekend on my trip to Munich, I encountered several historical sites and events. However, there was not one that was as powerful as visiting Dachau concentration camp. This was the very first concentration camp, opening in 1933, several years before US intervention in WWII. To be able to literally step where around 40,000 people lost their lives was a feeling unlike any other. When we were walking around, there was fresh snow on the ground, a gray sky, and an ominous breeze literally feeling like it was a movie scene. Unlike movies though, this was very real. After touring the entire camp, there was an empty feeling in the pit of your stomach wondering how something like this could ever possibly happen.

 

Later that day we walked around an area named Marienplatz. The area resembled New York’s Times Square but on a much smaller scale. History was all around us and it was mesmerizing to see. One of the most fascinating areas we came across however was a spot in the street where Adolf Hitler officially declared to take over Germany. We learned that prior to the events in the street, Hitler was holding a large gathering in a near by biergarten rallying up thousands of people to join him in taking of Germany. This reminded me of our time in class when we discussed if rhetoric had a natural deceptive tendency. Although I disagreed with the naturalness of it, there is no doubt that Hitler was able to use deceptive techniques to rally thousands to his cause. He, similar to politicians of today, was able to get a large group to join a common cause and actually do something about it. Unfortunately, his cause was to create one of the worst institutions in human history.

 

Ultimately, it is without a doubt that rhetoric is one of the strongest tools we possess in today’s world. When given in the hands of the wrong people, who knows what the outcome can become.

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One thought on “Rhetoric in the Wrong Hands

  1. I agree, it was truly amazing to see how one person, using the power of words, could rile up people who had just gone out for drinks into a riot; and eventually on a national level into a regime. The thing that amazed me however was that the speeches Hitler delivered at the Biergartens were not organized. Although Hitler may have written/practiced his speeches before hand, the venue was not reserved or booked for him. He simply took advantage of a public gathering place, where he knew he could find an audience.
    On further reflection however, many parallels can be drawn to other cities we have visited, at certain points in their history. In Florence, people gathered in il Duomo to gather, and discuss business and politics. In Ancient Rome, the citizens gathered in the forum to do business, watch sports, and again discuss politics.
    All of these have in common that they are all large public gathering spaces, where people spent plenty of time. I find it fascinating too that speeches that happened in these locations were impromptu. At least in the sense that it is unlike today, where you know exactly when, where, and who is giving a speech, and would often need a ticket for it.

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