WaitingInTheWingsA huge mocking inscription over the Nazi concentration/extermination camp at Dachau, Germany, greeted arriving Jewish prisoner:

There is one road to freedom.
Its milestones are:
Obedience, diligence, honesty,
Order, cleanliness, temperance,
Truthfulness, sacrifice and
Love for one’s country.

“Words are powerful things,” I commented to Starnes, one of my soldiers who accompanied me to the camp. We were awaiting possible further deployment to Iraq for Desert Storm. “How could the Nazis say that and then burn people?”

My old farmer Gran’pa would have had an answer: “If guv’ment tells you something, anything at all, look it in the mouth like you’d look at a cheap horse. Politicians and lawyers put the green scum on ponds.”

In the distance beyond the Dachau concentration camp loomed the German Alps. The greater, darker presence of the ovens of Dachau caught the focus. The chimneys were long cold, but the stench of burnt flesh still lingered from the poor doomed souls who perished here—32,000 of them who were stuffed into the furnaces of this first of Hitler’s extermination camps.

I stood before the low brick buildings of the crematorium. They appeared innocuous now, something like a clay baker’s oven. Only these ovens had backed different loaves.

A Nazi doctor named Rascher had conducted cooling experiments on prisoners here before casting them into the fires. Helpless victims were garbed in pilot flight suits and submerged in tanks of freezing water to lower their body temperatures to between 27 and 29 degrees to see how long they could survive while “they tend(ed) to scream when freezing.”

Rascher begged Hitler to transfer him to the death camp at Auschwitz where more expansive experiments could be conducted. Prisoners seldom left the camps alive. Their last stops were the ovens.

It struck me with the impact of an exploding howitzer round: the military of whatever uniform had a dark under side because of government.

Between 1955 and 1975, some 7,000 U.S. soldier volunteers were used in government testing of nuclear radiation, mustard gas, LSD, and other chemical and biological agents. Some were towed to sea and ordered to look directly into a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb explosion, then instructed to swim in radioactive waters. Others tested military protective clothing in sealed chambers with LSD and other poisonous gases. Some of those who helped conduct the testing were ex-Nazi soldiers.

All were sworn to secrecy. Records of the experiments somehow disappeared as experimental subjects developed cancers, mental disorders, and respiratory diseases. One of them, James B. Stanley, sued the U.S. for dosing him with hallucinatory LSD without his knowledge during testing of anti-chemical clothing and equipment.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of government. Justice Scalia said, “Questioning the military’s decisions could disrupt the entire military regime.”

I served 29 years active and reserve in the military—U.S. Navy journalist; U.S. Army Special Forces… I hold great respect for U.S. soldiers. Still, one rule must always prevail when it comes to government, any government, even if crematoriums are not immediately involved.

Rule of thumb: For freedom’s sake, never hesitate to question everything government does. There is a Hitler always in the wings, even in democratic republics like the U.S. Just waiting.

Charles W. Sasser is the author of more than 60 published books and thousands of magazine articles. His latest release is Crushing the Collective: America’s Last Chance to Remain Free and Self-Governing.