Coldness and Indifference

Coldness and indifference by the meaning of the quote by Theodor W. Adorno in the part of the Mercedes driver and in the picture below
Adorno speaks in this text of coldness and indifference. He says that these belong to the nature of man and that the people do not care what happens to others, as long as it does not affect family or friends.


The Mercedes driver
When Michael hitchhikes to Struthof, a concentration camp in Alsace, he sits in a Mercedes, whose driver shows him the coldness and indifference. He drives his car with white gloves. When he finds out where exactly Michael wanted to go, he is silent at first but starts to talk later. He tries to tell Michael how people can do terrible things that make himself look cold. He gives an example:

“But executioners don’t hate the people they execute, and they execute them all the same.”

Why did the executioner do it? Was it a command?

“No, I’m not talking about orders and obedience. An executioner is not under orders. He’s doing his work, he doesn’t hate the people he executes, he’s not taking revenge on them, he’s not killing them because they’re in his way or threatening him or attacking him.”

The executioner kills because it’s his job. This indifference is even clearer in the following sentence:

“They’re a matter of such indifference to him that he can kill them as easily as not.”

At the end, the driver throws Michael out of the car because Michael asked him if he was the officer in this photo.


The Picture
In the photo, a man sits with a bag in his hand in front of a mass grave. Behind him is a soldier who puts a gun on him. In the background are a number of other soldiers.

Again, this indifference and coldness appears. The indifference is shown in the soldier who shot the Jews, as he would stamp letters. The cold is evident in the soldiers in the background, there are members of the Waffen-SS. They show neither pity nor do they look as if they had fun watching. They look totally indifferent.


Shooting of Jews by German military officers © by Ullstein Bild
Shooting of Jews by German military officers © by Ullstein Bild

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