Consider the case of Jews in Germany, during the 1930’s:
Here was a people who had been so tormented and prosecuted and psychologically beaten down that they came to believe the outrageous slander that they were guests in their own county. Behind their shuttered doors at night, they created cocoons of astonishing culture and beauty, a symphony of violins and cellos and poetry and literature. They were far over-represented in occupations we rightly esteem as among the most noble of our species: surgeons, musicians, teachers and scientists.
By any measure of human decency, these were the people that should have been helping to lead a ravaged Germany back to respect and prosperity. Yet they were massacred in their millions by brutes and sadists who could barely write their own names.
If it is possible to write a clearer lesson on human nature, then I cannot imagine it, nor can I imagine the amount of blood it will take to convince people unwilling to look reality in the face; that reality being that compassion, culture, law and philosophy are precious, rare and acquired habits that must be defended with force against people who understand nothing but force. The great failure and staggering tragedy of European Jews is that they could not accept that some of their neighbors were not as decent, humane and educated as they were. A culture that learned to survive by turning inward simply never was willing to face the reality of what they were up against; namely, that hoping for compassion and humanity from the likes of the Nazis was akin to reading poetry to a hurricane. This denial — and that is the only word for it — is, in the final horrible analysis, a form of unconscious arrogance, a refusal to see things for what they are. A people of astonishing internal beauty simply could not look into the face of such ugliness without turning away. And now they are dead.