One of my most vivid childhood memories involving my father was sitting on his knee watching the classic BBC documentary series "The World at War". Dad fought in World War II and provided much background information on what I was seeing on the television. The opening scenes of Episode 1 showed a small French village that had been destroyed by the nazis in the dying days of the war. General de Gaulle had decreed that it be left untouched in perpetuity so that all the world could see the barbarity of the nazis.

June 10 1944. The nazis were going to teach the resistance a lesson.They entered the village and rounded up the people. The men were separated from the women and children. They were herded into a few barns where machine guns had been set up, they aimed for the legs and then set fire to the barns.

The women and children were herded into the church, the doors barricaded. Incendiary bombs which gave out thick choking smoke were lit. I stood inside the charred remains of the church where several hundred women and children were murdered. I imagined the screaming children and the mothers trying to save them. Anyone who managed to escape the inferno was gunned down. One woman managed to stand on the altar, make her way through the window to the outside without being shot, and hid. Out of several hundred women and children, the youngest was only 7 days old, she was the only survivor from the church. In total, 642 civilians were murdered in a few short hours

As I stood in the church in silence, tears welled up inside me. How can men do this to fellow human beings? How could a man lock woman and children inside a church and set fire to it? What kind of group insanity could make you think that this was ok?

For many years I have tried to understand how Hitler rose to power. Germans were an educated, cultured people. How did the country who gave us Goethe, Kepler, Einstein, Beethoven, Brahms, Handel, Heidegger, Kant, Schopenhauer, end up murdering millions of Jews in gas chambers, burn books and burn woman and children to death in a church?

Why don't we learn? Why does this shit still happen, to the Cambodians, to the Tutsi, the Syrians? We like to think we are civilised. We can build super computers, put a man on the moon, but we can still do this, to fellow human beings, to mothers and sons and daughters and fathers, uncles and aunties. How can we dehumanise people so easily because of what some hate monger tells us? Why do we follow the herd so easily?

When we hitch our beliefs unquestioningly to the herd, we end up at Oradour-sur-Glane.