The beginning of Katz’s article begins with the source of his analysis which is a memo written in 1942 to the superior of the author, Just. This memo is set during the time of the Holocaust, so the purpose of this memo is to explain to Just’s superior why changes need to be made to the gassing vehicles they transport people in so the “job”, exterminating these people, can be done more efficiently. Through his technical writing, he gives a pretty well-written argument making each one of his solutions clear to the reader.
His solutions to decrease the normal load size, better protect the lighting, and add a sealed drain in the floor for cleanup, are numbered and presented with reasons these solutions would allow them to do their job more efficiently.
Katz then starts by discussing the document from the view of technical communication, argumentation, and style, where it is considered an example of a practically perfect document. He clearly states a problem which he follows with a simple solution, and cleverly used the ethos of the organization he was writing to make his memo more persuasive toward his points.
However, the main point behind this memo is to better these things so they can kill loads of people more easily. This sets the stage for Katz’s analysis because this is the ethical problem in rhetoric (“ethic of expediency”) in the Western culture which he believes was combined with science and technology to make up for the basis for which the Holocaust was formed.
In this way, Katz believes looking at the Holocaust from a rhetorical standpoint allows us to get a clearer understanding of why the Holocaust may have happened.
Katz’s analysis begins with the problem of objectivity in technical writing due to the scarce discussions from an ethical standpoint. He goes on to say that Aristotle’s writing was interpreted to state that ethos is an essential link between deliberation and action. He then tells of a different interpretation of what people thought exactly Aristotle meant, and why his ethics of expediency was used but transformed in the Western culture. In this, Hitler used the ethic of expediency rhetorically to have a moral explanation for his actions. Hitler took Aristotle’s words to have a type of spiritual base for his actions. He also adopted science and technology to have a strong basis for an argument to continue his program. This, as well as the memo from the beginning, shows the worst of the technical imperative which allows progress to be a virtue no matter what the cost. This can explain the terrible logic behind Just’s memo, and maybe even the millions who complied with Hitler’s terrible plan of the extermination of all of those people. This shows that the combination of an ethic of expediency in rhetoric and technology Hitler created became the ethos of Nazi Germany.
In conclusion, Katz wraps up his article by questioning if ethics should be a part of writing courses at all. He challenges the reader, allowing us to question ourselves on the ethics behind technical writing, how we should approach it ourselves, and how to approach it if we see it somewhere else. Is the writing used for good rather than to cause destruction? This article has allowed me to see that through technical writing we have the power to challenge some things, and it, in a way, gives us a voice. However, this voice comes with great responsibility and no matter who we are speaking to our values should always be a priority in how we write our documents.