Ordinary German's Responsibility for the Holocaust?

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Negative Creep, May 13, 2009.

  1. Negative Creep

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    Sensitive subject I know but I need to write an essay on it but not getting very far. Basically I'm wondering just how responsible the bulk of the populace was for what occurred. The final solution was the idea of Nazi top brass, but without people to carry it out it would never have happened; it needed men and women willing to carry it out. In the occupied zones there were many, especially Ukrainians and Poles who were also happy to kill Jews. Hitler's anti semitic polices certainly weren't unique so you can't simply blame him. Any thoughts?
     
  2. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    Not something to answer really.

    Remember any dissent against Nazism was not good for you health...so maybe things happened which happened because good people were too scared.

    But I can forsee this thread too hot to handle.
     
  3. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    I would certainly think (and hope) they would not have been in favor of them. It's one thing to show prejudice against a group of people, but it's an entirely different matter to exterminate them. Keep in mind that none of the concentration camps were in Germany proper.
     
  4. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    I don't think people in Germany realized how many millions of people actually died in the concentration camps. They may have realized that some people were obviously dying in the camps, but they probably didn't guess it's full monstrosity.

    If you haven't seen it, The film "Judgement at Nuremburg" deals with this sensitive subject pretty well. It's an interesting and engaging film, and doesn't try to hide the reality of the issues.
     
  5. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    #5 pbfoot, May 13, 2009
    Last edited: May 13, 2009
    I would highly doubt that the majority approved but I'm sure the deportation of the of "undesirables" must have common knowledge , the trains must have been noticed but as to the disposition of the trains and such I'm sure a majority were not aware of the end results. The same thing occured in Canada and the US with the deportation of the Japanese from the west coast when fear and propaganda prevailed amongst the civilian population
     
  6. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    My understanding (quit laughing!!!) was that most people went along with Hitler's policies because, as PB stated, it wasn't good for one's health to speak out against them. Hitler, before the war, had given them their pride back, restored the economy and given the German people an outlet for their anger and frustrations. Shipping an entire racial group to labor camps was one thing, but when the word got out that they were actually death-camps, I think folks started to wonder. But were unable to speak up, because by the time they realized what a monster Hitler was, he already had his goons in place to make folks disappear in the night. That, and even in the allied armies, the harsh realities of the death-camps was too much for most people to envision, so they discounted the stories as rumors. "Nobody could be that cruel".

    I would say that the average German's responsibility would lie more in the realm of complicity with the acts, simply because they did nothing to speak out and stop the atrocities. Moreso those living near camps. However, I can also understand it from their side, as well...they may have outnumbered the guards and SS, but nobody wants to be the poor sap who gets capped first as the mob pulls down the corrupt official. Nobody wanted to hear the clanking of the SS tank divisions rolling into their town to deal with any possible uprising against Nazi policies. Nobody wanted to be shoved into a train with a bunch of "undesirables" to share their fate. The average German citizen just wanted to survive. So while they *knew* these things were happening, it was easier to rationalize away that "its happening somewhere else, and I can do no good alone, but would disappear like the rest."
     
  7. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Ordinary Germans, especially people too young to vote prior to 1933, were just along for the ride.
     
  8. Soren

    Soren Banned

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    The ordinary German knew nothing of it. The official story given to the public was that the Jews were relocated to the east unharmed. The scam was so extensive that even Waffen SS soldiers didn't know about the cruelty of the camps.

    Special shooting squads and camp guard divisions were created to handle the "jew-problem", as well as take care of the execution of prisoners as it was well known soldiers would go crazy, go into deep depressions leading to suicide if ordered to shoot prisoners or civilians.
     
  9. Negative Creep

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    The more I look at this question the harder it gets! I think it rests on whether you think someone who stands by and lets an atrocity happen is culpable themselves? It's a trait of human nature to go with the flow, find scapegoats and to pretend terrible things aren't happening, therefore that individual isn't to blame. A good example would be the "I was only following orders" defence after the war.

    The problem I'm with the 'no responsibility' side is that those who did the killings were still ordinary people. When looking at any aspect of history it is very easy to think of things in black and white and simple good and evil, whereas of course nothing is ever that simple. I've been reading about many of the impromptu killings that took place in the early days of Barbarossa and many of the killers were ordinary soldiers. It's really hard to fathom how one soldier I read about wrote to his wife saying how he loves them and hopes his children were safe, then killing Jewish women and children.
     
  10. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    #10 DerAdlerIstGelandet, May 14, 2009
    Last edited: May 14, 2009
    That is not true, Concentration Camps were all over Germany proper. There is a former camp only about 30 km from where I live now. I visited one of the most notorious ones at Bergen Belsen. Also have you heard of Dachau? It is just outside of Munich.

    The difference though is that the real "Death Camps" were located out in the East. Tens of thousands though still died in camps that were inside Germany's original borders.

    As for the question about knowing. I would venture to say that a good majority of the populace knew something was going on, but the extent of it was not known. I saw a really good documentary the other night on German TV on this where German citizens were interviewed, most said they knew of something bad happening but were to scared to end up the same fate. One lady interviewed lived in Berlin and her Jewish friend came and asked to be hidden until she could escape. She refused to hide her for fear that her own children would be taken away. She said she lives with that shame every day.

    I have read my Grandfathers diary. He was paraded through a camp after he was captured. In his diary he explains the horror that he was seeing for the first time and the last entry states that "We are going to burn in hell."
     
  11. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    Walter Cronkite has expressed the view that he felt that the average German was culpable in the Holocaust as soon as they allowed their free and independent news outlets to become mouth pieces for the Nazi party. Arguably this could have been prevented at the early stages in the Nazi takeover of the government if the will had been there. As far as standing up to the Nazi and demonstrating against their anti-Semitic policies without having to worry about punitive retribution, it was done. In Berlin no less, and by women, several times during and I believe before the war. And as a final point, I believe I heard in a documentary somewhere that soldiers, both SS AND Wehrmacht, which resisted joining firing squads out of moral belief, were not disciplined. I believe the thing to remember here is that these crimes did not take place in a vacuum and the perpetrators knew it. That is why they tried to keep a lid on things. With code words like “exported” being euphemisms for “killed” and so on as well as there being no overt command paper trail leading back to Hitler. I imagine that they were not only worried what the average German on the street would think if they FULLY knew the extant of the complex apparatus that was set up to implement the “Final Solution”. Two other points I would like to make: 1) We must be careful of generalisms. There were Nazi party members who helped people escape the clutches of the “Special Groups”. 2) To deny to Holocaust is frankly delusional. Other then an initial off the cuff outburst from one member of the first group of Nazi bigwigs to be tried at Nuremburg, dismissing the photographic evidence of said atrocities as “propaganda”, not one of them used “It didn’t happen” as a defense against these particular charges of “crimes against humanity”. Seems strange if it never happened doesn’t it?
     
  12. Soren

    Soren Banned

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    #12 Soren, May 14, 2009
    Last edited: May 14, 2009
    It is one sad chapter in history for sure.

    Here are some disturbing pictures from the end of WW2.

    Just before the concentration camp at Dachau was runover by the Allies the original camp guards, the actual culprits, had fled, and ordinary Wehrmacht soldiers were ordered to guard the camps. It was these soldiers who had to stand up to the Allied retributions, like this Wehrmacht officer beaten to death by a shovel shortly after the last picture was taken:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    US soldiers executing German soldiers at Dachau after revealing the camps:

    [​IMG]
     
  13. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    The last photo was Americans executing SS soldiers that were Waffen SS, and not camp guards. It is a sad chapter in history. War is hell and WWII was hell.
     
  14. Vassili Zaitzev

    Vassili Zaitzev Well-Known Member

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    I don't know a lot on the holocaust, so I may be wrong on this. I think that the common German people knew that Jew's and other "undesirables" were taken to the camps. They didn't know, or had very little knowledge, on what happened in those camps. Again, sensitive subject that I don't know a lot on, so I apologize for any wrong information.
     
  15. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    I knew somehow that someone would try and change the subject and turn it into an allied soldiers committing atraucities...
     
  16. Soren

    Soren Banned

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    #16 Soren, May 14, 2009
    Last edited: May 14, 2009
    What ? Come on! YOU mentioned Dachau, so I thought I'd share some history of the place.

    And how is this really showing the US in a truly bad light, they afterall thought that these were the actual camp guards, who btw weren't typically very nice people. They didn't know that the soldiers there actually were just Waffen SS Wehrmacht soldiers who had been forced to guard the place for the real culprits to flee. Neither party was aware of what they were in for.

    So please, your assertion was uncalled for!
     
  17. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    The German Communist Party (KPD) received 14.6% of the vote in 1932. Hitler was elected on an anti-communist platform. After he came to power hundreds of thousands of communist sympathizers were incarcerated for a few months. Normal prisons could not hold them all. The concentration camps in western Germany were constructed for this purpose. Later some were used as labor camps but that was not their design purpose. I suspect that many ordinary Germans did not immediately reconginize the change in concentration camp usage.
     
  18. Negative Creep

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    With regards to retribution, it's amazing there wasn't more. I've read a few accounts of prisoners and Allied soldiers taking revenge on camp guards (if ever there were a case for justified murder that must be it) but these were rare. By that stage the survivors could barely comprehend what was happening or if the liberation was another German trick
     
  19. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Near the end of the war many were transferred from eastern camps to camps within Germany to continue with the mass killings as long as possible. Several hundred thousand Jews were killed in camps within Germany's borders.

    I did not say you were showing the US in bad light.

    I said it was only a matter of time till someone tried to change the subject. The subject is not about the US, it is about Germans and the Holocaust...
     
  20. Soren

    Soren Banned

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    #20 Soren, May 14, 2009
    Last edited: May 14, 2009
    I really don't feel I ventured offtopic at all with my post.

    What people need to understand is that 95% of the German public knew nothing of the horrors being committed in the Nazi concetration camps, and that only a very few soldiers actually participated in the murders committed there. The bad guys were offcourse Hitler, Himmler other high ranking individuals who involved themselves with the camps, as well as the camp guard divisions and shooting squads formed to carry out these horrid crimes.

    People shouldn't blame the ordinary Geman soldier or civilian as they mostly knew nothing of it, yet they often came to pay for the crimes of the few scumbags who actually committed them.

    Like I said, a very sad chapter in history.
     
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