0115 966 7955 Today's Opening Times 10:30 - 17:00 (BST)
Place an Order
Instant price

Struggling with your work?

Get it right the first time & learn smarter today

Place an Order
Banner ad for Viper plagiarism checker

Were German Citizens Aware of the Holocaust?

Disclaimer: This work has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional academic writers. You can view samples of our professional work here.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.

Published: Fri, 29 Sep 2017

Jason Jimenez

To what extent was the average individual of Germany during WWII aware of the atrocities committed within the Holocaust?

Table of Contents

A. Plan of Investigation………2

B. Summary of Evidence………2

C. Evaluation of Sources………3

D. Analysis……….3-4

E. Conclusion……….4

F. Bibliography……….5

A. Plan of Investigation

This investigation assesses the extent of how much the average German knew of the Holocaust during WWII. In order to evaluate this, the investigation examines the situation of Germany at this point in time. First, the cause and effect of the force of extreme anti-Semitism on the people by Hitler will be explored. Also, this investigation will delve into the extensive spread of knowledge between the groups of people that were aware of the genocide with the others that did not. Lastly, the seemingly enormous task of the Final Solution will be considered, as well as challenged in a manner that would suggest awareness in the general German population. These three major factors are the primary focus of this investigation; they will be analyzed by evaluating several essay sources, as well as other internet articles, for their origins, purposes, values, and limitations.

B. Summary of Evidence

Prior to WWII, Hitler already possessed hatred for the Jews. He states in his book that he first became an anti-Semite in Vienna, where he attained extreme German nationalism. He strongly believed in a union with the Germans and a violent expulsion of the “inferior” races. During his time as the leader of the Nazi Party, as well as Fuhrer, Hitler delivered many speeches to the masses regarding the Jews as the enemy. In one of his speeches, he declared, “The struggle for world domination will be fought entirely between us, between Germans and Jews. All else is facade and illusion. Behind England stands Israel, and behind France, and behind the United States. Even when we have driven the Jew out of Germany, he remains our world enemy.”[1] This statement suggests that Hitler saw that Jews as the ultimate enemy, and disregards the rest of the world as even mildly relevant. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda Minister responsible for the Night of Broken Glass, in which hundreds of Jews were murdered, was also an essential component in the spread of anti-Semitism at that time.[2] The general German population knew of their government’s extreme hatred toward the Jews, and it was only a matter of time until they figured out what was going to happen next. Furthermore, from the huge size of the army, as well as the thousands of camps located in and around Germany, it was inevitable for information not to spread between the populations. For example, German soldiers would, at the very least, have brought home numerous stories of what was going on in Russia (where the atrocities were well known) or the east.[3]

The stories that the soldiers would have told their loved ones back home would have spread swiftly, and therefore soon after, knowledge of rumours would be instilled into the general population. The many camps that existed then were located inside Germany itself, but there were many more outside the country. A large number of these camps were located near several highly-populated areas, such as Dachau, outside of Munich.[4] However, the major extermination camps, such as Auschwitz and Treblinka, were not set up inside Germany, so it certainly was possible that the average German in the home front had no knowledge of them. Although, it is logical to assume that most people knew that being sent to a concentration was, without a doubt, a death sentence; even if they did not know the details, they had to have noticed that barely anyone ever returned from the camps. Overall, it all boils down to the issue of whether or not the Germans wanted to know more about what was going on, for perhaps they just wanted to turn a blind eye because it did not affect them in any way. Lastly, the monstrous project of the Final Solution (Nazi Germany’s plan to systematically kill off the entire Jewish population in Nazi-occupied Europe) seemed all too massive of a project to have been undertaken only by the Nazis. Konnilyn Feig, a well-respected Holocaust author, suspects that most people did, in fact, know about much of what was going on. In her book, Hitler’s death camps: the sanity of madness, she states that “Hitler exterminated the Jews of Europe. But he did not do so alone. The task was so enormous, complex, time-consuming, and mentally and economically demanding that it took the best efforts of millions of Germans… All spheres of life in Germany actively participated…”[5] As the case may be, therefore, it is not futile to rule out this very possibility.

C. Evaluation of Sources

Note: Because there were seemingly no readily available traditional resources regarding this investigation’s rather specific question, two significant internet articles will be evaluated in lieu.

One article is written by Will Coleman, and is an extended response to the same question this investigation is attempting to answer. The other source is an essay article written by Theresa Art, named “What Did Most Germans Know about the Nazi Concentration Camp System?” As a response to a similar question posed in the website, www.quora.com, Will Coleman writes an in-depth “report” on the truth that he believes, in which he states that “the large majority of the German public, knew and collaborated willingly with the deportation and extermination of the Jews…”[6] This article was written with the obvious purpose of attempting to answer the question in the website, but to also do so using methodical reasoning. The article’s value lies in the fact that it provides a systematic explanation of Coleman’s perspective on the matter, and this allows the reader to easily interpret and understand the logic behind his bold statement that “all of Germany was responsible”. Coleman does this by ordering his points from least to most significant; first he starts off with basic arguments that reinforce the fact that communication within Germany must have defeated any sort of secrecy about the mass murders simply because of how many people there were, and he ends with an intricate “collective guilt” argument, wherein he explains that the German people felt guilt for the atrocities committed by their fellow countrymen, and could only have done so because they either participated or turned a blind eye to it. There was a minor limitation in this article, in which it would sometimes confuse awareness of the holocaust with direct participation. In Theresa Ast’s article, she aims to focus not on the “culpability or degree of culpability of different segments of the German population”[7], but on general German knowledge of concentration camps. Much like Coleman, Ast suggests that many Germans were aware of the mass killings; she states that “most concentration camp inmates were German or Austrian citizens and many of them served limited sentences before being released. It begs believability to think that these individuals did not discuss their experience with family and close friends.” The value in Ast’s article, as opposed to Coleman’s, is that she took into account several WWII veterans’ first-hand opinions and experiences in her findings. This allowed her to develop a well-formulated conclusion stating that “the typical German response was to deny knowledge of, and disclaim any responsibility for, the concentration camps.” A limitation in this article lies in the fact that it is mostly comprised of evidence, and has a minor lack of detail in its arguments.

D. Analysis

The importance of this investigation in its historical context is immense, as the question poses the issue of whether or not the Germans should feel guilty for having taken part in the most documented, systematic, industrial slaughter of human beings in all of recorded civilized history. From one perspective, based on the sources, it can be argued that the average German had a rough idea as to what was going on, but did not know the details; this is either because he genuinely did not know, or perhaps because he did not want to know more of his own country’s monstrosities. From another perspective, it can be argued that the average German knew a great deal of what was going on, as Coleman states, “How can a country on total war footing continue to move, house, manage and exterminate millions of people while at the same time, use those sparing resources on war production? They can’t, not without a lot of help. Where was this help? The German nation of course.”[8] From these arguments also arises the question that if the Germans did help undertake the Final Solution, did they do it willingly? Or were they forced to do it by the Nazis? With Adolf Hitler’s entrance into Germany’s politics, so did his theories of racial struggle and the “intent” of the Jews to survive and expand at the expense of the Germans. From 1933-1938, the Nazis staged book burnings, ordered anti-Jewish boycotts, and enabled anti-Jewish legislation.[9] The Jews were defined by race and was totally separated from the Germans by the Nuremberg Laws in 1935. These measures focused on total segregation of Jews from Germans and Austrians, both legally and socially. These new statutes, added with the extremely anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda imposed on the country must have, at the very least, implied something utterly terrible to come for the Jews. Although hundreds of thousands had already been killed by death squads and in mass pogroms[10] (riots aimed at massacre of Jews), the large-scale deportation of the Jews must have spelled disaster for them in the eyes of the Germans. The communication that must have travelled back and forth, from the people that knew to the ones that did not, suggests that even though the full details of the holocaust were not leaked, a general idea of it must have formed within the people. The SS would routinely mix labour battalions, which consisted of thousands of starving Jews, with German nationals who were producing war goods. Without a doubt, these nationals must have shared stories of horribly treated Jews back home. The average Nazi soldier who had seen the atrocities committed in both concentration and death camps most likely would have wrote home letters describing what he had seen. Overall, there was very little chance that a German did not know anything as to what was going on around him, as all signs, including the mass deportation of Jews by train and the mass murders in pogroms, point to the ultimatum that the Jews were being thoroughly purged out of Germany. The amount of work that the Final Solution must have required was much greater than that which the Nazis could hope to accomplish.

As Will Coleman mentioned in his article, Germany could not have afforded to be on total war as well as systematically exterminate millions of people simultaneously without extra help, and this, in all likelihood, came from the general population of Germany itself. German police units, namely the Reserve Police Battalion 101, shot 38,000 Jews and deported 45,000 more to the camps.[11] Bankers often volunteered the names of their Jewish employees to Nazi authorities, most of which ended up in death camps.[12] What all of this is suggesting is that such a massive task could not have been done solely by the Nazis, but with the collective help and cooperation of everyone in the country. E. Conclusion Each and every subtopic that this investigation evaluates all point to the same conclusion. First, the extreme anti-Semitic ideas that had been forced on the people, coupled with the initial attacks on the Jews, implied the beginning of the end for them. Nobody knew exactly what the future held for the Jews, but they just knew it would be disastrous. Second, the substantial network of communication that had been utilized must have at least given the average German a clue as to what the Jews were going through at the time. Whether the information was passed through a letter, orally, or first-hand, the population must have received a basic idea for what was happening, and also, what was about to happen. Lastly, the Final Solution could not have been finished by the Nazis without further help from outside sources. Like Konnilyn Feig stated, “The task was so complex that it took the best efforts of millions of Germans…” Most, if not all Germans were aware of the Holocaust, let alone the ones that participated too. There is no doubt that everyone had the idea, and this alone reinforces the fact that yes, almost everyone was aware of what was happening. Total word count: 1,971 F.

Bibliography

Internet Sources:

Coleman, Will, “To what extent were average German citizens aware of or involved in the Holocaust”. n.d., Quora. 30 March 2014. http://www.quora.com/Nazi-Germany/To-what-extent-were-average-German-citizens-aware-of-or-involved-in-the-Holocaust

Ast, Theresa, “What Did Most Germans Know About The Nazi Concentration Camp System?”. n.d., HubPages. 30 March 2014. http://phdast7.hubpages.com/hub/What-Did-Average-germans-Know-Concentration-Camps

Museum, “ANTISEMITISM IN HISTORY: NAZI ANTISEMITISM”. 10 June 2013. Holocaust Encyclopedia. 30 March 2014. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007167

Connolly, Kate, “Letter proves Speer knew of Holocaust plan”. n.d. The Guardian. 30 March 2014. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/mar/13/secondworldwar.kateconnolly

Douglas, Davis “British bank implicated in Nazi dealings”. 2 April 1999. Jewish News of Greater Phoenix. 30 March 2014. http://www.webcitation.org/5wQnrMwcy

Book Sources:

Rauschning, Hermann. Hitler Speaks (Munich, Germany: Kessinger Publishing, 2006)

Feig, Konnilyn. Hitler’s Death Camps: The Sanity of Madness (California, United States: Holmes & Meier Pub, 1981)

Niewyk, Donald. The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust (New York, United States: Harper Collins, 1992)

Gilbert, Martin. Kristallnacht (Oxford, England: Harper Perennial, 2007)


[1] Hermann Rauschning. Hitler Speaks (Munich, Germany: Kessinger Publishing, 2006) p.234

[2] Gilbert Martin. Kristallnacht (Oxford, England: Harper Perennial, 2007) p.29

[3] Will Coleman, “To what extent were average German citizens aware of or involved in the Holocaust”. n.d., Quora. 30 March 2014 http://www.quora.com/Nazi-Germany/To-what-extent-were-average-German-citizens-aware-of-or-involved-in-the-Holocaust

[4] Will Coleman, “To what extent were average German citizens aware of or involved in the Holocaust”. n.d., Quora. 30 March 2014 http://www.quora.com/Nazi-Germany/To-what-extent-were-average-German-citizens-aware-of-or-involved-in-the-Holocaust

[5] Konnilyn Feig. Hitler’s Death Camps: The Sanity of Madness (California, United States: Holmes & Meier Pub, 1981) p.84

[6] Will Coleman, “To what extent were average German citizens aware of or involved in the Holocaust”. n.d., Quora. 30 March 2014 http://www.quora.com/Nazi-Germany/To-what-extent-were-average-German-citizens-aware-of-or-involved-in-the-Holocaust

[7] Theresa Ast, “What Did Most Germans Know About The Nazi Concentration Camp System?”. n.d., HubPages. 30 March 2014 http://phdast7.hubpages.com/hub/What-Did-Average-germans-Know-Concentration-Camps

[8] Will Coleman, “To what extent were average German citizens aware of or involved in the Holocaust”. n.d., Quora. 30 March 2014 http://www.quora.com/Nazi-Germany/To-what-extent-were-average-German-citizens-aware-of-or-involved-in-the-Holocaust

[9] Museum, “Antisemitism in History: Nazi Antisemitism”. 10 June 2013. Holocaust Encyclopedia. 30 March 2014 http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007167

[10] Kate Connolly, “Letter proves Speer knew of Holocaust plan”. n.d. The Guardian. 30 March 2014. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/mar/13/secondworldwar.kateconnolly

[11] Donald Niewyk. The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust (New York, United States: Harper Collins, 1992) p.83-87

[12] Davis Douglas, “British bank implicated in Nazi dealings”. 2 April 1999. Jewish News of Greater Phoenix. 30 March 2014 http://www.webcitation.org/5wQnrMwcy


To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Request Removal

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have the essay published on the UK Essays website then please click on the link below to request removal:


More from UK Essays