Sunday, April 7, 2013


I've been posting a few pictures over on Facebook which have a few people asking me questions.  In order to fully answer everyone at length, a post here seemed in order so that I can construct a more complete and referenced response.
I've posted three pictures in particular; one each of women (about to be hanged); men (starved and enslaved); and children (similarly treated); all originally provided on Facebook by an Israeli Holocaust documentation organization.
These just are visually striking reminders of the recent documentation which came out to the full public media over a month ago.  The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum found that there was simply no way most German citizenry did not know the general extent of enslavement and genocide being carried out in the name of their political regime.  Apologism and psychology must be pushed aside and the realization must be made that indeed, the evil that occurred under the Nazis was widely known, fully understood, and accepted by much of society.
If you want to understand this more, I would urge you to get copies of two modern books, widely available in US public libraries and certainly through Amazon and other sellers (I'm even going to provide you the Amazon links, and I no, I don't get the little cut Amazon provides to registered partners).  Both are written by women who were German children of the time, whose parents were Nazi officers, but both give a very different perspective of what that means, and you can't really understand how important it is to fully appreciate this without reading both for reasons which will come clear below.
First, I would have you read Helga Schneider's Let Me Go.  To some this will be the easier to read without regret.  Schneider's mother was a Nazi concentration camp guard who abandoned her children to her own parents' care in order to serve the regime (the mother's parents incidentally were virulent anti-Nazis who suffered deprivation and starvation throughout the war along with the children, for their refusal to join the party or take part in its activities).  As an adult, Helga herself set out to try to understand her mother, with the hopes that she would learn her mother had somehow gotten caught up in psychological brain washing, or else perhaps had simply been fearing that if she did not join the strong she would be seen as one of the weak, to be destroyed herself.  What Helga found was instead horrifying to her; her mother knew from the first what job she had set out to do and reveled in it, in fact wanted nothing more than the opportunity to enact evil and receive glory for doing so.  While her daughter hoped to find the opposite, she resolutely documents this significantly large segment of German behavior--that which deliberately and evilly brought war and genocide to their neighbors for no other reason than that they could do so.  No apology is possible, no psychological explanation is warranted.  A large number of Germans were truly evil and knew exactly what was happening, why it was, and supported it.
The second book is actually harder to read, not because it is poorly written (it's not) but because of the incredible social and political blindness it records throughout.  It is On Hitler's Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood by Irmgard A. Hunt.  Hunt and her sister and mother were inhabitants of Berchtesgaden, a Nazi headquarters and retreat.  She portrays it as more or less a paradise, where they lived in beauty and suffered little of the deprivation of others during the war.  She is completely unaware of the suffering, the battles, the genocide, and shows little regret for any of them in her adult recollections.  Indeed the only time she shows any humanity or immediate feelings is the incident at the end of the memoir, during the trials of Nazi officers for their war crimes, when a school mate of hers shows up white faced after his own father's execution.  Even in adulthood, fully cognizant of the enormity of her parents' and their compatriots' actions, she can only relate directly to the others she knew who were immediately impacted and shows no awareness or regret for any of the Nazi horrors.
You see now why I am profiling these very "in your face" photographs.  No matter how apologistic other writers may be, no matter how many would have us believe that the genocide atrocities of the Nazis was overall due to economic factors and psychological brainwashing, the truth is that the Nazi evils were simply that--evils.  Germans and others walked daily past the starved, the enslaved, the being-murdered.  They saw hangings, shootings, gassings, slavery, people treated like cattle.  Some of them did indeed hate it, some resisted it.  But most did not.  And many fully participated and supported it.  No lies to the contrary should make us apologize or try to understand or accept that.

1 comment:

Marie said...

The swedish government published a book in 1998 about the holocaust.

It was translated to several languages and distibuted to one million families in 1998. (Population 8 millions in 1998.)

The reson for this publication was the ignorance among young people living in Sweden.