It’s just really tiring that I continually see posts that claim that Europeans were unaware of the Holocaust and showimages of SS members or Nazis looking regretful about their actions, claiming that it wasn’t till after the war ended that people were even aware of…
I’m not disagreeing with anything in this post, but check out the Stamford Prison Experiment and there’s another one that has to do with electrical shocks and a “teacher/student” (on my phone, so I can’t share a link). The scientist actually wanted to figure out what on earth could push the nazis into doing such heinous things and you’d be surprised what people will do for someone with an air of authority and a fear of letting them down.
The Stanford Prison Experiment is bullshit though!
- The volunteers were all interested in signing up for a “prison experiment” - not a random selection at all.
- Zimbardo participated in the experiment himself - which obviously makes the results super biased.
- Zimbardo didn’t control the experiment sufficiently!
- 24 men of the same age all attending the same college can hardly be called an accurate representation of humanity.
Okay, what about the Milgram experiment, which I believe the above poster was referring to? Most people, almost everyone, will do shitty things in the name of obedience. That doesn’t excuse those in the upper ranks, nor does it diminish the horror of the Holocaust, but I don’t think the average German citizen bears as much malice as you described.
Yes, most citizens knew or had suspicions about what exactly happened in the concentration camps. But saying “Well, if they didn’t actively rebel, that means they must have been okay with - no! - really supported Hitler’s policies,” is incredibly wrong. When dissent often meant you also got sent to the concentration camps, most people kept quiet. It’s laughably easy to say what people should have done, from the privileged position of “not being in Nazi Germany”, but how many of you, if you were there, would have risked your lives to resist? Those who did so are heroes for a reason; they did something incredible, that most people wouldn’t dare do.
Secondly, most Allied nations knew what was happening, but I’m not so sure about their civilians. I’d have to do more research on that.
I would really recommend watching “Die Welle” (The Wave). It’s a movie about how people conform to a group. A high school teacher is running a class on autocracy. The students complain about why they need to learn about the topic, because “everyone knows about the Holocaust, there’s no way it could happen again”. So the teacher decides to mold the class into a fascist-like society, with himself as the leader, in order to show them just how easily groupthink forms. Things go wrong quickly.
Lastly, have you seen how Germany treats the Holocaust nowadays? There’s no assuaging of guilt, it’s repeatedly pointed out, over and over again. It’s mentioned in every history class, denying it happened is punishable by 5 years of jail, nationalism is extremely frowned upon, sufficiently right-wing parties are actually illegal, etc. During the 2006 World Cup, there was concern about people flying the German flag at matches. At a sports game. That’s not even a nationalistic context, but it made people very uneasy. Even in my high school German class, in the US, this was repeatedly impressed on us. There are plenty of other countries that deny their indifference or inaction towards the Holocaust, like you mentioned above with the US, Canada, and Cuba, but Germany is not one of them.
TL;DR: Citizens != Nation. The average German != Hitler. People knowing what was happening != they supported it.
(and don’t get me wrong, I’m really, really, really not trying to trivialize the Holocaust or excuse those who perpetrated it. I’m just irritated that so many people won’t get off their moral high horse and insist things like: “I would have stood up, that means everyone who didn’t must have fervently supported the Holocaust”. sigh)
Hi *waves* jewish girl here
please read this post of mine to see how the citizens did know. thanks.
also, there is still a HUGE antisemitism presence in europe (click on each word for a different link). like. my cousin, who is a very proudly jewish woman, went to spain and was advised to hide her star of david in madrid. and then again in paris (where she lived for some time). and she did, from fear.
(the bbc link, btw, may seem a bit uplifting because there isn’t as much antisemitism in germany……. but the results still aren’t good)
she’s just one example
it didn’t have to do with obedience. it may have for some, but literally there was no penalty for soldiers refusing to kill jews (once again, read my post because it has an abundance of sources and it’s 7 am and i’m too tired to rehash, but for this i cite christopher browning’s “ordinary man”).
yes, the banality of evil exists—and it’s definitely true that some were dictated by the mob mentality. but please don’t vindicate the citizens (examples: the death dealer of kaunas and his cheering ilk or the jews being forced to scrub the viennese streets raw to celebrate anchluss). they knew what was happening. many participated in it. (once again, refer to the wealth of sources in my link)
also. here’s the thing: i wouldn’t have had the opportunity to stand up, as you mentioned in your last post. i get on my high horse from fury—because my family was obliterated in the holocaust: burned alive in their own synagogues, starved, shot in killing fields, forced to dig their own graves, gassed in camps. you name it. and i would have been killed too.
my family hid in the forests with the bielski brothers—in fact, i recognize their faces in the photograph at the end of the film “defiance.” my family got illegal visas from chiune sugihara.
my family was forced to stand up to hitler and the nazis, or else die. my life would have already been at risk, just for merely existing; i would have to either die resisting or die. as sophie scholl put it: “i choose my own way to burn.”
do you know why it was so rampant? antisemitism, hatred of the rromani, hatred of the minorities—it wasn’t a consequence of hitler’s rule; it wasn’t a new thing. IT WAS A SELLING POINT. europe’s history is filled with antisemitism, from the blame for the plague to the progroms. the holocaust wasn’t an isolated incident.
we’re not saying that every citizen needed to risk harm for standing up against antisemitism. what we’re saying is that THE SOLDIERS HAD A CHOICE. there are records showing that there was no punishment for soldiers who refused to kill jews (ordinary man) and their families weren’t being held hostage (that was a myth created to avoid nuremberg retributions—and, boy, has it stuck). instead of collusively ignoring what was happening, citizens could have been informed and tried to fight against antisemitism with words. it would have been useless, granted, but better than silently allowing it. citizens could have not abused the jews, or broken up displays from afar such as the death dealer’s murderous rampage; the death dealer would not have attacked a white citizen in such a crowd in broad daylight. they could have looked at the pictures of the nazis posing besides grave sites, of the death dealer, of other citizens and soldiers who immortalized their exploits in photograph and, after the war, and identified them to authorities (after the war) so they could face retribution.
not everyone had to be an active hero, but there are things that could have been done. but, instead, we finding excuses for it decades later instead of recognizing it as evil.
and by claiming the “obedience” or “they didn’t have a choice” narrative, we allow ourselves this reprieve: we say that, if this ever happens again somehow, we have an out—we have an excuse. obedience.
only, of course, i never would. i would be the body at the death dealer’s feet, the ash in auschwitz, a forgotten pile of bones in some unmarked grave.
not everyone had to be a revolutionary. but everyone, especially today, should at the very least stop trying to find excuses for the nazis and their followers. you’re right, we are in a position of privilege; we’re NOT in nazi germany, so it’s time we all realize that and stop absolving the murderers.
what we’re saying is that people who would not have died—the white, straight people, the people with the most privilege then and now—need to recognize that excusing hitler and the nazis (and even citing the “obedience” excuse) is so painful to us, to the people who have suffered and suffered under him—especially when records show otherwise, for the most part. even now, decades later, the holocaust still ripples through my family.
this is why, instead of excusing fucking hitler or the soldiers or the citizens (most of whom did know; once again, please refer to my linked post), we should recognize the minorities’ humanity. that will prevent the next holocaust.