The Holocaust in Germany: Indifference


Figure 1.--Countless images from the NAZI era show considerable support for the regime, including fervent support. This should not be seen as support for the Holocaust. Perhaps support for anti-Semetic policies, but not for mass killing. There were many other aspects of NAZI rule that drew popular support such as ending unemployment, restoring national pride, repealing the Versailles Treaty, reduceing street violence, regaining loss territory, uniting Germans, and other matters. Concerning the Jews, despite intensive anti-Semitic propaganda, the prevailing feeling may have been indifference rather than hatred and a desire to kill. There is considerable difference of opinion on this.

The number of Germans complicit with the Holcaust or aware of the killing phase is a matter of considerable historical controversy. Our preliniary assessment is that many of the estimates ae probably high. All Germans knew that Jews were being persecuted, incouraged to emigrate, and finally deported. A much smaller number knew about mass murder. A historian who has studied this sunbect in detail makes this point. He makes the point that the number of actual perpetrators were in thusands. This is an astonisly small number given the millions killed. In contrast the number of Germans who watched and regarded the disappearnce of Jews is in the tens of millions with cold indifference is the most daming charge that Gemany will hav to live with for the rest of history. [McMillan] As with many asects associated with the Holocaust, there are those who reject the indifference assessment, charging that there was more support for the killing than mere indifference. [Glass] complication here is that complaining or aid Jews could get one in trouble. Neigbors might even report people to the Gestapo. We are not sure just how important a factor this was. We do not know of Gestapo records quantifying this. We get the impression, however, that not a great deal of police action was required. Most Germns already had various degrees of anti-Semetic attitudes and intense NAZI propaganda only heightened that. And NAZI policies of sepating Jews from national life cut many ties between Jews and other Grmnswell before tge deportations began. Thus most Germans sem to have simply not cared what happned to the Jews. Probably most had no problem with expelling the Jews from Germany, although that is very different than supporting murder. We know that because the killing was not done in Germany, but in ocpied Poland and the Soviet Union.

Knowledge amd Complicity

The number of Germans complicit with the Holcaust or aware of the killing phase is a matter of considerable historical controversy. Our preliniary assessment is that many of the estimates ae probably high. All Germans knew that Jews were being persecuted, incouraged to emigrate, and finally deported. A much smaller number knew about mass murder. A historian who has studied this sunbect in detail makes this point. He makes the point that the number of actual perpetrators were in thusands. This is an astonisly small number given the millions killed.

Indifference

In contrast the number of Germans who watched and regarded the disappearnce of Jews is in the tens of millions with cold indifference is the most daming charge that Gemany will hav to live with for the rest of history. [McMillan]

Disagreement

As with many asects associated with the Holocaust, there are those who reject the indifference assessment, charging that there was more support for the killing than mere indifference. [Glass] We tend to agree that there was considerble support for actins against Jews, but mass murder is a very diffrent matter. The simple fact that Hitler and his his asociates did not talk openly about mass murder abd tht it ws ot part of Gibelles propagabda mesage suggststo us thatit ws a step to far for th Germn people.

Danger

Complication here is that complaining or aiding Jews could get one in trouble. Neigbors might even report people to the Gestapo. It was not like in Poland where people aiding Jews could be shot, but it ws still dangerous. We are not sure just how important a factor this was. We do not know of Gestapo records quantifying this. We get the impression, however, that not a great deal of police action was required.

German Anti-Semitism

Most Germns already had various degrees of anti-Semetic attitudes.

Impact of NAZI Policy

Intense NAZI propaganda only heightened that. And NAZI policies of sepating Jews from national life cut many ties between Jews and other Grmnswell before tge deportations began. Thus most Germans sem to have simply not cared what happned to the Jews. Probably most had no problem with expelling the Jews from Germany, although that is very different than supporting murder. We know that because the killing was not done in Germany, but in ocpied Poland and the Soviet Union.

Reader Comment

A Dutch reader writes, "To assume that the German people would agree to kill the Jews is the wrong question. After Hitler came to power the holocaust did not take place yet. Of course, the way the Nazis started to prosecute the Jews should have opened the eyes of the citizens. Too few protested those actions, but the real horror began after the Wannsee conference in 1942, By that time the Germans had to cope with their own problems. Even in occupied Holland we did not know what really went on in the extermination camps until the spring of 1945." These are all difficult questions. Personally, I did not mean to suggest that the vast majority of the German people ever agreed to kill the Jews. I think that the killking was done by an increadily small number of Germans. More people were complicit in various ways. My point in thispage was that a much larger mumber of people, here a very large number was simply indifferent.

Sources

Glass, James M. "Against the infiference hypothesis: The Holocaust and the enhusiasts for murder," Political Psychology Vol. 9, No. 1 (March 1997), pp. 129-45.

McMillan, Dan. How Could This Happen: Explaining the Holocaust.






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Created: 9:23 AM 6/29/2014
Last updated: 9:23 AM 6/29/2014