The Holocaust in Germany: Knowledge of Genocide

Figure 1.--These German soldiers in an American POW camp are viewing film footage of what was found as the Allies liberated German concentration camps (April 1945). As you can clearly see on the faces of the POWs, including many youthful soldiers, lit was the first time they ever saw what was going on inside the camps. Of course the ca,ps liberted wer not the Death Camps which the SS attempted to destroy. But what the Allies found was bad enough in the cmps located throughout the Reich. Some of the POWs reportedly laughed thinking it was crude Allied propaganda. This groups seems to have been shocked and believed what they were seeing. The German troops moved to America were mostly taken in North Africa. Here under Rommel's Command, the Germans generally behaved correctly, although were treated roughly. Other groupd of soldiers were more aware of whst was happemong. The POW Generals tapped by the British, were mostly waare of the terrible attrictities. Most seemed mor concerned anout the the impact on Germany's image than the killing.

There are other facts suggesting that many Germans knew. Public statements by Hitler, Goebbels, and other NAZIs, while not specific, made it very clear as to the regimes plans for the Jews. The NAZI Stromtroopers (SA) and Hitler Youth had songs and chants with the words, 'Death to the Jews'. The NAZI pogrom of Kristallnacht was conducted in Germany in the full view of the German people. While the actual number of deaths were minimal compared to the later killings, there were killings and vicious beatings carried out in publiv view. After the War began, not only the SS but Wehrmacht units were involved in mass roundups and killings of Jews, especially in the Soviet Union. Many must have talked about their experiences in the East. Jews were used as slave labor by large numbers of German companies and employees there would have been exposed to what was happening. The German railway system organized the transport of large numbers of Jews east. Some would have know about where they were being transported and the fate that awaited them, but it is difficult to know how many. Many would have bought the idea that they were being resettled in the East. And after Barbarossa most of the killing was done in death under high security cndotions. Recordings made by the British of German POWs show that the killings of Jews was common knowledge among the Wehermact officer corps, but the killing that came up in conversation was primarily the public killings in the Soviet Union and not the industrialized death camp killings. [Netzel] As best we can tell, this was less commonly known even among the officer corps. If so, it would have then been known by a relatively small number of Germans. And we are less sure about the average enlisted whermacht soldiers. And here we also need to descriminate between the men which participated in Barbarossa (summer 1941) and the young conscripts called up subsequently (1942-45). What may seem obvious to us know, would not have been as obvious to the German people during the War. For example, large number of Americans today because of the manupulation of the facts by the mainline American media believe that the IRS scandal is a 'phony' scandal. The level of knowledge about genocide is, however, a question that needs to be pursued in more detail.


Neitzel, Sönke. Ed. Tapping Hitler's Generals (Frontline Books, Lobdon, 2007), 418p.

WW II -- Holocaut

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Created: 10:33 PM 10/22/2015
Last updated: 10:33 PM 10/22/2015