World War II -- Oppression, the Holocaust, the Nature of Terrorism

Civilians Boarding German Trains for "Resettlement" to Agricultural Communities in the East   --  Nazis developed a language of  "euphemisms"  to minimize the horror of what they were doing and keep the Death Camps secret.
Civilians Boarding German Trains for "Resettlement" to Agricultural Communities in the East -- Nazis developed a language of "euphemisms" to minimize the horror of what they were doing and keep the Death Camps secret. | Source


Today I received a comment from LauraGT, who had just finished reading the Hub, “What Did Most Germans Know About the Nazi Concentration Camp system?” (Part 1 of IV) In her comment she asked a series of questions that seemed cogent, relevant, and important. As my response to her comments grew more and more lengthy, I decided this might have some value for others, not just Laura and me. Your comments and constructive criticism are always welcome.


Laura - I deeply appreciate your thoughtful comments and all the difficult, yet important questions you raised. We need to look at and struggle with the hard questions; they should trouble our souls. That at least is a beginning when attempting to grapple with such serious issues and events. Thank you for providing me with an opportunity to express myself without the encumbrance of footnotes.

The SS (Schutzstaffel)  often used the police and militia of other countries to assist them in rounding up Jews and other enemies of the Nazi state for deportation and relocation..
The SS (Schutzstaffel) often used the police and militia of other countries to assist them in rounding up Jews and other enemies of the Nazi state for deportation and relocation.. | Source

"What does it mean that the German people knew?"


Answer # 1. The fact that the German people knew about the concentration camps means that we can't ascribe the total responsibility for the Holocaust (or any other atrocity) to one small select group of people, eg, the Nazis or the SS. Such widespread horrors can only occur when there is a passive, compliant, or cooperative population. It would be easier if it were just the SS, so the lesson to be learned would be, “Be vigilant. Watch for any groups that seem like the SS.”

But when so many people are involved as bystanders, the questions get more difficult. Why would a society do this? Would we do the same thing? Are we really that different? How and why are we different? And if we are not sure we are different, what will make us different, able to resist a cruel and oppressive and powerful regime?

How can we make sure that we, our nation, our children are different? Where does a firm morality and the courage to defend it come from? School? Home? Religion? Spirituality? Philosophy? Character Training? From one source or many sources? How do we inoculate ourselves against tyranny and terrorism? All of these questions are important and should be asked, explored, and answered to the best of our abilities.

In some location the Nazis disposed of the bodies of their victims (gassing and shooting) by burning them on huge open air  wooden pyres.  The allies arrived before this one was burned.
In some location the Nazis disposed of the bodies of their victims (gassing and shooting) by burning them on huge open air wooden pyres. The allies arrived before this one was burned. | Source

"What does it mean that the German people knew?"


Answer #2. The fact that the German people knew about the concentration camps also indicates that the Nazis or any abusive ruler or group, isn’t really trying to keep everything they do completely secret. But aren’t oppressive regimes always secretive? Don’t they always have secret prisons and gulags from which no one ever escapes or is released? Yes and no.

Yes, they are often secretive about “some of their programs, actions, and initiatives, especially at certain stages of development, before the regime's power is consolidated. But they are not secretive about everything and certainly not all the time. This may seem counter-intuitive.

So let’s think for a moment about a generic “terrorist group.” They have a terrifying name and reputation, the Black Faction; they develop a long list of demands and concerns, their manifesto if you will, and they make these materials public, releasing them to the media with lots of dire threats of death and destruction to follow if the demands are not met

Then they develop a plan and kidnap four Bolivian diplomats and never tell a soul about it. No public statements. No press coverage, no letters, or demands. No evidence of who committed the crime or why. Simply, four Bolivian men vanish into thin air, and the Black Faction is committed to total secrecy. Is this how terrorist groups function? Is this how terrorism works? Would it work?

Of course not. Terrorism ( my definition - a relatively small group of people using violence and controlling and directing the actions of a much larger group of people), terrorism is only effective when the following conditions are met: there is fear of tragedy, injury, torture, or loss of life; when tragedy and loss occur and in public settings, or the public is informed about the events usually through the police or media; and when these terrible and tragic events occur randomly and unpredictably.


Children being undressed in preparation for the :showers" they were supposed to take before being assigned to a barracks.   After the "shower" the bodies were removed from the gas chamber and cremated.
Children being undressed in preparation for the :showers" they were supposed to take before being assigned to a barracks. After the "shower" the bodies were removed from the gas chamber and cremated. | Source

"What does it mean that the German people knew? (#2 continued)

The first two components or ingredients of terrorism are pretty obvious, but what about the third component – random and unpredictable actions? Terror that is predictable is not terror. It holds little power over populations. If the Black Faction continuously and predictably bombed the Bolivian embassy and nowhere else, two things would happen. One, only people in the immediate vicinity of the embassy would be afraid and only they would be likely to accede to any terrorist demands. Two, the authorities would be well on their way to setting a trap and catching the Black Faction perpetrators.

Now lets apply this knowledge we have about how terrorists function to Nazi Germany, to Stalinist Russia, the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, to any number of brutal and cruel regimes. Terrorist regimes and governments operate on the basis of terror, not on the basis of their numerical superiority as we all know. If the concentration camps were originally established for political prisoners, to hold people who opposed the Nazis, what was the Nazi plan? Did they intend to build prisons and camps sufficient to incarcerate the 30 to 40% of the population (10-12 million people) who opposed them? And what country could afford to remove so many people from their economy?

Terrorists and terror based regimes control large populations by making absolutely sure they do know about the terrible consequences of opposition and disobedience that have been inflicted randomly upon a small segment of the population. And the punishment must be random and unpredictable so that everyone lives in fear. If the Nazis had only arrested green-eyed, red heads, then they would have had no effective leverage or control over the rest of the population. We need to understand the significance of the fact that everyone sent to a concentration camp in the early years did not stay there till the end of the war.

Victims, in the Ukraine and the Western Soviet Union  were often matched to large ravines where they were shot to death or locked into synagogues and churches which were set on fire.
Victims, in the Ukraine and the Western Soviet Union were often matched to large ravines where they were shot to death or locked into synagogues and churches which were set on fire. | Source

"What does it mean that the German people knew?" (#2 continued)


Every few months a small group of men (and sometimes women – Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch Holocaust survivor and author of The Hiding Place) were selected for release and sent home. While being processed for release, they received instructions from the Nazis to tell no one about the camp, the harsh treatment, the slave labor, the brutality, the incessant disease, the routine beatings. Many signed a form promising to never speak about their experience.

Do we really imagine that a single person went home and kept silent? Of course not. They feared for their families and friends and co-workers, so covertly, and in discrete whispered conversations they told everybody they knew about what had happened to them. They warned them to be careful, to obey, to stay out of trouble, to avoid being noticed, to be passive and compliant.

This is how millions of people can be controlled by a much smaller force. …by arresting and incarcerating hundreds of thousands and “releasing” a few tens of thousands back into the population. This tactic is amazingly and disturbingly effective. Many regimes, not just the Nazis, have employed this approach. So, even if we didn’t know that most German knew what the Nazis were doing based on any other kind of evidence (and there is plenty), we know they knew, because knowledge of consequences and fear of punishment are essential for a regime that controls its population and rules with terror.


Children who would soon be victims of the Nazi obsession with racial purity.
Children who would soon be victims of the Nazi obsession with racial purity. | Source

Could more have been done if people had stepped up, or would they have simply been sacrificing their own lives?


I think much more could have been done and the results would have been two-fold. Some people would surely have tragically lost their lives, but others might have achieved success. One of the great problems when resisting cruel men and evil systems is that there is no guarantee – you never know if you will become the (1) Hero who saves many people or the (2) Hero who suffers a terrible death without managing to save anyone.

I should explain that my definition of a Hero or Heroine – and the classical definition of Hero is based on intent and effort and sacrifice, not on the final outcome of the Hero’s actions being successful. However, in Western society and literature this concept is often twisted so that a hero is the individual who succeeds, defeats the enemy, and lives to tell about it. That Hero rides off into a glorious sunset, which is the stuff of movies and children's stories, not of real life.

Even a quick survey of Holocaust literature bears this out. There were Polish partisans hiding in the dense forests and swamps of Poland who saved and rescued many people from the Nazis; however, there were also Polish partisans who in their first attempt to resist the Nazis and assist others were shot and left for dead.

Some elderly women successfully hid small children in their cellars, attics, and barns helping them to escape the Nazi round ups and they survived to write about it. Other women doing the same thing were caught and executed on the spot. There were boys of twelve, ten, even eight who crawled out of the ghettos and roamed the “Aryan” neighborhoods scrounging for food for their families. Some made many, many trips successfully; others were caught outside the ghetto walls and beaten to death with clubs and rifle butts.

So, I think the answer to your question is, we don’t know. We don’t know what would have happened if more people had resisted. Would it have made a difference if they had been organized and resisted in mass? Probably so, but how do you manage that when Nazi terror had created a fearful, compliant, obedient population? Had created in essence a nation of "bystanders and collaborators?"

Row upon row of barracks disappearing into the horizon where camp inmates were housed at night after days spent in forced labor.
Row upon row of barracks disappearing into the horizon where camp inmates were housed at night after days spent in forced labor. | Source

Do you think people would do things differently today if something this terrible happened again? [What if it Happened in America?]


I have terribly mixed feelings when I think about this and I am not sure what would happen, what Americans would do if faced with a similarly oppressive government. Sometimes I think about how focused on freedom and individuality we seem to be as a people; we demand the right to congregate publicly (freedom of assembly), to speak our minds about any and everything (freedom of speech).

We are not raised to value obedience above everything, to respect authority above all else….and the Europeans of that generation, especially the Germans, especially the Prussians, were raised that way. No one in Europe in those decades defied or even questioned the Patriarch of the house, much less a societal or governmental authority figure. Part of me wants to believe we would resist, sooner rather than later, and that our opposition movements would stand a chance.

But sometimes I think about what kind of people we have become…and I do not say this to offend anyone and my observations about America apply even to me and my family. And my observations are “generalizations” of course, they do not apply to every individual by any means.

Inmates pushing and pulling heavy loads of materials for the SS, who supervised the extensive concentration camp and slave labor camp systems.
Inmates pushing and pulling heavy loads of materials for the SS, who supervised the extensive concentration camp and slave labor camp systems. | Source


Do you think people would do things differently today if something this terrible happened again? [What if it Happened in America? continued]


But I think in many ways and for many reasons (I am certainly not assigning specific blame) Americans, not as individuals, but as a society, have become in the last 60 to 75 years rather soft, somewhat spoiled, very self-interested, inclined to take the easy way out. Far too many of us seem primarily focused on things that are easy, quick, fun, and painless. We feel and act entitled.

Much of American life seems to be about immediate gratification regardless of the long-term destructive and negative consequences. Many of us don’t seem very tough, very willing to endure hardship or deprivation to achieve a greater goal. We have become a very materialistic society and I wonder if faced with incredible difficulties we would have it within us to rise to the challenge. Some people absolutely would, of that I have no doubt, and they would be the Heroes and Heroines I spoke of earlier.

But I wonder if most of us would be any more prepared to resist evil and oppression than they were in the 1930s and 1940s? Would we have the strength of character, the fortitude, the moral fiber, the determination -- to fight for what is right no matter the consequences to ourselves, our families, our friends? I do not know the answer, but I hope so.

More by this Author


Comments 54 comments

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

As usual, I hardly know what to write after reading your work, except thank you. I plan to read this again after some sleep to be sure I didn't miss a word of it.

These photos are heartbreaking, of course, speaking a thousand words about how we need to remember what happened, but it is the fourth one from the top, the one of the terrified children that stopped me cold tonight. In context of your topic the photo seemed to scream TSA.

I have often wondered what we are teaching our children by submitting to TSA tactics in airports and it seems the question of what else can we do hangs like a smelly something in the air after reading your post this morning. I apologize for the completely unequal comparison, but something like this starts somewhere.

It will be interesting to follow the comments that this hub will generate. Indeed, we do need to consider "what kind of people we have become."

Again, thank you. Voted up, shared.


rlbert00 profile image

rlbert00 4 years ago from USA

An insightful look at two topics that I consider quite ferquently. Doris Bergen, a Holocaust scholar, has written that the crimes of the Nazis were carried out on such a broad stage that it is impossible for one man, or a group of men to carry out such a plan, therefore it is obvious that the a majority of the German people knew what was going one. In my humble opinion, for whatever reason people chose not to act, be it fear for themselves or their family, turning a blind eye is akin to collaboration and even though the most popular phrase in Germany at the end of the war was "I am not a Nazi", all of Germany at that time bears some responsibility. Always informative and enjoyable to read, the pictures of the childre did get to me though, I usually try to avoid those. Excellent article, nicely done.


elanger333 profile image

elanger333 4 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Very thoughtful... This examines all sides of the question.


rahul0324 profile image

rahul0324 4 years ago from Gurgaon, India

Heart- breaking pictures! They make me angry every time I see them!

Another great, trimmed article from the expert herself! Your critical eye about the Holocaust raises alarms in my brains and sets me thinking!

If the people knew about the concentration camps what could they have done? They could not revolt, they would be subdued by the well maintained army won't they! One perspective!

Great article!


Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 4 years ago from Isle of Man

You have written well balanced responses to the questions posed and I particularly like your conclusion. It is indeed so much easier to point the finger from a position of safety and comfort. Here is a link to an article I also think you might appreciate when someone was asked to forgive the unforgivable because in the end I believe the lesson of life to be forgiveness. Thank you. http://www.themiracletimes.com/ross/ross.htm


xstatic profile image

xstatic 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

Another great and informative Hub about a difficult subject. Very well written. When I think about the US in relation to this, I always recall Sinclair Lewis' book It Can't Happen Here.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Very interesting read-- especially when you relate that period with our current situation.

"We are not raised to value obedience above everything, to respect authority above all else….and the Europeans of that generation, especially the Germans, especially the Prussians, were raised that way."

We may not have been raised that way, but we are in the process of being trained that way. Witness the TSA at airports-- you'd better submit or you don't fly. It's to protect you from the terrorists. Watch where you point your camera in public places. It's to protect you from the terrorists. Don't protest at a political rally if there are undercover Secret Service agents in the crowd or you could get arrested. It's to protect the candidate. If you get arrested-- for anything, guilty or not-- you can be strip searched. It's to protect your fellow inmates. Don't look guilty; "specially trained" TSA agents at a bus stop might want to inspect your bags. It's to protect you from the terrorists. I'm beginning to understand what happened in Germany in the interwar years and I never imagined it could happen here-- at least up until the 21st century.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you xstatic. I appreciate your comments. This essay just sort of happened. LauraGT gave me such great questions to answer and one thing sort of led to another. I will have to revisit Sinclair's book. Thanks for mentioning it.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

You are welcome RT. Your comparison with TSA is an apt one, we should be concerned about where all these changes are taking us. I know we need security , but how much freedom and control have we given up. I still don't think we have fully grasped how our government and laws changed after the tragedy of 911.

"Indeed, we do need to consider "what kind of people we have become.""

On some deep philosophical and spiritual level - What kind of people we have become" - should always be one of our chief concerns. Not how much stuff do I have? What do I own and what can I acquire?

But who am I really, who have I become? What do I care about? What will I sacrifice for? What am I teaching my children and sharing with my friends?

What would my God have me to do in this world? What is right and true, what is righteous and where do I stand in relationship to it? Am I willing to oppose evil? What am I willing to risk in the effort?

All such very important questions and I fear we spend too little time on them...we often fail to become the people we should be. Heroism, righteousness, and courage should be part of our daily life and experience...not something reserved for national catastrophes.

My father immigrated to America after World War II and he was career military and defended our country, our freedom, our way of life. I am his daughter...and I guess it shows. Thank you for listening to my concerns.


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 4 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

Very insightful Hub, both as to control and as to terrorism. I have pondered (with no assurance that I know the answer) the following question: acknowledging that it was wrong to intern loyal Japanese-Americans (our Nissei neighbors and countrymen), would we not do the same to Chinese-Americans, if we thought we were under threat of attack or invasion by a Chinese government? Your assessment of the changes in the American spirit since World War II, is "spot on" with few notable exceptions which seem too few to mention, though the "Occupy Wall Street" movement suggests "Freedom To Assemble" is getting tested as we write. Any lawless aspect of that movement will compromise their cause, but that people cared enough to stand up and ask "What did you do with our futures?" is an encouraging sign, while a lack of accountability for financial malfeasance by those with fiduciary responsibilities says our system of laws has failed us, and corrective measures are imperative.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

This hub, like many of your others, should generate comments worth following. It's good to keep important issues highlighted with dialogues!

"…not something reserved for national catastrophes." Excellent. Nor should it be reserved only for a public venue, but that which we live out in our private lives.


Patriette profile image

Patriette 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

Can't thank you enough for these superbly written and profoundly thoughtful Hubs, Theresa...


Ed Michaels profile image

Ed Michaels 4 years ago from Texas, USA

We should also be careful in analyzing the Holocaust and people's reactions to it completely in terms of true believers, however deluded. The system was upheld and furthered as much, if not more, but mere opportunists, careerists, and narrow bureaucrats as by the Party faithful, with their twisted ideology and credo. That is where the danger in all states and societies comes in, that we will be more concerned by our jobs, our isolated families, our careers, our prospects,than by that which surrounds us. We will be more concerned with totalling the fats and sugars on our own ration cards than any concept of justice, or principled discussion of what we as a society should do, is doing, or will do. Think of Guantanamo--the main defense for our actions there, and in other holding sites, is the presumption of guilt, an acceptance of the separation of these human beings from all other human beings for special treatment, justified by a definition of them as uniquely dangerous, with their uniquely dangerous nature proven by the fact that we are holding them in certain conditions in a specific camp. We have in this case accepted a definition that includes an automatic allocation of guilt, criminality, and punishment, and that permits treatment exceeding that normally applied to prisoners on the basis of the definition we have assigned them. We have created a situation in which we have faith that we have only enemies in our grasp, and our enemies deserve treatment substantively different from that accorded other human beings, even other human beings in similar circumstances.


CASE1WORKER profile image

CASE1WORKER 4 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

Interesting as ever!

Yes they did know about it as they knew about the people disappearing from mental hospitals and the deaf and blind suddenly declared hereditary ill.

The attitude in Germany is in stark contrast to the Italian attitude where for example French jews found support in the small part of France occupied by the Italians.

In France there were people who actively worked to save Jewish families - however here it was nationality rather than race which came into play- a french jew was a frenchman to a german a german jew was a jew!

What would have happenned if we had lost the Battle of Britain? Would the British have protested or turned away? Who knows?

It is a difficult question that has been addressed and is quite uncomfortable for most of us to think about.

Thanks for this insight, as ever well written.


its homework profile image

its homework 4 years ago from Colorado

Thank you for sharing this. It's very thought-provoking.

Nicely done!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

elager - Thank you for reading and commenting on this hub. I feel very strongly bout this topic, but I did try to examine from more than one perspective.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Rahul – Thank you for your comments. You wrote, “Your critical eye about the Holocaust raises alarms in my brains and sets me thinking!” If my writing can do that, then I have accomplished something and I am content.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hello Spirit Whisperer - Thank you for your comments. One of my goals is to write in a balanced manner; I do not always achieve it, but I try. I read Forgive the Unforgivable. It is a powerful and moving story. Dealing with unforgiveness remains such a difficult thing for so many of us to do. Thank you for sharing the link.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Unnamed Harald - I didn’t want to get too explicit, but I do think it behooves us to look for and learn from the situations then and compare them to today. I too am concerned about the subtle and not-so-subtle efforts made to train Americans in compliance and obedience.

The word terrorist is used to invoke cooperation and acceptance of all sorts of changes in our liberties and protections. In part the situation in America does mirror the situation in Germany in the late twenties and early thirties. Very unsettling. Thanks for your comments and insights.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

its homework - Thank you for taking the time to read this essay and leave a comment. I appreciate the feedback and support.

P.S. I love your name. Quite clever. :)


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

your hub very vivid but supportive to us that may have had lingering questions thank you for sharing such a historical look at this never ending conflict between crime and punishment.. yeah I consider it a crime and punishment.. but who punished who? and who committed the crimes? more questions huh? LOL hey where are your footnotes?


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Perspycacious - The example of the unfortunate internment of the Japanese-American citizens during WW II is a troubling one. On occasion a student in one of my classes will idiotically state that Americans and Nazis were exactly alike, because both governments put people in camps.

I think things might be different for Chinese Americans for several reasons. I still think there would be a knee-jerk human and governmental reaction about “possible” enemies in our midst, but I think it would play out differently.

First, we have a much larger and geographically scattered population now than we did then – I think it would be very difficult to do a wholesale roundup and incarceration.

Second, we now have the technology and the trained personnel (FBI, CIA, and other branches I probably do not know about) to conduct thorough surveillance - monitor bank accounts, movements inside and outside the US, capture and analyze phone records and email, trace purchases of weapons and chemicals, and so on and so forth.

I think (and I could be wrong) that we would selectively isolate and arrest a few “dangerous or suspect” individuals, but I don’t think we would need to respond as we did in WW II in order to feel and be safe.

There are a few exceptions (people who are lawfully protesting and resisting) and I agree, I think the Occupy movements are one of them. And Freedom to Assemble is being tested. I also was encouraged that people were asking the right questions, “Why is the government protecting, saving, turning a blind eye to the people and corporations who have done so much damage?” You are absolutely correct…our laws have failed us and corrective measures should and must be taken. I wonder how all this will play out in terms of the coming election.

Than you so much for your comments and the opportunity for a “civil” and "civic" conversation. :)


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you Patriette - It is so encouraging and meaningful to have supportive and thoughtful readers. I appreciate your comments. Theresa


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Ed - A very good point. Few academic books or articles would make the claim that most Nazis, much less most Germans, were “true believers.” I think there is a strong consensus among historians and they agree with you that, “The system was upheld and furthered as much, if not more, but mere opportunists, careerists, and narrow bureaucrats as by the Party faithful, with their twisted ideology and credo.”

And the danger always is that each of us and each family, church, neighborhood, and town will be so focused on its own welfare, that they ignore the welfare of others or simply never grasp the larger picture with its many terrifying consequences….until it seems too late and too dangerous to act.

Guantanamo is a good example; aside from a few protests and out-cries, we have for the most part accepted Guantanamo and all that it entails. Thank you for your comments.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

CASE1WORKER- Thank you. I love history and I do believe it can be interesting. :) I have been meaning to do an essay about "hereditarily ill" and the treatment of the mentally and physically disabled and how sterilization became euthanasia...oh, for more hours in the day.

You are right about the very different national reactions to what the Nazis were doing. Such an important distinction: "A french jew was a frenchman, to a german a german jew was a jew!"

They are difficult questions and it is difficult history, which I think is one reason I feel strongly about dealing with it. We all too often turn away from that which makes us uncomfortable or distresses.

Every once in a while I cry while in my German and Holocaust history classes. The very first time I was embarrassed, but then I realized it was OK, maybe even good for them to see me overwhelmed by the subject matter.

The tears and the fact that they know my father lived through all that as a boy and then immigrated to America makes it more real for them I believe. So what is a little embarrassment compared to that.

"Thanks for this insight, as ever well written." You are so welcome and thank you for your intelligent and cogent comments. They are appreciated.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hello Frank. No footnotes this time - I think I have pretty much established my research credentials by now. :)

I wasn't writing a paper or essay; didn't have a story to tell or theme to explore. I didn't plan this in any way. I started responding to the young woman's questions one night and suddenly I had several pages. It seemed reasonably coherent and relevant to some situation in America so I threw it up.

Thank you for commenting. And you are right, this is all about Crime and Punishment, isn't it?


Sparklea profile image

Sparklea 4 years ago from Upstate New York

I'll never understand the holocaust, ever, how SO MANY could be SO VERY CRUEL. To me it is the greatest tragedy in history, in our world, only to be followed by the KKK, who I think are horrible and evil. Great hub, and keep making people aware. Voted up, useful and interesting. Blessings, Sparklea


pmorries profile image

pmorries 4 years ago from Golden, CO

I was once in an ethics class, in the nineties, where the majority of the students, said that the holocaust could never happen again, because we are now more morally advanced. After I picked myself up, because I had fallen out of my chair in shock, I brought up what was happening in Bosnia. Could what happened in Germany happen here? Yes, in fact some of the ideas Hitler adopted started here. In addition, I see the hatred some people have for Obama and illegal immigrants, and I can see how another holocaust could happen; however, I think there are some other factors, some of which you mentioned, would have to change dramatically ( but we as citizens have be vigilant).

Continuing on the theme of humankind not learning from the past, a few years later, I took a business ethics class (which I consider almost an oxymoron). And, the instructor told me that business had taken a giant leap ethics wise and that companies no longer treated their employees or conducted business unethically as they did in the eighties. I was amused then, but as time passes, I realize that the eighties was child splay compared to today. I will always maintain that business ethics, usually, can be defined as lie, cheat, and steal for the company, not from the company.

In conclusion, what really concerns me, still discussing the subject about not learning from the past, is the return to the belief in the Divine right of Kings (in an economic sense). In closing, I hope that the last part was not too long or nebulous (and that I did not offend you politically), and I look forward to reading more of your hubs in the future.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you for taking the time to read this essay. Your comment is right on target - there is a school of historians who completely agree with you and they are firmly convinced that the Holocaust is fundamentally incomprehensible.

We can describe aspects of it, we can collect data, but we can never really make sense of it...it is beyond human understanding and logic. I often find myself agreeing with them

Thank you for your votes, your encouraging comments and the blessings. I will keep writing. :) Theresa


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

You left me with some challenging thoughts on the injustice of the events. The photos are a vivid portrayal of what was done and it is hard to take at once time. I hope that we have all learned from this bit of history and that it will help us to continue to strive towards equality for all people.


Chris Neal profile image

Chris Neal 4 years ago from Fishers, IN

Very thoughtful, very interesting. I've read the book "The Nazi Doctors" several times, it's about the T4 units and their use as incubators for the Death Camps. Also Mahmoud Ahmedinajad's open denial of the Holocaust and the very, very unhistorical "Inglorious Basterds" movie have often got me to thinking about people's attitudes and whether it could happen again.

Not to mention Eli Wiesel.

Voted up. Very good. Thank you.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

pmorries - Thank you for your great comments. BTW I would have fallen out of my chair too! I am always astounded and discouraged when people make statements like those students did, and they still do, apparently quite unaware of historical and present day reality. And of course I agree with you, we should always remain vigilant.

What your business professor stated is equally outrageous and not true. Evidence of the immorality and corruption that is widespread in business is everywhere to be seen.

Very interesting, applying the concept of the divine right of kings to the economic upper class (as opposed to the traditional political/cultural upper class). I had never thought of it that way, but that is an excellent comparison and the obvious parallels in behavior and consequences worth consideration.

Your comments were certainly not overly long, nebulous, or offensive in any way. I appreciate thoughtful comments that really address the issues and concerns at hand. I look forward to reading your work and to reading more of your thoughtful comments. Thanks again.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

This is a powerful essay Theresa and for what it covers is probably the best I've ever read and the only thing I'll add to this remarkable article is this: During the Great Terror in Stalinist Russia Alexander Solzhenitsyn said something to the effect that he lamented those who cowered behind their doors when the black vans pulled up out-side their apt. buildings night after night to arrest their neighbors. If only the decent people had fought back, if only they had ambushed some of these secret police in the hallways of their apts. with knives and hammers, if only they had spiked the tires when the secret police were inside dragging out their victims- they could have easily put an end to the mass arrests. But they didn't because of their cowardice and selfishness, so the Terror continued. Americans have more than knives and hammers and when push comes to serious shove have historically not been particularly cowardly or selfish.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hello teaches - Thank you for your excellent comments and observations. Historically, it doesn't seem like most nations or people learn very much, but we have to keep hoping and believing that that is possible. Thanks for stopping by to read.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi Chris - You are correct and it seems like not many people realize the connection between sterilization -- the T4 Program --the Death Camps. The Nazi Doctors does a great job addressing all of this.

The fairly frequent denials and mis-explanations for the Holocaust are rather frightening. Many of the root causes and attitudes are still quite prevalent. And in stressful economic times it behooves us to remain aware and vigilant.

Thank you for coming by to read, for your cogent observations, and the votes.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Alastar - I appreciate your encouragement and thank you for sharing Solzhenitsyn’s comments which are very apropos. Resistance has to start with each individual, each family, and each town. And so often the fierceness and cruelty of the enemy (I am thinking here of the Nazi use of reprisals - as high as 10 or even 50 to 1) paralyzes the people who most need to act. We are always blind and foolish when we think the authorities will only come for “them” and not for “us.”

“Americans have more than knives and hammers and when push comes to serious shove have historically not been particularly cowardly or selfish.”

For our history and national character, I am extremely grateful. The Nazis and Soviets intimidated and controlled unarmed (in the traditional sense) civilians, many with a history of laying low and waiting out the current rampage/pogrom. Americans do have a different history and character, but I am still concerned, about the relatively recent American propensity for comfort and convenience, and apart from 911 we have not been tested on home ground since the Revolution.

Hopefully, if and when we are we will vigorously rise to the challenge. Thank you for such a cogent and well-thought out response. Theresa


Sueswan 4 years ago

Hi Theresa,

Great hub. I wish I had something intelligent and meaningful to add but this subject overwhelms me with sadness and anger.

Voted up and awesome.

I hope you are doing well :)


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi Sue -

It is often an overwhelming subject even for me. I believe it is an important subject, but there are times when it is very hard to look at the materials.

I am doing well, thank you. I have three weeks off in May (still a lot of piddly reports to write and all) before I start teaching again for the summer. But I only teach two days a week in the summer so it still feels like vacation...and there are no committee meetings!!!

I could not handle heat, humidity, AND committee meetings. :)

Theresa


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

As always, when I read about this subject, I am horrified and overwhelmed by its magnitude. But I think you address important questions, ones that we should continue to ask ourselves. I would hope that this could not happen again, and yet, I believe it can. Perhaps, that is why the questions are important.

Best to you Theresa---


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you for your comments, Audrey. It is horrifying and troubling, but I guess I think part of the little we can do, is to keep asking the questions and exploring the causes and events even when the material is so difficult to face. Like you, I desperately hope it never happens again, but part of me is truly afraid that it will. :( Take good care Theresa


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Well written article Theresa. The holocaust and the suffering inflicted has always disturbed me at a very deep level. Both my parents lived in Europe during WWII and told me many stories of the horrors they witnessed. Fortunately, they were not among the ones taken on the trains to the camps. I'm not sure if any of us in North America would act differently to the Germans at the time if push came to shove. Preservation of our family is a primal urge. It is so hard to judge unless you have been put in that situation. Your aricle as usual is brimming with food for thought. Take care!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you Teresa. I am not at all sure we would act differently, either. Living in constant fear is such a terrible thing and most of us are fortunate enough to never have experienced that. Thank you for what must be one of my favorite compliments ever..."brimming with food for thought." :)

Thank you and have a great weekend.


arb profile image

arb 4 years ago from oregon

Hello Theresa! Having lived in Nuremberg for eight years and attended high school there, the holocaust was of particular interest to me. I have read much about it over the years in addition to numerous films and personal visits to Dauchou. The most pressing question we are left with is why and why not again? If we study the prelude to this historical atroscity, we learn that the minds of the people had been prepared, like a gardener preparing the ground for a spring crop. Vigilance is the answer, but, self vigilance is critical. Does the current polical and economic climate entice us to blame the wrong people for our circumstances? Is our humanity for others diminishing in favor of individualism and new, emerging, self absorbed agendas. The answer is yes and therefore, yes it can happen again and it can happen here. Perhaps the greatest study is for us to emerge ourselves in 20 years of german history leading up to the Nazi regime. Anyway, a wonderful and well done essay, posing questions more important than we think. They didn't get there overnight. It is the little by little that's sneaks up on us all. Bravo for hub everyone should have to read!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Good evening, Alan. You wrote, “The most pressing question we are left with is why and why not again?....the minds of the people had been prepared…..” That is the question and the crux of what I attempt to do in the classroom in all my courses, not just the Holocaust course.

When I plan a course, or lecture, or lead classroom discussions, I am cognizant of the need to teach the students to think critically, to analyze, to anticipate consequences, to question power, to recognize demagoguery, to convince them that character determines behavior and actions, both for individuals and for nations.

Vigilance is crucial. And of course the answer to your questions is yes, and it is frightening, and so few people seem truly aware of what is at stake. Lots of people are frightened, but are they concerned about the misuse and abuse of power, their eroding rights, and politicians who play to their constituents baser motivations?

The explanation for the Nazis does not lie with Hitler or the defeat in WW I or in any other single event. As you are suggesting, it is imperative that we study and understand the multiple causes and events which led to the Nazi rise to power and all that followed. You are absolutely correct; they did not get there overnight. It never does happen that way, it happens little by little and too few people speak up until it is too late.

Thank you for saying it is a hub everyone should read. I am working on that. :) Seriously, I think I am going to assign it as reading in my Modern Germany, Holocaust, and Twentieth Century Europe classes.

Sorry for the delay in responding. I felt your comments deserved a thoughtful, rather than a rushed response. I hope your garden is everything you desire it to be. Theresa


arb profile image

arb 4 years ago from oregon

I wonder of the kids today asking, "why do I need to take history" This is why. You have to hope we learn from it, but, we seldom do. Be well my friend.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

What frightens me even more are the parents (not all of them, but most of them), who you would assume would know better, who will not consider paying for any Liberal Arts degree (English, philosophy, history,religion, art history). They insist that their child get a business degree; it is all they value. They do not consider how a Liberal Arts degree prepares you for "life."


ThoughtSandwiches profile image

ThoughtSandwiches 4 years ago from Reno, Nevada

Theresa,

As always...this is amazing! And thanks to LauraGT for raising the questions.

I hardly know where to start. Clearly, as we have discussed in the past, the German people knew. The mere presence of the camps and infrastructure would have alerted them but you are right of course, the Nazis wanted them to know about the repercussions available to the regime for those in need of reeducating or killing.

How WOULD we fare as a nation? Like you, I don't see our current crop of citizens looking past the next reality TV show to even notice any type of danger until the reality show is canceled and it's too late to do anything about it.

Interestingly, your 60 to 75 year time frame would suggest that the Depression era folks would have had the wherewithal to withstand such forces. Indeed (as I'm sure you know), fascism was a going concern in the 30s in this country.

I'm struck that Sinclair Lewis in "It can't happen here," asked this exact same question and he answered it in the negative. Happily he was wrong then and hopefully we are wrong now. But who knows what's in the Patriot Act? How many people are going to stop watching Jersey Shore to read it? Not very many I bet.

Great Job Theresa!

Thomas


John Sarkis profile image

John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

HI Theresa,

"what does it mean that Germans knew" beggs the question of how many Europeans actually knew? We know (some people now, because others may not?...) in Hitler's sick agenda, the so called "Aryans" would supposedly be safe, which is the reason that the French surrendered so easily. The French knew that they would be okay, but the so called "non-Aryan" peoples in France would be exterminated... My question is, how many countries in Europe knew Hitler was killing millions of people, but turned a blind eye because they were afraid? I know you're quite knowledgeable in these matters, which is why I ask.

Great hub! I hope you enjoyed your weekend!

John


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi Thomas -

I am quite grateful to Laura for her questions. When I think bout, I have now done eight Hubs that began with me answering someone's question. Maybe I have finally accidentally stumbled into the sweet spot. :)

I hadn't thought of my time frame indicating the Depression era, but you are right it does. And they were tough hard-scrapple folk. They had to be to survive.

Lewis was wrong and I fervently hope we are now, but many things trouble me about the direction we are heading in as a society and as a nation.

What a terrific and telling juxtaposition ... "How many people are going to stop watching Jersey Shore to read the Patriot Act?" Are these the people who would be able to withstand hardship and preserve our nation? Very discouraging.

Thank you for a marvelous, thought-provoking response. I appreciate it very much. :) I hope your week is going well. :)

Theresa


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Afternoon, John. Europeans, just like German citizens knew a Fair amount about slave labor, work camps, POW camps, and the concentration camps. The Nazis really made no effort to keep these secret. And of course Hitler's propaganda from day one, had been full of hatred of the Jews.

So when the Nazis occupied a country and asked them for assistance in rounding up their Jewish population, and the local authorities assisted, it's pretty clear they knew what was going to happen. A very few countries resisted the Nazis and hid their Jewish population and there are some good books on this.

That does not mean I think that most people, in most countries knew about the death camps, the euthanasia program, or Hitler's intention of ridding the world of every Jew. Those things were, as many authors have said, simply unimaginable.

When the French and others helped round up the Jews and deliver them to the Nazis, I do think most of them believed they were being sent to work camps or relocation camp's, or maybe to be settled in ghettos. But those things were not that uncommon, those things have been done before. And they were unpleasant and unfair, but I don't think most Europeans anymore than most Jews were expecting genocide. They interpreted a lot of Hitler's statements as emotional and over-the-top rhetoric, the kind commonly used by politicians.

Good question and I'm glad you liked the hub.I did have a good weekend thank you. I hope your week is going well. Theresa


John Sarkis profile image

John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

Theresa, you're so brilliant! Your knowledge in history never ceases to amaze me. Thank you so much for such a thorough answer. - Yes, I think England was one of the few countries that made it clear to Hitler to stay out. Yet, Hitler thought that England would welcome him with open arms, and they didn't! I admire the Brits for doing that, even if it came at a great loss of lives.

Thanks again and take care

John


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hello John - It has been very hot and humid in Georgia for the last two weeks and then suddenly Friday afternoon the wind started blowing, the temperature dropped (I was having my children and grandchildren over for a cook out that evening and so wishing that it wouldn't be steamy hot) and kept dropping. It was marvelous. After dinner we ended up sitting around the fire pit. It was 55, windy,the sky was full of stars, and a couple of the women put on sweaters. Amazingly, this incredible interlude of cool, bracing weather has persisted. I am beside myself because its like having autumn in June. :)

You realize there is the possibility of developing an insufferable ego if you use the word brilliant too often (but please don't stop), but I start teaching again on Tuesday, and I know from much experience that one of the things that students do well is puncture and deflate egos. :)

Hitler did admire the English more than anyone else in Europe and made much if the way way back Anglo Saxon connection. They weren't purebred Aryans, but they were quite close. And you are right he was puzzled and of course later furious when they did not feel the same way and made it clear they intended to obstruct his aims. I admire the British too, their losses were quite terrible.

I hope you are having a restful and pleasant weekend, especially as I know you work week is demanding and tiring. Take good care. Theresa


Michele Travis profile image

Michele Travis 4 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

This is an amazing a scary hub. In fact my family fled France ( on my mother's side of my family) because of Hitler) You are an excellent researcher and an excellent writer. Voted up.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you Michele. It can be pretty frightening stuff. I am glad your mother's family was able to get out. I appreciate your wonderful and encouraging comments.

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