What Most Germans Knew about Concentration Camps - IV

World War II Photographs

Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source

German Cilivian Responses

Across Germany at concentration camps large and small, American soldiers proceeded to round up German civilians, men and women, and compel them to march through the concentration camps, past mass pit graves, and through cemeteries where bodies still lay uncovered in recently and hastily dug graves.[1]

Martin Blumenson, author of The Patton Papers: 1940-1945, was present at Buchenwald, took photographs and sent them home in a letter. He wrote, “I was so deeply moved by this thing [inmate atrocities and deaths in a concentration camp] that I had the leading citizens of Weimar, to the extent of some 1500 [people], marched through the camp and made to look at the spectacle.”[2]

Delbert Kuehl of the 82nd Airborne Division wrote, “[After seeing the concentration camp], we were very angry – our general …made all the people of the city march past all the dead.”[3] Gerald McMahon knew a “Captain who required the entire city of Muhldorf, exempting only the very young, the very old and the infirm, to tour the site of a mass grave …where over 200 inmates from Dachau were shot or garroted by SS guards just days before our forces reached the area.”[4]

American troops at Gunskirchen Lager “went into the nearest town Lambach, knocked on doors, [and] made every citizen that could walk go to the camp to see.”[5] Captain Soldinger, with units of the 8th Infantry Division at Woebbelin wrote, “the entire population were made to walk around the graves to show them what happened a few miles from their homes. This was the best lesson that could have been taught.”[6]

News of the forced tours of camps and gravesites also surfaces in military intelligence reports. An April 1945 intelligence memorandum contained the following. “German civilians were directed to view actual conditions in prison camps at Bergen- Belsen, Nordhausen, and others of notorious reputation.”[7]

GIs noticed the good physical condition of most German civilians in contrast to the starved and emaciated condition of the camp survivors.[8] According to Alvin Weinstein the German people looked very healthy “proving they’d been eating well….” He was surprised to see plenty of cows and chickens and no immediate food shortage.

[9] After seeing Nordhausen Sergeant Malachowsky reported, “Here was all this food stocked in warehouses and yet three miles away there were [survivors] eating horses’ heads, because that was all they had.”[10] A Civil Affairs report generated by 1st Army personnel noted that German civilians were not starving.[11]

In a reconnaissance report from April 1945 Brigadier General Wood commented on the condition of the German countryside outside of industrial cities which were heavily bombed. “The fundamental body of Germany, its smaller cities, its towns and villages, its farmlands, its forests, its orchards, its vineyards, is not merely substantially undamaged, but it is fat and prosperous. The people are fat, well-dressed, and smug with good living. Even the dogs are fat….Their barns, storehouses, and cellars are full of foods and wines….”[12]

The situation in some regions of Austria was the same, as an intelligence report about Mauthausen indicated. “Milk, meat, and vegetables were plentiful in this area, yet thousands of inmates died in this camp of starvation…apparently no efforts were ever made by the local populace to supply this camp with vitally needed food.”[13]

At times GIs were enraged by the sight of well-fed Germans, warehouses of food, and emaciated camp internees. They began to commandeer German houses so that survivors would have shelter rather than lay down in the fields and streets.[14] German civilians were ordered to provide food, clothing, and shelter for survivors.[15]

PFC Wright was at Landsberg and wrote, “near a German house, I saw two inmates practically crawling [toward] it. I picked them up one by one and brought them into this house, right into the kitchen. I told the owner…to get a large mattress, and build a fire in the kitchen stove….I only had C rations….The warmth from the stove kept them nice and comfortable and I had the owner cover them with blankets.”[16]

When PFC Pisik ordered a German family out of their home, they asked where they should go. Pisik told them that after seeing Dachau, he didn’t give a damn. He said that if it were up to him, he would put them all out, even little old grandmothers, into the rain.[17]

Soldiers from the 71st Infantry Division would drop by German homes where liberated inmates have been quartered, with their M-1 rifles clearly visible, to make sure the survivors were being treated well.[18]

Some Germans appealed to American troops for protection. They wanted the GIs to protect their property and they resented having to provide food, clothing, or shelter for the survivors.[19] Other Germans were afraid that survivors might physically abuse them.

David Icheslon stated that he and his men felt absolutely no obligation or responsibility to protect German civilians.[20] Master Sergeant Keithan wrote, “There were German civilians outside of [Dachau]. Their reaction was one of great concern for their physical well-being, for I can remember going through a number of homes beside the camp and meeting civilians who urged me to stand guard over them as they [feared] retribution from camp inmates. I was not ordered to protect them from violence, nor did I stand guard as requested.”[21]

Corporal Motzko encountered a hysterical German woman just outside a small camp, who begged him not to release the inmates as they would kill German civilians. Motzko told her he did not care if the inmates retaliated. Then he suggested that the local people give the freed inmates whatever they needed as they had suffered terribly in the camps.[22]

Second Lieutenant Gibson who was at Ohrdruf summed up the attitude of many GIs. “We were front line combat troops and protecting Kraut civilians was not part of our mission. Also, we did not care what happened to the civilians in the event some of the inmates became unruly and bestowed their righteous wrath upon the [Germans].”[23]

Most American soldiers who saw the concentration camps disbelieved German civilians who claimed ignorance of them. And the obvious disparities between the comfortable condition of many Germans and the desperate condition of camp internees, served only to increase the GIs dislike and distrust of the German people.

_____________________________________

[1] Marc F. Griesbach, editor, “Combat History of the 8th Infantry Division in World War II, 1945, 8; Matthew B. Ridgeway, Soldier: The Memoirs of Matthew B. Ridgeway, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1956), 147-148; Walter Gray, interview, HMFI, (354th Regiment, Headquarters Company, 89th Infantry Division); Marshall Mantler, 10, Charles Reiner, 4, interview transcripts, Emory (3rd Army/aid to Patton; 9th Infantry Division); Theodore Pohrte, Ralph MacKenzie, interviews, DMC, (261st Regiment, 65th Infantry Division; European Civil Affairs-Military Government); Horace Berry, 1, Ast Project, (71st Infantry Division); Allen, Lucky Forward, 369-370.

[2] Martin B. Blumenson, The Patton Papers: 1940-1945, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1957), 692.

[3] Delbert Kuehl, World War II Survey, MHI, (82nd Armored Division).

[4] Gerald McMahon, Gunskirchen Lager, 3.

[5] Horace Berry, 1, Ast Project, (71st Infantry Division).

[6]Reuben J. Soldinger, World War II Survey, MHI, (8th Infantry Division).

[7] G-2 Basic Intelligence Directive, “German Concentration and Prison Camps,” April 1945, Record Group 165, NARA.

[8] Ernest James, interview, USHMM; Donald Nost, interview transcript, 8, JCRC, (23rd Armored Infantry Battalion); James Gavin, On to Berlin: Battles of an Airborne Commander, 1943-1945, (New York: Vanguard Press, 1978), 289; Alvin A. Weinstein, report, “Death Trains of Dachau,” (1994), (hereafter cited as “Death Trains”), 208, 216; Joseph Pulitzer, “A Report tot eh American People,” (1946), 42.

[9] Alvin A. Weinstein, “Death Trains,” 208, 216.

[10] Malachowsky, Days, (229th Medical Battalion, 104th Infantry Division), 31.

[11] G-5 Problems in 1st US Army, 9 Mat 1945, Record Group 407, NARA.

[12] Brigadier General Eric F. Wood, Prisoner of War and Displaced Persons Division, Reconnaissance Report, April 1945, Record Group 332, NARA.

[13] G-2 Basic Intelligence Directive Report, Mauthausen Concentration Camp, Record Group 319, NARA.

[14] Leon Freedman, interview, ILC, (304th Regiment, 17th Infantry Division); George Pisik, interview, USHMM, (16th Armored Battalion, 13th Armored Division); Donald Nost, interview, JCRC; H. D. Stoneking, interview, DMC; W. B. Lovelady, interview transcript, 5, Emory, (Combat Command B, 3rd Armored Division); Joseph Wright, cited in Liberators, 32.

[15] Peretz Milbauer, interview, USHMM; H. D. Stoneking, interview, DMC; Edmund Motzko, interview, JCRC, (Anti-Aircraft Weapons Battalion, 102nd Infantry Division); Leon Freedman, interview, ILC.

[16] Joseph Wright, cited in Liberators, 32.

[17] George Pisik, interview, USHMM, ( 16th Armored Battalion, 13th Armored Division).

[18] The 71st Came to Gunskirchen Lager, (US Army, 71st Infantry Division, 1945), 21.

[19] Arnold Miller, interview, Gratz; Ernest James, interview, USHMM; Edmund Motzko, interview transcript, 3, JCRC; Gerald McMahon, Gunskirchen Lager, 3.

[20] David Ichelson, I Was There, 162.

[21] John William Keithan, interview transcript, 2, Emory, (232nd Regiment, 42nd Infantry Division).

[22] Edmund Motzko, interview transcript, 3, JCRC.

[23] Floyd Samuel Gibson interview transcript, 2, Ast Project, (353rd Regiment, 89th Infantry Division).

More by this Author


Comments - German Civilians and Nazi Concentration Camps 51 comments

Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 4 years ago from Isle of Man

Thank you for this very interesting and informative hub. This is the first time I had read how the ordinary GI felt toward the German civilians after seeing the camps. I was also surprised at how the Germans could believe that those starving and emaciated survivors had the strength or energy to retaliate.

You can eat a meal in a 5-star hotel overlooking a slum where people live in appalling conditions with some even starving so things haven't changed that much with regard to our ability to be selective about what we wish to be aware of. I don't see the Germans as any different to anyone else in the world in that respect. What the Germans did was wrong but they do not have a monopoly on cruelty in the world.

Thank you for another wonderful and thought provoking hub. I am really glad I chose to follow you.


dadibobs profile image

dadibobs 4 years ago from Manchester, England

Truly amazing piece, well above the interesting/awesome tags we can give. Awesome, up and followed too.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Spirit- Thank you for the encouraging comments. The biggest surprise to me in researching this topic was to discover how positively the American GI's (and those back home too, of course) felt toward Germans "before" they saw the camps.

At the time, I naively thought they would really despise and hate them because we were at war; they were the "enemy." But it wasn't like that at all for most of them.

And the German certainly didn't have a monopoly on cruelty; it seems it can develop anywhere. I think most of the world mistakenly believed that such an intense level of cruelty and atrocity could not occur in a modern civilized nation. But obviously, it can.

And you are very welcome. I am glad that it was thought provoking.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

dadibobs- What a lovely and encouraging thing to say. I appreciate your comments and thanks for the follow. Hope you have a great New Year.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

dadibobs- Thank you for the Fan Mail. You are kind and thoughtful.


dadibobs profile image

dadibobs 4 years ago from Manchester, England

I've only stated the obvious lol, Hubpages do not allow the kind of response your piece deserves, Hope you have a great new year too.


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 4 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

Most interesting article, phdast7, Do you really think all those civilians were aware of the extent of suffering of the camp inmates? The fact that the German civilians lived relatively well may havenot been a reason in itself to blame them, Here in the states if we lived near a large prison on the scale of the concentration camp, it might be something we would avoid and not ask too many questions or one just might find ones self on the inside looking out. I would say that they were uncurious and perhaps did not know. What do you think? Cred2


dadibobs profile image

dadibobs 4 years ago from Manchester, England

Personally Credence2 i can't see how they didn't know. I live within a mile of little used train track, and not long ago the whole town was buzzing about a particular oil carrying cargo train scheduled to travel through, we all knew of it before it passed through. The traqins to the camps were non stop, enormous in length and only travelled one way, oh and they were full fo people. I cannot see how they didn't know.


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 4 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

hello, dadibobs, just speculation, seems like what was actually going on in the camps may have been kept under wraps. If they did know then they all were accessories to the crimes. I wonder if any surviving civilians that lived in the area during the time ever confessed that the community did in fact know what was going on behind the walls of these camps, now that the fear of reprisals are long past.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Credence & daddibobs- I think I will respond to both of you since your comments are intertwined. First, thanks for taking the time to read and comment and I appreciate and welcome your comments and questions. Second , some of your queries were answered in previous Hubs or will be answered in forthcoming Hubs (and this is not a ploy to get you to read my other Hubs). Third, my use of 1st, 2nd, etc., is not meant to be overly academic; it just helps me organize my thoughts and write more clearly.

Fourth, there are major differences between "concentration camps" (CC) and "death camps" (DC), and my work is on the CC. The Soviet Army liberated the DC in the Winter of 44/45, so the west had little knowledge of conditions in the DC.

They were located outside of Germany in occupied territory (no press allowed, largely rural areas, defeated and captive populations in Poland and Czechoslovakia) and out of sight of 95% of the German population.

daddibobs is correct that there was a massive train network in Germany/Eastern Europe and a lot of what was known about both types of camps was a result of thousands of trains running through innumerable towns and cities. But little was known about DC – they were top secret , far from German cities, and were surrounded by high fences and walls.

Fifth, these essays are based on four years of graduate research that resulted in a dissertation (345 pages and over 800 footnotes - it just about killed me) and finally, a degree. Not to say that I can’t be wrong, and new research does impact previous research, but my work on WW II is based on 100’s of books, 100’s of journal articles, 100’s and 100’s of declassified government documents (National Archives), and over 300 written GI eyewitness testimonies. Because these are short essays, small slices of the whole pie, I didn’t properly convey the amount of research behind the conclusions.

Sixth, finally, to your actual questions Credence. There have been quite a few movies about the DC and most of us don’t make many distinctions between CC and DC, but there were major differences. Hitler began building the first CC – Dachau in 1934, within a year of becoming chancellor of Germany.

Eventually there would be a network of camps across Germany small - 20 prisoners under armed guard in barbed wire cages, to large - formal camps that could hold 20,000 inmates. [There was also a separate prison system, like any nation has, for people convicted of crimes by the judicial system.]

Many historians and scholars now estimate the number of CC in Germany at between 700 and 1000. The sheer number of CC alone, mean it would be very difficult not to know what was going on. --- If you are still reading (I know this is long, sorry) I will continue this in the next comment. Thank you.


dadibobs profile image

dadibobs 4 years ago from Manchester, England

I have to admit, i didn't understand the difference between the two types of camps. My father in law's father, sorry for that lol, was Polish, from Lodz, he escaped Poland in 1940, came to England, and carried on fighting the war, he always knew of these camps. Maybe i am wrong to say just because he knew, everyone else knew too.

Great hub regardless :)


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Credence and daddibobs- Part II

Seventh, Hitler and the Nazis had a specific purpose in building the CC system (10 yrs). CC were for political prisoners, enemies, of the National Socialist regime, anyone who objected to or questioned or spoke out against Hitler or any Nazi policy or who belonged to the wrong political party, or who tried to tell the truth (newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, university professors, civil servants).

There were very few Jews, no gypsies, no Poles or Soviet POW’s in the CC. That would come later under cover of war and those groups ended up in the DC. CC served at least three major purposes: they were places to incarcerate political opponents of the state, they contributed to the economy - especially as more and more Germans were necessary to the ongoing war effort, and they served as a “control mechanism.”

Eighth, what does “control mechanism mean.” Every fascist, reactionary, dictatorial regime rules through power (guns, soldiers, etc) and through “fear.” Populations, as we all know, can be influenced and controlled against their will through fear.

This is the essential ingredient of terrorism. You may not have the police or guards necessary to supervise or control 500 people, but randomly arrest, imprison, execute, or blow up five of them and the remaining 495 become much easier to control. This is the same logic as making an example of one or two people to send a strong message to a larger group.

Off-topic Example: Some years ago, a terrorist group kidnapped several Soviet diplomats and demanded a huge ransom. The Soviets “out-terrorized” them. They located a member of the terrorist group, cut off his hands, and sent them back in a brief case…without the ransom. They do not negotiate and for decades no one ever messed with them.

Frankly, in this area, Hitler and the Nazis were brilliant. With a relatively small force, Gestapo and militia, they intimidated and controlled a very large population. People randomly and abruptly arrested for minor political missteps or offenses (which the Nazis called crimes) had no rights, did not go through the court system, were poorly treated in the camps (seldom murdered), and were often released after 6 or 9 moths.

Now why were they released at all? Doesn’t that indicate a weak regime? Not if you want to get the word out to the population, not if you want to control them through fear, not if you need most of your able-bodies men working in heavy weapons industries or the army.

There is much evidence – German civilian testimony gathered after the war - that a minority, 10-15% of those arrested and sent to CC (1933-1940) were poorly, but not terribly mistreated; after a few months, they would be threatened, forced to sign a “secrecy” document, and sent home.

Of course they talked! They didn’t shout about the CC on the street corners, but they whispered to their friends and families; they warned them to be careful, keep silent, obey orders, make no waves, make every effort to avoid being sent to a camp. It was a brilliant and effective strategy.

Now most camp inmates never left the camps because they were a great source of free labor. Remember the economy would have suffered without this labor force due to the enormous numbers of German men entering the army (and to a lesser extent, the loss of labor due to emigration).

And it was dangerous for German citizens to ask questions about the concentration camps or object to Nazi policies. Those who did, ended up on the inside or disappeared completely. I think in fear and desperation and to protect their families most Germans kept silent and “did not see” what was happening all around them.

Sorry for the length. Thank you for the questions. Now that I have written all this I may turn it into a Hub. I will aim for shorter answers to any future questions and of course I am interested in your comments and observations. Theresa


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

daddibobs- It makes perfect sense that he would have known more than the average German. He was from Poland and the Nazis had started work on the death camps and they often forced local people to help construct them.

He probably stayed in touch with some people in the the Polish socialist underground even after he left; they would have been a great source of information.

It was a complex and confusing time. It took me a long time to get the basics straight in my mind, and of course there are still huge ares and tons of specif detail that I don't know.

About ten years ago, I did a Holocaust/Nazi regime new publication search. On average 75 to 150 new books published every year for the past thirty years. Who can possibly keep up with all the literature?


dadibobs profile image

dadibobs 4 years ago from Manchester, England

I think you should make a hub about this, possibly even a blog. The amount of research you have done us amazing.

Great hub!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you so much. :) I think I will convert this into a Hub. After all, I have most of it already written. :) Anyway, I need to slow down a little, not quit HubPages of course, but ration my time. I have had a lot of free time to write this December, but spring semester is about to start and I will be teaching classes, writing lectures, grading papers, and the very worst, attending lots of administrative meetings. Gotta pay the bills. :) I hope you have a Happy New Year!


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Great, interesting and informative. It made me so sad at how horrible and devastating it all was. It just may all boil down to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. I would like to have shouted from the rooftops had I been there at the time HAVE YOU NO HEART!!! Anyway time has moved on so for now have a very Happy New Year!


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 4 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

Phdast, it goes without saying that I am going to defer to your obvious scholarship regarding the topic. But, I was just wondering...

As you said here: I think in fear and desperation and to protect their families most Germans kept silent and “did not see” what was happening all around them.

I was thinking that much of that attitude prevented information about the concentration camp conditions to be generally known.

You said that the Death camps were generally located in the countryside, away from populated areas, maybe to make certain that nefarious activities going on there were kept from general public knowledge. The way you describe it, it did not seem that the concentration camps were anywhere near as harsh as the death camps, whose ultimate creation was for one primarly purpose, to exterminate the inmates. Thanks for taking your limited time to speak with us all. Regards, Cred2


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thanks Gypsy. It was a sad and tragic time in history. Unfortunately such regimes and dictatorships are all too common. Happy New Year.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Cred2- I am glad you were wondering. Realizing what questions people have helps me to see what needs further explanation or explication. It makes me think through what I know and how it all fits together and sharpens and deepens my own understanding.

Questions, observations, wondering...its always good. And it does seem to me that fear for themselves and for their families resulted in most of the "blindness and silence."

You are correct on both accounts: Concentration camps, although worse than our prisons, were better, safer place to be (until the last two months of the war, but that is another chapter in WW II history altogether), and most of them were located in or near fairly well populated areas of Germany.

And the Nazi intention was to keep the death camps with their primary and atrocious goal of extermination as hidden and secret as possible, so most were in rural areas. Auschwitz (Polish Oswiciem) was the great exception because it combined in one location, two death camps, a massive concentration camp and several major German industrial factories. Auschwitz deserves a Hub of its own -- maybe one day.

You are very welcome. Hope you a great New Year. :)


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 4 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

phdast7, Thanks for replying. I appreciate the clarification and I anxiously await your article on the Auschwitz camp! Cred2


Sueswan 4 years ago

Hi Theresa,

A fascinating read. I learned more from your hub than I ever did in high school history class.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

I hated seeing the concentration films in school. They left me angry and feeling helpless.

Even though history teaches us of the atrocities of war, we haven't learned a thing. If we did, there would be no wars.

Voted up and awesome.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you Sue. Strangely I never saw any films in high school and my family was not/is not Jewish. But my father's Roman Catholic family was mistreated (mildly compared to what happened to so many) first by the invading Nazis and then by the invading Soviet army.

My father's family immigrated to America as soooon as they could, 1951. The result: my father had a keen sense of and love for history and he joined the Air Force, so I traveled a good bit. My mother was an English teacher and a military wife. So history, English, geography were kind of in my blood and in my psyche.

I didn't "choose" history until I was a Junior in college and it was the book Exodus by Leon Uris that led me to a lifelong passion to study tyranny, fascism, propaganda, and the Holocaust. And sadly, what I have learned is exactly what you said. Learning about the atrocities does not change the course of history, because it is determined by the morals and choices of men's hearts...and that hasn't changed yet.

I appreciate the comments and the Up and Awesome. :)


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

Voted up.

Bringing balance to thinking about the circumstances that people lived through during such times is very important. Thank you for your efforts. I look forward to reading more of your work.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you. I appreciate your visit and your comments. Have a Happy New Year!


Ed Michaels profile image

Ed Michaels 4 years ago from Texas, USA

I believe one of the problems people have recognizing how widespread knowledge of the CC camp system and forced (slave) labor in Nazi Germany is that they do not realize, and have no means of imagining, the numbers involved and their widespread dispersion through society, both in the number of camps and for foreign workers city and rural sites throughout the nation. For various reasons, fear among them, but also a basic disinterest in the conditions under which "criminals" and "enemies" were policed and controlled, the conditions of this population were known, but ignored. The fear with which people anticipated their liberation indicates to some extent the dispersion of that guilty knowledge. However, we should not be too harsh on the Germans, when we have similar problems regarding acceptance of intolerable conditions, a disinterest in our 'enemy's' rights and security, and a fear at their release, even if innocent, regarding the inmates of Guantanamo Bay. This is not to say that conditions in Guantanamo compare to those of the German CCs. I have seen no evidence that they do. But if they did, our level of concern now does not indicate that the difference would result in meaningful action.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Most people cannot conceive how large and integral to the economics of Germany the camp system was. That is something I have have often emphasized in my research.

I agree with you that a passivity born of fear, habitual obedience of authority, indifference, and racism contributed to the typical German civilian reaction.

But you are also right, as I often point out to my classes, different and lesser (in number or extent, perhaps) versions of the Holocaust have played out in many times and locations. No people's hands are entirely clean. Guantanamo may not be the Holocaust, but the similarity is grave enough to give Americans of good will pause.


pol1ce profile image

pol1ce 4 years ago from the Right Place

Good work teacher


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you. It took a lot of research, but it was worth it.


ThoughtSandwiches profile image

ThoughtSandwiches 4 years ago from Reno, Nevada

Theresa...

I have certainly always thought that the majority of German civilians knew of the camps and their purposes. I mean...everyone was afraid of going to the camps...They knew they weren't nice. Pure camp density would suggest they would.

That said...the argument of the "death Camps" being in Poland shielding the populous from these horrendous conditions seems to be balderdash. Although officially begun at Wannsee...the obvious indication of their need was spelled out in Mein Kampf.

They didn't wan't to know and so they didn't.

I love how you buttress your point with the perfect quote...like EVERY TIME...boom...

Awesome Job!

Thomas

PS...Would you be considering a treatment of the Katyn Forest massacre? Indeed the plight of the other 10,000 Polish officers that perished...but not in Katyn...has always been fascinating to me after reading a book entitled Night Never Ending about (purportedly) the sole survivor.

I ramble...more importantly...I really love reading your hubs!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thomas-

Second paragraph - perhaps I am misunderstanding your comment... I don't think the DC were in Poland's rural areas to protect the Polish or the German populace; they were located there to protect the Nazis, who had enough sense to know that even scared people would not find out and out murder acceptable.

The reference to annihilating the Jews in Mein Kampf (and in many of Hitler's early speeches)is a bit tricky. There are two primary schools of thought (historians and scholars) about the Holocaust.

One school, the "Intentionalists" believe that Hitler always "intended" to annihilate the Jews, that he made his intentions clear (Mein Kampf) and had a specific plan in mind from which he never wavered. They also believe he was a very strong leader who kept tight control of his gov't.

The second school, "Structuralists or Functionalists" believe Hitler was a disorganized, fairly weak leader, who took advantage of situations as they occurred. They see Mein Kampf like the wild political speeches and promises made by a lot of leaders...only Hitler came to power and the Deaths-head SS implemented his desires.

I have considered Hitler and the Nazi organization from a lot of angles and I find my self (as do many historians) somewhere in the middle.

Did Hitler have a "plan" in the 1920s or even mid 1930"s? I don't think so. Were there structural and functional issues - military, economic, bureaucratic that contributed to the Holocaust? Yes. Would the Holocaust have occurred without Hitler? Probably not. Was the SS essential to what took place? Probably so. It is complicated and there are lots of angles to consider. But I am in complete agreement with you, civilian populations didn't want to know.

Glad you like the quotes; I liked the "awesome job!" :)

That was the focus of my research - I was determined to get the letters, and testimony, and interviews from the actual soldiers who were there - not just summarize a bunch of secondary sources. Many of the veterans were very articulate and they gave me a lot of material to work with.

A paper on the Katyn Forrest Massacre would be fascinating. I will put that on my to research and write "list" and maybe I can get to it this summer (I only teach half-time in the summer). With the semester about to begin again, I am afraid most of my Hubs will have to be on topics I have already done work on.

I enjoy your rambling. Thank you for reading my work. Theresa


ThoughtSandwiches profile image

ThoughtSandwiches 4 years ago from Reno, Nevada

Theresa...

You are correct to question my verbiage...what you said would be my best response! You are correct in your assessment that they were placed in Poland to protect the Nazi leadership.

I recall the Intentionalist vs Structuralists argument and would have to think that historians tend to fall into the middle because of how mercurial Hitler was...he had his twisted visions that drove him through the night but he was, most certainly, an opportunist, as well. Oh...and a nut.

Your research and it's application in this series is amazing. Those "articulate" veteran's voices are heard...because of your work!

Take your time on the Katyn piece. (stares at her waiting...) NO, no...dems just jokes....

Thanks,

Thomas


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thomas-

Thank heavens I can now take my time with the Katyn piece. :)

Mercurial, twisted, [wicked], opportunist, nut. That about sums Hitler up.

Theresa


Sembj profile image

Sembj 4 years ago

Thanks for the well researched and informative article. I feel that there are a lot of lessons that can be drawn from history and WWII in particular at this time. My father after being a POW for five years, many of them in Germany, felt the grave mistake made by the allies was thinking that Nazism's or something similar could only take place in Germany. His mantra after the war was: "It could happen anywhere." And I think that recent history in the USA in particular mirror what went on in prewar Germany. The constant erosion of citizen's rights and the ascendancy of the close relationship between large corporations and government are perhaps the two most worrying aspects of recent history. I am interested in hearing what you feel are the important lessons we can draw.

Thanks again for your important series.

Peace,

Sem


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Sembj- Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I am sorry your father was held as a POW for five years, but I think his analysis of the post-war situation is correct. America did make a big mistake in thinking that fascism could only develop and grow on German soil.

Recent developments in the United States are very disturbing. Have you read Naomi Wolff's book about this. I am sure there are better, more scholarly books that discuss these issues, but I think one of the strong points about her book is that it is "very readable and accessible."

I am back in the middle of a very busy teaching semester right now, but the parallels I see, the concerns I have, and the lessons we should have learned are laid out preyty clearly in Wolff's book. I wish I had time to write a treatise on this topic, but fortunately she has done it for me.

You are welcome and I hope to post two or three more pieces on the liberation of the camps in the next couple of months.

Peace to you as well. Theresa


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 4 years ago

I am so proud of my Fathers generation , He was a member of the 334 th and 84th Infantry division , "The Railsplitters" [after Abe lincoln] In the battle of the bulge the German SS gave the nickname "The Hatchetmen" to these patriots. For holding the line during the battle itself. He also spoke of holding thousands of german pows at gun point on guard because they had no place to send them, Little did anyone know that each guard had only a few rounds of ammo each because of shortages.......all trying times! Aweome hub!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

They endured amazingly trying times. I have never actually focused on the Battle of the Bulge, but of course so many people have written about it. I didn't know they were called the Railsplitters or that the SS christened them the Hatchetmen.

Did your father ever write anything down about his experiences, or maybe make a tape recording? I found that a lot of them came home and said very little to their families and friends about their experiences (I got the impression that they only felt truly comfortable when talking to fellow veterans), but then later in life, as they approached their sixties, they become more willing and perhaps, more able because of the passage of time, to talk about their experiences.

Quite a number of veterans reported never talking to their wives or children, but then in their seventies they were able to share both their WW II letters and artifacts...and talk about heir experiences with a teen-aged grandson.

Very interesting stuff. So glad you like this series of Hubs.


Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

This is an excellent HUB.. very educational I wish everyone could read it.. there actually people saying that it didn't really happen.. makes me so mad..thank you for writing it..

I voted way up

Debbie


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you Deborah. I wish everyone would read it and finally believe and understand what really happened. Like you, I am disturbed and horrified when I read or hear that there are people still saying this didn't really happen. And you are very welcome. Thank you for the votes. Theresa


moiragallaga profile image

moiragallaga 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

This has been a very informative and excellent series phdast7. Awesome work, and the ensuing discussion in the comments have also been very enlightening and insightful.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Dear Moira - I so appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on all four parts of this series. I plan to return the favor. Thank you.


jojo 4 years ago

this was awesome, not many articles that i've looked for focus on such a topic. Thanks


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi jojo - Thank you for taking time to read this Hub. I appreciate your visit and comment. :)


eaglecreek profile image

eaglecreek 4 years ago from Vilonia , Arkansas

great hub, very well researched and written. this was a subject of interest to me when i lived in Germany in the late 80s and early 90s. I discussed it with a few "old timers" and a few students my age. from what i gathered the mainstream German public knew little or nothing of the CCs and SS activity. I have always did my best to educate those willing to listen, just because you German does not mean you are a nazi.


eaglecreek profile image

eaglecreek 4 years ago from Vilonia , Arkansas

sorry you didn't like my commit


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

eaglecreek - I did not dislike your comment. My apologies, and I am sorry for not responding. I don't know what happened, if I accidentally hit the wrong tab or something. Again, my apologies, if your comment had been showing up in my notifications I would Have responded to it.

Sometimes I disagree with a person's comment (just like you disagree with me about what the average German knew), but that doesn't mean I don't like their comment or that I reject them. We each understand things the best way we can based on our life experiences. Your experience and mine is different and so our understanding of what happened in the nazi era is different.

I do not believe (and I never said) that all Germans were Nazis. What I tried to say was that based on the 900 plus concentration camps spread all across Germany, it would have been almost impossible not to know something. Does that make them Nazis? No. Does that mean they knew about he Death Camps? No.

I appreciate your comment that my hubs are well researched and well written. I try to do thorough work. By the way my last name is AST (the German word for branch). I am Polish and German.


Georgie Lowery profile image

Georgie Lowery 4 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

Hi there,

I just read this series through and, even with all of the information I've consumed about the Holocaust, I've never even asked myself what the German population might have known. These Hubs were in depth and very interesting. I appreciate that you took the time to include your sources. Thank you for writing these. This story needed to be told.


Kebennett1 profile image

Kebennett1 4 years ago from San Bernardino County, California

Last to fall: Hear no evil! But they all came tumbling down. This has been some amazing information. I would have to believe from all the evidence provided that the average German knew what was happening and did nothing, BUT I can also take into consideration that it was probably out of fear that they and their families would end up in concentration or death camps as well. Fear can make people do or not do many things!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi Georgie - I appreciate all your thoughtful and generous comments. I do try to write well and I was trained to believe that sources are pretty important. :) I though the story needed to b told too. Thank you. :)

P.S. You and Kenennett1 are the first Hubbers who have ever told me they read the four parts straight through. :) You deserve a special medal of some sort. :)


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi K - I came to the same conclusion as you. They did no, but were in fear of their lives. I am not sure we would do any better, although I hope we would. It is a terrible thing to live under that level of oppression. Thank you so much for your comments.


Ryan McGill profile image

Ryan McGill 4 years ago from Omaha, NE

A great series and, I'm pretty sure from my reading elsewhere, quite accurate. Thanks for sharing.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Ryan - Thanks for reading and for commenting. Thank you as well for the generous fan mail comments. We do have major interests in common. :) Have a great weekend - mine starts early - tomorrow. :)

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working