The Truth About Nazi Germany
Consider a view from the “inside”
The Jewish Holocaust didn’t exactly happen because of a general “hatred” held by the typical German. That would imply that the Nazis planned all along to exterminate the Jews. The genocide of the Jews was the end result of a gradual process. Many, many cases of common citizens vouching for their Jewish comrades have been preserved — but you don’t hear too much about this because it does not “fit” the now accepted narrative. It’s actually a very long and tedious story - but it can be fairly well summarized in this way:
The Germans had a long history of feeling that the Jews were “different” from them (partly because of the writings of Martin Luther). Along with this was the concept that the Jews caused “bad luck” (“The Jews are our misfortune” was a Nazi slogan). Hitler, with his obsession with German “racial purity” (which didn’t actually exist because there is no “pure” German race), believed that the presence of Jews diluted and weakened “German blood” (especially in the case of Jewish-German marriages). Hitler also blamed the Jews for Germany’s loss of World War I: he believed (wrongly) that German Jews did not support Germany’s war effort.
Once Hitler took power, he strove to “separate” Jews from Germany’s business and social life: this led to outlawing Jews from holding civil service jobs and jobs in journalism, teaching and the arts. Boycotts of Jewish-owned businesses were encouraged by the Nazis. Big corporations were pressured to expel Jews from management positions; the Nazis forced some Jewish-owned businesses, like newspapers, to sell out to the Nazis for pennies on the dollar.
The Nazis emphasized to the German people that in order for them to “unify,” one of the things they needed to do was to get rid of the unwanted elements of German society: Communists, anti-social types (vagrants, drunks, the mentally ill), and especially Jews. Why “especially” the Jews? Because the Germans believed that the Jews had an almost supernatural power to undermine society. While this sounds crazy, the average German believed it.
As the Jews became socially isolated, the Nazis sought to deport them so that Germany would be “just us,” a term the Nazis used a lot. But deporting Germany’s 300,000 Jews was not easy; very few countries were willing to take any Jews, and those that did, like the USA, would not accept many.
While most Germans agreed generally that the Jews were a “problem,” every German knew at least one Jew who was an “exception,” and the Nazis were inundated with requests from “loyal” Nazis to leave their favorite Jew alone. Josef Goebbels complained about this in his diary, which was found after the war.
There were also certain Jews who had some limited degree of protection, particularly those who were married to Germans, and decorated veterans from the first World War. However, even the veterans were eventually shipped to concentration camps (during WWII), and Jews in “privileged marriages” lost their protection if their German spouse died or divorced them.
The Nazi government was not sure how much persecution of the Jews the German public would accept, so the Nazis took gradual steps. In each case, the German people surprised the Nazis by how willing they were to turn on their former friends and neighbors who were Jewish. And this willingness encouraged the Nazis to take further steps.
09 November 1938 was a turning point. On 7 November 1938, a Jewish teenager living in Paris shot a German diplomat as revenge against the German government for deporting his parents from Hanover, Germany into Poland. The diplomat died two days later. Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, seized on the opportunity to whip up the German people into a violent collective punishment against German Jews. A long night of murder, arson, and the destruction of Jewish businesses, homes and synagogues ensued, and became known as “Kristallnacht” (“night of broken glass”). The Nazis forbade policemen to protect Jews and their property.
Although many Germans were offended by this night of wild vandalism and arson, they curiously felt that the Jews had brought it on themselves; that they deserved it. And when Hitler and his top cronies saw that neither the German people nor the Western nations would do anything about it, this emboldened them to step up their persecution of the Jews.
But it was not until after the Germans started WWII in September 1939 that Hitler saw new options in regard to the Jews. After Poland was quickly defeated, that country was used as a “dumping ground” for Germany’s remaining Jews (those who had not left voluntarily or been previously deported). “Dumping” the Jews into Poland also meant isolating them into ghettos where not enough food would be permitted to keep all the Jews alive. Still, throughout 1940, murders of Jews by Nazis were not part of a grand scheme.
It was only when Germany invaded Russia in June 1941 that the concept of mass extermination of the Jews developed into government policy. The war, with its mass killing of Russians and “partisans” (civilians fighting against the Nazis), provided extra “cover” for mass killings of Jews. The Nazis “sold” the idea of killing Jewish civilians to the Army on the grounds that Jews were a “security risk.”
Mass murder of entire villages full of Jews began with the adult men. The Nazis were concerned about how their own soldiers would react. It took some adjusting on their part. But once they ‘got used to it,’ Jewish women and children were included as well. The Nazis went from one Polish, Ukrainian and Russian village to the next, rounded up the Jews, and shot them.
Killing millions of people is more difficult than the Nazis initially believed. Many German soldiers suffered physical and mental problems caused by killing unarmed civilians, especially children. So ways were sought to reduce the exposure of German soldiers to the Jews they were killing.
“Gas vans” were invented that fed the exhaust into the back of the van. Jews were loaded into the vans and were driven around until they died from suffocation. But the vans held only about 30 people at a time — not an efficient way to kill millions.
Eventually the idea came up to build large, stationary gas chambers, and bring the Jews to them. A chemical disinfectant marketed as Zyklon B — crystallized prussic acid — also known as cyanide — was put into use at Auschwitz. Other killing centers such as Treblinka used the exhaust from diesel engines.
The general German public knew that the Jews had been taken from their midst, but they didn’t know exactly what happened to them. Rumors, however, were all over the place. German soldiers wrote letters home, and some even sent photos, about the massacres of the Jews. Most Germans, however, preferred not to think about it. They themselves were suffering from Allied bombings of their homes and places of work.
So this is how the Holocaust happened: gradually, in phases, beginning with the sense that Germany would be a happier, healthier place if it belonged exclusively to Germans, and if the Jews, who caused bad luck, were someplace else.