Germans Knew of the Holocaust?

Discussion in 'The Holocaust' started by Elven6, Jun 6, 2009.

  1. Elven6

    Elven6 Discharged

    I stumbled across this article dated Feburary 17, 2001.

    Germans knew of Holocaust horror about death camps | UK news | The Guardian

    Did anything ever come of this theory? The only theory I'm aware of which is pretty well accepted is the one in "What We Knew, Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany" which claims by the end of the war roughly 1/3 of Germany had "varying degrees of knowledge and clarity" regarding the Holocaust.
     
  2. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

    Gellately's book came out in 2001, so it really ain't brand-new (and in parts too generalising anyway). I'm not even sure whether it was groundbreaking back then - either way it has been widely recognized by historians now as far as I'm concerned.
    Apart from that keep in mind that a concentration camp (and what it stands for) will be way less effective if nobody knows about it - vague fears and terror will scare most people away and keep them in check.

    I've been wondering, where exactly does your other theory about one third of Germans knew so and so much come from?
     
  3. Elven6

    Elven6 Discharged

    Gellately's book came out in 2001, so it really ain't brand-new (and in parts too generalising anyway). I'm not even sure whether it was groundbreaking back then - either way it has been widely recognized by historians now as far as I'm concerned.
    Apart from that keep in mind that a concentration camp (and what it stands for) will be way less effective if nobody knows about it - vague fears and terror will scare most people away and keep them in check.

    I've been wondering, where exactly does your other theory about one third of Germans knew so and so much come from?

    Yea I guess that make sense, but what would be the purpose of the "model camps" then?

    The 1/3 reference is from "What We Knew, Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany".
     
  4. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

    The 1/3 reference is from "What We Knew, Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany".


    Oral history? It's safer to get facts from scientific research - asking German contemporary witnesses about how much they knew of the Holocaust doesn't seem like a very reliable source to me...

    *edit* Concerning your other question(s), you might like to have a look at the thread you started about German propaganda.
     
  5. Elven6

    Elven6 Discharged

    Oral history? It's safer to get facts from scientific research - asking German contemporary witnesses about how much they knew of the Holocaust doesn't seem like a very reliable source to me...

    *edit* Concerning your other question(s), you might like to have a look at the thread you started about German propaganda.


    I'll keep that in mind, is there a substitute source you recommend over "What we Know"?

    Right, but wouldn't the two answers conflict? One claims it was used to trick Germans and the Red Cross into believing things weren't that bad, while the other claims the horrors were well known?
     
  6. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

    I'll keep that in mind, is there a substitute source you recommend over "What we Know"?

    Right, but wouldn't the two answers conflict? One claims it was used to trick Germans and the Red Cross into believing things weren't that bad, while the other claims the horrors were well known?

    Firstly, concentration camps (as well as the whole NS-system) are a very complex thing. The Third Reich wasn't as well organised as it might seem but rather had a confusing structure with lots of conflicting departments and positions. Secondly, you need to differentiate. Dachau 1934 isn't the same as Buchenwald 1942.
    Considering this combined with some reading should answer your question (actually, what do you mean by "well known"?).

    Karin Orth is a safe bet when it comes to concentration camps, also Peter Longerich, Richard Breitman, Raul Hilberg, the autobiography of Höss... Really, there's plenty of good literature on the subject.
     
  7. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    The question was Did the Germans know aboutthe camps?

    If they had any common sense of smell, they could hardly avoid knowing. Burning bodies are hardly the sweet smell of roses.
    Sapper
     
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  8. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

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  9. Elven6

    Elven6 Discharged

    Firstly, concentration camps (as well as the whole NS-system) are a very complex thing. The Third Reich wasn't as well organised as it might seem but rather had a confusing structure with lots of conflicting departments and positions. Secondly, you need to differentiate. Dachau 1934 isn't the same as Buchenwald 1942.
    Considering this combined with some reading should answer your question (actually, what do you mean by "well known"?).

    Karin Orth is a safe bet when it comes to concentration camps, also Peter Longerich, Richard Breitman, Raul Hilberg, the autobiography of Höss... Really, there's plenty of good literature on the subject.

    My question wasn't really directed at any one camp specifically but just as a timeline from the events in the 30s up until the end of the war. I'll keep that in mind though.

    By well known I was referring to the sources that claim the Holocaust was well publicized hence known to many.

    Thanks for the references as well, I will have to look out for them.

    The question was Did the Germans know aboutthe camps?

    If they had any common sense of smell, they could hardly avoid knowing. Burning bodies are hardly the sweet smell of roses.
    Sapper

    I fortunately have never smelt a body burning, how does it smell? Could it have been possible the smell was too foreign for people to come to any assumptions? Or perhaps they may have had some basic idea of what the smell was but in the interest of self preservation decided not to investigate further?

    For those who would wish to read more on this subject, try
    "36 Questions about the Holocaust"

    36 Questions About the Holocaust (1-18)

    Thanks for the link Ron, it helped greatly!
     
  10. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    I fortunately have never smelt a body burning, how does it smell?

    I will assume that you are joking.

    If they had any common sense of smell, they could hardly avoid knowing. Burning bodies are hardly the sweet smell of roses.
    Sapper

    How many general population civilians travelled to Poland as a matter of routine? Weren't the Camps set up in remote and secluded locations within Poland?

    Ron's link above tells us that:

    17. What did people in Germany know about the persecution of Jews and other enemies of Nazism?

    Answer: Certain initial aspects of Nazi persecution of Jews and other opponents were common knowledge in Germany. Thus, for example, everyone knew about the Boycott of April 1, 1933, the Laws of April, and the Nuremberg Laws, because they were fully publicized. Moreover, offenders were often publicly punished and shamed. The same holds true for subsequent anti-Jewish measures. Kristallnacht (The Night of the Broken Glass) was a public pogrom, carried out in full view of the entire population. While information on the concentration camps was not publicized, a great deal of information was available to the German public, and the treatment of the inmates was generally known, although exact details were not easily obtained.

    As for the implementation of the "Final Solution" and the murder of other undesirable elements, the situation was different. The Nazis attempted to keep the murders a secret and, therefore, took precautionary measures to ensure that they would not be publicized. Their efforts, however, were only partially successful. Thus, for example, public protests by various clergymen led to the halt of their euthanasia program in August of 1941. These protests were obviously the result of the fact that many persons were aware that the Nazis were killing the mentally ill in special institutions.

    As far as the Jews were concerned, it was common knowledge in Germany that they had disappeared after having been sent to the East. It was not exactly clear to large segments of the German population what had happened to them. On the other hand, there were thousands upon thousands of Germans who participated in and/or witnessed the implementation of the "Final Solution" either as members of the SS, the Einsatzgruppen, death camp or concentration camp guards, police in occupied Europe, or with the Wehrmacht.
     
  11. sparky34

    sparky34 Senior Member

    and if most of them knew ...then what ..go and complain .. would you
    have done ..??
     
  12. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    I fortunately have never smelt a body burning, how does it smell? Could it have been possible the smell was too foreign for people to come to any assumptions?

    That is like asking what the color green looks like.
     
  13. Elven6

    Elven6 Discharged

    Ironically the 10 commandments,

    1. You are the elite of the German Army. For you, combat shall be fulfillment. You shall seek it out and train yourself to stand any test.
    2. Cultivate true comradeship, for together with your comrades you will triumph or die.
    3. Be shy of speech and incorruptible. Men act, women chatter; chatter will bring you to the grave.
    4. Calm and caution, vigor and determination, valor and a fanatical offensive spirit will make you superior in attack.
    5. In facing the foe, ammunition is the most precious thing. He who shoots uselessly, merely to reassure himself, is a man without guts. He is a weakling and does not deserve the title of parachutist.
    6. Never surrender. Your honor lies in Victory or Death.
    7. Only with good weapons can you have success. So look after them on the principle—First my weapons, then myself.
    8. You must grasp the full meaning of an operation so that, should your leader fall by the way, you can carry it out with coolness and caution.
    9. Fight chivalrously against an honest foe; armed irregulars deserve no quarter [mercy].
    10. With your eyes open, keyed up to top pitch, agile as a greyhound, tough as leather, hard as Krupp steel, you will be the embodiment of a German warrior.

    Lone Sentry: Parachutists, German (WWII U.S. Intelligence Bulletin, September 1942)

    I was obviously kidding, I've read accounts of what burning bodies smell like. It could potentially get to a point where it may seem a bit foreign and warrant investigation which obviously did not happen during the war for what can be assumed as self preservation. Does that make what the surrounding civillians did justified? Probably not.
     
  14. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    I was obviously kidding, I've read accounts of what burning bodies smell like.

    Not obvious. And I'm not seeing too many jokes in this thread.

    And one doesn't have to read accounts on smells. Just have a barbecue, that will give you a good idea. Some people say human flesh (or meat) tastes like pork, so this may guide your imagination.
     
  15. Stig O'Tracy

    Stig O'Tracy Senior Member

    If the civilians in the photos were shot because they resisted the German invasion as irregulars, does military law at least allow them some sort of due process. I suspect that these people were rounded up as hostages as a reprisal for the alleged death/murder of a German soldier. I believe that these reprisal murders are a war crime and those in charge of these activities should have been punished. I recall seeing a bit of colour film shot by a German photographer associated with the Gross Deutschland Regiment Carl Savich » Blog Archive » Belgrade ‘41: “Most terrible scene, which I photographed ever” in the Balkans where the executed civilians by firing squad and supervised the public hanging of others in reprisal killings. All very disguisting.
    I don't believe that I've ever heard of any of the allied armies engaged in reprisal killings during WW2.
     
  16. Elven6

    Elven6 Discharged

    Not obvious. And I'm not seeing too many jokes in this thread.

    And one doesn't have to read accounts on smells. Just have a barbecue, that will give you a good idea. Some people say human flesh (or meat) tastes like pork, so this may guide your imagination.

    Thats fine,

    Keep in mind, not just the flesh would be burning, apparently everything gives off a different smell that varies on strength, odor, etc. I found this article pretty helpful,

    What does burning human flesh smell like? - By Michelle Tsai - Slate Magazine

    Stig: Military punishment was indeed practiced by the Germany army, all armies infact. Unfortunately the records of these cases are largely incomplete because the records were either lost or destroyed towards the end of the war. They were leniant in World War I but after entering World War II the Nazi party believed adopting a harsher model like many Allied nations did in World War I would ensure success.

    German Executions
     
  17. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    I found this article pretty helpful,

    What does burning human flesh smell like? - By Michelle Tsai - Slate Magazine


    So I trust your curiosity is satisfied now. Want fries with that?

    Stig: Military punishment was indeed practiced by the Germany army, all armies infact. Unfortunately the records of these cases are largely incomplete because the records were either lost or destroyed towards the end of the war. They were leniant in World War I but after entering World War II the Nazi party believed adopting a harsher model like many Allied nations did in World War I would ensure success.

    German Executions

    All armies in fact?

    It must have been quite a hush-hush job then, because I never heard of civilians murdered in reprisal by the, say, Brazillian army in Italy, or for instance the Belgians in 1940. Or the Italians, to go on the Axis side, either Regio Esercito or Esercito della Republica Sociale Italiana.

    So I suppose you will be able to substantiate this statement of yours because no instances happen to occur to me.

    Who knows, perhaps any one of the Veterans who grace this forum happens to be a hidden murderer. Goldstein? Canning?

    There was this guy who the other day wrote that he was ashamed of the veterans in this forum. I'd be ashamed too if they kept skeletons as these in their duffelbags, one never knows, really.
     
  18. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Za -
    Not guilty m'lud .....I only killed people who were in the German Army uniform - they might have been Russian - Poles - Slovaks - Czech - but it was always in self defence as they appeared to be trying to kill me - nearly made it as well - the rotters !

    Cheers
     
  19. Stig O'Tracy

    Stig O'Tracy Senior Member

    I read your German Executions link Elvin but it really only contained information concerning the execution of military personnel. I was really more interested in the legality of executing civilians as a reprisal for what was thought of as an illegal act. I found this link Crimes Of War Project > The Book which attempts to explain the accepted use of these actions. It's a grim world we live in where the killing of innocent civilians en mass can be legally justified in any circumstance.

     
  20. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

    I was really more interested in the legality of executing civilians as a reprisal for what was thought of as an illegal act.


    It does depend on whether civilians were fighting as resistants or weren't involved in anything. Legal base for any of these questions where the Geneva and the Hague convention (the Germans considered these valid at least in the west, but surely not in the Soviet Union).
    According to these, people of a non-occupied area would have the right to fight against an enemy IF certain conditions were met (e.g. carrying weapons openly). But the Hague convention doesn't state that the population in occupied territory had a right for resistance.
    If a resistant didn't meet all the points stated in the convention he was a franctireur rather than a combatant (there was however no international law about what would happen to captured franctireurs); according to the German Kriegsstrafrecht he/she would have to be court martialled (guilty = death penalty). During the war this was actually changing by different orders, stating that franctireurs should be 'shot during the fight [im Kampf] or on the run [auf der Flucht]'. The allies didn't handle it very differently btw: in March 1945 Eisenhower declared that German franctireurs would have to be "executed quickly". All in all, executing franctireurs was however a discretionary provision, not mandatory.

    As for hostage-taking and reprisals, it's stated that they are not illegal per se. However, it was often used as excuse for crimes after the war, and because of the excessive use by the Germans shooting of hostages and reprisals were declared a (war)crime at Nuremberg. As a matter of fact, American judges stated that killing hostages and reprisals would be legal IF certain conditions were met (1. there had to be an illegal act by the enemy, 2. it had to be tried to find the guilty, [...] 5. they had to be in relation to the severity of the illegal act, 6. there had to be a connection between the victim and the illegal act, [...] 8. they were only to be used as last resort -> the Geneva convention of 1949 prohibits both hostage-taking and reprisals)
    [cf. P. Lieb, Konventioneller Krieg oder NS-Weltanschauungskrieg, p. 233-258]

    It might be somewhat off-topic, but I hope it helps...:mellow:

    The caption says "shooting of civilians".
     

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