Ignorance is never the answer.++contains graphic images++

I have often argued that it would be unfair to brush all Germans with the same brush, There were Germans who did resist the Nazi regime. However there is no denying that many were ignorant about the fact what was happening to their neighboits who were either Jewish, Gay, Jehovah Witness, Disabled or Roma/Sinti, or who just had a different political view..

The definition of ignorance is: lack of knowledge, education, or awareness. I recently read an interesting definition of ignorance in an article on a website called Farnham street, it has all sorts of pieces on food for thoughts. They defined it as “Empty Suits and Fragilistas” :[The Empty Suit/Fragilista] defaults to thinking that what he doesn’t see is not there, or what he does not understand does not exist. At the core, he tends to mistake the unknown for the nonexistent.’ I think this was partially the problem in Nazi Germany and that is how the Nazis got away with mass murder and genocide. Because this ignorance turned into collaboration and complicity

But before we judge the German citizens.

The oppressive nature of the Nazi state meant that it was difficult not to be complicit in Nazi activities at some level – although some people played a much more active role in helping the Nazis to achieve their aims than others. Different examples of collaboration in Nazi Germany included: informing on Jewish neighbours, adhering anti-semitic laws,or taking part in boycotting Jewish shops and businesses.

Public notice, issued by the Central Committee for the Defense against Jewish Atrocities and the Boycott, instructing Germans to protect themselves against the Jews by boycotting Jewish businesses and Jewish professionals on April 1, 1933. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Hans Levi

While the Nazi leadership led the way in creating their racist ideology, the anti-Jewish laws and propaganda were implemented and bound into law by those working for the Civil Service . Those who continued to work in the Civil Service following the Nazi rise to power therefore directly contributed to the Nazis’ persecution of Jews.

Following the Nazi rise to power, new textbooks were introduced to make sure that all content taught by teachers was in line with the Nazis’ beliefs. This page is taken from a Nazi racial science textbook published in 1934. In the bottom right corner, someone has added another side profile with stereotypical Jewish features and written ‘Jüden’, meaning Jews, next to it.

The Germans weren’t the only ones being complicit. There were many citizens in the occupied countries who were eager to help the Nazi regime. Collaboration took many forms. In some countries the government actively cooperated with the Nazis. In others, individuals or groups acted on their own initiative to offer their help to the Nazis. Smaller forms of collaboration also took place on an individual basis, such as informing on Jewish neighbours (sometimes out of antisemitism, sometimes out of a desire to take over their property, jobs or valuables once they had been arrested or deported)

That doesn’t take away the fact though that this all started in Germany. If the German citizenry would have paid more attention to what was happening, and if they would have asked collectively what was happening to their neighbours, then perhaps the Holocaust would not have taken place, and they would not have to be forced to bury those who their political leaders had massacred, in their names.

sources

https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn1004598

https://www.ushmm.org/learn/timeline-of-events/1933-1938/anti-jewish-boycott

Confronted with the crimes of their leaders.

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It would of course be unfair to say that all Germans and Austrians were guilty of the atrocities carried out by their leaders. But it is also unfair to believe that no one of the ordinary citizenship knew what was happening. The excuse of “we didn’t know” should not always have been taken for granted.

Especially those who lived near the concentration camps must have had at least an inkling of what was going on.

The fact is that the crimes were carried out by those who they had elected as their leaders, therefore the crimes were committed in their names.

Below are pictures of the local population and SS officers being made facing the atrocities

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SS officer Eichelsdoerfer, the commandant of the Kaufering IV concentration camp, stands among the corpses of prisoners killed in his camp.

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German civilians under U.S. military escort are forced to see a wagon loaded with corpses in Buchenwald.

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Under orders from the U.S. Army, Austrian civilians dig mass graves for corpses found in Gusen

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On orders from the U.S. Army, Austrian citizens remove corpses from the “Russian camp” section of Mauthausen for burial in a mass grave.

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Civilians from nearby Weimar are forced by American soldiers to see the remains of prisoners in the crematorium ovens of Buchenwald during their tour of the concentration camp.

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Under the direction of an American soldier, German civilians from Gardelegen carry wooden crosses to the site where they were ordered to bury the bodies of concentration camp prisoners killed by the SS in a barn just outside the town.

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German civilians from the town of Nordhausen bury the corpses of prisoners found in the Nordhausen concentration camp in mass graves.Only one man looks at the corpses.

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Pictures courtesy if NARA and USHMM.