The period of German history that is known as Nazi Germany lasted from 1933 until the End of the Second World War in 1945. During the time the Nazi Government brutally executed 6 million of European’s Jews in what is known as the Holocaust or the Final solution. Historians have questioned what people have said about this event. This investigation using the sources provided will help me to find my own viewpoint as a historian.
Theses sources may have faults however and it is important to cross-reference them with other sources to get the whole truth and always remember to acknowledge throughout that the matter is open to conflicting interpretation. The reliability of the sources depends on many aspects. Using the sources provided to examine the possibility of the German people knowing about the holocaust I have chosen some which I believe are very reliable and other that are not. Source 1 is a map and some information about where the Nazi concentration camps were situated.
This source seams to list a lot of fact with very little opinion. It doesn’t portray as being bias or having any censorship placed upon it. The only area of this source, which has any opinion, is the mention of the medical experiments, which the Nazi doctors carried out, on the Jews without anaesthetics often leaving them deformed. He citizens them as sadism and uses the words “so -called” when referring to the medical experiments. This source when cross-referenced with sources 2, 3 and 6 is supported as they all mention places on the eastern front in the country of Poland where the Jews were taken.
Althogh from a reliable source, the reliability from the evidence perspective of how much the people knew would be in question. I also believe that source 14 is extremely reliable. Because a photograph can be forged it is possible that this may have happened but highly unlikely because the photographers aim wasn’t to portray the Jews as fat and greedy here but to show them as worthless like dogs on a street. It was Nazi Propaganda but illustrated the reality about what was happening in Germany even though it did not show the whole Jewish ghetto.
It was taken on a date during the Nazi rule in the Warsaw ghetto and with background knowelage we know that this was happening to many Jews in Germany. The reliability about the photograph is that its target audience is not strictly aimed at the German people with whom it wished to influence but it can be interoperated in different ways. Source 3 I believe is reliable. The source fails to use any real emotive language and simply seams to state fact throughout. Written by an American observer to the concentration camps it also corresponds to source 4 that also mentions the burning of Jewish bodies in a crematorium.
The source isn’t reliable as evidence however that the German people knew buy does state many ways by which they could have found out. Source’s 8 and 9 talk about taking the people from the local towns to the concentration camps and their reaction after. I think that both of the sources are very reliable, as they almost talk about the same innocent when cross-referenced. Source 8 if from an American who participated in showing the Germans around the camps after the war. Although a secondary source, there was no reason for the American to lie and no real target audience was issued when the statement was made.
The source claims that many of the people who entered the concentration camp screamed and fainted at the horror of dead bodies while others were lead away crying hysterically. Then the source said, “All swore that during the past years they had no idea of what had been going on in the camp just outside their town” This statement is very drastic as it grants that every person their said swore that they hadn’t known. These sources acknowledge that there may have been people who knew about the holocaust and is reliable as evidence of how many of them knew.
The other source I believe reliable as evidence as evidence is source 9. This source was a quote from a German person whose mother suffered a nervous breakdown after visiting the Nazi concentration camp. This source is also reliable because of the fact that it was a German person looking from the emotional perspective of their mother who had a nervous breakdown rather than the guilt that the country may have felt at the time if they had of known about the camps. The person writing it would have had no reason to lie, as they are admitting that they were wrong.
When cross-referenced with source 8, it explains a story from a German person’s point of view and this corresponds with what the American solider had said allowing us to assume that these sources are reliable. As source 9 was a story from a German person’s point of view while source 8 was the exact same story from the American’s point of view, it is hard to doubt that both may be untruthful to some extent. Source 9 can also be cross-referenced with sources 2 and 10 that also included a line about gossip and rumours that were fast spreading in within the German public.
The Sources that I believe are unreliable are sources 5 and 7. Both Sources 5 and 7 use inference when written. I believe this as a history source to be highly unreliable as it is only somebody’s opinion on the facts that they have been provided. We do not know what or where they have got information and so we cannot judge their opinion as true or false but simply make comments on it. There is little fact in these sources but mainly circumstantial evidence based on general knowledge. It may be commenting on how many of the Germans knew but we cannot trust where the evidence has come from to reach this conclusion.
Source 7 was definitely anti Nazi propaganda, which was designed to erode the support of the Nazis from within Germany. It uses emotive language targeting its audience with little fact but a questioning statement as to why the holocaust is happening in Germany. Another supposition based source like source 5 it mentions the holocaust without actually saying what was happening. It identifies that the Germans were aware of what was happening but uses imagery to describe how they were dealing whit it. All these factors have made me conclude that this source is unreliable and shouldn’t be trusted by a historian.
Another question we should be asking is are there any Gaps in the sources provided? Yes. The sources contain a great variety of information but do not accentually contain anything from an SS man who helped to exterminate the Jewish people during that time. This source could be crucial in finding how information leaked from the concealed concentration camps and how people could have found out. Looking at a number of sources from the same perspective, could also tell us how strict the SS was at the time and if they knew people had known about the concentration camps. Jewish people are also not included in the sources.
They may have been helped by people in their community or may have heard from people what awaited them. We simply do not know. It is important to infer therefore about what these people were thinking and how they may have reacted to such astonishing news. Through these sources I used inference where I had enough fact or general knowledge to conclude what I believed to be true. Inference is a supposition from a certain number of facts given e. g. I have an Apple. We could use inference to say that this apple is red or green because most apples are red or green. I used inference while looking at Source 2.
This source talked about the rumours of the dreadful deeds in the east. With inferring we can tell that these dreadful deeds was the Holocaust and the Jewish people being slaughtered. I also used inference in source 3 when the workers at the extermination camp were told to keep quiet or face the death penalty. By inferring we can suggest that there were some people who although being threatened would have said something to someone. I also used inference in source 6. The source explains about an American attempt to tell the German people what was going on by dropping 9 million leaflets to spread the word of the wipe out of European Jewry.
We can infer that the some German people received these leaflets and may have already known while others may have believed it to be American propaganda but whatever you believe we can infer that some of these people received them. When we talk about the final solution we know that many Jews were slaughtered and the question we ask is did the German people as a whole know about this. One way to answer this question is to find about how the Germans could have known and these sources explain many ways in which they could.
The German people could have found out about the final solution if the lived or work in a remote part of Poland where these extermination camps were located. This is backed up by source 1 and 2 that both have evidence to prove that the people may have known by this way. The people could also have heard the rumours that circulated. By cross-referencing Source 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9 and 10 we know that there was gossip, whispers and rumours about the fate of the Jews that did circulate the nation. People could easily have heard these rumours and they were most likely the most probable cause of people knowing.
Source 2 also mentions the resettlement plans that the Nazis published for the Jews. Tens of Thousands of people were being moved around Europe, surely someone would have questioned why this was happening. This point was backed up several times in different sources and I believe it to be very valuable when looking at the conclusion. People may also have questioned what was happening when they seen the crematoria at the concentration camps. Source 3 tells about an American observer who witnessed this at Dachau. He said that when it was turned on the electricity in the houses went down and ash fell and settled on the front lawns.
As people would have been living in these houses surely they could have guessed what was happening at the concentration camp. This source could also be crossed referenced with Source 4. “One heard stories that it would be impossible not to know what was happening, that the greasy smoke and unmistakeable odour of burning bodies could be detected for miles. ” This source also quotes an American who backed up the point that crematoria’s had been used and that there was features from these noticeable to the German people from which they could have found out about the Nazi Final solution.
Source 4 also makes a point that the people in the villages signed petitions to have the camps moved elsewhere. Undeniably these people must have known what was happening and by inferring about how they could have known and looking at how they could have reacted to this truth, we begin to uncover that whole villages knew what was going on. Source 5 although mostly based on someone else’s conclusion makes a point that the Jews were disappearing. Source 10 a primary source also backs up this point.
If 6 million of Europe’s Jews were being killed it is true that the people would have noticed them missing. Surely there were people who would have asked questions about it. Furthermore, the German people could have heard from people involved with the massacre. Source 6 talks about these people openly boasting about the liquidation of the Jews and about an SS man vaingloriously declaring in a train that 2,000 Jews were being murdered every week at Auschwitz. Information about such things as mass shootings was also talked about in casual army conversation.
This then was backed up by the fact that the Radio which many Germans owned at this period was being used by the allies who broadcasted programs about the fate of the Jews to the German population. The source also tells us that these broadcasts were widely listened to by Germans confirming that some people could have found out about the Holocaust here. The source then explains that American planes, which relayed further information about the Jewish massacre, dropped 9 million leaflets. SS reports confirmed that people had read these leaflets that gave as much as very specific information about the Jewish extermination centres.
Leaflets were also passed about from within German controlled territory. A pamphlet was issued illegally (source 7) by an anti-Nazi resistance movement called the white rose. Although this was mainly propaganda it tried to stir the peoples souls about what was going on. It didn’t have any fact about the holocaust but if people had of asked questions about the pamphlet they might have got answers. Some of the German people must have been actively aware of the fate of the Jews, while others may have only heard rumours. The source about the White Rose resistance movement is an example of a group of people who knew what was happening to them.
They were prepared to risk their lives and create propaganda against it to try to stir the people. By inferring this is a clear sign that they had detailed knowledge about it. Source 8 however, is a quote by a reliable American serviceman. He tells a story that when the Germans were forced enter a liberated concentration camp after the war they screamed and fainted at the shock. He claims that ALL the German people, who were made to visit, swore that they knew nothing about what had happened and this is a very strong argument.
Source 9 backs up this evidence when a German lady who had real confidence in the Nazis lost that after she suffered a nervous breakdown after visiting Dachau. Her Child quoted the source after the war. They said that their mother had heard gossip about what was happening but dismissed it as stupid and malicious. This could be perceived as evidence if the person inferring believes that the nervous breakdown was due to the sudden loss of confidence, guilt at the same time and the horror of the visit. It could also be dismissed if they believed that it was just due to guilt and horror.
The next source from “Hitler’s willing Executioners” notes a Woman who was actively aware about hat the Nazi government was doing to the Jews. She noted that they were disappearing in throngs and worked to save them. This is evidence that there were common German citizens who were aware of the fate of the Jews. All these reliable sources suggest that the evidence was there. So why did the German people ignore it? The answer is based upon the Nazi propaganda machine. The Jews in Germany had been persecuted from day one of the Nazi dictatorship. Every problem, major and minor, the Jews were blamed.
They were considered second-class citizens with the Nuremberg laws and the krystalnacht destroyed their homes and offices, their lives. Every good German was expected to hate the Jews and everyone had to look up to the perfect Aryan man. The Nazi propaganda was demonstrated in source 11 – a nazi poster. This poster showed a Jew being dominating, greedy, untrustworthy and evil. It looked as though the Jew wanted money in the picture and was going to take it by force if he had to. It also looks unclean and very stereotypical of a Jew with a big nose and unshaven face.
The Nazis played on the fears of the people also as this Jew is portrayed as a communist. We know that this isn’t true as Jews are generally money making and if the Nazis wanted to portray them as capitalist it wouldn’t be correct to call them communist also. We know there was a fear for communism in Germany at that time and so by using this they played on the fears of the people. The Next source was a Nazi beer mat. It illustrated a typical Jew, with a drunken look an unshaven face and a large nose. People seen it and thought how untrustworthy he looked.
More propaganda was fed into their minds and they then became fearful. It also had the words “whoever buys from the Jews is a traitor. ” As this is a beer mat the people reading it may have been drunk and so many would have instantly have sunk inside them. Then the people of Germany wouldn’t have respected the Jews as much as a people because they were traitors to the country. The Jews were also compared to their “perfect” Aryan rivals as shown in source 14. Here they were subjected to children’s minds in a book issued by the Nazis called “trust no fox and no Jew.
The picture illustrates to the children at that time that all Jews were fat, greedy unshaven, lazy, ugly with big feet noses. It suggests that the Jew is wearing expensive clothes but the picture makes the clothes look unsolicited. The Aryan on the left however has a spade and looks muscular and tall. He has fair hair and is portrayed as a hero with the stance that is made. Children would therefore be taught this and indoctrinated as to what they were to believe taking away the innocence of childhood and the basic right and wrongs.
They therefore wouldn’t have seen a problem with the Jewish people being slaughtered or taken away and would have ignored any evidence that they were confronted with. Another view is that the Germans didn’t see the Jews the way others like Spielberg did. He took sympathy in the film Shindlers list and portrayed them as a people without hope and without dignity. It my have been that the Germans simply hated the Jewish people, after all there was a strong feeling of anti-Semitism throughout Europe for centauries before Nazi rule and it could have been that the Nazis just exploited what was already buried deep in peoples souls.
We must also ask ourselves how reliable is Spielberg’s source in this study and did he overemphasize either the hatred of the Nazis or the desperation of the Jews? I believe that both were over emphasized as he presented the Jews as a totally innocent party and the Nazis as totally emotionless. By inferring to general knowledge we know that not all the Nazis were guiltless animals but obviously some would have taken sympathy for the Jews such as Oscar Schindler did in the film. I do not believe that the Nazis or the German population felt this way about the Jews, but believe that indoctrination was a key role to the Nazi extermination camps.
Daniel Goldhagen, a Jew born from a survivor of the holocaust also presented a view about how the German nation as a whole being so controversial and contentious , wanting to see the execution of the Jews. The Goldhagen thesis is based on the claim that the entire nations of Germans were mass murderers and that they passively supported I have reached only one conclusion from this study, that most of the German people knew about the final solution in some form. This could take up the form of hearing gossip, reading propaganda leaflets or actually seeing the smoke and ashes in front of them.
I think the Germans would have been so scared and guilty about what was happening in their own back yards it was like a shock that they buried deep within their own individual minds and tried to forget much like medical disorders many people suffer. The evidence was there and 99% of the population MUST have seen something. There would have been people in the population who wouldn’t have accepted what was happening but many of them also like the Jews haven’t survived due to the strict grip that the Nazis held on the population.
Goldhagen was right about one thing, the Germans knew, but his theory about their passive support is beyond any sane human’s comprehension. To think that the German people became so evolved with the propaganda fed to them is an important question we must ask ourselves. Are the humanitarian principals of the western world, which each one of us holds only a myth? This would be important in understanding how each of us thinks. The answer however to this question would not be one that I would feel secure in knowing.