View Full Version : Were the Germany average citzens bad guys in 1941?


FredLC
Feb 01, 2002, 08:21 AM
Yesterday night, i saw "Schindler's List" for probably the 10th time in my life, and i came up with the Idea for this topic.

Altough the "nazy theme" is still something very sensitive (and it seens to me that it's one of the favourite in this forum), i have a hard time believing that almost the entire population of a country was made of villains.

Even the philosophy that ruled the social-nacionalism being without any question evil, i wonder if each and every person in the German radius was a "hating machine" like it's pictured in almost all movies about the theme.

Now, i don't deny the holocaust. It certainly happened. It was surely Nazy's falt, and it was one of the worst moments of the mankind. But at the same time that thinking in 1941 German remainds me of slave camps and SS troops, it remainds me of a nice, peaceful old grandpha called Otto reading for his grandchildren and eating a sttrüdel made by his wife.

And it's fair to remember that the Germans culture is one of the most higly developed in the world, both specially in arts and phylosophy, having giving the world some of the greatest in those fields.

I know that a very extremist and radical group had the power, and used mass propaganda to achieve more and more sympathetic people.

I also know that they were able to put german economy back in track, and it was in jeopardy since the end of WW I, what really helped them in influencing people.

Let's remeber Edward Norton's caracther in "American History X". A nazi-simpathetic person, he used the same arguments originaly sustained in Germany (they are taking our jobs, messing our economy, etc...), and was able to assemble a militia inside the United States.

That storie, altough fictional, is a picture of things that really happened and still happens in USA, but in no way it is an indication that racism was a universal practise there.

Let's assume that the crise he described in America was real and severe as that caracther claimed. That it could be compared with the terrible recession and inflation that crushed Germany between wars.

Let's also imagined that the caracthers were politically sofisticated and able to take advantage of the scenario of insatisfaction, throwing blame in some minority group, like it happened in Germany. Would the outcome be diferent in USA?

I believe in high racism withing the German army in that time because a soldier is trained to follow the ways of their leaders.

And i also believe that there were huge, alarming levels of racism among the general population, fruit of their believe in the leaders and a massive propaganda.

But what i question is: Was it really a universal thing? Is it fair to say that Germany was a Racist nation? Or it would be more acurated to say that it was a Racist-controled Nation?

what do you guys think?

kobayashi
Feb 01, 2002, 09:07 AM
Of course the average German was not to be blamed. Just like the average Chinese teenager shouldn't be blamed for atrocities during the Cultural Revolution. Humans are just like that - vulnerable to manipulation by propoganda, or else there wouldn't be such a thing as propoganda.

Knowltok
Feb 01, 2002, 10:40 AM
After WWII there was much discussion on this topic and the concensus was that there was no way Americans would do these horrible things. To test this theory a psych experiment was set up:

The subjects would be told that they were aiding in a psychological experiment and would sit on the other side of a window from another person (actor). They had a test to administer to the fake subjects. When an answer was wrong, they were to use their controls to shock the people. Actors in doctor's coats would facilitate. As the experiment progressed the doctors would instruct the subjects to increase the voltage. The actors would writhe about in pain and agony upon being 'shocked'. The 'doctors continued to instruct the subjects to increase the voltage. In most cases the people did. They were willing to inflict large amounts of pain on other humans, because an authority figure told them to.

This is of course one aspect of the explanation. Another is that throughout history social definitions of good and evil have changed frequently. Take slavery. Today a slave owning person would be seen as the lowest form of scum going. 300 years ago in the new world colonies it was not seen as a bad thing. A person could own a slave and still be considered a good person. In fact, other than that one aspect, they might be a good person that could be relied upon, trusted, and wouldn't do anything their society considered illegal or immoral.

The same doubtless applied in Nazi Germany. Not about the killing, but about racism in general, the society was accepting of it because that was the social standard of the day. It just wasn't seen as wrong to pass laws restricting those nasty Jews because they weren't a legitimate part of society, weren't as good as a real German. If raised in such an atmosphere, most people do not break free and develop their own moral code.

Combine these two factors, and I think you can say that the average German citizen was not 'evil', and that this kind of thing could theoretically happen with any people properly conditioned over time and given the right stimulus.

Just my opinion, take it for what it is worth.

Jimcat
Feb 01, 2002, 11:24 AM
Knowltok makes some good points above, especially with regard to the "outcast" status of the Jews. This was true not only in Germany, but in much of Europe and even the US. Prior to the Second World War, Jews were "foreigners" no matter where they lived, even if their families had lived in that community for many generations.

It's no coincidence that all of the groups initially sent to the concentration camps by the Nazis were "outsider" groups that were generally looked down upon by the mainstream of society. Jews have already been mentioned. Gypsies were even more reviled than the Jews. Homosexuals were considered mentally ill at best, and abominations against nature at worst. Jehovah's Witnesses, who had voluntarily separated themselves from society, were also sent to the camps. As were the insane.

The average German may not have asked for these groups to be removed, but probably raised little protest when they were. Most people thought of these groups as nuisances or undesirables, if they thought of them at all. I'm reminded of the famous saying of Bishop Martin Niemoller:

"When Nazis put communists in the concentration camp, I did not protest because I was not a communist; when they persecuted the social democrats, I did not protest because I was not a social democrat; When they massacred the Jews, I did not protest because I was not a Jew; When they banned all political parties and trade unions, I did not protest because I was not one of them; when they came for me, there was no one to speak for me."

Of course this begs the question: who were "they"? Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels and the upper echelon of the Nazi party didn't act alone. Some Germans, certainly, adopted the Nazi ideology wholesale and enforced Nazi doctrine with full awareness. There were enough Germans who really did believe that Germany should become "judenrein" (free of Jews) by any means necessary. Of those who disagreed, some were in no position to do anything about it. Some, like Schindler, could and did take some form of action. And no doubt some could have done something but did not. Only their conscience (or God, if you believe in such a thing) knows for sure which Germans did right during the days of the Third Reich.

Lucky
Feb 01, 2002, 11:42 AM
As A German citizen myself I somehow feel the need to answer this post.:p
Yesterday night, i saw "Schindler's List" for probably the 10th time in my life, and i came up with the Idea for this topic.
A great movie, which pictures some of the historic truth of that era but also implies some of the clichés that couldnīt and shouldnīt be generalized.Even the philosophy that ruled the social-nacionalism being without any question evil, i wonder if each and every person in the German radius was a "hating machine" like it's pictured in almost all movies about the theme.
Well of course not.
I could probably write several pages about this topic but let me summarize some of the more important facts.
First of all you have to understand exactly what youīre talking about. In the end of the 19th century several īphilosophicalī ideas were beginning to gain supporters throughout the population all over Europe; ideas of Nationalism, different īracesī of humans and the believe in the superiority of the own people. Not only in Germany but also in France, England, Russia and other European countries.
But in the newly established Germany under Prussian rule these ideas were especially welcome, as a feeling of a new unity.
Now after a while and after losing WW1 a lot of Germans felt humiliated. At that time several extremist parties began to rise in the new Weimar Republic and began to gain supporters. They assimilated the theories mentioned above and changed them to suit their needs. But even though Germany had to suffer under the immense reparations it eventually prospered even more (Golden 20s). And so those nationalist parties werenīt really a threat for the democracy.
Then after the great world economic crisis the pressure of the reparations was felt again and those parties gained some more popularity. Then after some unbelievable coups, a lot of `luck` and the extremely slow reaction of the government they took over the power. With their extremely well organized propaganda, the cruelty of their militia (SA,SS) and the support of the German industry leaders they were able to fortify their positions, although only a small minority of the population really supported their cause!
With popular decisions (almost no more unemployed, denying paying the reparations...) most people were satisfied and didnīt really care about other stuff.
Remember, as long as youīre happy, you donīt really care about anything else.
And last but not least the saying that most of the people didnīt know about the holocaust is partly true. There were of course rumors but most didnīt care about the truth or they suppressed any suspicions. And the new means of mass media really īhelpedī the Nazi propaganda. and eating a sttrüdel made by his wife.A what?Would the outcome be different in USA?A difficult question, but in my point of view the new democracy was part of problem. It didnīt have full support in the population, partly due to the ever changing government and because many didnīt fully understand the system.I believe in high racism withing the German army in that time because a soldier is trained to follow the ways of their leaders.Not true. The Nazi militia was the one to do most of the atrocities. That doesnīt mean that that the Wehrmacht is innocent, but most of the soldiers fought for their fatherland with a high degree of patriotism. It were officers of the Wehrmacht after all that tried to kill Hitler!And i also believe that there were huge, alarming levels of racism among the general population, fruit of their believe in the leaders and a massive propaganda.Yes and no, most people werenīt racists, but they were blinded by the propaganda and overwhelmed by the achievements of the regime.But what i question is: Was it really a universal thing? Is it fair to say that Germany was a Racist nation? Or it would be more acurated to say that it was a Racist-controled Nation?More like the latter. But again, you canīt generalize anything. Racist and nationalistic tendencies existed everywhere at that time.

I could write a lot more on this topic, but I donīt have the time right now.
:lol:

Vrylakas
Feb 01, 2002, 11:47 AM
A few years back Daniel Goldhagen published his final thesis paper as a book entitled Hitler's Willing Executioners which caused a bit of a stir internationally. Goldhagen did meticulous research for his book but reached a completely unsubstantiated conclusion, and he was roundly condemned (and rightfully so). His final thesis was that average Germans participated in the Holocaust because they are intrinsically anti-Semitic and violence-prone - which ignores the realities of anti-Semitism elsewhere in Europe and the Mediterranean and a host of other factors. Unfortunately Goldhagen's book was denounced out-of-hand by scholars everywhere, with ironically some German scholars in particular committing the same error they accused Goldgagen of, namely painting an entire people guilty by association for the actions of a few, when they announced that Goldhagen's book illustrated how all American scholarship was inferior in quality.

Anyway, by dismissing the book outright they missed a major point that Goldhagen's data pointed towards - something that Goldhagen himself had missed - which is that evil often relies not so much on the willing commitment of a population so much as mere acquiescence. The Holocaust wasn't just the brutal camp guards and Nazi leadership scheming their evil at Wansee, it was also the petty clerks who filled out and forwarded requisition forms that kept the camps supplied, it was the railroad switchmen who moved the trains to the camps, it was the local vendors who thrived by supplying goods and services to camps (Oskar Schindler among them), it was the medical personnel who treated camp guards or Nazi personnel, it was the doomed Jews' neighbors and coworkers who didn't do enough to save them, it was the banks and investment brokerages who financed new train tracks and camp facilities, etc. etc. etc. The Holocaust was a massive continent-wide factoryline-like operation that, as John Keegan points out, required and received the aid of non-Germans in the occupied territories in large numbers, numbers too large for current history books of the war to cover comfortably. The average people who "were just doing their jobs" - when those jobs were directly related to keeping the massive Nazi death machinery that produced the Holocaust running - were not necessarily evil themselves, but were certainly party to evil.

There's been a traveling exhibition in Germany over the past decade of photos that prove that the Holocaust was not just the product of some evil individuals in the SS and Nazi leadership; they show average Wehrmacht soldiers and even some civilians committing attrocities, shattering a myth for Germans that only the SS and and a few small Nazi organizations committed the terrible attrocities of the war. Modern Germany is democratic and clearly fully committed to the ideal of human rights, and has done more than most countries in Europe in confronting what really happened in the war. (Poland is struggling with Jan Gross' recent book that claims the Jedwabne massacre of the village's Jews was committed by locals, and not the Nazis. We're all struggling with issues like this.) However, there still was surprising amounts of resistance in Germany to the idea that the Wehrmacht was involved - and once again it forces people to wonder what their grandfather really did in the war, besides all those great drinking stories he told about his friends.

There's a famous story of when the American General Patton first entered a camp, the infamously tough general turned and vomited at the sight of the emaciated corpses and survivors, and he forced the local Germans in the nearby town to march through the camp and look at the corpses. Immediately afterwards the town mayor marched right home and hung himself. Even in war-hardened Poland - a country that had experienced World War II's horrors longer than any other, except perhaps China - there was shock and outrage when the camps were finally liberated. A great evil was committed, and if you understand anything about organizations you'll know that it wasn't just a dedicated evil few who carried out these crimes; they had help. Lots of help.

FredLC
Feb 01, 2002, 12:06 PM
It was supposed to be the name of a dish made wit eggs that an alleged german descendent told me about a few weeks ago.

Even my german being absolutely non-existent, it was told me inside of a live chat conversation, so i'm sure i spelled as he would.

Now, exactly why someone would lie about german culinary in a chat room is a question that perhaps deserved a post in a forun about the internet.

When i came across one, i'll probably do it.

Please, share the name of a real typical dish that can replace that, or change it to "drinking some beers".

Regards :)

FredLC
Feb 01, 2002, 12:46 PM
I think that specially Vrylakas got the spirit of what i meant as i started this discussion. Because i really can't imagine people in bars drinking a little and preparing to go shoot some jews, but i can imagine a few racist jokes been told just a few miles away from a death camp.

Passive willingness at it's best.

But when i look at things in context; the economical growth, the government propaganda, the question of national pride that was raised by Lucky, the well being that the germans finally experienced... i wonder, can we really blame them?

"Give people bread and circus"; What was true in ancient world is true until today, and in Germany there were a lot of equivalents to help blocking their senses.

Would we be any diferent? If we are not sure, how can we point fingers?

Maybe Vrylakas' right about the German population being also guilty and trying to delude themselves. Maybe it's Lucky that is right and it was really the work of little while the mass was somewhat anesthesiated.

Even pictures of civilians and regular police commiting attrocities aren't real proves, because a picture get the moment, not the context, and might habe been isolated events. However, it's likely that even outside of the depths of nazy's chambers, some of the population had deeply embraced their ideals.

And who can say what was going on in the heart of the ones who did nothing? Hehehe. If I liked to play with words, i'd say that it's possible that what Grandpa Otto was reading to his grandchildren had little to do with "Sleeping Beauty".

I liked the point of Jimcat when he very reasonably said that the party chamber didn't do it all alone.

Since "denial" is a very common survival mechanism, I doubt that even the Germans themselves can trufully answer this question.

I must admit that i didn't believe we could not find an absolute answer, and the concept "they were not evil, but they were surely part of the evil" is actually much more satisfying than anything i could expect.

I'll stick to that, specially because, being atheistic, i'd have a hard time in leaving it for God.

Regards.:)

dannyevilcat
Feb 01, 2002, 03:43 PM
My answer is yes... and no. Where average Germans the "bad guys" in 1941? I think bad guy is an inaccurate description.
Certainly the average German wasn't breaking shop windows, etc., but going about on your way with scenes of racial violence playing in the background allowed the holocaust to spiral upward. Germans knew about concentration camps, and rumours of the brutality there, so even without knowledge of the full horror of the death camps, their passivity condemns them.

However, the story of the average German is a condemnation of all men and women in every country. To avoid sticking your nose in "someone else's business" is a human characteristic shared among us all, like a survival instinct.
I think many of us prefer to cast ourelves in the role of the hero. We can protest what pisses us off and and kick up stink, rally the people to your cause and possibly make the government back off. How many people would seriously oppose men with guns and badges and the courts to support them? The fact is that while we may feel strongly about our opinions, we often lack the courage of our convictions when we ourselves face danger. A person is judged by his actions, and we can not know how we will react until we are put on the spot. The average German failed, and likely so would most Americans or Canadians or Englishman in the same conditions.

Hell, we blind ourselves to much of the suffering that the rest of the world knows, and when we get a bare glimmer of it, we immediately hurry to help until we get bored and move on to something else feeling good that we did the right thing.

Flatlander Fox
Feb 01, 2002, 07:13 PM
Except for the strudel part...:)(That's how it's spelled, my wife makes a great one!)

Germany didn't have CNN back then, and they were very dependent on what they read in the papers. And rumors would be deliberately spread by party members, defaming prominent Jews in their respective communities.

A great story from the book "Last Train from Berlin" by H.K. Smith:

Before the Russian invasion (During the Polish campaign), most bookstores carried very positive books about the noble Russians, who were friends of all Germans.

But a few weeks before the invasion of Russia, the bookstores began prominently displaying books whose headlines screamed things about the sub-human Russians. The evil conquering COMMUNIST, Bolsheviks.
Many papers began doing the same thing.
Soon, several rumors began circling about various atrocities committed by the Russians.
Within a few weeks, you have an anti-Russian feeling.

A bad example, but it must be used: How many people actually know for a fact that China commits human rights violations?

No one probably does.

The average German was spoonfed hatred, and accepted it not with zeal, but with the same feelings that we have when we read the news. That does not exonerate them, as there are MANY who are guilty, either directly or indirectly.

It's just we have more resources, and more freedoms.

amadeus
Feb 01, 2002, 08:21 PM
Germany didn't have CNN back then.

And if they did, every German citizen would support Hitler.



But more seriously, if you believed what Hitler was saying, you were guilty. If you considered yourself "neutral" to what Hitler was saying, you are also guilty.

Neutrality is not a stand in the face of tyranny. We learned that during World War II, when our naval base at Pearl Harbor was bombed by imperial Japan.

SSK
Feb 02, 2002, 02:29 AM
Originally posted by fredlc
Because i really can't imagine people in bars drinking a little and preparing to go shoot some jews

WAKE UP. It happened. Of course it doesn't mean all Germans were evil. It is clear there were many who specifically risked their lives to defy Hitler by hiding and saving Jews and others who were targeted. Asking a simplistic question like you did indicates you have failed to fully comprehend this movie and others like it. I completely disagree that Schindler's list, or any other movie I've seen on the subject, paints the picture that *ALL* Germans were evil.

Originally posted by fredlc

But when i look at things in context; the economical growth, the government propaganda, the question of national pride that was raised by Lucky, the well being that the germans finally experienced... i wonder, can we really blame them?


Umm... YES! (not *ALL* Germans, as I've argued above). What's wrong with holding people accountable for their actions? It seems based on this post and your thread about the WTC that you like to identify with the perpetrators of horrible crimes--after all, they are "victims" of their circumstances, etc. This idea that "victims" are entitled by their status as such to commit what would otherwise be considered heinous acts seems to be growing in popularity, and is ridiculous. What would you say if the US decided to drop nuclear weapons on the entire middle east, since we have been victims of Sept. 11? We would be guilty of a horrible crime, of course! Murder and genocide is wrong, in any "context", and I feel comfortable and justified in blaming those who commit it.

Would we be any diferent? If we are not sure, how can we point fingers?

"We" are not pointing fingers at the entire German populace. Only those who perpetrated the crimes, and those who supported them. That leaves out many heroes.

Even pictures of civilians and regular police commiting attrocities aren't real proves, because a picture get the moment, not the context, and might habe been isolated events.

Sure, and if I shot your mother dead, and you had a picture of me doing it, I could always say you somehow created it in Adobe Photoshop, and you really can't prove I did it. Then I could also claim that I had been discriminated against all my life, and maybe grew up in a ghetto, and my government was telling me it was OK to shoot Brazilians--so in the "context" I was raised, maybe some anti-Brazilian sympathizer could "understand" why I did it.:rolleyes:

Since "denial" is a very common survival mechanism, I doubt that even the Germans themselves can trufully answer this question.

Many non-Germans are denying right now that the Holocaust occurred. And modern Germany has been very aware and ashamed of its role in the atrocities of WWII and has pursued a very liberal path ever since.

I must admit that i didn't believe we could not find an absolute answer, and the concept "they were not evil, but they were surely part of the evil" is actually much more satisfying than anything i could expect.

To restate, there is an absolute answer to your question: Not all Germans were evil.

allhailIndia
Feb 02, 2002, 06:56 AM
A popular Indian regional language film about a clever trickster and his hapless victims ends with the following message "As long as people are willing to be duped, there will always be people to dupe them". It is with this statement that I feel that the Germans of 1941 were guilty.

This may seem a bit harsh on Otto or whoever, but the fact is that the Germans were willing to let a few million Jews be slaughtered for their false utopia under Hitler. The German people had several opportunities to get rid of Hitler and the Nazis, but they did not take it. They had an inkling of what was to come in the Mein Kampf, but they did not heed to it. They were quite easily fooled by Hitler's words about the "problem" and readily believed him that their country's problems were due to the Jews.


This topic is especially important in today's world in the light of 9/11. Mohammed Atta and his ilk were easily misled by passionate and smooth talking men. Several Americans were misled by their leaders to target the Islamic minority or any non-white for 9/11. It is all very well to blame a government or the leadership for a country's mistakes and atrocities, but remember, the goverment , whether it is Democratic or not, can only survive and execute its policies with the compliance of its people.

Therefore, I would say that the Germans of 1941 were guilty of not so much as having killed Jews, but having done nothing to stop it either.

FredLC
Feb 02, 2002, 07:04 AM
1

Ok, you know what? I think we share a whole lot of opinions. And I think you are the one who actually misunderstood what i meant when i started this discussion, so i'll try to make myself very, very clear.

See, the actual Title i chose is a simplistic and unfair question. And i picked it on porpose. It was meant to be an IRONY, not to describe exactly how I feel about the Germans in 1941.

It however, does not signify that i am in anyway simpathetic with any part of that cause, or as i said myself, in my 1th post:

***

"Now, i don't deny the holocaust. It certainly happened. It was surely Nazy's falt, and it was one of the worst moments of the mankind."

***

And since you mentioned my other thread, about the crashing, i'd like to quote the very first thing that i wrote when i started it:

***

"Nothing justify the slaughtering of civilians. The terrorists responsible are worse than regular criminals; they are WAR criminals and deserve the most harsh punishment possible"

***

and yet another one, as i answered Jimcat in that discussion:

***

"And i also think that the USA's present military act is justifyed, altough i disagree with some aspects i won't dig in. "

***

I don't know exactly why you understood that i could in ANY way feel sympathetic about any form of disrespect against civilian rights and killing of inocents. In fact, if you read carefully my previous discussions, you'll find out that I was positioning myself AGAINST the concept that the simple fact of opression being the rule of behavior in a certain society can be used as excuse for acts of terror.

Again in discussion with Jimcat, i made a few points that are very alike your own here:

***

"A citzen of south-america (specially the less educated ones) could, as i explained above, historicaly justify the problems in the continent by the "Evil Interference of the Internatinal Rapines", and therefore hate USA. In some sense, the people in Argentina blaming IMF for it's moratory is doing exactly that. However, we don't bomb anyone or throw planes in buildings. Because that just makes matters worse.

It's true that the form of how the international debts are dealt make them impossible to pay. No Country in debt is able to deal with even the interests. It's a machinery designed to maintain the relations of dominance stable as they are now.

However, one can't solve such matters with terrorism. Attacks don't help. It's more sucide than actual homicide. We didn't have to wait to Afeghanistan to know that, and we don't even feel minimally compelled to act that way."

and

"Just one thing:

- It comes down to a question of alternate realities and alternate perceptions -

That, for saying that it was what the Nation felt as "right" at the time, also works for the Nazis and the Communists and even to the Talibans themselves."

***

When we both agreeded that the fact of some nation may feel right about opressing other is NO DAMN EXCUSE, and that, altough it happened in USA, they at least kept it as a lesson that may happen to avoit such a mistake being repeated ("unlike others" was implyed), we abandoned the topic.

2

About the movies: The only German in "Schindler's List" who actually DO something is Schindler (there's another one that is shown in one short scene with high relutance as Schindler tries to conving him to keep helping). Each and every other ones are, indeed, hating and killing machines.

Most of the motion pictures on the theme (at leat american movies, the ones that have more appeal here in Brazil) actually take place in the battlefields, where you only hear the opinions of the allied soldiers and the only thing from the germans is the shooting and evil scheming from leaderships that are little more than mere caricatures.

It was already pointed out that many of the prosperous Jews of USA devotes large amounts of money in keeping the memory of what happened alive. It's a very reasonable point, and I add that it also helps to sustain their own perspective.

Do you remember the movie "Life is Beautiful", from Roberto Benigni, that was the oscar for best foreign movie a few years ago? It portraited the abuse entirely; the slave labor, the separations of families, the mass murders, the death camps. However, it had a humorous approach, that was skilfully handled and never disrespectful.

But the mere fact that a movie could aproach such a theme with humor caused great controversy about it.

The Same could be said about Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator". He tried to make some humorous criticism about the Nazis, and it almos sank his career, even being the consagrated genius that he already were.

The Main goal in here was not at all to try to paint all Germans as monsters, or to excuse them all as truly innocents. It is to acknowledge how much the nazi philosophy had rooted in the mind of the common folk, and to what extent they are to be charged guilty for that.

I don't deny at all the HUGE PROBABILITY, i'd call it the CERTAINY that there were actual civiliian abuses espontaniously pepetrated by the regular citzens. It's also not to deny the correspondently HUGE PROBABILITY, i'd call it a CERTAINY, that many didn't buy the Nazi's crap and stood their ground against them in the best way they could.

I am diging in the gray area between the extremes, like some here have very well noted.

3

The Picture and blaming things: Before anything else, i'd like to state that I NEVER sugested staged pictures or forged evidence. That, you completely misunderstood.

What i denyed, as i said that pictures are no proove, is that real evidence of racist citzens is NOT the same of real evidence of a racist society.

Now, imagine a country with 100 citzens. 10 of them racists, the other 90 not. That would give a serious 10% average of racism. And those 10 would be able to provide very graphic images of abuse. But it would not be fair to point that country as racist, as the huge majority is not.

I merely sugested that there is no safe way to know if that, or something alike, was the scenario on the Germany of that period. A few images, even A LOT of images (10% of a whole country can fill a whole lot of pages) are NO conclusive evidence.

On the other way around, even if there were NO evidences of abuse by civilians, it also wouldn't proof that there weren't a majority of racists, because we don't know what's going on in the heart of the ones that didn't kill anyone.

Only when we are capable of reading people's minds we will be able to know that. Untill there, i give the benefict of doubt to the POPULATION, at the same time i condem the many acts of many individuals.

You don't throw away a entire basket because of a few bad apples... but you also don't eat them all.

4

About the denying of the Holocaust coming from various sources; what exactly you mean with that? I only mentioned it as i think that even with many Germans sincerely believing that the Nazi's philosophy wasen't all that spread, we can not be sure.

The fact that others too deny that do not make the slightest diference in that point

5

About the "absolute answer":

Now here i disagree entirely, and not only for the reasons that i mentioned above.

For one, i don't believe in absolute things at all.

for two, review the core of the afirmative: "They were not evil, but were part of something evil".

Correct if i'm wrong, but evil things are made of evil parts.

Now, they were generally good, but also evil enough to be involved with a huge, massive diabolical apparatus.

How can you see anything absolute in such a paradox?

6

My porpose here is to seek for the truth. And seeking for the truth is not a painless process, and sometimes it forces us to ask questions that we would rather let go.

I want to understand the reasons why things happens, because they don't come out of nowhere. Understanding them is a very important part of preventing them to happen again.

Ok, everything is reason. sickness is reason. But to merely say that the nazis were sick is very naive. And the same goes for the Talibans.

So, don't blame me when i say that i understand them. Understanding and agreeing are things extremely diferent. understanding and justifying to.

But trying to understand will give me a much large probability of preventing their "evil deeds" in the future, and i imagine that from it you won't disagree.

Regards :) .

willemvanoranje
Feb 02, 2002, 07:07 AM
Last year I talked a lot about life in WW II for my (German) grandma, for a school project. She was raised in the Nazi world, and is still scared of negros and Jews. She sympathized with the ideas of the Nazi government, as did many Germans, but she had learned that in school. The indoctrination was too big, the propaganda too much, so she was filled with wrong ideas and impressions in the earl years of her life.
But she hated the nazis too, for their strict rule and strange laws. She was once almost sent to prison because she didn't know how to milk a cow. At home (in Sudetenland) they had a PoW working with them. The nazi rules made it clear that they had to work for them, do the nasty jobs, let them find their own sleeping place and food, or more: just don't do anything for them. In her family the PoW ate with them at the same table, which almost got her father killed because of the nazi rules.

For my grandpa, he was in the Kriegsmarine, on a mine-sweeper. He was captured by the English though, so he didn't really see action in the war. Eventually he was sent home, just before the war ended, because of some illness. I don't know about his thoughts and opinions in the war, but I think he was less nazi-oriented than my grandma. I'll never know, since he passed away 5 years ago, when I was just 10....so..

allhailIndia
Feb 02, 2002, 07:29 AM
Like your Granmother, several other Germans also hated the Nazis and their ways. But it is pointless to hate and do nothing about it. It is like sitting on the Rhine or Ganges and throwing a pebble every now and then expecting a big dam in some time. Even if the Germans were strongly against the Jew slaughter, they did not do anything about it, as I mentioned earlier. It is all very well to have a strong conviction or belief, but without courage, it is useless. This was one of the Tenets of Mahatma Gandhi

Lucky
Feb 02, 2002, 08:45 AM
An even longer post.:p
Most of the posts and replies state that many,many people were employed in any way in the deportation of the Jews and the Holocaust.
That is surely true BUT I have to point out again that most of these people didnīt know for sure or didnīt want to know what was really going on. If the general populace in Germany would have tried to find proof of the Holocaust at that time Iīm pretty sure they would have done something against it.
But you have to remember that the `real` Holocaust started to happen in the 1940īs at a time when the average German had other things to worry about. If you are in a war and your government tells it is for the best of the country, the wartime economy guarantees your job and the general feeling is one of approvement of the government you do NOT investigate in those rumors. After all they were just rumors and the cruelty of the regime against any opposition also frightened people and denied them any rise of their suspicions.
True, most people, but not only in Germany, had a rassistic and anti-semitic tendency at that time. But if you would have been told in school, from most parents and the media over several years of your young life that the Jews and any non-arish(?) people were the source of all evil, would you disagree??? I donīt think so!
Like several others have stated here, with the advent of mass media the manipulation of the population with neverending propagande leaves its traces! If you hear it every day you begin to believe what you hear.
AND the average citizen in ANY country at ANY time in history is NOT very well educated and so more easily `controlled`. This does NOT imply that the more educated people were all saints!;)

If your definition of an `evil` person is someone that doesnīt want to know the whole truth under ANY circumstances and stands up agains atrocities EVERY time, even with just rumors of them, then every German was indeed evil.
But with that definition, EVERY Russian (also had concentration camps), English (also anti-semitic crimes), American (anti-NON-American, espesially against Japanese-Americans), etc. would be evil, too. The same goes for the Roman empire, they even eradicated cities, other Empires of that era, all the European explorers, the early USA (natives), the present USA (every communistic regime), England (Northern Ireland), etc,etc,etc...
What Iīm trying to say is that EVERY nation and EVERY people has committed atrocities and crimes against others without a general reaction of the population of protest.
There's been a traveling exhibition in Germany over the past decade of photos that prove that the Holocaust was not just the product of some evil individuals in the SS and Nazi leadership; they show average Wehrmacht soldiers and even some civilians committing attrocities, shattering a myth for Germans that only the SS and and a few small Nazi organizations committed the terrible attrocities of the war.That exhibition caused quite an unrest in the media (not the general population) because its headline stated that "Soldaten sind Moerder", `Soldiers are Murderers`. The exhibition itself was well researched but also one-sided. As it pictured the crimes of the Wehrmacht it did NOT compare these with the total number committed in the war.
I know that numbers cannot show or prove anything when in comes to mass murder but the part the Wehrmacht or civilians `played` was nevertheless just a small percentage of the whole holocaust.
And there wasnīt such a thing as `the SS and a few small Nazi organisations`. The SS was the single most biggest group in the Nazi regime. The total number of members easily was greater than the number of soldiers in Rommelīs Africa Corps. The exhibition also made some errors in that area, it is documented that many SS officers actually took part in the advancement of the German army. When a certain area was taken they coordinated the deportation of `unwelcome` people.
The Nazi regime was very careful to fully control the German army by having SS people almost everywhere.
But again, the Wehrmacht was NOT innocent of course, but MOST soldiers simply did their job.I think many of us prefer to cast ourelves in the role of the hero.Very well said. This single sentence describes the problem we face today much better than pages of interpretation.:goodjob:
We can all say WHY didnīt they stand up, WHAT have they let happen, WHY were they so `inhuman`... today. Nobody can REALLY understand what was going on and NONE of us is able to truly say that he would have acted otherwise!But more seriously, if you believed what Hitler was saying, you were guilty. If you considered yourself "neutral" to what Hitler was saying, you are also guilty.If thatīs your opinion.:crazyeyes
See beginning of post!The German people had several opportunities to get rid of Hitler and the Nazis, but they did not take it. They had an inkling of what was to come in the Mein Kampf, but they did not heed to it.First of all the cliché of every household having at least on copy of Mein Kampf is simply wrong. Again only a minority has really read this book. Most were simply not interested, as there was a high degree of not caring for any politics at that time! See my last post!
Second, there were NOT several opportunities to get rid of Hitler AND the Nazis. Hitler was just the frontman for the `show`, at least in the beginning he didnīt hold any true power. And later there were several assassination attempts by Wehrmacht officers. Although not mainly due to his racisms but more due to his militaristic inability!
And if you think that the Germans are guilty then you also have to agree that the different Indian ethnic groups are guilty in commiting the greatest mass murder in history. Your countries independence (and Pakistans of course) was by far bloodier than anything witnessed in WW2. So following your logic your people have to be even more evil not to stand up against the civil unrest and the war which continues even today!
Many NON-Germans are denying right now that the Holocaust occurred. And modern Germany has been very aware and ashamed of its role in the atrocities of WWII and has pursued a very liberal path ever since.This fact is also often forgotten when discussion this subject.
The Holocaust was definitely on of the darkest events in human history. But at least we learned from that. The racist, nationalistic and anti-semitic tendency are currently on the rise again but Germany is the only country which watches any development very closely and acts accordingly, after openly researching the its history. In many other countries (France, England, USA...) you can witness those tendency and those groups are often tolerated, at least for some time. IMO this is one of the most dangerous developments today, although any neo-nazi event in Germany is throughout the medias in no time, equal events in other countries remain mostly undocumented.It is all very well to have a strong conviction or belief, but without courage, it is useless.So you would have had the courage to speak up, would you? I donīt think so.
Again, your people havenīt stood up either, despite Ghandis tries. And you donīt speak up now, do you, when India and Pakistan threaten each other with war, maybe even nuclear attacks!
The human nature isnīt all good, otherwise we wouldnīt have had any wars. And most people simply arenīt courageous.
:cool:

Nahuixtelotzin
Feb 02, 2002, 09:14 AM
Originally posted by allhailIndia
Like your Granmother, several other Germans also hated the Nazis and their ways. But it is pointless to hate and do nothing about it. It is like sitting on the Rhine or Ganges and throwing a pebble every now and then expecting a big dam in some time. Even if the Germans were strongly against the Jew slaughter, they did not do anything about it, as I mentioned earlier. It is all very well to have a strong conviction or belief, but without courage, it is useless. This was one of the Tenets of Mahatma Gandhi

I think you confuse being a hero with being a good person. A Mahatma Gandhi in the Nazi-regime would have said 3 sentences and then be killed before his message could reach a reasonable amount of other people. I agree though that germans did too little but don't blame them for not raising their hands and say: "Me next please"
Of my two grandfathers one was more or less indoctrinated by Nazi propaganda though he later admitted that it was mad. Like most people he heard about the holocaust already during war but simply didn't believe it. He thought, most what Nazis do was fight the commies and could live with that. He was not a bad person, but had a very short sighted mind, what can't excuse him for accepting the Nazis.

My other grandpa was a moderate social-democrat all his life and faced several problems for "not being a convinced Nazi". His neighbors were suspicious from the beginning when he didn't participate in the Reichskristallnacht but rather shot the door and not step outside. He was never a party member although this would have caused a boom for his career as Physician. Nevertheless he did not run away when they told him that he got to go to the Wehrmacht. Luckily he came to the Artillery and never had to shoot or to execute someone. He always said he doesn't know what he had done, but probably shoot out of cowardice for his own life.
Thus he was no hero, but never gave a damn for the Nazis. If it were for people like him, the Nazis would never have come to power, and I know that he was a good person.

Richard III
Feb 02, 2002, 10:30 AM
As a political hack, I've often reflected on this, and my answer to myself is the same answer I give to this thread's question. Were average germans "bad guys" in 1941?

Answer: enough were.

R.III

Greadius
Feb 02, 2002, 06:24 PM
One set of my grandparents were in Germany during the Nazi period. My grandfather was a member of the Communist party until Hitler outlawed it. He just shut up in fear. He was drafted into the army when Hitler invaded Russia and sent to the eastern front. Whoever had the great idea of sending a commie to the Eastern front paid for it, he got 'captured' and spent the whole war in a Russian prison camp.

Their house was only a few miles away from a concentration camp, and my grandmother lived there the entire time. She's dead now, and was old when I came to the curiosity age. But my mother always wanted to ask her but stopped herself: how could she not have known what was going on?

I agree that a lot of people were afraid and were quiet because of it, but I don't think that is a very, very weak excuse. They were following orders out of weakness of spirit if not military command. I think its a shameful history that will thankfully die within my lifetime that so many average Germans collusively did nothing (though many individuals did a lot of good). Maybe because I've lived in freedom my whole life I can't concieve allowing tyranny without trying to stop it, but I still think they are responsible for what happened.

This is a completely baised and jingoistic statement, but if more people around the world would have the attitude of the American revolutionaries (willingness to die for principles), then modern despots would never be able to grab power through intimidation.

vega
Feb 02, 2002, 07:50 PM
"willingness to die for principles"

oh hey, thats real life here, not hollywood ;)

Vrylakas
Feb 02, 2002, 09:40 PM
Lucky:

I don't want you to feel defensive about this subject (or at least how I'm treating it). My point was not to point a finger at the Germans - quite the opposite. My point was to say that civilization experienced a major moral collapse, a major failure when a fanatical regime came to power (that caught not only 1930s German but many others' fancy as well), and its evil intent was facilitated by the direct involvement through passive acquiescence of the occupied territories' larger populations. Germans were the main driving force behind the Holocaust, but many others took part as well, through the means I've described. I see the Holocaust as a failure of Western Civilization, not something specifically German (or better put, exclusively German). Allied histories of the war have since emphasized the heroes who resisted, ignoring or minimizing the stories of those who collaborated. As Keegan points out, we all still have skeletons in our collective closets from WW II that require airing. An example would be the 1966 Bishops' Letter in which collectively the Polish bishphoric of the Roman Catholic Church signed a letter of apology to all the Germans who suffered in the mass expulsion of some 10 million German civilians from the ziemie odzyskane, the "Recovered Territories" in 1944-46 of East Prussia, Silesia and eastern Pomerania. The Polish communist government denounced this letter and it was also very unpopular among Poles, but the Church stood by the apology and it stands for Poland as the first attempt to step and back and really assess what happened in the war - a process that still continues today.

As for the Mein Kampf argument, few anywhere took it seriously. It's easy in retrospect to see that Hitler meant it all, but who in 1933 or even 1939 would have believed that a madman would create a mass manufactruring-style death machine? They would call you a madman if you went back and tried to warn everyone. Westerners such as Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh and "Lord Haw Haw" in Britain all publically admired Hitler in the 30s.

I have a personal situation similar to Willemvanoranje's, where I recently learned that a relative (whom I'd been told was a policeman in communist Poland) was actually a member of the UB/SB in the 1950s and 60s, the communist secret police - the Polish KGB. I was furious and still haven't dealt with this well. I've been raised with a family that resisted the communists - and now this? I was assured that this person "only did this for the survival of his family" and anyway "just worked a desk job", but even if that's true this person was still party to a great evil. I spent the late 1980s and early 90s visiting newly-opened mass graves of communist victims; the thought that a family member - however distant - may have participated in any of this enrages me and makes me sick. The best we can do is learn from the past, and it perhaps isn't fair for me to judge someone when I haven't been in their situation - I can't imagine endangering my wife because of my own principals - but I really can't swallow this.

There's an entire generation of Europeans, East and West, who have some unpleasant things to swallow.

FredLC
Feb 05, 2002, 04:47 AM
What do you understand for "principles"?

For me, they are mental rules; a standart set of behaviors that people use to guide their acts. Under that perspective, everyone have principles.

Just not all principles are moral ones.

Now, maybe the "american revolutionaries" were willing to die for their principles, or at least, some of them. But, involved in a traditional sort of war, they all could charish the hope of surviving to take the benefits of their achievements.

Those fanatic criminals that crashed planes in the World Trade Center didn't have that kind of hope.

So, they were as willing to die for their "unmoral principals" as the american citzens in their revolution. Perhaps even more, because they knew that it would be no hope of survival.

And if you say that they were believing that they would go straight to Allah, well, most americans believe that God is the ultimate destination of a good person, am i right?

People accept death for many reasons. Some sports are terribly dangerous, but people do it anyway, in the name of the thrill. Some risk their lifes for money. Some for glory.

When any army march into war, soldiers risk their lifes because they were ordered to. Now, the fact that many of them may be doing that without being defending their own "principles", does it makes them any less brave?

Within a battle (not a civilian slaughtering like some that happened in WWII), the Axis soldier that fought for opression, was he less brave than the allied soldier that fought for freedom?

In the heat of combat, it's man against man, all willing to do anything for victory, regardless each one standarts from the moral point of view.

Remember that if the American revolutioner was fighting for their principle of independence, the british soldiers were fighting for their own, of british domination. Wrong as they were, they felt rightious and justified and would also give their lives to their cause. And they did.

What i mean with all that is: Even if we admit the "willingness to die" as a factor (i tend to agree it's more of a hollywood thing, with some exceptions of course), it works for opressors as well as for opressed.

So, i don't think it would do the slightest difrerence in the history of tiranny in the world.

Regards :) .


-------------------------------------------

PS.: I change my mind about the most satisfying answer to the original question. I think Richard III tought us that you don't have to speak much to say everything.

Hail, mylord :p .

allhailIndia
Feb 05, 2002, 06:04 AM
People like Gandhi can rise only because they know that there is potential in a people and that can be released. THe British could have several times slaughtered thousands of Congressmen, but the death of one Congressmen brought ten others into the struggle. If somebody had had the guts to stand up to the cruelties of the Nazis in Germany, and he or she was killed by the Nazis, their actions would have made ten other people take up the cause. if the Nazis killed those ten, another hundred would have arisen.

About the several attempts I suggest you all read the RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH by William Shirer. The leading scholars, statesmen, journalists and several people had read the Mein Kampf or it would not have sold a million or so copies. My point was that the german people had all the proof of rabid Anti -Semtitsm under their noses but did not open their eyes to it.

MrPresident
Feb 05, 2002, 06:23 AM
I think no-one but the most serious fanatic would have any objection to the statement: The Nazis were evil. It would also be fair to say that the Nazis organised and carried out the holocaust. However what you must remember is that the Nazi in the 1932 elections got the more votes than any other party. This gave weight to the campaign t give Hitler the chancellory. Admittedly it was the elites who got Hindenburg to give in but they did this partly because of his party's public support. Whether or not this support could be justified in the climate at the time (economic crisis, Versailles treaty, apparent failure of democracy etc) is hard to say. It is true that the German people generally did not vote for anti-semitic reasons (Hitler toned down his anti-Jewish feelings for the election). When the Nazis were in power I think it is fair to say that they did have public support. The traditional view of a oppressed people has been significantly underminded. For example, the Gestapo (Secret police) got the majority of the denunications from the German people (more for selfish reasons like greed than a Nazi belief). So the German people generally approved of the Nazi regime, at last before the war. With regards to the holocaust issue then the decision as to whether or not the German people knew and approved becomes a lot harder. For 6 million Jews and 5 million ethnic minorities to go missing and no-one to notice seems a bit implausible. In conclusion, I think that the German people had valid reasons as to why they voted Nazi and generally supported the regime. It is probably certain that the majority of the German people were not Nazis and didn't share their beliefs. However they must share some of the blame for the holocaust and other Nazi evils.

Nahuixtelotzin
Feb 05, 2002, 03:42 PM
There is a new austrian documantary about Traudl Jung, Hitler's private secretary who confesses and describes her life near Hitler. It's an amazing artwork and a touching confession. I'm sure it wll be translated soon into english somewhere, so care to take a look. Really enlightening!

donsig
Feb 07, 2002, 03:59 PM
No, I don't think all German were evil in 1941.

Yes, the same could happen in America. We are only human and also have a capacity to hate. We also have the ability to recognize hate for the destructive thing it is - more so than the Germans of 1941 simply because we know about the Nazi atrocities (and the historical treatment of Native and African Americans in our own country). We can only hope that in times of hardship and adversity we will still be able to see hate for what it is.

willemvanoranje
Feb 09, 2002, 05:40 AM
Originally posted by Greadius
One set of my grandparents were in Germany during the Nazi period. My grandfather was a member of the Communist party until Hitler outlawed it. He just shut up in fear. He was drafted into the army when Hitler invaded Russia and sent to the eastern front. Whoever had the great idea of sending a commie to the Eastern front paid for it, he got 'captured' and spent the whole war in a Russian prison camp.

Their house was only a few miles away from a concentration camp, and my grandmother lived there the entire time. She's dead now, and was old when I came to the curiosity age. But my mother always wanted to ask her but stopped herself: how could she not have known what was going on?


My mother's uncle was captured back in I think it was 1943 by the Russians.......he didn't return 'till 1954.
A friend of my grandfathers (they were in the same unit) lived near Bergen-Belsen (or his wife did, since he was in the military) and she never knew about the camp either; not until the camp was conquered by the Allied.