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Old 04-21-2019, 11:44 AM
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Regarding the Holocaust: Did this crime benefit the perpetrator's plans? Did they expect it to?


One topic I don't see discussed much is why the Nazi's committed the Holocaust. Yes, they did it. Yes, it was a terrible crime. Yes, they murdered about 11 million people in a horrific way.

Why did they do it? Usually, I hear the argument that they were just irrational and stupid. That the groups they murdered (not just Jews but gypsies and other groups they tagged as undesirable) were just scapegoats and in no way causing an impediment in their overall plans to conquer all of Europe and build a huge fascist empire.

That by causing Jewish atomic scientists to flee they also sowed the seeds for their own defeat.

So I thought about it. And I realized that if you wanted to run a fascist regime, you need a society of all conformists. All bootlickers. It helps if everyone looks about the same to prevent there from being isolated ethnic subgroups. You need everyone to behave the same, and to dutifully report any suspected traitors to the police.

The Jews..and other subgroups...were noncomformists. They kept themselves apart from their neighbors in many ways, socially and religiously. Germany wasn't originally a monoculture, it would have originally been a bunch of isolated tribes and later medieval kingdoms, and somehow the "modern" Germany of the 1930s would have been a more integrated monoculture with the exception of out-groups.

Is this why they were murdered? Or were the planners of the holocaust just robots obeying orders and Hitler was an irrational moron with a hatred for the groups he murdered?
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Old 04-21-2019, 11:49 AM
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I think they sincerely believed the groups they targeted were subhuman, and presented an existential threat to "real" people, both as current "deadwood" in society and as a genetic threat. This is why dehumanizing rhetoric to any group is so dangerous; once you've decided some group isn't people, you don't have to have empathy. You can gas 3-year olds in the same way I can eat meat--slaughtering cows is . . .distasteful . . . to me, but I'm fundamentally okay with it.
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Old 04-21-2019, 12:07 PM
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I think they sincerely believed the groups they targeted were subhuman, and presented an existential threat to "real" people, both as current "deadwood" in society and as a genetic threat.
This seems to be in the class of "the Nazis were morons" explanations. Obviously no rational person would consider these targetted groups to not be humans and they would not conclude they were an existential threat without evidence of such.
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Old 04-21-2019, 12:23 PM
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The answer is: the nazis were a bunch of conspiracy theorists not too different than the ones around today, and they actually believed what they said. When they said that the Jews had conspired to make Germany lose World War One, they weren’t trolling, that’s what they actually thought happened. Their beliefs weren’t subject to facts, just like conspiracy theorists now.

So yeah, idiots.
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Old 04-21-2019, 12:24 PM
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This seems to be in the class of "the Nazis were morons" explanations. Obviously no rational person would consider these targetted groups to not be humans and they would not conclude they were an existential threat without evidence of such.
How so? It's more normal than not in history for people to consider those outside the tribe to be subhuman. The goal--genocide--isn't new or remarkable. All that is remarkable is the efficiency with which it was pursued. The Nazis certianly thought they were rational. I'm honestly not going to go down the rabbit-hole of explaining the early 20th century/Nazi logic of eugenics, because explaining it comes perilously close to sounding like I am justifying it, and I really don't want neo-Nazis to read that into an explanation. But there were a lot of people that felt eugenics were entirely rational, and that bag genes represented an existential threat to real, "pure" humanity. There's lots of people that feel that way today. I don't think they are morons. But they like the set of "facts" that puts them on top and rationalizes hatred, violence, and scorn.
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Old 04-21-2019, 12:40 PM
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The answer is: the nazis were a bunch of conspiracy theorists not too different than the ones around today, and they actually believed what they said. When they said that the Jews had conspired to make Germany lose World War One, they weren’t trolling, that’s what they actually thought happened. Their beliefs weren’t subject to facts, just like conspiracy theorists now.

So yeah, idiots.
But...how. Didn't the USA joining in add another million soldiers to the fight? Weren't they fighting the world's premier power at the time? (Britain) Didn't their enemy have the material resources to eventually develop tanks and other battlefield changing innovations? I would expect to lose in a scenario like that...
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Old 04-21-2019, 01:07 PM
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One thing that it should not be forgotten is that in WW I Jews fought for Germany, the difference later was the antisemitism and bigotry from the likes of Hitler and other influential groups (that included conservative Christians) that later set the state into a path to eventually exterminate what they saw as a threat.

https://www.annefrank.org/en/anne-fr...ler-hate-jews/
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What we do know is that two Austrian politicians greatly influenced Hitler's thinking. The first, Georg Ritter von Schönerer (1842-1921), was a German nationalist. He believed that the German-speaking regions of Austria-Hungary should be added to the German empire. He also felt that Jews could never be fully-fledged German citizens.

From the second, the Viennese mayor Karl Lueger (1844-1910), Hitler learned how antisemitism and social reforms could be successful. In Mein Kampf, Hitler praised Lueger as 'the greatest German mayor of all times'. When Hitler came to power in 1933, he put similar ideas into practice.
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Jews as the scapegoats for the lost war

The German defeat was hard to swallow for many Germans, and for Hitler, too. In nationalist and right-wing conservative circles, the ‘stab-in-the-back legend’ became popular. According to this myth, Germany did not lose the war on the battlefield, but through betrayal at the home front. The Jews, Social Democrats, and Communists were held responsible.

The prejudices about the role of the Jews in the war were false. An investigation carried out by the German Government proved as much. Over one hundred thousand German and Austrian Jews had fought for their fatherland. Otto Frank, who had fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, was just one of them.
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Radicalisation of Hitler’s antisemitism

Against the backdrop of revolution and violence, Hitler's antisemitism was becoming increasingly radical. It is noteworthy that he said he did not support uncontrolled 'emotional' pogroms (outbursts of anti-Jewish violence). Instead, he argued for an ‘antisemitism of the mind'. It had to be legal and would ultimately lead to the 'removal' of the Jews.

As early as August 1920, Hitler compared the Jews to germs. He stated that diseases cannot be controlled unless you destroy their causes. The influence of the Jews would never disappear without removing its cause, the Jew, from our midst, he said. These radical ideas paved the way for the mass murder of the Jews in the 1940s.
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Hitler’s racism: not just the Jews

Hitler viewed the world as an arena for the permanent struggle between peoples. He divided the world population into high and low races. The Germans belonged to the high peoples and the Jews to the low ones. He also had specific notions about other peoples. The Slavic people, for instance, were cast as inferior, predestined to be dominated.

Hitler felt that the German people could only be strong if they were 'pure'. As a consequence, people with hereditary diseases were considered harmful. These included people with physical or mental disabilities, as well as alcoholics and 'incorrigible' criminals. Once the Nazis had come to power, these ideas led to the forced sterilisation and killing of human beings.
What happen in Germany was confirmation of the old words from Sir James Porter's on the religion, law, government, and manners of the Turks, 1768:

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The Turks have a homely proverb applied on such occasions: they say "the fish stinks first at the head", meaning, that if the servant is disorderly, it is because the master is so.
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Old 04-21-2019, 01:20 PM
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Any indecent nonworthwhile autocratic regime needs Enemies to blame internally, people whose fault the current sociopolitical situation can be asserted.

It's convenient if there's a category of people that the autocrats and/or their loyal followers have a pre-existing antipathy for, but if necessary one invents the category. Gotta point a finger at some cluster of people and shout that everything is their fault.

They need to represent a threat to domestic tranquility sufficient to get people nodding in agreement when you explain the need to curtail individual freedom in favor of police powers of investigation, apprehension, surveillance, censorship, extraordinary rendition, detainment, proactive intervention, and so forth. It's everyone's individual freedom going down the drain, of course, but the reason people agree to losing theirs is the overwhelming need to stop Those People from Doing What They Do.
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Old 04-21-2019, 01:20 PM
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Killing millions of undesireables was not a means to an end for the Nazis, and it did not further their goals. It was, itself, the end and the goal.
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Old 04-21-2019, 01:22 PM
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Well, shit. Frankly this explanation of the holocaust makes it seem even worse. It would be one thing if the mass murders at least had a logical, though evil purpose. If you're going to burn villages and slaughter puppies it should be for a purpose, right? But from a conspiracy theory?

Instead the mass murders seem to be just another problem with dictatorships. In them, if the dictator gets a wrong idea, even if it's just a conspiracy, they end up wasting resources (and lives in this case) on stupid things.
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Old 04-21-2019, 01:24 PM
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They need to represent a threat to domestic tranquility sufficient to get people nodding in agreement when you explain the need to curtail individual freedom in favor of police powers of investigation, apprehension, surveillance, censorship, extraordinary rendition, detainment, proactive intervention, and so forth. It's everyone's individual freedom going down the drain, of course, but the reason people agree to losing theirs is the overwhelming need to stop Those People from Doing What They Do.
This would be why after the Oklahoma city bombing there were no curtailings of civil liberties, but after 9/11 there were? (because the first crime was committed by a member of the "in-group" while the latter was committed by a foreign "out-group")
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Old 04-21-2019, 01:51 PM
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I would guess that a large component of it was resources - it wasn't just 6 million Jews, it was also 6 million Roma, gays, mentally handicapped, etc. as well. The Nazis probably felt that by exterminating them, they thus eliminated 12 million mouths to feed.

Of course, the Holocaust consumed a considerable amount of resources as well, but I think the Nazis were partly motivated by thinking that they were alleviating a food burden thusly.

Along with, of course, the other motives.
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Old 04-21-2019, 01:59 PM
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But...how. Didn't the USA joining in add another million soldiers to the fight? Weren't they fighting the world's premier power at the time? (Britain) Didn't their enemy have the material resources to eventually develop tanks and other battlefield changing innovations? I would expect to lose in a scenario like that...
The key here is your term "eventually."

In 1914, Britain had an all-volunteer army of only 120,000, as compared to the much larger, trained, disciplined conscripted armies of the Central Powers. Of course, those numbers would change as the Allied nations drafted and trained massive numbers of troops, but that would take time, and the Schlieffen Plan had the Central Powers taking France within 45 days. Germany also mistakenly thought it could keep Russia at bay, assuming it'd be slow to mobilize.

And of course, at the beginning, nobody--including the US--knew the US would join the war. Isolationism and pacifism were so strong that Wilson successfully ran for reelection in 1916 with the slogan, "He kept us out of the war."

Finally, the Germans were getting war news from outside Germany. What we want to believe colors our perceptions, and the German people saw a few setbacks that their troops could overcome To Germans, the Armistice came as a shock, and the terms of Versailles a humiliation--one that had to be someone else's fault. Existing stereotypes and antisemitism made it easy to believe Jews had supported the Weimar Republic, which had sued for peace, had secretly sided with Russia, worked to weaken morale on the home front and, despite facts to the contrary, had lower numbers at the front. When people can't face the truth, they tend to select the already-reviled as a scapegoat.
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Old 04-21-2019, 02:40 PM
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Haters gonna hate.
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The Jews...were noncomformists. They kept themselves apart from their neighbors in many ways, socially and religiously.
Not only that, they were pushy, always horning in where they weren't wanted.*

*Having a working irony meter helps here.
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Old 04-21-2019, 03:11 PM
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Haters gonna hate.Not only that, they were pushy, always horning in where they weren't wanted.*

*Having a working irony meter helps here.
Are you accusing me of antisemitism? Is it not a factual statement to say a particular group was being nonconformist? I am in no way implying it was good to be a conformist - read the rest of the original post above instead of cherry picking a part you don't like. Being a conformist means being a Nazi bootlicker who will also rat his or her friends out to the police at the slightest sign of disloyalty.

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So I thought about it. And I realized that if you wanted to run a fascist regime, you need a society of all conformists. All bootlickers. It helps if everyone looks about the same to prevent there from being isolated ethnic subgroups. You need everyone to behave the same, and to dutifully report any suspected traitors to the police.

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Old 04-21-2019, 03:30 PM
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You are all forgetting something very important. Or maybe you never learned it. The long term plan was to depopulate Central and Eastern Europe to give the "master race" more space in which to live. That is, the long-term plan was to exterminate the rightful owners then move in, take their goodies, their land, and everything. It was called lebensraum and slated the non-Aryans for either extermination or expulsion.

This plan was why, after the Jews, the next largest group enslaved and killed in the concentration camps were the Polish - they were next for the Final Solution after the Jews were gone.

So no, it wasn't just conspiracy theories and scapegoating (even though those played a part). It was a plan to obliterate people and take their stuff and territory for their own.

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Old 04-21-2019, 03:39 PM
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You are all forgetting something very important. Or maybe you never learned it. The long term plan was to depopulate Central and Eastern Europe to give the "master race" more space in which to live. That is, the long-term plan was to exterminate the rightful owners then move in, take their goodies, their land, and everything. It was called lebensraum and slated the non-Aryans for either extermination or expulsion.

So no, it wasn't just conspiracy theories and scapegoating (even though those played a part). It was a plan to obliterate people and take their stuff and territory for their own.
I never learned it. This plan makes far more logical sense. It's also the kind of thing humans have likely done to each other for thousands of years, just more efficient.
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Old 04-21-2019, 03:51 PM
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Well, shit. Frankly this explanation of the holocaust makes it seem even worse. It would be one thing if the mass murders at least had a logical, though evil purpose. If you're going to burn villages and slaughter puppies it should be for a purpose, right? But from a conspiracy theory?
Autocratic regimes destroy reality. They destroy the truth based on facts, and replace that truth with their own. Trump may not be intentionally playing 24-dimensional chess when he gaslights us - it's probably just how he managed to con his way to riches in the world of real estate. But what worked in business, is a transferable skill to this arena.

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Instead the mass murders seem to be just another problem with dictatorships. In them, if the dictator gets a wrong idea, even if it's just a conspiracy, they end up wasting resources (and lives in this case) on stupid things.
One of the greatest misconceptions is that dictators are evil geniuses. They're geniuses when it comes to acquiring power, but that's usually as far as their genius goes. They almost always fail spectacularly in terms of raising the long-term welfare of the state.
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Old 04-21-2019, 03:56 PM
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The Jews..and other subgroups...were noncomformists. They kept themselves apart from their neighbors in many ways, socially and religiously. Germany wasn't originally a monoculture, it would have originally been a bunch of isolated tribes and later medieval kingdoms, and somehow the "modern" Germany of the 1930s would have been a more integrated monoculture with the exception of out-groups.
There were plenty of German Jews who fit in quite well with their neighbors and many weren't able to tell them apart from other Germans without getting to know them or perhaps by their names. In fact there was some tension between Jews who were assimilated and those who were not assimilated.
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Old 04-21-2019, 04:18 PM
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It's a both-and (well, many-and) situation, and the reasons cited above all come up in the historical record:
1) extreme anti-Semitic hatred, which has its own complicated roots, including conspiracy theories as mentioned

2) Lebensraum -- clearing space for the thousand-year empire

3) the fascist logic that you have to get rid of those who aren't participants in "the nation."

Re the last point, it's worth remembering that street criminals were victims of Nazism, as were political opponents, people with disabilities, et al. Part of what defines fascism is the quasi-militarization of society: all citizens have a part to play, all move in the same direction, all fall in the chain of command. "Nonconformism," as the OP put it, can't be tolerated, whether intentional (political opponents, street criminals) or not (minority groups, people with disabilities).


And one more practical "reason" for extermination (as opposed to just some form of exile or incarceration): the pressure of fighting a war. North Korea seems content to warehouse the vast majority of its un-persons, but if they were fighting a two-front war they might make the calculation that extermination saves resources and manpower.

Last edited by snoe; 04-21-2019 at 04:22 PM.
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Old 04-21-2019, 04:25 PM
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Weren't they fighting the world's premier power at the time? (Britain)

It's doubtful Britain was the "premier power". Probably had the best navy, and the best anti-tank trap (the Channel), but the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe were both ahead of the British Army and the RAF by 1939. That's why the British relied so heavily on the alliance with France: the French Army and the British Army were both necessary to match German land forces. It was also a factor in the appeasement debate: Chamberlain and the British government realised they needed time to catch up to Germany.

The other point, though, in that Hitler seemed to expect that the British would join him, because they were Germanic (mongrel Germanic, in his view, but Germanic), and therefore a natural ally for Germany. Britain was also opposed to Bolshevism. He hoped that Britain would join him in the fight against the Slavic Bolsheviks, as a junior partner in an Aryan alliance.

That may have been the explanation for the "Stop" order in June of 1940. Hitler stopped his troops from attacking the retreating British forces, which helped the evacuation at Dunkirk. In theory is that he wanted Britain to see that he didn't want to defeat them entirely, but co-opt them.
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Old 04-21-2019, 04:27 PM
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From a speech given by Heinrich Himmler to a group of SS leaders in Posen in October 1943:
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I am talking about the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish people. It is one of those things that is easily said. [quickly] "The Jewish people is being exterminated," every Party member will tell you, "perfectly clear, it's part of our plans, we're eliminating the Jews, exterminating them, a small matter". [less quickly] And then along they all come, all the 80 million upright Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. [mockingly] They say: all the others are swine, but here is a first-class Jew. [a few people laugh] And ... [audience cough] [carefully] ... none of them has seen it, has endured it. Most of you will know what it means when 100 bodies lie together, when 500 are there or when there are 1000. And ... to have seen this through and -- with the exception of human weakness -- to have remained decent, has made us hard and is a page of glory never mentioned and never to be mentioned. Because we know how difficult things would be, if today in every city during the bomb attacks, the burdens of war and the privations, we still had Jews as secret saboteurs, agitators and instigators. We would probably be at the same stage as 16/17, if the Jews still resided in the body of the German people.
(This is a selection from an approximately three-hour-long speech; however, ellipses represent pauses in Himmler's speech, not omissions. Words in brackets and italics were added by the translators.)

Note especially the last two sentences. Himmler also went on to say that "We have the moral right, we had the duty to our people to do it, to kill this people who would kill us".

Now, this is in a sense "propaganda"--Himmler, the big boss of the SS, is giving a motivational speech to a group of SS generals, high-level managers in the organization--but it's not mass propaganda. It was definitely not for public consumption. (An audio recording of the speech was made, which happened to survive the war and fell into the hands of the Allies. It seems a safe assumption that Nazi leaders spoke with similar frankness on many occasions, in private conversations and even in [semi-]public gatherings like this one, but of course recordings of every speech someone makes or conversation he has won't necessarily survive even when there isn't a huge destructive war going on, and when those conversations and speeches aren't about conspiracy to commit genocide.)

So, this is, presumably, what the highest echelons of the SS (itself the vanguard of the Nazi regime, and practically a state within the state) genuinely believed. The Nazis mass murdered the Jews because they hated the Jews; they hated the Jews because they believed the Jews were an evil "race" of "parasites" who betrayed and victimized the "Aryan race" the Nazis believed themselves to be members of.
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Old 04-21-2019, 06:31 PM
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https://petapixel.com/2013/03/31/eye...-photographer/ These are 2 famous photos by Eisenstaedt of Goebbels. The first is before Goebbels finds out Eisenstaedt has Jewish ancestry, the second shortly after. The difference is remarkable. In the 2nd picture, the hate and distase is visceral. No doubt in my mind that to this man, Jews were scary and disgusting.
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Old 04-21-2019, 07:00 PM
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There were plenty of German Jews who fit in quite well with their neighbors and many weren't able to tell them apart from other Germans without getting to know them or perhaps by their names. In fact there was some tension between Jews who were assimilated and those who were not assimilated.
Many were actually practicing Christians, with Jewish ancestry. Some didn't even know they had Jewish ancestry until the 30's, when the Nazis had people "prove" their Aryan roots. The Germans, from the Nuremberg Laws, forced them to be classified based on the # of Jewish grandparents....Mischlinge, etc. It was obviously crazy. But Germany had gone crazy in the 30's after the Depression, and they were open to Hitler's ambitions, even if only a step at a time.

In Germany, Jews were as assimilated as a group could be. Those in the East were more isolated. The Nazis classified all of them as subhumans. And they were called "useless eaters". It's incredible that an advanced society could fall prey to that type of thinking.
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Old 04-21-2019, 07:14 PM
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The Jews..and other subgroups...were noncomformists. They kept themselves apart from their neighbors in many ways, socially and religiously.
If a group is set apart from their neighbors, then yellow stars are not required to identify them. The Nazi hated all Jews, but had an especial fear of the "secret Jew", who could not be identified by any external sign.
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Old 04-21-2019, 08:41 PM
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Also keep in mind that German antisemitism goes back a long time and was unfortunately buried into the region's psyche. Martin Luther himself was a rabid antisemite who wrote at length on the subject, though his followers weren't unique in that regard.

Coupled with the aforementioned economic crisis, things then reached a flashpoint for an unscrupulous leader to leverage the bigotry to come to power.
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Old 04-21-2019, 09:34 PM
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That by causing Jewish atomic scientists to flee they also sowed the seeds for their own defeat.
They'd have to be clairvoyant to know this.

The earliest evidence for atomic fission came in 1939, from Lisa Meitner, Otto Hahn, and Otto Frisch. Hahn stayed in Germany. Meitner and Frisch fled. (But Metiner refused to work on a possible bomb at Los Alamos.) Fermi's first atomic pile wasn't until 1942.

In the 1930's German science was the envy of the rest of the world. Losing the Jewish fraction would be a serious mistake but not one they could have predicted would come back to bite them. And the official line was that Jewish science (all of it, in every discipline) was wrong and inferior. By their lights they were improving the breed.

There was nothing rational about the Nazi hatred of Jews. Trying to find rational explanations is futile. Your doing so as with your quick embrace of lebensraum as a rational excuse will always mislead you from the irrational core of the mindset.
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Old 04-22-2019, 03:54 AM
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Attributing the Nazi death industry solely to antisemitism, though, ignores all the other millions of people targeted. The targeting of the Jews might have been irrational bigotry, but targeting of other groups was not.
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Old 04-22-2019, 04:28 AM
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Since Mein Kampf is widely credited towards driving Hitler's -- and therefore the country's -- mind-set, reading it can be an eye-opener.

Another way of looking at the question...using a scapegoat as a reason for a country's problems allows a shift from the real reasons. If the Jews and gypsies prevent progress, getting rid of them would be desirable. Since this never happened as originally envisioned, we don't know if it would have solved everything.
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Old 04-22-2019, 06:57 AM
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While antisemitism had deep roots in the past, it was also part of a weird kind of futurist or ultra-modernist view of the world. The Nazis, like the Italian fascists, believed that their ideas were cutting edge, based on their own interpretation of modern science and pseudoscience. The scientific movements like Darwinism was adapted to fit a new way of how to view humanity, which was essentially to make an analogy between 'fit' and 'unfit' groups of people, treating them as though there were species among humans. The fascists embraced ruthlessness in improving industrial efficiency and tried to apply it to humanity as well. As companies like Ford would show, industrialism worked best when it had an autocratic governance and each little cog in the machine doing exactly what his/her role was.
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Old 04-22-2019, 07:10 AM
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Attributing the Nazi death industry solely to antisemitism, though, ignores all the other millions of people targeted. The targeting of the Jews might have been irrational bigotry, but targeting of other groups was not.
I'm fairly confident that the targetting of Roma was also irrational bigotry. Ditto homosexuals.
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Old 04-22-2019, 07:29 AM
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I'm fairly confident that the targetting of Roma was also irrational bigotry. Ditto homosexuals.
Also, disabled people. All seems to be rooted in the same goals of removing people that were seen as immediate threats and wastes of resources and to cleanse the gene pool of degenerate genes.
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Old 04-22-2019, 07:37 AM
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Attributing the Nazi death industry solely to antisemitism, though, ignores all the other millions of people targeted. The targeting of the Jews might have been irrational bigotry, but targeting of other groups was not.
"Numerous people fell victim to the Nazi regime for political, social, or racial reasons. Germans were among the first victims persecuted because of their political activities. Many died in concentration camps, but most were released after their spirit was broken. Germans who suffered from mental or physical handicaps were killed under a"euthanasia" program. Other Germans were incarcerated for being homosexuals, criminals, or nonconformists; these people, although treated brutally, were never slated for utter annihilation as were the Jews.
Roma and Sinti (often called by the derogatory term Gypsies) were murdered by the Nazis in large numbers. Estimates range from 200,000 to over 500,000 victims. Nazi policy toward Roma and Sinti was inconsistent. In Greater Germany, Roma and Sinti who had integrated into society were seen as socially dangerous and eventually were murdered, whereas in the occupied Soviet Union, Roma and Sinti who had integrated into society were not persecuted, but those who retained a nomadic lifestyle were put to death."


https://www.un.org/en/holocaustremem...d%20Vashem.pdf

As far as "logic" goes, it should have persuaded Stalin in the 1930s that it was a really bad idea to purge the military of many of its best leaders (along with millions of other loyal citizens) when outside threats made such a course especially perilous. Logic is no match for crazed bloodlust.
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Old 04-22-2019, 08:52 AM
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As far as "logic" goes, it should have persuaded Stalin in the 1930s that it was a really bad idea to purge the military of many of its best leaders (along with millions of other loyal citizens) when outside threats made such a course especially perilous. Logic is no match for crazed bloodlust.
And equally stupid for Pol Pot to kill anyone wearing eyeglasses.
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Old 04-22-2019, 09:18 AM
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I think we're falling into the trap of "If something is evil, it must therefore be irrational." If the Nazis wanted lebensraum and also considered certain peoples inferior and those people also had to eat food like anyone else, then there is a perfectly logical reason that they enacted the Holocaust. Less food consumed, less undesirable people around, more space for the superior race.

Doesn't make it any less monstrously evil, but it makes rational sense.
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Old 04-22-2019, 09:33 AM
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Quoth Exapno Mapcase:

They'd have to be clairvoyant to know this.
No, they'd need to be sane. True, they had no way of knowing that nuclear research specifically would bear fruit, or that that fruit would prove to have such an overwhelming military application. But they were systematically classifying all of the progress in physics at the time as "Jewish science" and thereby rejecting it. Rejecting reality (which is pretty much the definition of insanity) always has consequences, and it was exceedingly shortsighted to think that nothing of significance would come from all of that "Jewish science".
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Old 04-22-2019, 09:38 AM
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In Germany, Jews were as assimilated as a group could be. Those in the East were more isolated.
That's something worth underlining. Most of the classic "Jewish" orthodox stuff was typically Polish and Russian Jews, not the German ones.

But probably more critical than anything else is that there had been a long-standing (i.e. since the Medieval period) tradition of virulent antisemitism in Europe. There were periodic persecutions and pogroms throughout history- the general refrain was that the Jews had killed Jesus, and that's why they were being persecuted.

In reality, I suspect that some combination of that latent anti-semitism in the society, combined with the stereotypes of Jews as stingy and greedy, and another stereotype that they were unduly involved in tertiary sector industries like banking, law, etc... meant that they seemed like some sort of combination of soft targets with a lot of wealth to be seized, and with public opinion not historically being on their side. In other words, in light of the pre-war economic difficulties, the Jews made a perfect scapegoat for the Nazis.

That's what set the stage. What makes it horrifying is that Germany, a mid-20th century modern, industrial nation decided to industrialize the process of ethnic cleansing and genocide. THAT's what makes the Holocaust so terrible- it's not the first genocide, nor even the first one of the 20th century. But it is the first one that a nation-state went about prosecuting as an industrial process.

IMO, the "WHY?" question is probably answered by a combination of craziness on the part of the Nazi leaders, combined with Jews being a convenient, more or less wealthy (in Germany anyway) scapegoat, and against whom the population was already pre-conditioned against to some degree.

Where my understanding breaks down is how they went from scapegoating them and persecuting them to outright state-managed industrial murder. It's one thing if the SA runs around persecuting Jews, and the country makes it uncomfortable for them, or if they're expelled outright via laws, but it's another for them to make the leap to murdering them throughout the territories they had conquered or allied with. That part, I don't understand, and I suspect it's not a particularly rational or logical thing.
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Old 04-22-2019, 10:16 AM
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People are naturally genocidal. It stems from us existing in small tribal units competing over the same resources. As more complex societies formed, we did not lose our genocidal instincts. We naturally group and view those in the out-group as threats. Nearly every culture in the world has a history of genocide at some point in their past. Typically they took the form of kill all the men and turn the women into sex slaves and children into labor slaves, but unfortunately, genocide was a normal part of the human condition and despite our belief that modern western European countries are somehow civilized and beyond such things, Nazi Germany told us otherwise.
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Old 04-22-2019, 10:16 AM
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No, they'd need to be sane. True, they had no way of knowing that nuclear research specifically would bear fruit, or that that fruit would prove to have such an overwhelming military application. But they were systematically classifying all of the progress in physics at the time as "Jewish science" and thereby rejecting it. Rejecting reality (which is pretty much the definition of insanity) always has consequences, and it was exceedingly shortsighted to think that nothing of significance would come from all of that "Jewish science".
"They'd need to be sane" is saying that they needed to be rational. Rational is exactly what they weren't.

The USSR also went through this purge of Not Invented Here science with Lysenkoism. That was equally irrational, but had similar roots in the belief that the type of new society being wrought had unique understanding and insight into the world. That cropped up again under Mao and Pol Pot and any number of African dictators. Conspiracy thinking blinds people to reality. Once it takes hold of a country's leadership, the results are predictably dire.
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Old 04-22-2019, 10:34 AM
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Bump, I think that's the eugenics. Previous forms of genocide were aiming at ethnocide . . .wiping out a people, a culture. There wasn't the pseudo-scientific idea that it was the genes themselves that made someone subhuman. This wasn't just in Germany: the US was forcibly sterilizing the "feeble minded" for the good of our genetic stock until the 70s. Forcible expulsion isn't enough. They were eradicating what they saw as a plague. That is why children weren't spared.
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Old 04-22-2019, 10:44 AM
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I think the difference was primarily industrialization. It potentiates all forms of the exercise of power. Tribal genocide isn't a particularly modern phenomenon. Genghis Kahn, Attila, the Israelites themselves in the lands of Elamites, and the Egyptians, the early Caliphates, and century long wars among new world tribes on both continents.

Us, and them. It's the only differentiation necessary to create the desire to eliminate them. Twentieth century technology created the greatest increase in many human activities. As a species we have always used tribal justification for murder. We just got a lot better at it.

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Planetary sterilization remains slightly out of our technological reach. So far.
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Old 04-22-2019, 11:55 AM
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I think we're falling into the trap of "If something is evil, it must therefore be irrational." If the Nazis wanted lebensraum and also considered certain peoples inferior and those people also had to eat food like anyone else, then there is a perfectly logical reason that they enacted the Holocaust. Less food consumed, less undesirable people around, more space for the superior race.

Doesn't make it any less monstrously evil, but it makes rational sense.
I agree with this. People are capable of tremendous cruelty, but that doesn't make people insane or illogical in the ways that we ought to understand those terms.

In my view, the Stanford prison experiment and the Milgram experiment showed that normal people who are completely lucid can do things that are absolutely disgusting. I'm not enough of an amateur psychologist to understand why so many people can do bad things -- is it a weakness in every person? a weakness in society? a primal level of hate that sublimates under certain circumstances, but only for some people? -- but I strongly disagree that the reason boils down to a psychological condition of being unaware of reality in the manner of a mass psychotic breakdown, or as the OP put it, that people are unintelligent.

I tend to think that there's something scary inside of us that can be drawn out by authority, and everyone possesses an inherent ability to rationalize their own actions, no matter what they are. But we can call still call those actions evil, to be sure. Nazi were evil.

Last edited by Ravenman; 04-22-2019 at 11:55 AM.
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Old 04-22-2019, 01:56 PM
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Since everyone in this thread has some varying opinions and seems genuinely interested in this, may I strongly recommend Peter Hayes’ phenomenal book Why? Explaining the Holocaust. Basically, Hayes argues that this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
The long term plan was to depopulate Central and Eastern Europe to give the "master race" more space in which to live. That is, the long-term plan was to exterminate the rightful owners then move in, take their goodies, their land, and everything. It was called lebensraum and slated the non-Aryans for either extermination or expulsion.

This plan was why, after the Jews, the next largest group enslaved and killed in the concentration camps were the Polish - they were next for the Final Solution after the Jews were gone.

So no, it wasn't just conspiracy theories and scapegoating (even though those played a part). It was a plan to obliterate people and take their stuff and territory for their own.
Along with this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Reindeer Flotilla View Post
Also keep in mind that German antisemitism goes back a long time and was unfortunately buried into the region's psyche. Martin Luther himself was a rabid antisemite who wrote at length on the subject, though his followers weren't unique in that regard.

Coupled with the aforementioned economic crisis, things then reached a flashpoint for an unscrupulous leader to leverage the bigotry to come to power.
was that foundation of the Holocaust.

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Killing millions of undesireables was not a means to an end for the Nazis, and it did not further their goals. It was, itself, the end and the goal.
Not true—or at least, not in the beginning, amazing as that may seem to us today. The "end and the goal" was the Final Solution, which began with Operation Reinhard in late 1941. The "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" was very much a means to an end—it's right there in the name. Recall that before Wannsee, there was the Madagascar Plan, something fully endorsed by Hitler and Eichmann. Before that (and before the war, so before eastern European Jews had come under German control) Germany simply wanted the Jews gone. I'm sure you've heard of the St. Louis debacle. That was not an isolated indecent. Recall that Albert Einstein was among the German Jews expelled from the country when Hitler rose to power. (or more accurately, was not allowed back in after he had visited the US in 1933.)

Hitler rose to power in 1933, and as Hayes points out, the Nazis spent the next ~5 years determining what level of persecution against the Jews they could get away with without triggering the ire of the German population in general. The principal goal of Nazi leadership as late as 1938 was to speed up the process of driving the Jews out of the German economy and then out of the country altogether—. The mass murder of Jews didn't really begin until the Einsatzgruppen started using mass killings as a way of dealing with Jewish civilians in occupied territories following Operation Barbosa.

Interestingly, Hayes argues that the Final Solution was just that: the final way of addressing what the Nazis saw as a problem that did not require mass extermination. "as late as May 1940, Heinrich Himmler called 'the bolshevist method of the physical annihilation of a people... un-German and impossible.' " (Hayes, 86.) The Jewish question became more of a “problem” with Hitler’s war successes early in 1941. The number of Jews the Nazis became responsible for multiplied and Hitler begins to see them as a threat. On page 88 Hayes discusses how Hitler saw the Jews in the East as a threat to his advancing army and the reality that the United States would probably enter the conflict against him meant that the Jews “no longer had any value as hostages whose fate could be used to pressure the Allies or intimidate other Jews abroad.” According to Hayes this allowed any “restraint toward the Jews” to fall away. Hayes continues to say that there was a combination of “impatience, frustration, and hubris” that allowed Nazi leaders to proceed more radically against the Jews. While early policy may have been to hold off and win the war before they addressed the "Jewish Question" these circumstances allowed them to begin before they won ultimate victory.

The actual “eliminationist strategy” doesn’t appear to really take hold until the Wannsee Conference—indeed, I’d argue that the whole point of the Wannsee Conference was because the Nazi’s had not fully embraced genocide before that point. Additionally, not only did the Wannsee Conference kick off the Final Solution, it specifically addressed Jews in countries either under German control or that Germany hoped would be under their control (i.e. the USSR) soon.

The Wannsee conference was held in January 1942. This was almost 9 years after the Enabling Act which gave Hitler dictatorial powers (March 1933).

Hitler had always blamed the Jews for WWI and claimed that if war would come again it would once again be the Jews’ fault. Going back to the Hayes book, he even calls the progression of the Holocaust “mission creep” on page 326. The war gave the Nazis an excuse and the cover needed to carry out the Final Solution. However, the mass murder of Jews was not part of Hitler or the Nazi party's original platform. This isn't to say of course that Hitler didn't want Jews exterminated —indeed, he called for just that in Mein Kampf, but it was not part of Nazi party ideology when the party first rose to power.
  #44  
Old 04-22-2019, 02:08 PM
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People are capable of tremendous cruelty, but that doesn't make people insane or illogical in the ways that we ought to understand those terms.

...

I tend to think that there's something scary inside of us that can be drawn out by authority, and everyone possesses an inherent ability to rationalize their own actions, no matter what they are. But we can call still call those actions evil, to be sure. Nazi were evil.
Another must-read book on the Holocaust is Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Murder

One thing that's fascinating is that Waller argues that the Nazi's looked for unquestioning loyalty — not madmen or wannabe killers, but people who would not question following any orders given to them.

The Einsatzgruppen, for instance, were not comprised of Leopold and Loeb types, but rather older (or very young) men who were unfit for other types of service. They had been indoctrinated for years with the idea that anti-semitism was just another form of pest control. They were then given a chance to serve their country... as mass murderers. Thy jumped at it not because they all wanted to slaughter Jews but because they wanted to serve their country and were willing to follow orders.

Seriously scary shit when one stops and thinks about it.
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Old 04-22-2019, 02:10 PM
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They'd have to be clairvoyant to know this.

The earliest evidence for atomic fission came in 1939, from Lisa Meitner, Otto Hahn, and Otto Frisch. Hahn stayed in Germany. Meitner and Frisch fled. (But Metiner refused to work on a possible bomb at Los Alamos.) Fermi's first atomic pile wasn't until 1942.

In the 1930's German science was the envy of the rest of the world. Losing the Jewish fraction would be a serious mistake but not one they could have predicted would come back to bite them. And the official line was that Jewish science (all of it, in every discipline) was wrong and inferior. By their lights they were improving the breed.

There was nothing rational about the Nazi hatred of Jews. Trying to find rational explanations is futile. Your doing so as with your quick embrace of lebensraum as a rational excuse will always mislead you from the irrational core of the mindset.
Jews were not just scientists, but also were a strong part of the German economy. The Jewish accountants and all the managers. I read once how German industry suffered from their loss.
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Old 04-22-2019, 02:36 PM
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I'll throw in Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland

It's been a while since I read it, but it's the story of a reserve German MP battalion (a unit of roughly 500-600 or so men) that participated in the rounding up and mass shooting of Jews in Poland.

It's particularly chilling in that the unit was composed of middle-aged working-class draftees, who weren't Nazis or anything like that- literal "ordinary men". It's kind of like some sort of real-life amalgam of the Stanford Prison and Milgram experiments in some ways.
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Old 04-22-2019, 03:02 PM
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Another must-read book on the Holocaust is Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Murder

One thing that's fascinating is that Waller argues that the Nazi's looked for unquestioning loyalty — not madmen or wannabe killers, but people who would not question following any orders given to them.

The Einsatzgruppen, for instance, were not comprised of Leopold and Loeb types, but rather older (or very young) men who were unfit for other types of service. They had been indoctrinated for years with the idea that anti-semitism was just another form of pest control. They were then given a chance to serve their country... as mass murderers. Thy jumped at it not because they all wanted to slaughter Jews but because they wanted to serve their country and were willing to follow orders.

Seriously scary shit when one stops and thinks about it.
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Originally Posted by bump View Post
I'll throw in Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland

It's been a while since I read it, but it's the story of a reserve German MP battalion (a unit of roughly 500-600 or so men) that participated in the rounding up and mass shooting of Jews in Poland.

It's particularly chilling in that the unit was composed of middle-aged working-class draftees, who weren't Nazis or anything like that- literal "ordinary men". It's kind of like some sort of real-life amalgam of the Stanford Prison and Milgram experiments in some ways.
There was a very interesting line of dialog in a Holocaust movie many decades ago (perhaps Playing for Time?) that touched upon this. Some prisoners that were kept alive at Auschwitz to entertain the camp soldiers (and thus were witness to a more of the atrocities) were arguing this very topic:

"The soldiers here are just monsters, it's that simple."
"No, you're missing the point. They're not monsters, but rather just ordinary people like the rest of us - who are doing monstrous things."
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Old 04-22-2019, 04:38 PM
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Let's start wit what Hitler, himself, wrote.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mein Kampf, Chapter 11
The black-haired Jewish youth lies in wait for hours on end, satanically glaring at and spying on the unsuspicious girl whom he plans to seduce, adulterating her blood and removing her from the bosom of her own people. The Jew uses every possible means to undermine the racial foundations of a subjugated people. In his systematic efforts to ruin girls and women he strives to break down the last barriers of discrimination between him and other peoples. The Jews were responsible for bringing Negroes into the Rhineland, with the ultimate idea of bastardizing the white race which they hate and thus lowering its cultural and political level so that the Jew might dominate. For as long as a people remain racially pure and are conscious of the treasure of their blood, they can never be overcome by the Jew. Never in this world can the Jew become master of any people except a bastardized people.
And, to put a point on it.
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Whenever Aryans have mingled their blood with that of an inferior race the result has been the downfall of the people who were the standard-bearers of a higher culture.
There isn't really a lot of mystery here.
  #49  
Old 04-22-2019, 04:39 PM
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This seems to be in the class of "the Nazis were morons" explanations. Obviously no rational person would consider these targetted groups to not be humans and they would not conclude they were an existential threat without evidence of such.
Key phrase being "rational person". You don't have to be stark raving mad to be irrational.
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Old 04-22-2019, 04:49 PM
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Not just Germans.

Think about all the other people of Europe like the French, Dutch, and especially the Poles who also rounded up Jews.

Remember that scene in "Schindlers List" where the Polish Jews are being lead away and the ordinary Poles are screaming "Goodbye Jews" and throwing mud at them.

Then after the war when some survivors came back they were sometimes killed when they tried to reclaim their homes and property.
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