Who Knew What, When?
Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust 

Defenders of the Church are fond of repeating the already debunked post-WWII myth that nobody knew of the atrocities back home, that the perpetrators were merely following orders, and that they feared for their own lives if they dared opt out of an Aktion. This is simply not true. These men killed because they wanted to, they did it with gusto and pride, and very few of them asked their superiors to be relieved of their duties. There is no record of any of them being shot because of it. Many men volunteered to work in the death camps; they even had waiting lists for the job.

 

Gabriel Wilensky

It is absolutely true that the “Final Solution” was a top secret operation, but it’s absolutely not true it stayed that way. Most people knew back home. Many among the millions of soldiers who fought in the East sent letters and pictures telling their families of their deeds, with pride and with nothing to hide. They spoke about it at home when they came back from the front, and their families largely approved of it as they had all been indoctrinated in the same miasma of hatred. As Stewart Herman, the Minister of the American Church in Berlin who remained in Germany until December 1941, corroborated: “It became definitely known through the soldiers returning from the front that in occupied Russia, especially at Kiev, Jewish civilians—men, women, and babies—were being lined up and machine-gunned by the thousands.”

As Stewart Herman, the Minister of the American Church in Berlin who remained in Germany until December 1941, corroborated: “It became definitely known through the soldiers returning from the front that in occupied Russia, especially at Kiev, Jewish civilians—men, women, and babies—were being lined up and machine-gunned by the thousands.”

How else could it be? After years of the most vicious anti-Jewish campaign in history, hundreds of thousands of Jews were visibly disappearing from their homes everywhere in Europe, they were being visibly loaded onto cattle cars never to be seen of again, and we are to believe no one knew? That no one suspected?

I can’t fathom how anyone can really believe that the factory workers making Zyklon B thought that all of a sudden the insect and pest population had grown so dramatically that they had to produce orders of magnitude more poison. Or that the train workers bought the official story that they were bringing tens of thousands of Jews into the concentration camps every day to work, given that they were doing it every day, and that these “workers” were never leaving. Even a very dimwitted train engineer would have realized that they were bringing too many people into the concentration camps, and they were never taking any out. At some point these people surely must have wondered about the brutality of the transportation process, the death of many of the people on arrival, the Selektion process (which they witnessed as it was done next to their train), and the stench of death, which was pervasive in these camps and they would not have been able to avoid. Surely these men smoked a cigarette and chatted with the guards while the trains were emptied before leaving to pick up another batch. You don’t think they would have asked what was going on there? But maybe they didn’t ask, after all. Because they already knew.

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