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What Did Most Germans Know About the Nazi Concentration Camp System?

Theresa Ast, PhD in Modern European History, has taught at Reinhardt University for 25 years. "Confronting the Holocaust" @ AMAZON Books.


What Did the German People Really Know?

Shortly after the Allied forces overran the concentration camps and the West became fully aware of the extent of Nazi atrocities, the culpability of the German people began to be questioned. How much, if anything, did the average German know about the concentration camps?

To what degree were the German people involved? Were most Germans completely in the dark or did they have knowledge of conditions inside the camps? Scholarly works have been written to defend German ignorance and innocence and to deny it.

This essay will not argue culpability or degree of culpability of different segments of the German population. However, based on the testimony of American soldiers who served in the European theater of operations during World War II, conclusions will be drawn concerning German knowledge of concentration camps.

A distinction should be made between concentration camps and death camps. It is perhaps legitimate to argue that some German civilians knew little about the death camps as they were not located on German soil and were constructed and operated with a degree of secrecy.

Konnilyn Feig (well-respected Holocaust author) thinks a great deal was known by a great many people. “Hitler exterminated the Jews of Europe. But he did not do so alone. The task was so enormous, complex, time-consuming, and mentally and economically demanding that it took the best efforts of millions of Germans…. All spheres of life in Germany actively participated."

"Businessmen, policemen, bankers, doctors, lawyers, soldiers, railroad and factory workers, chemists, pharmacists, foremen, production managers, economists, manufacturers, jewelers, diplomats, civil servants, propagandists, film makers and film stars, professors, teachers, politicians, mayors, party members, construction experts, art dealers, architects, landlords, janitors, truck drivers, clerks, industrialists, scientists, generals, and even shopkeepers—all were essential cogs in the machinery that accomplished the final solution.”[1]

However, the same argument cannot be made with respect to concentration camps on German soil. Their construction, often close to major population centers, began just months after Hitler’s accession to power in 1933. In fact during the early years of Hitler’s regime, most concentration camp inmates were German or Austrian citizens and many of them served limited sentences before being released.

It begs believability to think that these individuals did not discuss their experience with family and close friends. German authorities knew they would talk. One of the functions of the camp system was to terrorize the local populace and motivate them to obedience. Fairly widespread public knowledge of the camps was necessary in order to produce a fearful, quiescent, more easily subdued population.

The first-hand experiences and reports of American GIs confirm that German civilians must have known about the camps. Of course the extent of a person’s knowledge might depend upon age, experience, profession or job, and proximity to a particular camp.

American GIs believed German civilians knew a great deal and many were indignant and angry at the almost universal German claims of ignorance.[2] Repeatedly, soldiers reported that German civilians denied any knowledge of the camps.[3]

In his memoir, William Warde who served with the 232nd Infantry Regiment, recorded that, “All of the locals were adamant that they were ‘nicht Nazi’ and didn’t have any idea what had taken place at the concentration camp.”[4]

Present at Buchenwald, Arthur L. Johnson recalled a bitter and shocking memory “…all these people who claimed they didn’t know anything about it…and [they were] just 10 or 15 miles from Weimar.”[5] Staff Sergeant Whiteway of the 99th Infantry Division noted that according to them “no [German] ever saw a concentration camp or an atrocity.”[6]

Combat Surgeon Brendan Phibbs heard German after German plead, “nie gemurtet, nie gemurtet, we never suspected.”[7] Staff Sergeant Powell traveled across the German countryside and regularly heard civilians announce that they were, of course, anti-fascists and then disclaim any knowledge of the camps.[8]

Official military histories confirm that the typical German response was to deny knowledge of, and disclaim any responsibility for, the concentration camps.[9]

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[1] Konnilyn Feig. Hitler’s Death Camps: The Sanity of Madness, (New York: Holmes and Meier Publishers, 1981), (hereafter cited as Hitler’s Death Camps), 13.

[2] John R. Hallowell, Gunter Plaut, oral history interviews, International Liberator’s Conference, October 1981, Washington DC, (hereafter cited as ILC); George Wehmoff, Bert Weston, oral history interview transcripts, Emory University, Robert F. Crawford Witness to the Holocaust Project, (hereafter cited as Emory); Johnson, 2, interview transcript, JCRC-ADL of Minnesota and the Dakotas, (hereafter cited as JCRC); Thomas Hale, The Cauldron, 1943-1945: Recollections and Letters of a Field Service Driver, (Hines Point, Vineyard, New Haven, 1990), (hereafter cited as The Cauldron), 97; David Malachowsky, Days of Remembrance –Victims of the Holocaust, (Department of Defense, Washington DC, 1989), (hereafter cited as Days), 32; Victor Wiegard, interview, ILC; Robert Perelman, 2, Frank Bezares, 6, Joseph B. Kushlis, 10, William Jucksh, 9, Henry Birnbrey , 6, interview transcripts, Emory; John B. MacDonald, 2, Theresa Ast - Holocaust Witness Dissertation Project Questionnaire, (hereafter cited as Ast Project).

[3] Lionel Rothbard, 3 June 1993, letter to Theresa Ast; Sherman V. Hasbrouck, Brigadier General, “Reflections on the 97th Infantry Division,” 18 June 1988, 97th Infantry Division Papers, United States Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, (hereafter cited as MHI); Bert P. Ezell, Albert Duncan, oral history interviews, Dallas Memorial Center for Holocaust Studies at Southern Methodist University, circa 1980, (hereafter cited as DMC); Robert Zimmer, Ernest James, oral history interviews, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Research Institute, Record Group 50.030, 1990-1992, (hereafter cited as USHMM); Manfred Steinfeld, interview, Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois – Oral History Documentation Project, 1982-1984, (hereafter cited as HMFI); Jack R. Blake, 6, Floyd Samuel Gibson, 2 T. J. Lewis, 6, Robert McIsaac, 3, Dee Richard Eberhart, 2, Arthur L. Samuelson, 2, 11, Ast Project; Howard Wiseburg, 2, 3, 10, Bill Allison, 10, W. W. Dunagan, 6, Joseph B. Kushlis, 10, interview transcripts, Emory; Marvin M. Josephs, interview, Oral Documentation Project of the Holocaust Center of Greater Pittsburgh, (hereafter cited as ODP); Ralph Mueller and Jerry Turk, Report After Action: The Story of the 103rd Infantry Division, (Innsbruck: Wagnerische Universitats-Buchdruckerei, 1945) 131; Robert Sharon Allen, Lucky Forward, The History of Patton’s Third U.S. Army, (New York: Vanguard Press, 1947), (hereafter cited as Lucky Forward ), 370; Eric Lieseroff, cited in Yaffa Eliach and Brana Gurewitsch, Liberators: Eyewitness Accounts of the Liberation of the Concentration Camps, (New York: Center for Holocaust Studies, Documentation and Research, 1981), (hereafter cited as Liberators), 2; Frederick Walters, interview, Holocaust Oral History Archive of Gratz College, Pennsylvania, (hereafter cited as Gratz).

[4] William Warde, 27 July 1993, letter to Theresa Ast, (Company A, 232nd Regiment, 42nd Infantry Division).

[5] Arthur L. Johnson, 2, interview transcript, JCRC.

[6] Curtis Whiteway, 99th Infantry Division Papers, MHI, 11.

[7] Brendan Phibbs, The Other Side of Time: A Combat Surgeon in World War II, (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1987), (hereafter cited as Other Side), 334.

[8] Theodore Powell, Winter 1993, interview by Theresa Ast, (232nd Regiment, 42nd Infantry Division).

[9] History, 1st Battalion, 232nd Infantry Regiment, 42nd Infantry Division, to Headquarters, 13 May 1945, 42nd Infantry Division Papers, MHI ; Prisoner of War and Displaced Persons Division, Reconnaissance Report, April 1945, Record Group 332, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC, (hereafter cited as NARA).


Questions & Answers

Question: What % of Germans knew about the death camps?

Answer: Historians do not usually speak in terms of %, but the real problem here is that the Death Camps were in Poland, far away from the German-Polish border - Nazis were evil, not necessarily stupid. The SS, some regular army, top Nazi officials and some train engineers and crew knew about the Death camps. What is true is that "most" adult Germans knew about the work, slave labor, and concentration camps because there were hundreds and hundreds of them all over Germany and the Nazis made little effort to hide them at all.

Question: Probably, in my opinion, most Germans knew or suspected something was going on regarding concentration camps, but what could they have done about it in a totalaritian society?

Answer: What they could have done depends upon when they decided to take action. (1) Germany was not a totalitarian society when Hitler came to power...there was a window when people could resist. (2) Many people did resist in many ways all through the war years and many of them paid a terrible price and were murdered. However, many of them survived, lived to write books about the Nazis, the camps, the resistance movements they participated in. There is a vast literature on this subject. Books on resistance are not hard to find if you are interested.

Your Comments Are Welcome and Appreciated

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on December 23, 2018:

Yes, the German people were well aware of concentration camps in Germany (most probably did not know about death camps deep inside Poland). Hitler became chancellor Jan 1933 and within four months began building Dachau with other camps soon to follow. Most of them were near cities and towns and quite well known - part of a plan to intimidate the larger population and make them easier to control. :(

Daniel J Hurst from London on December 21, 2018:

There is a well known photo of graffiti on a Jewish shop even before Krystallnacht that clearly stated that if the shop owner removed it they would be sent to Dachau. That camp was obviously well known to the population.

Harvard on August 27, 2018:

What is the little girl pictured’s ethnic background and of what significance or pertinance is it to this article?

stacie m. on April 29, 2018:

Ted Mittelstaed, did you really just compare the systemic murder of 6 million jews to "global warming"? Not only is that proposterous, it's extremely insulting.

Ted Mittelstaed on April 07, 2018:

Yes they all knew. They knew it just like today we all know that every time we put a gallon of gas into our car we are pumping out 20 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere that is wrecking our home. But we choose not to think about it now, just as they chose not to think about it then. And in 80 years we will be denying that we ever thought about it now just as they did then.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on February 23, 2018:

Nancy all your information is totally correct. It is incomprehensible and defies believalbility to think people did not know. Did the average citizen know every detail, well, of course not. I have been to Dachau, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Maidanek, and my conclusions are the same as yours. Thank you for your comments.

Nancy Welsh on February 06, 2018:

I have been to Mauthausen (Austria). The one thing that struck me after visiting the camp and town (which was about 1.5 miles over a hill from the camp) was the people in the area must have known or didn't care. Along the route and surrounding the camp were farms. However, I have never talked with any resident so I do not know their stories.

According to liberators of Mauthausen, civilians were ordered to come to the camp, wearing their Sunday best clothes. General Eisenhower ordered they should bury bodies in this camp and other camps. There are online photos of civilians doing this at Mauthausen. It seems to me that Eisenhower recognized complicity.

lynnette on February 03, 2018:

Woah the civilians knew. What a horrid time in history. I feel so

bad for the Jews. So bad

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on December 23, 2017:

I would be inclined to take what you ahve written mroe seriously if, you provided some information about yourself, age, educations, etc, AND you provided the sources you are using to gather information for your response. Without sources you will not be taken seriously by most educated people.

psufan82 on May 09, 2017:

I visited Dachau 27 years ago and it left an indelible memory. My daughter is studying abroad and just visited two weeks ago. From what she told me, it sounds like they have updated the museum and the tour. There was no film when I visited. She was profoundly moved by the museum and the film and is so grateful she had the opportunity to visit. To your point, she told me that on her tour, they were told that the Dachau townspeople knew that Dachau was a work prison and she was shown propaganda posters distributed by the Germans showing strong, well fed, sturdy prisoners to make the locals believe that it was a legitimate, humane prison and not a death camp. She also said that the film showed the residents of Dachau hysterically crying when they were forced to see what actually went on and profusely claiming that they had no idea that those atrocities were taking place there. Mark Twain said “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” On some level, what happened in all the camps was beyond any of our imaginations. So it is possible that they couldn't conceive the kind of inhumanity they heard that occurred there to be true? Perhaps. And if they did, were they protecting their own families from such possibility? I teach Night and Maus I and Maus II to high school freshman. I found your comment very interesting that you always remind your students that the rebels and detractors where almost always those who were single or who had already lost their families. That is an interesting and important fact. Thank you for sharing your research and knowledge about this subject.

MaxxMurxx on October 22, 2016:

We live in a time of mass communication. Read my comment below and tell me, what YOU knew about it. Then call again:

My German parents were born in 1919 and 1920. Around them many children were still dying from malnutrition caused by the British Hunger Blockade. That blockade, already a war crime during the war, became a crime against humanity after on Nov. 11, 1918., the date of the armistice, when all belligerents were supposed to lay down weapons and cease hostilities. Not so the British, who carried out what was published in the British Medical Journal of 1902: the protein/Carbohydrate quotients at which: all people die on starvation/ all people survive but pregnancies are terminated by infant death/ all people survive. Those experiences were gathered by British Physicians during the Bengal famines, where the British Empire deliberately had starved "some Millons" of Indians. As a consequence the British Navy shot even on German fish trawlers in German coastal waters. That destroyed the last protein resources of the German empire, where already 3000 civilians were starving PER DAY. Under the pressure of that Genocide the new German government in June 1919 signed the "Versailles Paper", obliging them to pay "reparations" equaling the value of 60% of all gold ever mined, as laid down in 1922 by the "League of Nations Reparation Commission" under Lord Balfour. That Lord Balfour also was vice chief of the British "Versailles Treaty Reparations Commission" and together with Chaim Weiman and Woodrow Wilson in November 1917 had published the "Balfour Declarartion", the reward for the Zionists for dragging the USA into WWI. The Balfour declaration offered Palestine to the Zionists for settlements. The German Foreign secretary and financial deputy of the German Zionist Association, Arthur Zimmermann, priorly had sent his bogus Zimmermann telegram, which enabled Woodrow Wilson in May 1917 to declare war against Germany. (The notoriouis sinking of the LUSITANIA had been in April 1915). Later, for having learned that millions of Germans had died for Palestine to be a new homeland for the Zionsts, Adolf Htitler signed the HAAVARA- or Transfer-Agreement with Zionsist,which enabled German Jews to emigrate to Palestine taking with them all of their assets. The German population however was held as hostage for the immense reparation payments, as only 100 000 soldiers, half the size of the Army of Switzerland, Switzerland being smaller than the City of New York, had been allowed to protect them, even civilian air shelters were not allowed to be built. That pillage and plundering of the German nation, based on a cotract, being enforced by genocide and the hostage situation enforced on the German people made the next generation elect the one who stood up against that crime without precedent and when they lost their fight, psychological warfare made them accepting to be guilty of all crimes committed against themselves. Concerning their "knowledge" of atrocities in the East it must be kept in mind that concentration camps frequently had been closed for quarantine, due to typhus. Typhus, in German "Fleckfieber" is a general disease with a mortality of more than 60%. Those surviving typhs have a short phase of horror trip like hallucinations, which contrary to all other psychotic or schizophrenic memories are stored in the memory of reality. That means: nearly 100% of survivor memories are polluted by horror trip like hallucinations being memorized as having occured in reality. As long as historians do not comment which of those have been real and which have been hallucination, forgive me not discussing that subject. As long as Germans pay for those it also shouldn‘t be necessary for the parties on the receiving end.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 12, 2016:

Germans weren't just aware of what had been done to the Jews, they also had guilty feelings about the Poles and Russians. From 1939-40 there was a Polish Brigade attached to the British Army, with their own officers and NCOs, and they took part in the invasion of Italy as well as of France from 1944.

Shortly after D-Day, a British 'squaddie' [soldier] remembered, a wounded SS soldier - ex-Hitler Youth - was taken prisoner by the British [information gleaned from a TV programme about D-Day survivors]. Stretcher bearers were sent for, to take him to the nearest first aid post or military hospital. When they arrived they bent down to lift him onto the stretcher. When he saw the regimental flashes on one man's shoulder, red and white for the Polish Brigade, he backed away, scared they might finish him off. Anyway they took him back to the first aid post, but what happened after that the soldier didn't know and is anyone's guess.

Russians who captured SS soldiers hanged them straight away. The French offered an alternative. Either they could enlist in the Foreign Legion or die there and then. Many ex-SS were killed in the French war in the Far East with the Viet Minh [that snippet of information comes from a book I read that followed the fortunes of one after he was captured in Alsace].

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on October 11, 2016:

What a varied war experience your father had and before he was even 22. Hard to even imagine. What you say about Churchill and the British public makes sense. There are plenty of documents that make it clear that FDR and the State Department new the nature of the catastrophe in Europe quite sometime before information began to filter out to the general public.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 10, 2016:

Another snippet, Theresa: Through reading German Lorenz (Wehrmacht) signals Bletchley Park had made No. 10 (Winston Churchill) aware of what happened within German occupied territory. The British public was not made aware of what the Nazis were doing until later in WWII, precisely to avoid Goebbels using this knowledge to tell the world that the Allies only went to war on the Jews' behalf. Churchill's aim - made public - was to 'smash Hitler and erase all traces of his very existence'.

The British public was generally aware that the Nazis had demonised the Jews. My Dad enlisted in the Army before his call-up papers came in 1941 because as he put it (not verbatim), 'the local newsagent was Jewish, and he sold cigarettes cheaper because of the poor financial state of most of his customers in the pre-war depression'.

He was 18 at the time, and saw action in Iraq*, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Sicily and Italy before he was 22.

*A pro-Nazi rising against the British took place in Iraq in 1942

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on October 09, 2016:

Alan -

Your case is well stated. I agree with you. Thank you so much for commenting and I am sorry for not responding a long,long time ago. Blessings!

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 21, 2015:

Hello Theresa, my first mother-in-law came from Berlin (her second husband, my father-in-law was with the British Army). She'd been made to go to the nearest camp to where she lived in Germany, and told me that the Allies had put the camps together to make the Germans look bad. That went down like a stone balloon, you can believe.

Many Germans who lived near the camps were willing to put their knowledge of them out of their thoughts from fear of being put there themselves.

However, even with an active Underground, by May 1945 most were complicit in what went on. One Jewish survivor said that when he was on a (cattle) train bound for Poland he begged for water from a passer-by when they stopped inside Germany. He was told, 'Jew, how come you are not dead yet?'

I rest my case.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on April 26, 2015:

Hello Mvd- Thank you for writing. I am very slow in responding, I fell and injured my knee two weeks ago and have spent the last two weeks in a wheelchair or trying to hobble around with a walker. X-rays, MRIs and so forth, but I am on the road to recovery now.

Mvd -Sometimes I heard my mom or grand dad, or neighbors sort of whisper about things they had heard that were going on. Mind you, at that time, no one had TV to spread the word. Dachau was far away from where we lived. The world must not forget that Hitler and his cohorts conducted a lot of their operations in secrecy.

TLA – I always emphasize to my students that Europe was a different world then, no internet, no TV, radio and newspapers largely controlled by the Nazis. And much was done in secret, which explains why six Death Camps were established in Poland.

Mvd - If some townsfolk around Dachau suspected anything -and perhaps they did, hence the stench from the ovens and other ominous signs- will anyone please tell me what an individual or even a group could have done? Hitler held absolute power, and it took the combined power of the allies to destroy him.

TLA - I think it was very difficult to do very much. But we should not believe or pretend that it was impossible. That would be a great injustice to the many people who did oppose Hitler and the Nazis, who created undergrounds, made crude weapons, and did try to rescue and help others escape. They did exist and many of them paid with their lives.

Mvd - Some brave individuals had tried to assassinate Hitler, notably Hohenstaufen. There was Georg Elsner, there was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but most famously the student group "The White Rose". If you ever care to read about them, you will find out about their fate too.

TLA - I teach my students about Hohenstaufen and the courageous university students of The White Rose and many others as well. To put my work in perspective, what youread was a short excerpt form a 340 page dissertation I wrote 15 years ago. Since then I have been teaching Western Civilization, and the Holocaust at a small university.

Mvd - The German populace as a whole should not be held responsible for what one deranged individual did (who wasn't even German, to remind you). You, as Americans, look at your own recent history, when a certain president invaded an innocent country and bombed the h... out of it, killing thousands. Are you all taking the blame for it? Think about it!!

TLA - Interesting comparison. And yes, in newspapers, magazines, world opinion and the international press --- we have had to take the blame for it. Even though so many of us never voted for that president and did not support his actions. Yes, we have been blamed and we probably should be. We should have done more, protested, spoken up, created a huge political outcry. Both of our countries have things for which we should be ashamed (not personally) in a general sense. We can only hope that we will get better at resisting wrong headed government intentions before it is too late.

Thank you for your comments. Theresa Ast (German and Polish ancestry)

MvdG on April 14, 2015:

I just like to add my "two cents", if you will. I was born in Germany, and I was a young child living in the Ruhr Valley, far away from Dachau. My father, who, by the way, was NOT a Nazi, was drafted into the army to fight for Hitler, as did every other young man, Nazi or not. Needless to say he got killed when I was six months old (also needless to say that no one could hate Hitler more than I). Sometimes I heard my mom or grand dad, or neighbors sort of whisper about things they had heard that were going on. Mind you, at that time, no one had TV to spread the word. Dachau was far away from where we lived. The world must not forget that Hitler and his cohorts conducted a lot of their operations in secrecy. If some townsfolk around Dachau suspected anything -and perhaps they did, hence the stench from the ovens and other ominous signs- will anyone please tell me what an individual or even a group could have done? Hitler held absolute power, and it took the combined power of the allies to destroy him. Some brave individuals had tried to assassinate Hitler, notably Hohenstaufen. There was Georg Elsner, there was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but most famously the student group "The White Rose". If you ever care to read about them, you will find out about their fate too. I am in no way trying to whitewash what Hitler and his cohorts did, but the German populace as a whole should not be held responsible for what one deranged individual did (who wasn't even German, to remind you). You, as Americans, look at your own recent history, when a certain president invaded an innocent country and bombed the h... out of it, killing thousands. Are you all taking the blame for it? Think about it!!

L on January 31, 2014:

Jews are

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on January 29, 2014:

ed - I have no expertise in terms of the current German educational system. However, West Germany made sure that there were many memorials to the victims of the Holocaust and my guess is that they cover Hitler and Nazi Period adequately in their textbooks, but do not dwell on it to the exclusion of the rest of German history, which seems about right. Interesting question.

ed on January 29, 2014:

Is the nazi policies during WW2 taught in German schools?

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on December 10, 2013:

Eloise -

My apologies for taking so long to respond. I just turned in final semester grades for all my college course yesterday. Almost a hundred students -- I thought I would never be through grading. The article is taken from a chapter in my dissertation (about what Germans did and did not know and what they claimed to know), completed 16 years ago. I recently published the dissertation in book form which has pages and pages of primary and secondary bibliographic citations. The book, Confronting the Holocaust: American Soldiers Enter Concentration Camps," is available through Amazon under Theresa Ast.

It is soft cover and fairly inexpensive. I published it this year because researchers wanting a copy, would contact me from time to time and the only copies available were from a University Microfilm Companies and were terribly expensive. The book available through Amazon will have all the sources I used and it is thoroughly footnoted. Perhaps that will be of help to you. Good luck with your research and studies. Theresa Ast

Eloise Sims on November 27, 2013:

Hi pdhdast. I'm a history student in New Zealand researching the extent of German citizens knowledge of the "Final Solution". Could I ask- what sources did you use to write this article? I attempt to click on the footnotes but it merely redirects me to the hubpages homepage. I would be so grateful if you could shed any light on this, it would be immensely helpful to my research :)

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on November 22, 2013:

Tank you for reading and commenting me 277. Take care.

me277 on November 21, 2013:

wow! am going to be nicer to some Jews. thank you

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on June 04, 2013:

Flourish - It is fascinating and simultaneously horrifying that humanity can s often turn away and plead ignorance. And certainly the Holocaust is not the only time it has happened, but it is perhaps the most egregious example of the twentieth century that took place in the supposedly civilized heart of Europe! Thank you for your generous comments. I am not a fanatical researcher about everything, but when it comes to this historical rupture, I am. Take care.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 04, 2013:

Fascinating how we can turn the other way, pleading that ignorance is innocence. A very interesting and well-researched read! Voted up and shared.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on May 06, 2013:

Thank you mercury. There are a few of us who occasionally do extensive research. I certainly don't do it all the time - I would have to quit my day job in order to have time. I know some people are tired of what they think of as "ancient history," but to me it is still an important topic on many levels, politically, sociologically, historically, and of course, morally. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Marie1Anne on May 06, 2013:

phdast7: In my comment I was giving my thoughts on the fact that the Germans after the war were blamed collectively for what happened during the war, the horrors of the camps,

I think it is not right to judge the whole nation, as I agree with you that the government is responsible for the war, not the whole nation, which included both the haters and those who risked their lives to help, both those who supported Nazi regime or disagreed with it. As to the realisation or underestimating of Hitler's and Nazi's intensions - I have already heard and read this in several documents and memoirs and I think it is an important factor in the mentality of people who were facing the 2WW. F.e. in the document Rise and Fall of the Third Reich there is a sequence quoting a Jewish university professor who thought educated Jews were not in any danger. And this is not just a case of the 2WW, even when IWW started people thought it would be soon over. Before all the horrors of holocaust began, they were all trapped - ones were told lies about being reresided to the East or resettled to ghettos because of the diseases they might spread, and those who realised (even if not to the full extent) something's wrong were too scared to act. And just to mention - even the leaders of the Warszaw ghetto's uprising were trying to get help from the outside, but they were not believed. I think this form of psychological denial (on both sides) plays an important role in those events.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on May 03, 2013:

Marie - Thank you for your comments. My responses are below.

I would really like Germans living in the Third Reich to talk about it openly. ---- Most of the Germans who were alive during the Third Reich have now died and most of them have not been eager to talk about it, not unlike the fact that slavery is not most American’s favorite topic ----

I'm not sure people realised he ment systematical physical liquidation, Hitler himself ordered the "final solution" in 1941. ---- Of course many people did not know at first, but eventually almost everyone knew that something was terribly wrong, even if they did not know about the Death camps in Poland. There were thousands of concentration camps and prisons built all over Germany. ----

Even some Jews themselves did not believe they were in any real danger. ---- I am not sure the historical facts support your statement. By 1938 / 1939, most Jews knew they were in serious trouble, but Hitler closed the borders and would not allow them to leave. ----

You could not notice your neighbours and family friends disappearing, people living near the camps just had to know those people coming in the trains were dying there. But what were they supposed to do ? ---- I do not know what I would have done; I might have been paralyzed with fear. BUT, there were Germans who helped, who protected Jews, who resisted the Nazis, who opposed Hitler. Some of them died, but it could be done. They have my great admiration for their courage and moral fortitude. -----

Due to the Third Reich law if you helped the Jew, you were simply shot. I would applaud those who risked their life (like Irena Sendler) to help, but can you really blame those who did not have the courage ? ---- I am not sure what the point of your question is. I did not “blame” the German people. I do hold the Nazi officials responsible for what they did to the Jews, Gypsies, Poles and to their own people, their fellow Germans. -----

---- Most people join HP in order to do research and write Hubs. Are you only here to comment on other people’s work or will you be writing soon? When you write them, what subjects will your hubs focus on? -----

Alex Munkachy from Honolulu, Hawaii on May 03, 2013:

Awesome research and great to have a fresh perspective on a real topic.

Marie1Anne on May 01, 2013:

I would really like Germans living in the Third Reich to talk about it openly. I'm not sure they are to blame for what has happened. The Jews were quite clearly pointed out as enemies long before WW2, as the ones responsible for Germany losing the WWI and its economical situation, as the ones inferior to the Aryan race. He was talking about getting rid of them, but first it was executed rather as an restriction of an economical and social activity, I'm not sure people realised he ment systematical physical liquidation, Hitler himself ordered the "final solution" in 1941. Even some Jews themselves did not believe they were in any real danger. As someone else said in the comment, before it all started, it was already too late. You could not notice your neighbours and family friends disappearing, people living near the camps just had to know those people coming in the trains were diying there. But what were they supposed to do ? Due to the Third Reich law if you helped the Jew, you were simply shot. I would applaud those who risked their life (like Irena Sendler) to help, but can you really blame those who did not have the courage ?

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on April 26, 2013:

Thanks for the encouraging comments web watcher. Yes you may share it on your website and thanks for asking.

Hope you are having a good week.

web watcher on April 26, 2013:

Very wonderful post. I really liked reading it. Do you mind if I share this on mywebsite? Thank you so much. Reg Zooka

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on November 06, 2012:

phdast7, the novella is not actually about Hitler. It is about a very disturbed man who, in our day, idolizes Hitler to the point that he takes up the mantle of Hitlers cause. The problem for him is that he chooses to try to carry this out in a small town in the desert southwest. Enough said. I bring Hitler into it at several points and learned a bit that I never knew. It was fun to write and if nothing else it has prepared me to do a more serious work in the future. Thanks for your interest.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on November 06, 2012:

cam - My father did the same thing for my mother many, many years ago. She was an elementary English teacher and the grading never seemed to end. But like your wife I use essay questions 90% of the time. :) You wrote a 26000word Novella about Hitler. I am impressed! Actually, I would be impressed if you wrote 26000 words about anything! :) Maybe this summer when my teaching load is cut in half, I can find time to read it. Thanks for offering. :)

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on November 06, 2012:

My wife was an eighth grade science teacher. I always tried to help with grading the objective parts of tests. I agree....endless. She liked to give essay questions though, so she graded those. The writing I did that involved Hitler is a novella which I pulled from HP. If you ever want to look at it, I have it on my blog. That is a lot of reading though as it is 26,000 words.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on November 06, 2012:

The paper grading is going...and going. :) Its like washing dishes or making matter how many times you do it, there is no end to it. A lot of life is like that. :)

Set in context, I understand what your sources were referring to. He was a very compelling and exciting speaker to the people of his day. They liked that he was one of them, a lowly corporal, an average guy, not an aristocrat; he spent a great deal of time in front of mirrors practicing his gestures and timing them to the content of his speech. And apparently he was brilliant at adjusting his speeches to suit the audience...workers, unemployed, industrialists, etc. I look forward to reading some of your work when the grading avalanche slows a little. :)

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on November 05, 2012:

I hope the paper grading is going well. I think the sources that I read were talking about Hitlers persuasiveness and use of repetition in speeches when they wrote of mass hypnosis and mind control. anyway, this is very interesting. Your writing is so easy to follow and understand. Thanks for writing so much. I will enjoy it all I am sure.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on November 05, 2012:

Hi cam - I have actually never come across any scholarly materials that referenced mind control or mass hypnosis. That doesn't mean those materials do not exist, but I am not familiar with them. What I have read a great deal about is the "combination of a national depression and sense of inferiority that many Germans felt after being defeated in WW I and Hitler's incredibly powerful and persuasive speeches.

I have seen old newsreels and to me he sounds and looks like a lunatic...but, I know what he did, I see the whole terrible history and my tastes were shaped by the final half of the 20th century. The Germans did not know what was to come and their tastes were shaped by the end of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. And they wanted change, a strong leader, an energetic man who would promise to take them back to their golden glory days and Hitler told them over and over that they had been cheated at Versailles and he would restore their greatness. Powerful words for a struggling nation. There is more, but I have to go grade papers. :)

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on November 05, 2012:

phdast7, I recently wrote some fiction in which one of the main characters idolized Adolf Hitler. In my very minuscule amount of research, I read about mind control, called mass hypnosis by some. What part might this have played in the lives of those German civilians and in their denial of any knowledge of the concentration camps? Very interesting material. Thank you.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on August 21, 2012:

justgrace - It is hard to believe that there are still people who claim the holocaust is a myth or a hoax, but there are...I have had the misfortune to even meet some of them in person. Wow! What a testimony to the horrors and cruelties of that time that your stepmother and her girl friends felt the need to make and keep such a pact. Terribly sad..

Thank you for sharing some family history with us and for your encouraging comments. I appreciate them. :)

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on August 20, 2012:

I too wish everyone, especially young people, had the opportunity to talk with survivors...they make the incomprehensible real. But there are few left and son there won't be any and all we will have is their testimony. I am not surprised that your two friends cried; it is overwhelming to think about and see evidence of such cruelty, such brutality. I appreciate your comments.

Nancy McGill from United States on August 20, 2012:

I really can't believe that people still claim the Holocaust didn't happen, even after all the documentaries and facts, including the Holocaust museum. To this day, and I know I shouldn't be, I'm amazed by ignorance of this level.

Kudos to you, I think the piece is great, and an education for some of us. My stepmother is from Germany, and when she was a small girl, she and her friends made a pact not to have children because the world is so cruel. She never had children.

Astheart on August 20, 2012:

Being a child I met and talked to several people who were lucky and came back from Buchenwald and Oswiecim-Treblinka. Wish all young people had such an opportunity. Several years ago I visited Oswiecim together with two friends of mine, one English and the other Danish. The guys went into the place a saw all the evidence and cried, yes, really cried fro the whole day then.....

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on August 20, 2012:

Hello Top Rated - Thanks for reading and commenting. Many thanks.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on August 19, 2012:

Oceansider - Thanks for reading and commenting. It is good to hear from people who understand what really happened, how much the Germans knew - a lot, and how difficult it was for them to oppose the Nazis. A terrible time for everyone except the national Socialist leadership. Just like you, I find the deniers and revisionists unfathomable. I appreciate your visit. Have a good week.

Top Rated Recipes on August 19, 2012:


oceansider on August 19, 2012:

I have read your hub and found it extremely interesting. Personally, I believe there must have been some Germans who did know about the death camps, because they would have smelled the horrible stench coming from those places.

I do agree, that the German people had to have been living in constant fear for their lives and therefore, this had to be why no one spoke out while it was all going on, because they knew they also might have been put to death in these camps if they were against what Hitler was doing to the Jews. The Holocaust has to be the most horrible thing that has ever happened, and yet there are some people who actually deny it happened....they must be "out of it" if they say it did not happen!

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on August 18, 2012:

Thank you vibesites. I appreciate the visit and the comments. The Holocaust is the focus for a lot of my essays, since it is what I teach,but I do write on other topics as well.

Welcome to HubPages. :)

vibesites from United States on August 18, 2012:

Excellent hub, very well written. :)

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on August 17, 2012:

Thank you so much mythbuster. I appreciate your comments, It ih heavy and somber material, but I feel it is wirth writing about and because this was my area of specialization in graduate school, it is also well documented. It took me awhile to learn to write for HP "without footnotes." :) Hope you have a good weekend.

mythbuster from Utopia, Oz, You Decide on August 17, 2012:

Very interesting stuff here! Thanks for writing. I will let this info settle before moving on to subsequent articles. Voted up.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on August 08, 2012:

I appreciate your comments GC. Shirer is a good writer. I cannot imagine traveling across Germany after having just finished the book. I would think meeting people committed a personal revisionist view of their history was extremely difficult. Tragically, they were not considered human. Thank you for reading and commenting.

GClark from United States on August 07, 2012:

Excellent hub about a topic that reminds us of a terrible time in world history. I first visited Munich, Germany in the late 60s (about 20 years after the end of World War II) and had just completed reading the Rise & Fall of the 3rd Reich. Everywhere I went constantly reminded me of the atrocities and lives lost. Meeting people who had grown up at that time and whose parents for sure knew what was going on was especially painful. Talk about revisionist history! Jews and gypsies along with the handicapped and mentally ill obviously weren't considered human.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on July 24, 2012:

Nice to meet you as well. Oh, good, because I know so little about the Pacific Theater. :) Rushing out the door to teach summer classes, 2 1/2 hours of Western Civilization and War and Society just now. Will look forward to future conversations about out work. :)

PS You have probably already figured this out, but if you will pay attention to who comments on my work - on anyone's work actually, you will find a number of historians and other intelligent and well read people. They are the ones who leave lengthy and interesting comments, as opposed to the "Great hub!" comments. :)

nickwin from Renton, Washington on July 23, 2012:

I'm glad to meet a fellow historian here on HubPages. World War II (the Pacific Theater in particular) is my area of concentration for my Master's Degree. I loved your Hub and I can't wait to read more!

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on July 17, 2012:

Hi W. Steffen - People do need to study history more carefully and be aware of what has happened in the past and is happening around the world right now. Human nature is tricky, many of us could be saints, but we can also be persuaded to cruel and destructive things. I wish I could say you were overly pessimistic, but I feel quite pessimistic myself at times. Thank you so much for your comments. Hope you have a great week.

W.Steffen on July 17, 2012:

countrymen ,and facing horrible punnishment if caught.

I think that people saying these horrible things will never happen again should study human nature more carefully,in thes e times there are again lotts of people blindly following "" leaders"" of some sort ,mostly people incapable of seing things in the right perspective,sadly enough this even happens in the Netherlands .

Will men ever learn ? i don''t think so ,or am i overly pessimestic......?

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on July 10, 2012:

Hi Wm. Nice to meet you. I would actually say that your Oma's comments are not anecdotal, but a valuable historical first-person eye-witness account. We historians are thrilled when we can find several first-person accounts which confirm each other. Then we know we have "Real History."

Your question is a good one. If an 11 year old girl got it, there is no rational reason for them not to. These people are seeking attention sometimes or like provoking others. It is hard to fully grasp why they say the things they do. Thanks for your comments and for sharing about your Oma. She was there; she knows the truth. Take care.

Wm. on July 10, 2012:

My oma was born in Kassel in 1922, lived in Bremen, moved to America in the Fifties. She said she knew about what was going on as soon as Hitler came to power. She claimed it was obvious and clear and permeated every bit of the German culture.

Anecdotal evidence sure, but if an 11 year old girl got the gist, what could be holding back others from getting it?

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on June 23, 2012:

Thank you so Cheryl. I appreciate your encouraging comments. I have already posted quite a few essays on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, but right now I am working on some other topics as well.

Welcome to HP and enjoy reading and writing. :)

cherylvanhoorn from Sydney on June 23, 2012:

Great piece, well written. Looking forward to the next one.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on June 22, 2012:

Thank you for your comments Npainte 1. Hitler was indeed a terrible leader and a terrible human being. And it is very frightening that populations buy into propaganda and can be so easily swayed.

Npainte1 on June 22, 2012:

Hitler was a horrible guy and it's amazing to me that millones of people just allowed him to do what he did just because they bought into his ideas. It's scary to think that people can be the easily swayed to have an extermination of an entire race.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on June 22, 2012:

Hello MG. Nice to meet you. The potential baseness of mankind's nature and character is certainly a concern for us all. Thanks for reading and commenting.

MG Singh from UAE on June 21, 2012:

The German people certainly knew about the death camps. But they are gone into the dustbin of history. Let us insure that they do not happen again. However not likely as man has a beast in him as well.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on June 20, 2012:

Hi Michele - I don't understand the Deniers either, even though have studied the Holocaust for a very long time. It is crazy. I guess I keep writing and teaching to try and reach (not the Deniers) but those people who are on the fence so to speak. Either they aren't sure or don't know or have never thought about it much. I guess to persuade them and to honor the why I keep writing. Thanks for taking the time to read and cmment.

Michele Travis from U.S.A. Ohio on June 20, 2012:

There are many people who deny the holocaust ever happened. Even with all the evidence. There is so much evidence and they still say it did not happen.. The Holocaust Denier. I don't understand them. You show them evidence and they say, the picture could be fake! it is crazy.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on June 20, 2012:

Thank you Pamela. I do try to make sure there are solid foot notes and bibliographic sources on some of my Hubs. Its amazing that you know so much about your distant family and their travels. How terrible that the great grandparents were taken away and never seen again. How awful such a tragedy must be for those who survive. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Hope you are having a good week.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on June 20, 2012:

Hi handyman bill - Oh what stories your father must have told... and two days in the water! Amazing. We definitely share a big interest in World War II. Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

Pamela Dapples from Arizona. on June 20, 2012:

This is so well presented and I really enjoyed and appreciated reading your bibliographical sources. I have a question for you which I will email to you.

Several of my husband's lineages came down from the Netherlands into Prussia, Poland, Russia and finally into Germany -- over a period of almost 500 years. During World War II my husband's great-grandparents were sent to Siberia -- to a camp of which we do not know the name -- and they never returned.

Very well done hub! Voting up and away.

Bill from Greensburg Pennsylvania on June 20, 2012:

Great hub. I was always interested in WW II. My dad told me a lot about his adventures that he had. He served in the Merchant Marines on Gasoline Tankers. He had one that was shot out from underneath him, only a few people survived that. Floated around in the Med. for a couple days waiting to be rescued. He would never get in water over his head after that! He told how a British Destroyer found him and he had his only drink of Alcohol in his whole life, when they plucked him out of the water they gave a medicinal Drink. Oh well again great hub.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on June 08, 2012:

Louise - I am so glad you live in the state. Wonderful! When you go to MHI ask to search the WW II Survey materials, but also ask them to help you search other materials to see if there are any in your father's name. When I was there I found that some veterans, sometimes their families, had donated WW II letters, army bulletins, reports, personal memoirs, pictures, all sorts of thing. Its possible, a remote chance admittedly, but possible that your father or other soldiers in the 3rd Armored Division might have donated some things. I wish you the best of luck. Theresa

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on June 08, 2012:

Louise - You might want to read the comments to the Essay I posted about our correspondence. A number of the commenters have said very positive things about our WW II veterans, and one lady, Patriette sent her condolences to you on the loss of your father.

After logging in to HP, search for phdast7, then select "Writing to a Veteran's Daughter." It should be one of the first few articles listed. Theresa

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on June 08, 2012:

Louise- Its not a problem at all/ :) I knew what you meant. And you will get the hang of it. It takes all of us a while to figure it out. Have a great weekend.

louisejeffers on June 08, 2012:

sorry I posted incorrectly last time; i put theresa's name on the post instead of my own. I'll get the hang of it. :)

Theresa on June 08, 2012:

I have a letter here that Dad started to write to you, but I am guessing he never sent it. We live outside of Philadelphia so I will check out the Carlisle connection as soon as I can. It's not close by but it's in the state!! I am looking forward to reading more on the site as I loved to hear Dad's stories about the war. He didn't say a lot, but I did videotape him for 8 hours about 3 months before he died. We made a 30 minute video - you can google it under Henry D. Soderberg if you have time. Thanks for the information, Theresa!!

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on June 08, 2012:

Hi Louise, I am so sorry for the loss of your father. I know how hard that is, my father an Air Force Veteran passed away December 2010. I had to do a bit of searching to find your father's name (there are over 500 veteran’s names listed in the back of my dissertation.)

Mr. Soderberg, did not fill out a survey questionnaire for me, for the Crawford, Witness to the Holocaust Project at Emory University. However, long before I started working on the liberator projects at Emory, your father and many other veterans completed a survey conducted by the United States Army.

It was called the World War II Survey Questionnaire, and they are located at the United States Army Military History Institute, which is in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. The purpose of the survey as I'm sure you can imagine, was to gather as much information as possible from the World War II veterans before it was too late. The survey asked all kinds of questions about their military service and experience.

I wish I could remember specifically if your father and I corresponded, but I worked with the questionnaires, surveys, tape recordings, letters, and photographs of over 500 veterans.

What was interesting, and which might explain why your father had my name, was that if I did conduct an Emory University Questionnaire with a veteran, they often either wrote to or talked to other veterans they were in touch with, about me and the project.

In fact, I think one of the veterans mentioned all the questionnaires at Carlisle Barracks. Otherwise, I would never have known about them because I lived in Georgia.

I am privileged and only too glad to say this about all of the many, many veterans whom I have talked to, who wrote wonderful letters to me, who shared their personal war-time pictures, letters, memoirs, and memorabilia with me, were incredibly thoughtful, generous, kind, and helpful. They were everything we think about, when we think about the soldiers of the "Greatest Generation."

I don't have a copy of his questionnaire because they did not allow us to make copies. They allowed me to see them and make handwritten notes in pencil. I no longer have those pencil scribbled notes, which ended up filling eight shoe boxes, as I completed my dissertation 15 years ago.

I don't know where you live, if you are close enough to make a trip to Carlisle Barracks. But if not, I suggest writing the archivist in charge of MHI, explaining who you are, that your father a World War II veteran recently passed away, and ask them to make a copy of his questionnaire and mail it to you.

There might be a small charge for the copying expenses, but I'm not sure. Since he was a veteran and you were his family, they might do it for free. I had to pay for anything that I copied -- letters and reports -- but that is understandable because I was doing a research project.

I wish I could be of more help and I'm very glad you contacted me and I hope that Carlisle Barracks will be able and willing to provide you with your father's information.

My condolences to your family and please convey to them the enormous respect and gratitude, that so many of us feel, for the men (and women) who fought in World War II. Thank you. Theresa

P.S. I often use comments or questions that people write to me, to create new hubs and essays. I would like to do that with your request and my reply. I think we all need to remember our WW II veterans and especially remember that as they pass on, they are leaving beloved families behind. I hope you do not mind. Sincere,y, Theresa Ast

P.P.S. I actually did get your comment yesterday. But I am teaching two days a week this summer and they are eleven hour days and I just didn't have the energy to get much done last might. :) But I am glad you joined HP. There are quite a few people on here who write World War II history. Of course there are all kinds of arttcles, essays, poems and stories on HP. Welcome.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on June 07, 2012:

Hi Pen - Thanks for yourcomments. I am aware of the terrible atrocities practiced bythe Japanes,but I fweel it is unwise to try to cover every area of the world, every war or every atrocity in a single essay or paper. This Hub is about the Germans because that is whatI have studied and what I know.

There are lots of things I don't write about because I don't know enough and I hope someone else will. With your grandfather's experience and history, you would be an ideal person to do a hub on the Japanese during WW II. Maybe you should do the research and write the Hub. :)

Amy L. Tarr from Home on June 07, 2012:

Great job covering the Germans. But let's not let the world forget what Japan did during the war too. My Grandpa was a paratrooper during WWII rescuing POWS from Los Banos (an island occupied by Japan). The torture those poor people endured was absoluteley repulsive and he was tortured by those memories until he passed away.

Louise Jeffers on June 07, 2012:

Hi, My Dad was a WWII vet Third Armored Division. I found evidence that he may have taken part in your survey but I'm not sure if it was yours or it was another one. He was writing to 'Miss Ast'. His name was Henry Soderberg. If he did, I'd love to have a copy of what he sent you. He died 2/14/2010. Thanks, Louise

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on June 04, 2012:

Dorina88 - Thank you for reading the essay and I appreciate that you took time to leave a comment. Have a good day.

Dorina88 on June 04, 2012:

Yes, we must remember, and we must be very careful not to repeat it. No more wars!!!

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on May 19, 2012:

Very interesting. I have never heard of the play, but I think the idea that she did not "know" at the beginning is very accurate. Two things come to mind: First, Jews had been off again, on again persecuted (pogroms) for centuries.

As horrifying as these event were (houses were burned, people were murdered) they were always local, one town or village, and usually very short lived, two days to two weeks. Then things would settle down. Most Jews thought that Nazi behavior and policies were part of that larger pattern - Christian anti-Semitism.

Second, the Nazis were masters of propaganda and misinformation. They had a neutral and deceptive euphemism for everything. One example: "Re-location" Well they were being relocated, but they were told it was to labor on farms - very few knew they were being transported to death camps.

After 1943 a few people knew what was really happening deep inside of Poland. But when they told their neighbors the response was usually, "You are mistaken, that is just craziness, no government would do that...and besides we are the Nazis labor force. They can't afford to get rid us, the German economy is based on our labor." It is complicated and very tragic. Thank you so much for your comments.

Jessie Whitmire on May 18, 2012:

I just recently saw a play called "Letter to Sala" and it recounted a young girls journey through work camps which were not as bad as the concentration camps but were still imprisionment where the occupants were forced to work. When she left to go to the first camp she did not seem to know it would be for imprisonment. I wonder how much the Jews knew in the beginning about what was really going on?

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on May 17, 2012:

Rusti - Well then you had better get ready to write a book. :) Your mother is a great first person - primary resource. And I think family history can be so meaningful. Right now I am working on editing a volume of my grandmother's poetry. Have a great weekend. :)

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on May 17, 2012:

toggy - I think thy knew, the question is how much they knew, when they knew, and the fear and pressure they lived under because of the SS and the Gestapo. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on May 17, 2012:

cynth - Thanks for taking time to read this Hub and for leaving such thoughtful comments. Much appreciated.

Ruth McCollum from Lake Oswego, Oregon on May 17, 2012:

My mom does keep journals about growing up during that time. Someday she says because her spelling sucks lol she wants me to write a book about her life and living there.She talks about it to me though,has since I was a kid.

toggy on May 17, 2012:

All Germans knew what was happening around them. Of course they will deny it but sure thing is that they knew. It is right in their noses that would be impossible unless they were blind or something

Cynthia Taggart from New York, NY on May 17, 2012:

As one of your references "Hitler's Death Camps: The Sanity of Madness" refers, the silence grows when "collectivism" makes an appearance that normalizes people's prejudicial attitude. As one your commentators noted, "Never again. Never again." And let us not forget how the years following World War I provided the political fodder that allowed one like Hitler to rise up in the first place.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on May 16, 2012:

Hi Rebecca -

Thank you for visiting and commenting on the hub. Because this was "original" research for a history dissertation (Emory University), I relied mostly on "primary sources - diaries, letters, veterans surveys, and lots of military reports, documents, etc., that were sent back to Army headquarters in Washington, from 1943-1947 (80% of my source material).

I used books for background material and to situate the individual veteran's stories in a larger historical frame work. Then of course I went on to teach European history, including the Holocaust for 18 I can give you a list of very solid books, some are easy to read and some difficult. I will put ** in front of the books that I think are most accessible for the general reader.

Now that I have responded to your question, I think I will post most of my extended Bibliography of Secondary Sources as a Hub, in case there are others who would like to pursue some aspect of this topic. I won't be posting my list of primary sources (20+ pages) because there is no way to access them without visiting 12 different historical archives. Thank you for giving me the idea to do this. I hope this list is helpful.

Dr. Theresa L. Ast

**Abzug, Robert H. Inside the Vicious Heart: Americans and the Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camps. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.

**Bridgman, Jon. The End of the Holocaust: The Liberation of the Camps. Portland, Oregon: Areopagitica Press, 1990.

**Dawidowicz, Lucy S. The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1975. (long, very thorough, pretty easy to read)

Feig, Konnelyn G. Hitler's Death Camps: The Sanity of Madness. New York: Holmes & Meier Publishers, 1981.

Gilbert, Martin. Exile and Return. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1978. (Bergen-Belsen).

Lipstadt, Deborah E. Beyond Belief: The American Press and The Coming of The Holocaust, 1933-1945. New York: Free Press, 1986.

McMahon, Gerald. Farthest East: A History of the 71st Infantry Division. Le Roy, New York: Yaderman Books, 1986.

**Selzer, Michael. Deliverance Day: The Last Hours of Dachau. Philadelphia?New York: J.B. Lippencott, 1978.

Rebecca E. from Canada on May 16, 2012:

will you have more authors whom you can write about I've never heard much about fieg- except on goodreads, but were there others (such as them?) who did write books? Very interesting.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on May 11, 2012:

Hi Kebennett1 - I never had anyone make reference to the Three Monkeys, but boy is it appropriate. Thanks for the votes and the positive comments.

Kebennett1 from San Bernardino County, California on May 11, 2012:

Hmmm. A case of the three Monkeys: Hear no evil, See no evil and Speak no evil! Great research and interesting. Voted Up!

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on May 11, 2012:

nancy - I am sure that it is troubling. You are right of course, they could not miss the smells and sights because they were spread all over Germany. But they did live in terrible, terrible fear ll the time.

The camps were started as soon as Hitler came to power and the only people sent there at first were criminals and political enemies (mostly communists and socialists). So it was easy for most people to think it didn't concern them (although a lot of Germans immigrated (until 38/39 when it was no longer possible) and then when the true horrors became known they were deathly afraid of being arrested themselves.

It was a very difficult time and similar things have happened and still happen all over the world. Thank you so much for your comments.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on May 11, 2012:

vims003 - Thank you you for your thoughtful and generous comment. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by and read. Hope you have a great weekend.

Theresa Ast (author) from Atlanta, Georgia on May 11, 2012:

Pavlo - I completely agree with you. I do not think it is possible to "not know." How much one knows and when they found out might be areas worth researching, and of course many people have. It is useful and good for us who never lived in the Soviet Union, to hear the truth from someone who did. I appreciate your direct comments about what people knew who lived under the Stalinist regime.

Thank you for taking the time to read this essay and for your comments. Take care.

Nancy McClintock from Southeast USA on May 11, 2012:

MY Husband had distant german ancestors and it really bothers me that may have known what was going on and not spoken out. Of course I know there was fear and it is impossible to know the exact ages but after visiting Dachau I can only wonder how you could miss the smell and not wonder what your government was doing. Any insight on your part is very welcomed.

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