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March 03, 2013



when i was a kid and learning about the nazi history of germany in school i asked my dear grandmother how such atrocities could have happened in a civilised country. she had been a young adult at that time and could not have missed the nazis' crimes if they had been as obvious as my schoolbook tried to tell me. she claimed that nobody had known anything about the extermination camps. it had all happened in secrecy and nobody could have known anything. well, when i asked her later if she hadn't noticed that her jewish neighbours were disapearing and lots of other people were vanishing she said that nobody dared to object or interfere because then you ended up in a concentration camp. she strictly refused to admit the contradiction of her two statements and after some time comletely refused to talk about this period.


ich erinnere mich, dass meine mutter im jahr ihres todes nach jahrzehnten der sprachlosigkeit dies erzählte: eine ihrer besseren freundinnen, jüdin, "verschwand" von einem tag auf den anderen aus der schule. mutters mutter wusste wochenlang zu vermeiden, dass sie sich auf den weg zur freundin begab um nachzufragen. eines tages dann traf man sich auf der straße. mutter wollte erfreut auf die freundin zu stürzen, wurde aber kraftvoll von ihrer mutter zurück gehalten. ihr verzweifelter blick erfasste die freundin, die ebenfalls mit dem kopf schüttelte, besorgt, ehe sie sich abwandte, als wäre nichts gewesen.
beide waren 15.


This 'research' says little that we did not know. It counts sites where as few as ten or so forced-laborers were located, and equates them to places like Auschwitz in terms of the total count. It is essentially meaningless. A similar count for Japan or the USSR would amount also to a vast total. The actual number of killing locations and victims remains essentially unchanged. What's more, prisoners were not permitted to mix with the general population (and vice-versa), beyond what was required for their work, so at most civilians would occasionally see some prisoners doing labor - they certainly were not permitted to observe the execution sites in action.

And as I have addressed in detail before, this statement "knowledge of mass murder by the Nazis was widely known among the populace" is highly misleading and categorically false. I know Germans who had no clue of mass murder, and even someone as distinguished and connected as Helmut Schmidt has said he did not either. It was never covered in the media, and was indeed classified as a state secret. Of course rumors leaked out, but only to some, and most could confirm nothing. On the other hand the mass murder they generally witnessed was at the hands of the Allies.

It is quite extraordinary to see people who consider themselves of German extraction or relation so keen to indict the Germans for what most patently could have had no solid idea of if at all, let alone do anything about, and at the same time ignore the similar 'guilt' of other peoples at that time and others, and play directly into the widepread narrative of Supreme German Evil, whilst practically equivalent crimes such as those of the Soviets go largely unknown and undiscussed by comparison, except among limited scholarly circles (see eg Naimark's Stalin's Genocides). As Nick Turse has recently helped show, even nations such as the US have engaged in widepread massacre and war crime since WW2 (Kill Anything that Moves - The Real American War in Vietnam), apart from earlier cases such as the genocide (openly advocated at the time) of the American Indians, also at the hands of the ruthless Conquistadors (see eg Bartolome de las Casas), which exceeded the Holocaust in scale, and massive colonial atrocities by the British French Belgians Dutch and others, which also killed tens of millions often with the utmost brutality and callousness.

What happened under the Nazis was indeed bad and criminal, but it is also bad and even criminal to use it to cover up or excuse the even greater crimes (in total) committed by numerous other regimes before and since, whether by accident or design.


Interesting that the recent made-for-television series "Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter" deals precisely with the participation by the Wehrmacht and other ordinary Germans in atrocities on the Eastern Front. The series resonated with millions of German viewers and is one of the most-watched programs in the history of Germany TV. (I haven't seen it - hopefully it will become available on Netflix).

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