With specific references to at least three testimonies, assess the role of ordinary Germans in the Holocaust.
The ordinary Germans had an ambiguous and heavily debated role in the Holocaust during WW2. Much research has been undertaken by historians such as Daniel Goldhagen and Robert Galletely into the role the majority of ordinary Germans played in the Holocaust. The extent to which the majority understood and freely supported the Nazis in their persecution of the Jews is controversial. This majority, however, did not have such a significant impact in the holocaust as the minority groups, which either supported and helped the National Socialists and as such were true supporters of their cause, or were prepared to assist the Jews in evading persecution, such as members of the Catholic and Protestant Churches. There were also ordinary Germans who were employed to assist the Nazis in their conquest as part of their every day job, such as Hefer, a German truck driver.
Historians do not agree entirely on the involvement of the majority of ordinary Germans during the Holocaust. Daniel Goldhagen argues in his book “Hitler’s Willing Executioners”, that the majority of the German population had full knowledge of the Nazis plot against the Jewish people and were willing to participate. However, others such as Gellately disagree that the German public were purely Anti-Semitic, instead it is believed they were subjected to a clever propaganda machine. However, the question remains as to why they didn’t stand up en mass to the Nazi Regime. Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbles used his best efforts to try and ‘Sugar Coat’ the Holocaust and cleverly justify the treatment Jews were being subject to, nevertheless, Germans soon found out what was being done to the Jews. Hefer, a German Truck Driver, witnessed the Jews being lined up and shot by Ukrainian supporters of the Nazis, he states ‘As soon as a Jew lay down, a Schutzpolizist came along with a submachine gun and shot him in the back of the head. The Jews who descended into the ravine were so frightened by this terrible scene that they completely lost their will’. Events such as these no doubt, slowly began circulating through the German public. It would appear there are two main reasons why the majority of the German public did not actively oppose the Holocaust, they were either afraid of the Nazis or they supported the ideology in principle. Fear of the Nazis was strong throughout the ordinary German public; many believing that there were Nazi spies in every aspect of their society. Furthermore, once Hitler came to power in 1933 he created the Nazi Storm Troopers, called the SA, these men were used to patrol the streets and to deal with anybody that opposed the Nazi Regime. These men instilled fear into the populace and forced them into silence when it came to dubious aspects of the Nazi rule. These storm troopers carried on their work well into the time of the Holocaust, thus preventing many Germans from standing up to the Nazis, for fear of their lives and the lives of their families. Gellately argues that the atmosphere of terror and fear was enhanced by 'denunciations' from ordinary Germans, in which they would report any suspicious 'anti-Nazi' activity to the local Nazi authority. On the other hand, Daniel Goldhagen argues that many ordinary Germans supported the anti-Semitic views of the Nazis and would have happily become involved in the holocaust if asked to, thus they were actively in support of what Hitler was doing.
The Holocaust did, however, have many political and military rivals. Some also came from the German population. These people were a minority, and they did not have the full support of their friends and neighbours behind them. They did not believe in the purification of the German race and did not share the Anti-Semitic views of the Nazis....
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