Psychological Effects of the Holocaust

Topics: Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, The Holocaust Pages: 10 (3873 words) Published: April 14, 2013
Mind Over Matter
The Holocaust was one of the most horrendous events ever to take place in our world’s history. It involved people all over the world and affected millions both directly and indirectly. It led to the death of over 11 million people, mostly Jews, and was started and controlled by the infamous German Nazis. Adolf Hitler, the mastermind behind the whole plan, was the chief organizer and began slowly starting to make those he thought were inferior suffer when he became Fuhrer in 1933. The circumstances during the time period leading up to and during World War II manipulated certain people to be controlled by various psychological tendencies. Perpetrators had a mindset that the people they were murdering weren’t actually fellow humans, but an inferior race that needed to be exterminated. Bystanders followed each other’s lack of action and chose to stand by idly while watching the mass murder of millions of people. Finally, upstanders were able to recognize that what was happening was wrong and risked their own lives in stepping up to help victims in any way they could. These three types of individuals all acted in various different ways, and their actions are explained through similar psychology that we've seen in countless other genocides throughout history. The Holocaust was controlled and committed mainly by the German Nazis because they were taught to believe they were the superior race in their country. They believed that Jews, among other groups in Western Germany, were inferior creatures that needed to be exterminated. With psychological tendencies such as obedience, normative influence, communal reinforcement, and self-serving bias in play, these perpetrators were able to kill millions of innocent people both directly and indirectly. Adolf Eichmann was a major organizer of the Holocaust who coordinated the movement of Jews into the ghettos and concentration camps. He was a huge contributor to the Holocaust and Hitler’s Final Solution movement. Eichmann was ordered by Reinhard Heydrich to perform his job to the best of his ability, and his obedience led to the suffering of thousands. Eichmann was strongly manipulated by obedience, and as a result he took the lives of countless numbers of people for irrational reasons. He was given orders by an authority figure who Eichmann and others believed knew what was best, but by following those orders and not questioning their authority, Eichmann’s actions led to the deaths of thousands of Jews. Being obedient is a trait that can at times be beneficial, but one needs to make sure they are thinking and listening to their morals and ideals, not just to the ones of people in charge.

Another influential leader in the Holocaust was Heinrich Himmler, one of the most well known Nazis because of the horrible crimes he committed openly. He oversaw all of the internal and external police forces, including the Gestapo. Being Hitler’s right hand man forced Himmler to want to always be accepted and appreciated by Hitler. He conformed to Hitler’s beliefs and carried everything out to the most extreme extent in order to please his Fuhrer. This psychological concept is known as normative influence, the phenomenon that occurs when an individual wants to please someone else by impressing them through their actions. This tendency occurred throughout all of the Nazi ranks during the Holocaust. Each time someone else was named as a subordinate to another individual, they always wanted to move up and impress their bosses by proving their dominance in a situation. This was shown by Franz Stangl, one of many men appointed by Himmler. He was a commander at the concentration camps of Treblinka and Sobibore, and constantly wanted to make sure that he was doing right by Himmler and Hitler, so he oversaw the murders of thousands of people because he knew that is what his leaders wanted.

It is because of powerful men like Himmler and Hitler that many Germans were able to conform to...
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