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Who is responsible for the Holocaust? Show more Show less
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Across German-occupied Europe, Nazi German collaborators proved successful in their destruction of two-thirds of European Jewry: systematically murdering six million Jews and five million non-Jews. But, who is truly culpable for this mass murder of eleven million people?

Only Nazi German citizens bore responsibility for the Holocaust Show more Show less

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Nazi German Citizens were responsible for the Holocaust

Nazi German citizens were instrumental in bringing Hitler to power. There is also evidence that knowledge of the camps was widespread and yet there was little resistance to the unfolding of the Holocaust by citizens of Nazi Germany.
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Context

The Holocaust is one of the most horrific events in history. Under the orders of the Nazi Regime, the Holocaust, also known as the Final Solution, ultimately saw almost two thirds of the entire Jewish population of Europe murdered. The aftermath of the Holocaust reverberates around the world today, and there have been constant efforts to educate the public in order to ensure that a similar event never occurs again. There remains debate, however, as to where the blame for the Holocaust ultimately lies. It has been argued by some that ultimately blame must lie with the citizens of Nazi Germany.

The Argument

Nazi German citizens are ultimately responsible for the Holocaust due to the fact that they were instrumental in Hitler's rise to power and they failed to stop the Holocaust despite widespread knowledge of its occurrence. The idea of German collective guilt was coined by Carl Jung in an essay in 1945. It has remained a subject for debate ever since, and also became a political sticking point, as the idea of German collective guilt was used as a justification for the expulsion of Germans from countries such as Czechoslovakia after the war. One of the key ways that Nazi German Citizens must ultimately take responsibility for the Holocaust, is due to the fact that they assisted Hitler's rise to power. In the democratic elections of November 1932, the Nazi party gained 196 seats, making them the largest party in the German Reichstag (Parliament).[1] Hitler was appointed Chancellor in January, and although he was not technically elected Chancellor, his large democratic mandate was a key reason for his appointment. Therefore it can be argued that Nazi German citizens are responsible for the subsequent events, including the Holocaust, as enough of them voted for the Nazi Party that it become the largest party in the German Parliament. Nazi German citizens are also responsible for the Holocaust, as there is evidence that there was widespread knowledge of the murderous events, and yet there were pitifully few attempts to stop the killings. In a 2002 book titled 'Backing Hitler', Professor Robert Gellately illustrated that the German public were more aware of the events of the Holocaust than previously believed. Although possible that many people did not know about the use of the gas chambers, members of the public would often see slave labourers and knew about the existence of concentration camps.[2] There is also diary evidence that many Germans knew of the Holocaust, with Victor Klemperer, a Jewish professor writing in 1942 that ‘evacuated Jews were shot in Riga, in groups, as they left the train’.[3] and ‘the will to extermination is growing all the time’ [4]. This illustrates that information about the Holocaust was available to the public, despite many citizens' attempts to deny this after the war. Despite the German public's knowledge of the Holocaust, there was little resistance to events, and few attempts to stop the Holocaust. One of the most famous examples of a man attempting to inform and stop the Holocaust is that of a polish soldier, Jan Karski. He attempted to halt events by providing a detailed report informing the Allies and the polish government in exile.[5] The fact that there are few similar examples from German citizens suggests that ultimately they must take the blame for events, as they did not attempt to stop them.

Counter arguments

Proponents

Premises

[P1] German Citizens assisted Hitler's rise to power by voting for the Nazi Party. [P2] Hitler appointed Chancellor in part due to his democratic mandate. [P3] Hitler and his henchmen embark on the Final Solution. [P4] Knowledge of the Holocaust is widespread but little attempts are made to counter it. [P5] Therefore ultimately the blame must lie with the citizens of Nazi Germany.

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zpvhk7h/revision/3
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2001/feb/17/johnezard
  3. https://www.richardjevans.com/lectures/ordinary-germans-final-solution/
  4. https://www.richardjevans.com/lectures/ordinary-germans-final-solution/
  5. https://www.nytimes.com/2000/07/15/world/jan-karski-dies-at-86-warned-west-about-holocaust.html

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This page was last edited on Sunday, 23 Aug 2020 at 17:35 UTC