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How much did they know?

Discussion in 'World War 2' started by P5, Jan 29, 2007.

  1. P5

    P5 Dishonorably Discharged

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    How much do you think the average German knew of the treatment of the Jews.
    Probably knew of the concentration camps, but what about the death camps and ghettos in Poland, or the slaughter in Russia etc?
     
  2. crossbow

    crossbow New Member

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    May I suggest you read: Hitler's willing executioners: Ordinary Germans and the holocaust by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen (sorry haven't got the ISBN on hand).

    The phrase: "We did not know..." does not hold up all the time...
     
  3. merlin phpbb3

    merlin phpbb3 New Member

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    post subject.

    They Knew. A little poem from München area went like this,
    " Lieber Gott,
    Mach Mir stumm,
    Das Ich nicht nach Dachau komm."
    Roughly translated, Dear God, Help me to keep my mouth shut, so I don't end up in Dachau; there were also references about "Going up the Chimney" oh yes, they knew!
     
  4. Grieg

    Grieg New Member

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    When you say "they" you are talking about what...80 million people? Did the people who lived far from any camps under wartime secrecy and travel restrictions know about death camps in Poland? How exactly would they find out? Undoubtably some knew as a result of contacts with people who worked in the camps but how large a number would that be? And would they dare talk openly about such things under the Nazi regime?

    ps-IIRC there were no death camps on german soil but only in eastern europe.
     
  5. merlin phpbb3

    merlin phpbb3 New Member

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    All the trains, railway staff, movement orders, you can't move thousands of people without someone seeing?
    No Death Camps on German soil?
    Dachau, surely that was a 'death' camp?, last time I saw it it was in Bavaria, German soil surely? Bergen Belsen in Saxony.
     
  6. Ricky

    Ricky Active Member

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    From the varied stuff that I have read, even those that propogate the 'we didn't know' story, Germans living in urban centres knew that the Jews were being removed somewhere, and that whatever was happening to them was not pleasant. As Merlin stated, there were some dark 'chimney' jokes circulating that indicate than many people knew in more detail what was going on.
     
  7. merlin phpbb3

    merlin phpbb3 New Member

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    I have listened to these " I was not there", "I was not in the SS", "Was not me", stories since 1944, Guilt complex is still there. I had a München City history book, would you believe it was blank from 1933 to 1946?
    The older German, of which I know many, are ashamed of what they did, but you look at German news reels, it's like the football songs, "You only sing when you're winning", do you think the death camps would have ceased if the Germans had won? They knew, may have been scared to do anything, but they knew.
     
  8. Christian Ankerstjerne

    Christian Ankerstjerne Member

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    Germany did not try to hide that they were keeping jews, communists, etc. in concentration camps, however at the time, 'concentration camp' did not have the same negative ring to it as it has today. The German propaganda machine made sure that they reported a soft version of the camps.

    The population as a large knew that the camps existed, but more detailed knowledge of what took place would vary from area to area (as did everything else, of course). The population in southern Germany would likely have a more innocent (albeit naive) perception of the camps than the population living in the areas surrounding the camps.
     
  9. Boba Nette

    Boba Nette New Member

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    Some people may simply not have believed that such atrocities were possible.This was the case with some Allied leaders from what I have read.After reading several detailed books on death camps,I find the level of hatred and cruelty to be utterly astounding.In some cases,the gas chamber was the quick and easy way to go.Buried alive or boiled alive in a mass chemical bath would not be my first choice.
     
  10. majorwoody10

    majorwoody10 New Member

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    most ordinary germans did not know about the gas chambers even the jews boarding the cattle cars were carefully decieved right to the last minute.....being told to keep track of where their cloathing was stacked so as to get dressed quickly after their hot showers ...there were many dark rumours of course ...but they were too fantastik to be belived ..those who lived close to the chimineys knew well enough what was going on,,rail road men,ss personel ..but not all germans ..of course not spartan work camps ,yes ....mass extemination ,no...
     
  11. merlin phpbb3

    merlin phpbb3 New Member

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    post subjec

    Woody, I think you are a bit naive, who do you mean by 'ordinary Germans'? You mean the ones we spent years fighting? There were not just a few trains, there were hundreds, you don't move thousands of people without involving hundreds of staff, where did the German Folk think the Jews were going? to a 'Strength through Joy' Camp? Do you think they did not wonder why none returned? I know German people, take it from me, although they are reluctant to admit it, they knew. Have you ever heard of 'Himmelfarhtstrasse?' the Road to Heaven? I'm not digging up the past but this thread asked 'how much did they know', I believe more than they (older Germans) will admit to.
     
  12. Gunter_Viezenz

    Gunter_Viezenz New Member

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    Forgive me if I am wrong but did the German government not say they were being sent to live in the East?
     
  13. merlin phpbb3

    merlin phpbb3 New Member

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    Quite likely, they said lots of things! You don't have to believe them all though!
     
  14. Roel

    Roel New Member

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    But, as mentioned above, not all extermination camps and certainly not all concentration camps were in the East.
     
  15. Gunter_Viezenz

    Gunter_Viezenz New Member

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    Has anyone seen the documentary "Fatherland"? I believe it makes mention of a concentration camp near a small village which the villagers claim they never knew about. It is not the focus of the documentary althought I believe it was mention.



    Meh I dont believe you can acutally generalize for all German.
     
  16. Grieg

    Grieg New Member

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    Re: post subject

    AFAIK nobody has even claimed that Bergen Belsen was a death camp, though many died there. There is some controversy as to whether Dachau was a death camp also ( though probably not in Europe where one can go to jail for asking inconvenient questions about such things).
    In any case there is scanty evidence as to how widespread knowledge of the death camps was in the German populace. Unless the radio stations were broadcasting the information to the populace as a whole I don't see how ,during wartime, anything like a majority of the millions of Germans could have knowledge of what was happening in Poland and to the east.

    Still, people will believe what they will on such issues and I'm not trying to change anyone's mind.
     
  17. Simonr1978

    Simonr1978 New Member

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    Re: post subject

    Dachau and Bergen Belsen were a Concentration camps, not Extermination camps, that many, many deaths occured in concentration camps does not alter the fact that their sole purpose was not purely to kill people. That statement does not detract from the deaths that occured through the brutality of the prison regimes there, starvation, exhaustion or execution, however Prisoners in Concentration camps had a chance of survival.

    Extermination camps were different, their sole purpose was to kill people, as many as possible as quickly as possible. No extermination camps were situated on German soil, all were in the occupied east. Ultimately if you were sent there, you were there to die. There was no long term chance of survival.

    That said, I agree and I find it hard to believe that ordinary Germans were entirely unaware of what was going on beyond their borders, even if it were only rumours that they heard. The uncomfortable truths are that even regular army soldiers witnessed, even assisted in the mass executions by Einsatzgruppen, those men both army and SS had families and comrades with who some must have confided. Even that aside the instructions for the war in the east (Which according to Anthony Beevor was made clear in Army orders was to be a war of extermination), indeed Nazi policy in general doesn't leave a huge amount of room for misinterpretation.

    I think ordinary Germans as a whole felt pretty powerless to do anything, by the point the Einsatz Gruppen started their work in Poland, the Nazis had firmly concreted their hold on Germany. No overt organised resistance or opposition would be tolerated by the regime (As the brutal treatment of Hans and Sophie Scholl later proved), so ordinary Germans did what people as a whole everywhere would do under such circumstances. They carried on with their individual lives as best they could and hoped that things would change and that somehow they and their family would come out of it at the other end alive.
     
  18. Gunter_Viezenz

    Gunter_Viezenz New Member

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    I believe they even issued a decree that German soldiers are not allowed to watch the Einsatzgruppen in action.
     
  19. merlin phpbb3

    merlin phpbb3 New Member

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    If Dachau and Belsen were not extermination camps they made a bloody good job at pretending to be, we are not fly picking here, the question was ' how much did they know' and I've posted my opinion, I'm not asking you to agree with it.
     
  20. Simonr1978

    Simonr1978 New Member

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    They did, only after photographs appeared with Wehrmacht soldiers in uniform at mass executions, (and this only applied to soldiers off duty IIRC). Soldiers could still be ordered to assist.

    And I'm not disagreeing with you. The sheer scale of the atrocities involved is such that at least whispered rumours must have met the ears of some ordinary Germans.

    A horrific amount of deaths were caused in the concentration camps and the regimes there were such that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemies. However there is a clear distinction in my mind between a camp set up to punish those the regime sees as undesirable (However misguided or downright lunatic that may be) and a camp purely set up to industrialise the murder of entire groups of people on ethnic or religious grounds.

    Dachau and Belsen were cruel probably beyond my sane comprehension, however as I've said if you were sent there, there was the chance, however slim, of survival. You would never be released from Aushwitz or Treblinka under the Nazis.
     

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