Coping in an Evil World II - Holocaust and Gulag
Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences,
University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
The Formation of Hitler (1889-1945)
- Appears to have had a pleasant childhood
- Fought in World War I
- In one 4-day stretch, his regiment reduced from 3600 to 611 men.
- Blinded by gas attack, 1918
- While recuperating, resolved to enter politics
The roots of German bitterness
- Belief that troops betrayed by "stab-in-the-back," collapse of morale (compare attitudes on Vietnam).
- Anger at terms of Treaty of Versailles (Germany imposed far
harsher terms on Russia by Treaty of Brest-Litovski).
- Marxist uprising of 1918-1920
- Forecasts of Oswald Spengler in Decline of the West - anticipated
terror followed by Napoleon-like dictator
- Hyperinflation of mid-1920's
- Worldwide depression of 1920's
Influence of Pseudoscience in Reich
- Popular cult of 20's and 30's
- Universe composed mostly of ice
- Linked theories to Nazi ideology
- Occult beliefs pervaded high levels of Nazi government
(astrology, Atlantis, etc.)
- Aryan and Nordic racial theories
- Hitler chose a crank, Dr. Morell, as his personal physician
- Wide acceptance of pseudoscience a system of mass disordered
thought? Discontent found outlets in political extremism and
rebellion against conventional science?
- Pseudoscience is not necessarily harmless
Roots of the Holocaust
- Belief that Jews were plotting to control economy
- At the bottom, the pervasive nature of anti-Semitism in history
is a mystery.
Restrictions on Jews in 1930's
- Ownership of property
- Original intent was to expel Jews (minus property).
- Lack of protest from West convinced Hitler that no action would
be taken to save Jews: "Who remembers the Armenians?"
- Tacit approval by many in West. National Socialism seen as "liberal."
- Originated in book published 1920: Release of the Destruction of
Life Devoid of Value by Alfred Hocke and Karl Binding.
- Based on Social Darwinist concept of "elimination of unfit."
- Directed against retarded, elderly, disabled W.W. I veterans.
- Developed many of the methods and some of the personnel for the Holocaust.
- Doctors not compelled to participate.
- Nazis did not originate the idea.
Eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust
Responses to Holocaust
- Genuine unawareness or confusion
- Self-deception or denial
- Often only option was to die with dignity
- Individual forceful resistance
- Organized uprisings
- Warsaw Ghetto, April 9-May 15, 1943
- Executioners were often professional men
- Immense personal stress: alcoholism, sadism, ulcers, nervous
- Efforts to conceal exterminations
- Efforts to depersonalize, mechanize, reduce personal contact
- Elaborate psychological games: deaden feelings, rationalization
- Overall conclusion: those involved were aware they were
involved in immoral actions.
- Reports of atrocities countered by official denials.
- Many not directly involved were appalled but felt powerless to
intervene or considered it not their responsibility.
- Legal resistance
- Kurt Gerstein, head of Technical Disinfection Service of Waffen
SS witnessed execution, attempted to spread information and arouse protest.
- Konrad Morgen, an assistant SS Judge, attempted to shut down
camps by by bringing officials to trial on criminal charges. Nicknamed "bloodhound judge," despite threats brought 800 cases to trial, obtained 200 convictions.
- Extra-legal resistance
- Army bomb plot, July 20, 1944
- Albert Speer circumvents Hitler's scorched-earth orders, 1945.
- Underground movements
- Anne Frank
- Cornelia Ten Boom: The Hiding Place
- Vatican publicly silent
- Regarded Bolshevism as worse threat than Nazism.
- Fear of exacerbating plight of Jews.
- Single most active covert rescue organization--hid thousands of Jews.
- U.S. and U.K. did little.
- Offered sanctuary to few Jews.
- Moscow Declaration of 1943 omitted Jews from list of Nazi victims.
- Some nations were active.
- Denmark sent almost all of its Jews to Sweden (6500).
- Finland saved all but four of its 4000 Jews.
- Japan harbored 5000 Jews in Manchuria in gratitude for financial aid by Jewish firms during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05).
- Finland and Japan were German allies!
Role of German technology and industry in the Holocaust
- Use of slave labor
- Role in constructing facilities
The Gulag Archipelago
- Title of book by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
- GULAG is Russian acronym for "Chief Administration of Corrective-Labor Camps."
- "Archipelago" refers to common nature of camps as islands within
Soviet society but isolated from it.
Russian secret police system
- Evolved in 1880's to combat terrorists,
- Inherited and reinforced by Bolsheviks.
The system under Stalin
- Intended to inspire mistrust and isolation among entire
- Penalties for failure to report suspicious actions by others.
- Pressures on families of inmates to sever ties.
- Encourage self-deception.
- Camp population just small enough to allow non-inmates to believe
inmates were imprisoned for a reason.
- Camp population just small enough to offer hope of avoiding
Selected readings from GULAG ARCHIPELAGO and other Solzhenitsyn
- What should a person caught in such systems do?
- Can we recognize such systems in advance and prevent their coming
to power? How?
- Should free societies intervene by force to overthrow such
systems? Which ones?
- South Africa
- Idi Amin's Uganda
- Pol Pot's Cambodia
- "Jim Crow" system in U.S.
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Created 20 May 1997 Last Update 30 May 1997
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