Modern German

Writing

Moorpark College

Question Description

Please read and pay careful attention to the instructions! Paper must be typed in twelve-point font, double-spaced, and edited for spelling and grammatical errors. You are only allowed to draw on lecture notes and assigned course materials. DO NOT USE THE INTERNET OR ANY OTHER OUTSIDE SOURCES! I WILL KNOW IF YOU DO AND I WILL FAIL YOU FOR PLAGIARISM! Only use the attached files.

PART I – IDENTIFICATIONS: Choose five of the following ten terms. You must answer four basic questions about the term (who? what? where? when?) and then briefly explain its historical significance. In some cases, the latter will refer to specific lecture topics; in other instances, it will relate to broader course themes. Answers should be no longer than two short paragraphs each. You do not need to include citations for this portion of the exam.

PART II – ESSAY: Choose one of the following three prompts and make sure to address it in full. Your response must be at least 750 words (but no more than 1,000) in which you provide a clear, reasoned argument based on concrete evidence gleaned from class. For a good grade, each body paragraph of your essay should contain at least three examples from lecture (people, events, ideas, institutions, etc.) as well as three examples from course readings and/or assigned multimedia items. When quoting or referencing these sources, you can either mention the title of the work in the text or insert a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence.

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6 Awareness of the Holocaust Let us re-examine the much-discussed question of the German population's knowledge of the Nazi extermination policy. What did the German public know about the Holocaust? To what extent was it aware of the mass shootings in the east, the gassing and the extermination centres? The most significant sources scholars have used for this topic are the Meldungen aus dem Reich. These confidential periodic surveys of the public mood were compiled by the German security services, particularly the SD.! Yet evaluating the German public's knowledge on the basis of these reports is fraught with difficulty. When one compares the small number of existing reports from gendarmerie or local SD stations with the relevant national summary, for instance, it becomes evident that certain information furnished by the local stations was deliberately deleted and suppressed, while the writer of the national digest specially stressed other aspects. The bias of the reports is thus manifest, revealing how the information-gathering process was conditioned by the perceptions and predilections of the reporters at various levels. Distortions and omissions crept in when the reporter disregarded details peripheral to his main theme. In addition, we can see how generalizations and exaggerations of local events were made to fit the Nazi world view and its own evaluation of public mood. Some issues were also partially or entirely omitted in the national summaries, probably because their compilers were instructed to omit them. For example, these reports give no indication of the massive opposition to the euthanasia programme. The same problems arise in examining the Jewish question. Selectivity or emphasis stemmed both from subjective factors - the reporter's personal views - and from objective considerations: the need to 102 Awareness of the Holocaust summarize and generalize. Moreover, the conclusions of the SD summaries cannot be verified by different sources of information from the same area or other areas during the same period. These obstacles make it imperative, then, to compare these sources with other records, such as diaries, eyewitness accounts and Allied intelligence reports." A view commonly found among the general public, but also in many scholarly works, is that very little was generally known about the extermination at the time, and that only unsubstantiated rumours about the Jews' fate circulated in Germany.' This allegation rests mainly on various testimonies. A case in point is a letter of March 1943 written by one of the leaders of the plot of 20 July 1944, Helmuth von Moltke, in which he asserts that the German people did not know that the Nazis had killed hundreds of thousands of Jews. In his words, 'They went on believing that Jews had just been segregated and led an existence in the east pretty much like the one they had in Germany." Von Moltke's contention is further endorsed by some of the memoirs of Jewish survivors written after the war. Hans Rosenthal, for example, said that he had not known about the extermination camps.' Another survivor, Bruno Weil, who held a key position in the Jewish community and therefore may have had better access to information, states that only towards the end of the war, when he was an inmate in Theresienstadt, did he become aware of the transports' destinations.! Even Leo Baeck, the leader of German Jewry, whom we would expect to have known more about what happened to the deported Jews, maintained after the war that only in Theresienstadt did he learn about the gassing in Auschwitz." While there is difficulty in proving or disproving the accuracy of Rosenthal and Weil's statements, at least in Baeck's case we are able to reveal the weaknesses of post-war testimonies as reliable sources for the reconstruction of a historical reality. Perhaps he might not have known about Auschwitz, but what was happening to the deportees could have been no secret to him. Baeck himself recalls that a Gentile woman, who voluntarily accompanied her deported husband to Poland in the summer of 1941, gave him the first indication of what was taking place in the east. We also know that Jacob Jacobson, a top-ranking official in the Jewish community, personally introduced him to a German officer who wished to inform him about the massacres. So, notwithstanding Baeck's affirmation, it is hard to believe that he learned about the killings only later on." This is more than another instance of how misleading memory can be. Here we are probably confronting a typical example of recollections which were shaped by selective memory and post-war values and knowledge. Much care is therefore needed when dealing with such sources. We cannot rely on them unless they match the evidence drawn from other material. It is very possible that Baeck, like Awareness of the Holocaust 103 many others, was unaware of the existence of specific extermination centres. The journalist Lili Hahn, for example, merely knew, as she noted in her diary in May 1943, that Birkenau was the railway station for the Auschwitz concentration carnp.? It is also true that a psychological defence mechanism of repression may often have affected the recipient of the appalling news. This seems to have been the case with a member of the anti-Nazi underground, Ursula von Kardorff, who, after writing in her diary that a girl had poisoned her Jewish mother out of love to spare her from being deported, added, 'If only one knew what is happening to the Jews who have been deported."? She wrote this in spite of the fact that six months earlier she had been told by somebody who came from the east that Jews were shot down in front of mass graves. II Nevertheless, the vast number of testimonies given during and after the war by both Germans and Jews, as well as contemporaries' diaries, lead to the conclusion that large sections of the German population, both Jews and non-Jews, either knew or suspected what was happening in Poland and Russia. A few testimonies illustrate this contention. One survivor commented that in December 1942 he did not know about the gassing but suspected that death was awaiting the Jewish deportees.'! A woman who worked in the Jewish hospital in Berlin testified that rumours about the camps seeped through what they called the Judische Mundfunk (Jewish mouth radio), and the rate of suicides always increased sharply two or three days before a transport was due to leave.'! Her words are confirmed and illustrated by the report of Edwin van D'Elden, former representative of the American chamber of commerce in Frankfurt, who was in that city till May 1942. He commented that, when soldiers came back from Poland and told about mass shootings, dozens of Jews who had received deportation orders in May 1942 committed suicide." Another German Jew, who survived clandestinely, asserted that, on visiting theatres and bars and talking to civilians who did not know he was Jewish, he heard about the mass shootings, which made him decide to go underground." We learn the same from a socialist Jewess who had heard rumours about the fate of the transports prior to 1943.16 If these recollections seem untrustworthy as historical records, it must be added that stories about evacuated people being shot in the east also occur in contemporary letters and diaries. In his diary Ludwig Haydn noted that Viennese Jews were openly mentioning that deportation meant starvation or being shot in front of a grave they would dig themselves.'? Such bleak prospects also appear in a letter of Hermann Samter, an official in the Jewish community of Berlin, as early as January 1942.18 The fact that the SD reports say very little about the fate of the deported Jews may give the false impression that what befell them was unknown to the public. However, the paucity of SD reports on this topic by no means 104 Awareness of the Holocaust indicates that little or nothing was known in Germany. If we followed such an erroneous line of reasoning on the question of the euthanasia killings, we would have to conclude, incorrectly, that because this topic is hardly mentioned in the SD reports very few knew anything about the murder of the mentally ill. Yet Marlis Steinert convincingly argues that the SD summaries deliberately suppressed information on public discussion of this issue; rumours concerning the killings are almost wholly confined to local party and jurists' reports. In sharp contrast to the silence of the SD surveys on this issue, there is massive and conclusive evidence that it was widely discussed and that the information the population obtained was accurate: in the autumn of 1941, people were talking about 70,000-80,000 murdered in the euthanasia centres.'? Similar remarks appear in contemporary testimonies and diaries of ordinary German citizens. Lisa de Boor, for example, noted in her diary that people were talking about the euthanasia programme in which '80,000 were to be murdered on Hitler's orders.'2o After the programme was officially halted, in August 1941, the public still linked the extermination of the Jews with that of the mentally ill. Thus, it was reported that the following phrase was going the rounds in the city of Leipzig in 1943: 'After the Jews, the sick and the helpless. '21 Having clarified these methodological points, let us return to our main topic and examine in depth the question of how much and what was known about the extermination process. Very few SD national summaries mention the information on the murder of the Jews that circulated among the German public. By reading the local reports before they were summarized in Berlin, however, we may assess with greater precision what the German population actually knew. Such an inspection confirms that people heard of the slaughter of civilian Poles and Jews from the very onset of hostilities. Thus as early as November 1939 a party report from north-western Westphalia states that soldiers in a train had openly recounted the SS atrocities committed in Poland. According to them, Jews were pushed into ditches and killed with hand grenades; some of the Jews had committed suicide in order to escape the agony of dying at the hands of the SS.22 This sort of information recurs at the end of April 1940, when a local SD station reported that soldiers on leave were talking about the mass killings of Jews and Poles." In view of such sensational disclosures, it is hardly surprising that the events in Poland definitely interested the public, and we thus understand why people in Weimar, Dresden, Breslau and Kiel were so curious to know more about the solution to the Jewish question." More detailed and frightening accounts again circulated at the start of the Barbarossa campaign. Soldiers on leave often spread stories of widespread hunger and the death of the population in the Soviet Union. They made no secret of how Russian prisoners of war were murdered and of the fate Awareness of the Holocaust 105 awaiting the Jews deported to the east." In sharp contrast to the misleading silence of the national SD summaries, the accuracy of the information in local reports is sometimes highly instructive. Such is the case with the informer from the town of Steiger who heard people discussing the shootings of Jews who had previously dug their own graves, and the nervous breakdowns of some of their executioners.w Another local SD survey referred to public speculation on the possible activities of the top secret unit Sonderkommando 1005. As is known, this unit, under the command of SS Colonel Paul Blobel, was established in June 1942 to obliterate the tracks of the SS murder squads and burn the corpses of those murdered in the Aktionen in the eastern territories. A local Bavarian SD reporter noted, A rumour was going the rounds in Miinnerstadt that the Allies had posed a question to Hitler, via the Red Cross, on the whereabouts of the Jews who were in the Reich. The Fuhrer ordered the exhumation of the buried Jews and the burning of their corpses so that in the event of a retreat on the Eastern Front the Soviets would not gain possession of propaganda material such as that on Karyn." This widespread discussion of the murder was aptly summarized in unambiguous terms in a party report dated 9 October 1942: In the course of the work on the final solution of the Jewish question, the population in various parts of Germany has recently begun to discuss the 'very harsh measures' against the Jews, especially in the eastern territories. Inquiries have revealed that these discussions - often distortions and exaggerations - stem from stories told by soldiers on leave from units fighting in the east, who themselves had been able to witness such measures.i'' When Germany began to suffer reverses in the war, talk of the mass murder seems to have gradually increased; now facing the bitter end, people began to have fears of retaliation. This particularly occurred when the anxious population began to seek some sort of spiritual comfort after learning of their relatives' fate on the Russian Front. In response to such apprehensions, some clergy preached that the Stalingrad disaster was God's punishment on the Germans for their treatment of Russians, Jews and Poles." Nazi propaganda also excited discussion of the killings, as when in the spring and summer of 1943, in response to propaganda on the Katyn and Winneza massacres of Polish officers, intellectuals, churchmen and others criticized Goebbels' hypocrisy, claiming that hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Poles, Russians and Jews were treated no better by the Germans. Informers also reported that peasants commented with reference to the mass graves of Poles and Jews, 'Neither did we treat our enemies better, especially the Jews, 106 Awareness of the Holocaust who were eliminated ruthlessly.' After the release of the news of the Katyn graves, there were some who expressed concern that the enemy might find graves of Jews killed systematically by German soldiers.v Some of the public made it clear that they understood that these were the rules of the total war proclaimed by Goebbels. In this type of war the British and American bombers were wreaking havoc on German cities, and the Germans were pursuing their extermination campaign against the jews." People commonly try not to dwell on what is too upsetting. It seems therefore that, in the Germans' efforts to maintain a 'normal life' at any price, the annihilation policy was a sort of taboo topic to be mentioned only in family circles or among close friends. However, the Jewish theme came up in public discussion when it had implications for the life of the population or when people reacted to certain political stimuli. These implications were sensed especially when fear of defeat began to emerge after Stalingrad, or when the propaganda on the Katyn affair acted as a stimulus to comment on other killings in the east. The next question is: was there a specific awareness of what became known as the Holocaust? In other words, did the public perceive the killings of Jews as so many individual acts of murder, as 'normal' war brutality against the civilian population, or, more than that, as some new phenomenon of monstrous dimensions? Since the SD reports provide no satisfactory answer to this question, we are obliged to turn to other sources - hitherto not used by researchers dealing with the topic - which attest to the information that circulated among the German public. British intelligence material allows us to sense how the German public felt about the war against Russia. By reading letters written by German civilians to their relatives and friends abroad, the British censors obtained the following picture: on the one hand, the anxiety and grief caused by the losses at the front, combined with war-weariness and depression; on the other, the firm belief of many that the war against the Soviet Union was a crusade for the benefit of mankind. The Germans saw themselves as conducting a historical war of liberation, and in such a context the term 'extermination of the enemy' was more than just a metaphor." This perception of the true nature and far-reaching implications of the Russian campaign also comes to light in other sources. Most revealing is a British diplomatic despatch which included a memorandum of a conversation with the Swedish banker Jacob Wallenberg. He returned from Berlin in 1941, where he had met mainly businessmen and officials in the economic departments. Reading the memorandum, one is struck by the cold-blooded manner in which Germans talked about millions of human beings who would perish. Wallenberg noted that 'There was much talk in Germany about the starvation which would ensue in Russia as a result of the scorched earth policy and that it was estimated that between ten and Awareness of the Holocaust 107 twenty million Russians might die of hunger during the winter. Two and a half million would starve in Leningrad' (emphasis added). In this context he casually voiced his opinion: 'Many Germans were disgusted at the way in which Jews were deported from German cities to ghettoes in Poland. Several begged him to put a word in with the Swedish government to get visas for Sweden for some of their acquaintances who otherwise would be sent to Poland to a lingering death.' 33 Bearing in mind both the SD material and the confidential Allied reports on conditions in Germany, the German people appear to have grasped the meaning and significance of the unprecedented war with the Soviet Union. Therefore the news of the massacres of Jews was not internalized in a mental and emotional vacuum. The Germans were fully aware that what was happening in Russia was not the sort of thing that ordinarily happened in war, and this awareness was articulated in everyday conversation. They were cognizant of the horrible consequences of this campaign and understood that it was costing the lives of millions, who were dying in a variety of ways. We could, therefore, hypothesize that they were psychologically conditioned to comprehend the news of the extermination of Jews. However, awareness of the magnitude of the atrocities against Poles and Russians created a psychological framework in which the public submerged the specific annihilation of the Jews. The killings of the Einsatzgruppen were fitted into it and were not necessarily perceived in their own right. The German population furthermore sensed what this war entailed, but many had no need to imagine what was taking place since they had themselves witnessed the atrocities. At the end of 1942 and beginning of 1943 the population of the village of Wohlau assembled on the shore of the Vistula to watch hundreds being undressed and killed. German soldiers and civilians talked about the gas van used in exterminating the Jews of the Semlin camp in Yugoslavia." In inner Germany, too, it was no secret that more than 'ordinary' war atrocities were being perpetrated in the east. The famous resistance group led by the Scholl brothers realized this when they stated in their manifesto that since the defeat of Poland 300,000 Jews had been killed in the most brutal fashion, in what they called 'the most horrible crime against the dignity of man, for which there is no parallel in the whole of human history.'35 This was also the reaction of another opponent of Nazism, Paul Freiherr von Schoenaich, who wrote in his diary that the Jews were being murdered in hundreds of thousands. He too regarded this as 'the greatest shame of mankind of all times', and he added, 'If God's justice does exist, there must be a punishment for it', and he hoped to live to see it.36 It is unnecessary to repeat here the findings of historians such as Wilhelm, Krausnick, Streit and Forster on the massive involvement of the Wehrmacht in the extermination process. Ordinary soldiers serving in the vicinity of the 108 Awareness of the Holo ...
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