Public guilt

New Holocaust research exposes the breadth of the public guilt for the appalling barbarism of Nazi Germany.

THIRTEEN years ago, researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum began the grim task of documenting all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe.

What they have found so far has shocked even scholars steeped in the history of the Holocaust.

The researchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps …

We all know the names of the half-dozen most notorious prison camps, and of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, but … 42,500?

At least 500, it turns out, were brothels where imprisoned women were sexual prisoners.

Here is the all-important point:

Dr. Dean, a co-researcher, said the findings left no doubt in his mind that many German citizens, despite the frequent claims of ignorance after the war, must have known about the widespread existence of the Nazi camps at the time.

“You literally could not go anywhere in Germany without running into forced labor camps, P.O.W. camps, concentration camps,” he said. “They were everywhere.”

Recall, too, Hannah Arendt’s shock when she was covering the post-war trials, when she discovered how casually the organizers and actors in this mass depravity simply went home after the war ended and picked-up their old lives without a shred of embarrassment.

Foreign correspondents, but no German reporter so far as I know, were shocked that “those of the accused who still live at home are by no means treated as outcasts by their communities.”

[ ... ] the defendants had been able to lead normal lives under their own names for many years before they were indicted. [ ... ]

“The SS men were infected” by the inmates; not the guards but the prisoners “were beasts in human form”; the brutality of the guards was understandable because their victims, especially “the Galician Jews, were highly undisciplined”; and the SS became “bad” because of the influence of the capos, the trustee prisoners.

Without meaning to compare the church sex abuse scandals to nazism, I’ve made the same observation about the global church sex abuse scandals: There are more guilty people than merely the perverts; there are half-dozen and more who shielded each of them, who certainly did know what was going on.

Honestly, the older I get the more persuaded I become that if there is anything that is the root of all evil, or an Original Sin, it’s probably cowardice.


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