Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany: How Far Were the German People Responsible for the Holocaust?

Essay by wightyellaHigh School, 12th gradeA+, March 2006

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As we may never know the exact details of the Holocaust, one of the most horrifying events in human history, it is left to theorise on the identity of the perpetrators guilty of such an atrocity. A great deal of the evidence assembled points in various directions. It is clear that the blame cannot rest fully on Nazi leaders and officials, as it is probable that the common German citizen was also a part of the attempted genocide enforced by those who served under Hitler. If the question is why or how, an answer must be based on how you perceive the information obtained from those who had every opportunity to avoid their involvement in the atrocity. Your conclusion should reflect the indisputable connection between the average German's actions and the staggering number of executed Jews.

It is my conviction that most people understand the nature of the Holocaust, but fail to hold Germany in its entirety responsible.

It is unfeasible to think, in my mind, that such a crime could have centred exclusively within one particular movement. Daniel J. Goldhagen, in his book Hitler's Willing Executioners argues that the Holocaust perpetrators "were not primarily SS men or Nazi Party members, but perfectly ordinary Germans from all walks of life, men (and women) who brutalised and murdered Jews both willingly and zealously". Natalie Weinstein states that the "average Germans gladly, almost gleefully, participated in the torture and mass murder of Jews during World War II". These quotes perfectly highlight my line of argument: that a significant number of ordinary German people willingly supported and agreed with the mass killings of the Holocaust. It is apparent from the quotes and my own research that the "everyday" citizens delivered just as much pain and suffering as any Nazi associate, and it is...