Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Op-Ed: While Auschwitz has been remembered, most of the Holocaust has been largely forgotten.

Via Salon:
Yet the vast majority of Jews had already been murdered, further east, by the time that Auschwitz became a major killing facility. Yet while Auschwitz has been remembered, most of the Holocaust has been largely forgotten.
Auschwitz has been a relatively manageable symbol for Germany after the Second World War, significantly reducing the actual scale of the evil done. The conflation of Auschwitz with the Holocaust made plausible the grotesque claim that Germans did not know about the mass murder of the European Jews while it was taking place. It is possible that some Germans did not know exactly what happened at Auschwitz. It is not possible that many Germans did not know about the mass murder of Jews. The mass murder of Jews was known and discussed in Germany, at least among families and friends, long before Auschwitz became a death facility. In the East, where tens of thousands of Germans shot millions of Jews over hundreds of death pits over the course of three years, most people knew what was happening. Hundreds of thousands of Germans witnessed the killings, and millions of Germans on the eastern front knew about them. During the war, wives and even children visited the killing sites; and soldiers, policemen, and others wrote home to their families, sometimes with photographs, about the details. German homes were enriched, millions of times over, by plunder from the murdered Jews, sent by post or brought back by soldiers and policemen on leave.

For similar reasons, Auschwitz was a convenient symbol in the postwar Soviet Union and today in post-communist Russia. If the Holocaust is reduced to Auschwitz, then it can easily be forgotten that the German mass killing of Jews began in places that the Soviet Union had just conquered. Everyone in the western Soviet Union knew about the mass murder of the Jews, for the same reason that the Germans did: In the East the method of mass murder required tens of thousands of participants and was witnessed by hundreds of thousands of people. The Germans left, but their death pits remained. If the Holocaust is identified only with Auschwitz, this experience, too, can be excluded from history and commemoration.  more

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