Wednesday, April 11, 2018

In eastern Europe, when Nazis killed Jews, a ‘carnival atmosphere’ prevailed

Via Times of Israel:
In contrast to the relatively secretive death camps, the Einsatzgruppen massacres were “an attraction” for many communities, according to Desbois. In some localities, the Holocaust unfolded with “carnival” or quasi-religious undertones, such as the organizing of bloody, Passion-like marches through town, or forcing Jews to perform on the edge of mass graves.

“The Germans in the Eastern territories could not be unaware that the gawkers who rushed to see the Jews murdered, sometimes up to the graves’ edge, crossed themselves over and over,” wrote Desbois. “Consciously or not, they organized a tableau vivant, a living picture, of an inverted representation of the Stations of the Cross.”


In a chapter called “The Sanitizer,” Desbois explained how the SS murder squads engaged local communities in “cleaning up” after each massacre. Before Jewish homes and belongings could be pillaged, efforts were made to erase evidence that thousands of people had been murdered.

“The personal bathtubs ripped out of Jewish houses became anonymous tubs for transporting the lime to the mass graves where the Jews had been murdered,” wrote Desbois. “For a few days, the entire village seems to have been transformed into a human slaughterhouse. A slaughterhouse needing to be sanitized after a crime.”

According to Desbois, his investigations yielded many “grave fillers,” but few people who admit to transporting Jews to execution sites in trucks or wagons. For those in town who did not witness the massacres for themselves, evidence of what took place was visible on the streets for days.

“It took a village-wide effort to get the Jewish furniture out of the houses and into the schoolyard where it was sold,” wrote Desbois. “Not only was the sale of Jewish goods not hidden or discreet, camouflaged, but it took place in broad daylight at the center of Soviet life. …In the place where everyone went to make daily purchases, the possessions of murdered Jews were sold shamelessly at auction.”

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