The Extermination of the Jews


The first 13 of the 18 documents, collectively called The 
Extermination of the Jews, were not in any way new stories to me. In
fact I came into this book with the same attitude that I usually do 
when faced with Holocaust stories, that of "Yes it was horrible, but I 
know all about it already. This reading isn't going to do anything to 
my attitude." I, as I always am in thinking such a thought, was wrong. 
No matter how much you know, no matter how many Holocaust survivors 
speak to you, no matter how much you read about it, no matter how much 
the atrocities are ingrained into you mind, you can never be immune. 
You are always horrified by this extermination, and every time that 
you read about any incident you are more disgusted than the last.
You are always reminded that these people that were being slaughtered 
like animals were not much different than yourself or anybody that you 
know. It does not matter whether you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or 
any other religion, you have to sympathize with these people because 
they are people. Despite whatever the Nazis tried to make them into, 
one can easily see that is was not the Jews who were sub-human, but 
the vicious, blood-thirsty Nazi murderers who were the animals.

 Many of these readings reminded me of the question "Where were 
the people? Where were those who said, `NO! This is wrong!'? Why would 
no one stand up to such an obvious wrong?" The ninth document shows 
how the Nazis eliminated Jews' rights. It amazes me that there weren't 
more non-Jews who would speak out against these ridiculous, arbitrary 
laws. Can fear truly silence a person to the point of just accepting 
the dehumanization and deaths of millions of people? I still cannot 
bring myself to believe that this is human nature. No thinking human 
being could accept this, yet an entire nation bowed to the insane
will of a madman. Clearly, somewhere in human nature is an innate 
passivity possessed by many people. This passivity must be so powerful 
that it can silence those who wish to be active, who will stand up for 
what is right. Is it not reasonable then to think that ,despite all of 
the good intentions and courage that people display, it could happen 

 Document five shows how a person can be fooled into believing 
in the superiority of one group over another. Globocnik must have felt 
this way or he would never be able to make boasts about burying bronze 
tablets in order to commemorate his murderous work. What does it take 
to make a human, the only known sentient creature, pride himself of 
doing something that is below even the barest of creatures? It was 
this document that was the most shocking to me. Where the others show 
the suffering of those the Nazis captured and killed, this one shows 
in ghastly detail how some delighted in the misery these people.

 The final five documents attempt to show varying explanations 
as to how this abomination known as the Holocaust could have occurred. 
The first, an excerpt form Machiavelli's The Prince shows reasons that 
Hitler was able to retain such control over the population. He states 
that fear enables a ruler to retain perfect control over those he 
rules. Indeed this was one of Hitler's strategies. He scared people 
into not reacting by using the threats of imprisonment and death. The 
statements made by Hobbes attempt to prove that man is naturally evil. 
Although upon first glance at the Holocaust one may think that this is 
true, it seems that a more accurate representation would be that some 
people are evil, and that they when in power can influence the 
primarily neutral population. Locke's view of the rationality in man's 
nature seems an absurd optimistic opinion after reading all of the
offenses against humanity. Although there may well be people governed 
by rationality they quite obviously cannot make up the bulk of those 
living or such illogical random acts of cruelty and evil , such as the 
Holocaust, could not occur. Ardrey makes statements that there is a 
natural instinct for man to be aggressive. Indeed this may be true, as 
it explains the behavior of the Nazi executioners. Without some sort 
of murderous tendency it would not be possible to kill that many 
defenseless people. Skinner's opinion that the actions of a man are a 
direct result of his surrounding situations effectively explains the 
reasons for the Holocaust happening. The surrounding conditions of 
economic depression and a general anti-Semitic attitude enabled 
Germans to accept something that they would abhor under other 
circumstances. Providing the hatred of the Jews was not an accepted
attitude, Hitler would not have been able to implement his "Final 

 In actuality it would seem that none of the philosophers that 
deal with human nature are entirely correct. Instead a combination is 
probably true. Maybe some people are evil by nature, but there is a 
great enough population of logical, good people to normally keep the 
general attitude of a neutral nature. It is when those of a warlike 
nature come to power that such an evil policy as genocide may be 
instituted. yet another 9-12th grade Holocaust essay:

 More facts give more answers, which lead to more questions. 
Unlike the first set of readings, which could have been stories that I 
have heard before, most of the facts expressed here were completely 
new to me. I have always been taught that the world stood idle while 
the Nazis proceeded to slaughter the Jewish people. Never, however, 
were the stories of those who stood up, those who did what is the 
humanly right thing to do, told to me. Bravery should not have been a 
factor. People should have reacted despite of their fear if they saw 
the slaughter of an entire group of people for truly no reason. 
Unfortunately this was not true. The goodness of those who did 
something, such as Father Lichtenerg and King Christian X of Denmark,
should be acknowledged, not as acts of superhuman kindness, but as 
acts of a human level when the rest of the world was acting with sub- 
human passivity.

 Were those who did nothing when they had the chance as guilty 
as the Nazi murderers themselves? Did they just as much deserve to be 
put on trial at Nuremberg? Fear is a powerful force, but is it one 
that should be an excuse for the destruction of our basic, human sense 
of right and wrong, to the extent where we allow the vile act of 
murder to be carried out without intervention? I can never for one 
instant imagine a person not so angry and disgusted by these 
deplorable criminals that he or she would just say, as the man did in 
the case of Catherine Genovese, "I didn't want to get involved." 
Didn't want to get involved? This was not some stupid squabble over 
some ridiculous point. THIS WAS MURDER! Human lives were needlessly 
lost because people were too absorbed in their own fears of being hurt 
or of losing power. The reaction of the American Jews was inexcusable. 
In fact, it seems even more horrible than that of the others that 
succumbed to passivity. They let their own people die. How can anyone 
find any excuse for something like that? The book states that the 
world most intellectual, thinking people did nothing. If this is so 
how can they claim the title of intellectual? Is the failure to react 
not enough to show that they have no right to hold the title of a 
thinking person?

 It is sad to have read the words uttered and written by those 
who were the victims of the Nazi atrocities. The section of the
book is titled Behavior Under Stress, but upon reading the outpour of 
emotions conveyed by the victims one can plainly see that the word 
stress, or any other, could describe the situations of these people. 
The section that struck me the hardest was the one called "We Got Used 
to...". It simply amazes me that people could become accustomed to the 
dreaded conditions that existed within Auschwitz. To live ones daily 
life knowing that any day could be the day of your own slaughter, to 
witness it happening to those around you, to have to wait for it in 
the pains of hunger, disease, and beatings, is a situation which I 
cannot see myself not becoming insane under, much less getting used 
to. To think that these people's disastrous fate was brought about
because people were too afraid to speak up makes me sick.

 It is stated that those who served under Adolf Hitler were 
proved perfectly sane by the Rorschach tests administered to them. As 
Molly Harrower points out, this is much more scary than if the results 
came back saying that they were the most horridly evil psychopaths 
ever to walk the earth. Because the test shows that they were sane, it 
provides clear evidence that human nature is such that the corruption 
of the mass media can lead to the corruption of the mind in even the 
most "normal" of individuals. This shows that we must actively think 
about everything put before us before accepting it. If we do not we 
run the risk of becoming as bad as those who served under the king of 
the murderers, Adolf Hitler. Still another 9-12th grade Holocaust 

 As with the first reaction paper, the first grouping of 
readings did not surprise me, as I have had experience dealing with 
things such as those displayed. The first two excerpts from Brave New 
World and 1984 were recognizable to me as I am familiar with both 
works. Orwell's book, the one with which I have had the most 
experience with, had the scene which I had always deemed the most 
frightening excerpted from it. O'Brian's prophetic view of the 
totalitarian state is shocking and appalling. Unfortunately the reason 
for the terror felt when the description is given is because it is 
shockingly real. Orwell based his description of Oceania under the 
rule of the Party was actually based on the regimes of Stalin and 
Hitler, and thus it is perfectly possible that it could happen in our 
world, not only a dystopian science fiction novel. Huxley shows how 
appealing to a people's sense of a stable situation even if they must 
surrender all that is individual about them to the state. The 
Controller attempts to relate that there are truly different ranks of 
people, some meant to lead and some to serve in sub-human condition.
Both of these ideas were prevalent in Hitler's Germany, and both are 

reprehensible by any who value their sense of individuality.

 The readings from number 76 to 79 are even more examples that 
demonstrate how not only that things comparable to the Holocaust could 
happen again, but how they are a constant in history. Is it part of 
human nature to look for a scapegoat? Repeated examples show that some 
people are simply blind to the evil inherent in activities as vile as 
the enslavement and mass killing of someone simply because of their 
ethnic grouping. People think that Hitler was evil and destructive, 
well thy are right, but so too were those Americans who advocated the 
concepts of slavery, and the denial of rights to those of Japanese 
descent during World War II. Clearly there must be some dark aspect in 
human nature that causes us to behave so hatefully towards others. If 
this is true how can humans hope to continue to exist as a successful 

 By far the reading that held my attention the most, even more 
than the ones about death, destruction, and slavery, was the one
called Obedience to Authority. It seemed to answer many of my 
questions concerning the servile nature of people expressed in the 
previous reaction paper. It does however raise even more questions as 
it provides answers. What is going through a person's mind as he 
knowingly inflicts unbearable pain on someone who has done him no harm 
at all? How is the power of authority enough to override the human 
conscience? The sociologist makes an excellent point when he states 
,"what is the correct balance between individual initiative and 
authority?" Indeed this is a question that we must ask if we are to 
proceed in a workable society. We cannot have a world without 
leadership, but similarly we should not surrender our individuality to 
the state or we come closer to the negative utopias described in 1984 
and Brave New World. 


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