Yesterday, I saw that the Holocaust was trending on Twitter. It turns out that it was because of new survey results. Claims Conference released the results of its U.S. Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey, which surveyed 18 to 39-year-olds in 50 American states.
Some of the disturbing results from the survey were:
- 63% (69% in Arkansas) were unaware that 6 million Jews were killed; 36% thought it was 2 million or fewer
- 48% of respondents couldn’t name a single concentration camp; that figure was 60% in Texas
- 11% (19% in New York) believed that Jews caused the Holocaust
- 49% have seen Holocaust denial/distortion posts on social media or elsewhere online
In 2019, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust released the results of a poll of adults in the UK. These were some of their findings:
- 5% didn’t believe the Holocaust happened
- 8% believed the scale of the Holocaust was greatly exaggerated
- only 36% believed that more than 2 million Jews were killed
This is really sickening. We’ll talk more about Holocaust denial towards the end of this post, but let’s do a quick history lesson, since apparently, the education system has dropped the ball and far too many need a basic lesson.
The Final Solution
During World War II, Hitler moved ahead with his plan to wipe as many Jews off the face of the planet as possible. This really coalesced with a 1942 plan for the Final Solution. By the end of the war in 1945, the Nazis had called around 6 million Jews, which was about 2/3 of the European Jewish population. An astounding 90% of Polish Jews were killed.
The extermination camps really got going around 1942, but things weren’t very nice before that, either. Jews were ghettoized in occupied cities across Europe, crammed into small areas and allowed very little food. In the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941, the daily ration was 184 Calories.
Auschwitz was an extermination camp in occupied Poland, near the town of Oświęcim. It was one of six extermination camps (and over 40 concentration camps) run by the Nazis. The sign “arbeit macht frei” gave the absurd message that work would make prisoners free.
In 1942, trains delivered Jews from across Europe to be exterminated as part of the Final Solution. There were 1.3 million prisoners sent to Auschwitz, and 1.1 million of them were killed. Of these, 960,000 were Jews, including 865,000 who were sent to the gas chamber immediately upon arrival.
In 1942, Crematorium I had three ovens that could burn 340 bodies in 24 hours. That was small potatoes; in the next two years, capacity increased to 8000 bodies per day. Between 1942 and 1944, an average of 1000 bodies were burned per day.
One of the things that I found most chilling when visiting Auschwitz was the items that had been taken from prisoners on arrival, including shoes, eyeglasses, and suitcases. The two images below are from Auschwitz.
The Nazis performed human experiments on Jewish and various other prisoners at Auschwitz and other extermination camps. Experimental operations were performed without anaesthesia. Experiments were performed on twins, including sewing them together to try to make conjoined twins. Some people were deliberately infected with diseases or given untested vaccines. Experiments were also conducted to find quick and easy ways of performing mass sterilizations.
Looking for justice
The film Nazi Concentration Camps, available on Netflix, was made by the Americans in 1945 to document the atrocities in the Nazi concentration camps they liberated. The footage was used at the Nuremberg trials. Their motivation was clearly to capture what the Nazis had done, so the images shown are very graphic and often sickening, to match the reality of what was found.
The Nuremberg trials, carried out from 1945-1946, preserved a large amount of evidence of the atrocities committed by the Nazis. The Nuremberg Trials Project, created by the Harvard Law School Library, has 650,000 pages of transcripts, legal briefs, and evidence presented during the trials.
There are a number of different targets for Holocaust denial, including denial that Jews were specifically targeted and denial that large number of Jews were killed. Some of it seems to be fuelled by antisemitism, while others just seem happy to hop on the conspiracy theory bandwagon.
Debate.org is a hotbed of ignorance to begin with, and its commenters certainly don’t hesitate to bring the bizarre on this issue (this debate is partially archived on Wayback Machine):
- “Well if we take a look at what the jews got out of the holocauser we clearly see that the jews clearly on another layer of lies every year too keep the money flowing and this my ladies and gents is the holohoax theory. Let’s not forget that the number 6 million was used by jews as early as the 1920’s”
- “The holocaust is based on one thing, Jewish eye witness testimony. There is nothing else, Only anecdotes. Claims are not verified scientifically when cremains could easily be dug up in core samples. One group of people benefit and it is Zionists from this hoax. Other people were in camps but none report the atrocities, Only Jews.”
- “Real events do not suppress investigation. Why is it illegal to deny the holocaust in so many European countries? Why does Germany and Poland make it illegal to investigate the holocaust happenings? Real events do not fear the truth. The JFK assassination is the most researched murder in human history, and we know Lee Harvey Oswald did it; but if the holocaust occurred, why not allow it to be investigated?”
- “The holocaust was not nearly as severe as Jews say it was. Jew victims are more likely under 10, 000. . . And they were war prisoners 1. 6 million is a recurring number is Jewish lore, They picked this number because it fits their fairy tale about moving back to Israel. 2. The Nazis did not have the tech to round up and identify 6 million Jews in the 1930’s. 3. Simple math disproves their claims. The facilities were incapable of killing that many people.”
- “The holahoax is the biggest scam in world history. It is essentially an industry within itself. Museums. Films. Books. Israel. Even if it did happen (which it didnt) it is essentially a blessing for the living Jews that make si much money off of this guilt tripping industry. Also Auschwitz never had the ability to “gas” 40000 people in one day. Also the stories about the holocaust are just that. Stories. Unsupported by any evidence and pictures other than 3 pictures of random people who look malnourished.”
It’s interesting how these wingnuts spout off as though they’re great authority figures, like the guy pulling the 10,000 figure out of his ass. And “3 pictures of random people who look malnourished”? What kind of stupid rock has that person been hiding under? These people really don’t seem qualified to be part of humanity.
Clearly, the educational status quo isn’t good enough. As we draw closer to a time when we’re not going to have survivors around anymore, it’s all that much more important to do something now. And clearly, the hate that the Nazis directed at not only Jews, but Slavs, Roma, mentally ill, etc., is still alive and kicking in the world, as is the tyranny that enabled it.
We need a whole lot more critical thinking and compassion. Sadly, I’m not feeling particularly encouraged.
Quotes from Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel
We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies. To be in the window and watch people being sent to concentration camps or being attacked in the street and do nothing, that’s being dead.
Action is the only remedy to indifference: the most insidious danger of all.
- Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum: the site includes a virtual tour
- Remember.org has survivor testimonies and interviews
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: offers online teaching and learning tools
- Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center: this museum in Jerusalem has extensive resources on their website, including online courses