The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Final Solution
Morality and Necessity


The Holocaust was a unique event in history, but the personal and moral decisions people made during this period (1939 - 1945) are decisions that anyone might make -- not just Germans or Nazis -- given similar circumstances. For example, in the same century Turks have massacred Armenians. Both Stalin and Mao purged millions in the name of political expediency, each in their own way implementing a version of the Nazi's Final Solution. Recent events in Bosnia and the actions of Iraq and Iran in the Gulf War have revealed similar ethnic atrocities. The international scope of this type of organized killing seems to indicate a common thread for such violent behaviour in the human psyche. This paper will attempt to show that, contrary to some of the literature on the Holocaust, organized mass killing is not caused merely by a powerful, evil few (like the Nazis) and the failings of a particular culture or race (such as the Germans). Rather, such atrocities are possible only with the collaboration of ordinary individuals (who generally claim afterward to have merely been doing their job) -- admittedly under extraordinary circumstances. What is surprising, unfortunately, is how these ordinary individuals can agree to turn a blind eye or actively co-operate in the organized killing of one segment of their population. In order to analyze the Final Solution process in this regard, as it developed in Europe between 1938 and 1945, this paper is divided into three sections. Each section highlights a different group of people and the organizations affected by the Final Solution. Part one: The Final Solution is an overview of the Nazis' first plans to deal with the "Jewish problem," from their early decision to encourage emigration, to their focus on concentrating Jewish populations in cities and ghettos, and finally the extermination of the Jews in death camps. This section deals in particular with the Auschwitz concentration camp, although it was only one of several extermination camps (or KZ's) that existed in Europe. Part two: The Judenrate and the Final Solution deals with the transport and movement of Jewish people to the concentration camps located outside Germany or in the Eastern Occupied Territories. A study of these transports often reveals the co-operation and/or lack of co-operation that the agents of Hitler - Adolph Eichmann, the Reichsfuhrer of the SS Heinrich Himmler and Reinhardt Heydrich - were able to enlist. These men, considered the essential planners of the Final Solution, could not have progressed so far in their efforts to exterminate the Jews without the co-operation of thousands of German and non-German individuals, and particularly the Jewish leadership, the Judenrate. The actions of such individuals, many of them non-Nazis, and their moral uncertainty, underlines the thesis of this paper. Part Three: Industrial Co-operation deals with the role of the large German industrial combines, including I.G. Farben, Krupp and Heinkel, all of which played crucial roles in the German war effort. These and other companies were significant employers of slave labour from the concentration camps, especially Auschwitz. This section also describes some of the legal problems encountered by concentration camp survivors, problems that persisted into the late 1950s and 1960s because compensation claims over industrial use of concentration camp labour were not dealt with until the industrialists were forced to settle this issue. Even after the full horror of Auschwitz was revealed at Nuremberg, for example, these industrialists did not volunteer to compensate the victims of their slave labour programs until they were legally pressured to do so. 1

© 1999 Martin Rose No reproduction of this document is allowed without the author's permission

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