The Jewish Holocaust is believed to be one of the worst aspects of the Second World War. However, it has always been the commonly held opinion that most Germans, while could be held guilt of being silent, were not aware of the worst activities such as genocide, tortures, and the infamous concentration camps. It is believed that Germans knew about the anti-Jewish propaganda and were also aware that people they knew were disappearing. At the same time, they knew that asking questions was not a safe action at the time and so preferred to remain in ignorance.
Some of the new holocaust-related researchers have however questioned these opinions. One line of research believes that much of the focus has been given to the handful of large concentrations camps and the infamous activities conducted there. However, several holocaust survivors have given evidence that there were several other ghettos and camps, which while not as notorious as the concentration camps were equally harsh in terms of the way people were treated in these camps and ghettos. The lead researchers of the subject Geoffrey Megargee and Martin Dean estimate that between 15 to 20 million people either died or were imprisoned in over 40,000 camps and ghettos that were either slave labor camps, concentration camps, brothers, camps for euthanizing the elderly and the sick, ‘care’ centers that performed abortions or killed new born babies etc. The sheer magnitude of the number of camps has led researchers directly to question the claims of regular German citizens that they did not really know about Holocaust as it was going on. The camps and ghettos were so widespread in Germany that it would have been impossible to miss their existence or purpose.
Another line of research analyzes the newspaper reports at the time. It has been often claimed that the worst of the activities had been conducted under absolute secrecy and so regular German citizens were not aware of what ‘exactly’ was going on. However, as early as in 2001 researchers such as Professor Richard Gellately concluded from existing newspaper articles of the time that far from being unaware of the activities of the Third Reich, most of the German citizens were active participants of the ethnic cleansing carried out during the time. He further reiterates based on evidence from newspaper articles that Jewish persecution in Germany did not suddenly arise with Hitler, there were reports of ‘model’ concentration camps as far back as in 1933. A main and widely read Nazi newspaper of the period Volkische Beobachter had accused Jews of race defilements and being hereditary criminals and sexual degenerates as far back as in 1934. Also the vilification of Jews in the newspapers was much more blatant and papers were in fact told to clearly report the execution of suspected Jews without trials. Also there is evidence of private letters showing enthusiastic denunciation of Jews and other ‘racially inferior’ people by German citizens. This again underlines the idea that German citizens were not as unaware as previously thought.
The conclusions drawn by Professor Gellately can corroborated by the recently published diaries of Friedrich Kellner, a German citizen. His grandson explicitly mentions that the late publishing of the book is because no German publishing company was interested till former US President George Bush looked at the diaries in 2005 SPIEGEL. The observations noted in his diary are similar to the research by Professor Gellately except that they even more extensive owing to the fact that Kellner would have had access to much more of news-materials and word-of-mouth accounts than Professor Gellately. This makes his diaries even more of an incriminating evidence of the fact that German citizens not only supported the work by Hitler, but actively supported it and gloried in the same.
These researches conclusively demonstrate that German citizens were entirely aware of the fact that Jews were being actively persecuted, apprehended, and murdered. They may not have known about the existence of concentration camps and what exactly went inside them, but they definitely were much more in tune with the active Jewish hatred that was a part of German psyche long before Hitler came to power.