When discussing the Holocaust, the debate frequently involves whether or not and how the Holocaust could have been prevented. The answers to this question range from Holocaust deniers, who actually believe that the event never even happened, to people who believe that the Holocaust was only able to occur because of the indifference of the world community to what was happening in Germany. Indeed, there is strong evidence to suggest that if only more people had taken steps to stop Hitler, people who included those in power as well as ordinary German citizens, the Holocaust could have been prevented or at least could have been thwarted soon after it began.

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After it became clear that there was a plan to exterminate the Jewish population in Germany, none of the great powers, including the Western countries, did much at all to rescue the Jews. Even if the Jewish issue was not considered a crucial one to the interest of the world powers, it was actually in the interest of these major powers to stop the expansion of Nazi Germany when it was occurring, during the 1930s. These nations, including the United States, opted not to intervene because they did not think it was in their best interests. Had they done so, tremendous numbers of murders as well as catastrophic destruction of their own nations and their own people might have been avoided; this includes several hundred thousand American soldiers who died, as well as tremendous numbers of British and French soldiers (Media Entertainment.) Additionally, there were tremendous numbers of Soviet soldiers as well as civilians who were also killed during the war, and finally, there were many casualties among Germans–both soldiers and civilians–who died during the conflict. It would have been in the best interest of the entire globe for the major powers to have gotten involved early on during Hitler’s power grab, even without addressing the issue of the extermination of the Jews.

The Holocaust could actually have been prevented even before it began if the major world powers had acted to stop Nazi Germany as late as June, 1939, at a point when France and Britain were in the process of negotiating with the Soviets for a military agreement against Germany. The problem was that because of political conflicts as well as jealousies, they ended those negotiations, and following this, Germans formed a neutrality agreement with the Soviets which allowed them to begin World War II. As a result, the Germans came up with the Final Solution in a few stages, during 1941 and 1942, and by that point, there was nothing that the major powers such as United States and England could do to prevent the death of millions of people. Those countries simply did not have the military might in 1941-1943 that would have been able to interrupt the huge war machine created by Germany, in addition to the organized police forces that were dedicated to killing the Jewish population. If the major powers had acted by 1939, they might have been able to save millions of people.

However, they made a decision not to intervene because they were unwilling to act in any kind of military way to defeat Germany, even in order to rescue the millions of people that were being killed. In April, 1943, the British and the Americans had a meeting in Bermuda that was quite secret, and was held to consider the issue, but they concluded that they were not able to do anything before winning the war, and rescuing civilians was not viewed as a legitimate or realistic goal (Media Entertainment.) In my opinion, the Holocaust could have been prevented if the rest of the world had become involved at any point, but especially in a preventative way. Early on, the government of Germany permitted Jews to leave the country, but the problem was that other countries were not willing to take them in. The world community responded by limiting immigration by Jews, even though it was clear that the fate of Jews in Germany was well-known throughout the world (Marmorale, 2013.)

Aside from the major powers, the Holocaust was able to succeed also because of ordinary German people who were willing to turn on their neighbors and report them in order to gain favor with the Nazi party. Although there were many Germans who were willing to shield Jews, and acted significantly to help them survive during the years of war, a larger number of Germans opted to support the Nazi party and Hitler, and participated directly or indirectly in the murder of Jews. It was not that there were large numbers of Germans who physically murdered the Jewish people, but rather they were complicit by observing the roundups of Jews, the taking of Jewish property, the physical mistreatment of Jews as they were being corralled and transported away from their homes, and doing nothing.

If more people–both who were in a position of power such as government leaders, and ordinary citizens,–had spoken up and actually taken action against what the Nazis were doing instead of simply enabling the Germans and supporting them in various ways, the Holocaust could have been prevented. Many people watched as their neighbors were herded like cattle onto transports and taken away, and even looted their property after they left their homes. Although it was clearly tremendously risky for people to interfere with the Nazi’s plan and the aggressive tactics being used, one wishes that there were more incidents of bravery such as that exhibited by a number of Germans who risked their own lives to interfere with the activities of the Nazis and to save the Jews and the other populations who were being massacred by the Germans.

People with disabilities, homosexuals, and other despised populations were victims of Nazi terror, and yet they were able to succeed in their extermination plans because good people did nothing. The Nazis were apparently able to convince people that Jews and other members of their community had no real value, and in fact, were detrimental to their society. The Nazi’s ability to succeed in persuading people of the evilness of Jews caused formerly decent Germans to look the other way.