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Who is responsible for the Holocaust?
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Citizens, as well as Governments (both foreign and local), were responsible for the Holocaust

The Holocaust would not have been possible without Hitler, the authority of the government playing towards a "final solution," and the consent and collaboration of Nazi German citizenry.

The Argument

Most people understand the intimate nature and horrors of the Holocaust, but they oftentimes fail to hold anyone other than Hitler accountable. There is bustling archival evidence to prove that not only were German citizens well informed regarding the existence of concentration camps but as were international governments and their own local populations. Yet, all of these groups failed to voice any sort of disapproval.[1] For example, in looking to newspaper articles published in the 1930s and 1940s, many press companies within the United States were consistently reporting the events of the Holocaust— even down to local town papers— however, the urgency of such an event was lost among US citizens and government officials as the systematic murder of both Jews and non-Jews were increasingly deemed to be a European problem.[2] This reality is again made clear when foreign countries began closing their borders to Jewish refugees wishing to emigrate away from this terror.[3] Nevertheless, it is clear that Hitler could not have executed the Holocaust singlehandedly. Nor could he have done so without any cog: his government, Nazi German citizenry, international powers, and international citizens. If any of these elements voiced their disapproval or acted against the setting up of the Holocaust, all would have been over. Yet, this did not occur. Instead, the unwillingness of foreign powers (and foreign citizens) to intervene acted as their silent consent. So, plans for the Holocaust continued. In looking to the actions of the Nazi German government and populace we see a similar interaction. Those who agreed with the eradication of European Jewry gave their fervent and active support, whereas the majority of those who disapproved remained silent. Thus, all of the aformentioned groups are complicit in the mass murder of the people they were either indifferent towards protecting or sought to exterminate.[1]

Counter arguments

International powers were not complicit in the Holocaust to the same degree as those who actively sought to implement it. Claiming that is the case is freeing those of Nazi Germany from culpability. Moreover, this idea can be further extended. That is to say, not all of the aforementioned groups (Hitler, international governments and their citizens, the Nazi German government and their citizens) retain the same responsibility.[4] Hitler and those who partook in Nazi German society, whether that be as a citizen or as a member of the government, are most responsible for the Holocaust. It was only when the rest of the European continent became Nazi-occupied that the Holocaust spread. Although international powers were aware of what was occurring, they were not aware of the extent to which the Holocaust would reach, this is especially heightened when acknowledging the fact that an event of this proportion had not occurred before this. Thus, the idea that eleven million people would be systematically murdered remained little more than a delusion in the eyes of foreign powers.[2] Additionally, the context in which this is all occurring is significant: post World War I. At this point, foreign powers are most concerned with preventing another world war. Understanding the atmosphere of this time, it is important to note that this does not displace responsibility. On the contrary, international powers failed; they should have intervened and they did not. For that, they remain responsible. However, they are not as responsible as the individuals who actually brought about the execution of these people.[5]



[P1] Vast knowledge of the Holocaust while it was occurring points to mass culpability. [P2] For example, international newspapers reported on these events. [P3] Hitler needed mass support in order to execute his vision of the Holocaust.

Rejecting the premises

[P1] Different levels of accountability are evident when discussing the Holocaust. [P2] Hitler and Nazi Germany are most responsible for the Holocaust. [P3] Although there are reasons as to why foreign powers did not intervene, it is not an excuse.


This page was last edited on Sunday, 23 Aug 2020 at 19:45 UTC