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A Bystander’s Role In The Holocaust

2242 words - 9 pages

A Bystander’s Role in the Holocaust
At what point does personal interest become more important than the safety of others? During the Holocaust, the Nazis were not the only group that advanced the Holocaust, and then the Final Solution. Bystanders, witnesses, and passersby indirectly affected the victims of the Holocaust. The silence of these people held the Jews in more jeopardy than their Nazi captors.
Public fear mixed with Hitler's slow implementation of Holocaust steps gave the public time to adjust and accept his actions, which would ultimately result in little German resistance during Hitler's final solution.
Background
To completely understand the roles of people in the Holocaust, some prerequisites must be understood.When classifying the types of people involved in an event such as the Holocaust, three categorical groups can be distinguished. First, and easiest to asses are the perpetrators. This category includes people directly related to the horrors of the Holocaust. The second category encompasses victims; all of the people who were killed, discriminated against, or otherwise harmed by the perpetrators. The final category defines those who watched, witnessed, or were otherwise indirectly involved in the Holocaust, without being harmed by the perpetrators. By definition, bystanders could include entire countries or other groups who ignored or neglected the Holocaust (Vollhardt). A fourth category could be argued, and would include those who actively helped victims (Monroe). As far as nomenclature, rescuer or anti-perpetrator would well define this group. Each of these groups is immensely important, but no group contains any specific denomination, race, or type of people.
Personality traits do not always transcend into the role a person fills during an event like the Holocaust. “I would like to suggest that there are usually no bystanders as such—as a trait or as a personality type, just as there are mostly no perpetrator or rescuer personality types”(Bar-On). Bar-On states that personality types are not relevant when categorizing a person into one of the three categories. This suggest that any person is capable of being part of any group, regardless of their basic moral structure. Additionally, any person can be part of any number of groups (Bar-On). For example, a Nazi soldier may be helping Jewish residents escape a ghetto. Due to his involvement with both the perpetrating party, and he is actively assisting victims, he would be classified as both a perpetrator and a rescuer.
Public Hatred of Jews
From early in his campaign, Hitler slowly implemented propaganda, laws, and social stigmas that gave the general public a negative view on the Jews. The Nazis viewed their actions were necessary to protect their race, and the German public followed (Monroe). The Nazi party implemented antisemitic cartoons and papers, like Der Stürmer (The Attacker). At the bottom of every issue, the words “The Jews are our...

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