What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany – Eric A. Johnson and Karl Heinz Reuband
I’ve had the fortune to visit Germany twice in my life and each time I enjoyed the sights, sounds and foods that I indulged in. Today it’s hard to imagine that the second world war was initiated by such a fascinating country. When Adolf Hitler seized power using the N.S.D.A.P. and started a world war, it nearly brought Germany to the brink of total collapse. Widespread hunger, shame and the shame of the final solution haunted the country for decades. Millions of Jews died at the concentration camps and others were forced to leave Germany under the threat of persecution and death. Following the Allied victory and the trials at Nuremberg, many outsiders began to ask how could the German people claim ignorance of the events unfolding right around them? And if they did know what was going on, how much did they really know? This book by Eric A. Johnson and Karl-Heinz Reuband has attempted to take on those questions in the search for the truth about how much the German people knew about the fate that awaited millions of Jews across Europe. Divided into two parts, the first half of the book contains interviews of German Jews who either fled Germany or survived concentration camps. The second half contains interviews of non-Jewish Germans who witnesses the events that transpired. What’s revealed in these pages is both eye-opening and enlightening.
For students of the second world war and the Nazi regime, this book presents a side that is often neglected but a topic that still stirs debate. Denial is apparent in many of the interviews of non-Jewish Germans and reveals a pattern of feigned ignorance that comes across incredibly difficult to believe. The Jewish Germans unanimously agree that their neighbors definitely knew of the systematic extermination of the Jews and did nothing to stop it but instead using the removal of the Jews as an excuse to plunder and seize what was left over in houses and apartments. Several of the Jewish survivors vowed never to return to Germany and I firmly believe they never have for the country they left was one that completely turned against them refusing to acknowledge their existence and permitting a system of mass murder that was inexcusable and reprehensible. Ella Wheeler Wilcox one remarked that “to sin in silence while others doth protest makes cowards out of men.” The actions of the Nazi regime and those of ordinary citizens cast shame, suspicion and cowardice upon those who did not speak out and will remain a dark stain on the history of Germany for generations to come.