Factoids About Nazi Germany and the Final Solution

Nazi Germany Factoids
By Lawrence M. Ludlow
It’s common knowledge that most people living in Germany seem to have been indifferent to abuses suffered by Jews during the years of the Hitler regime, but to what degree? And what was really known about the Final Solution during those years? This isn’t an easy question to answer, and that answer might not be the same from year to year -- even for the same person. After reading several books on communism, Nazism, and prison camps over the years – including Whittaker Chamber’s Witness, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, William Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Slavomir Rawicz’ Long Walk, John Toland’s Adolf Hitler, and John V. Fleming’s Anti-Communist Manifesto, among others – I wish I had taken notes on all of them. Since Toland’s and Fleming’s books are the most recently completed, they remain freshest in mind. Here are some of the highlights.
Hitler’s Antisemitism
Hitler’s own antisemitism was not a constant phenomenon; it became more virulent and certainly more destructive and monomaniacal once he was infused with political aspirations and power. Two incidents during his early life even seem to offer the possibility of redemption in this regard.
First, on Christmas Eve in 1907, when Hitler was in the middle of his 18th year and mourning the death of his mother the day before, he made a visit to Doctor Edward Block, a Jewish physician who had tried and failed to save his mother with an expensive procedure. At one point, Hitler reached out and clutched the hand of Dr. Bloch and told him, looking directly into his eyes, “I shall be grateful to you forever,” followed by a bow. This occurred even though the medical bills were significant: approximately 10% of his mother’s estate. So Hitler was not completely blinded by antisemitism. Many years later, during the early years of World War II, Dr. Block wrote that he believed Hitler did indeed recall that scene in granting him favors not given to other Jews in Germany or Austria. But Hitler seemed to view his positive experiences as highly personalized, exceptional cases that were somehow kept in hermetically sealed compartments – never allowed to become generalized and applied to other Jews.
A couple of years later, he was living in Vienna, where he remained for several years, and his circumstances became increasingly dismal until he became a homeless vagrant. During this period, he owned only the clothing on his back and found lodgings at charitable institutional dormitories and, later on, at slightly more private dormitories he found more to his taste. He was able to earn money by painting watercolor postcards and larger paintings and sketches that were peddled in the streets by a fellow vagrant. These sketches and paintings were typically of architectural settings and buildings, and they weren’t bad. Better still, there seemed to be a ready market for them in the streets of the polyglot Vienna of this period. Moreover, his best friend for a time was a Jew, and one of his most avid collectors was also Jewish – a man whose purchases made Hitler’s life more comfortable. But even then, Hitler was developing the antisemitism that drips from the pages of Mein Kampf. Once again, he seemed to view his positive experiences with Jews as somehow exceptions that he never was able to integrate in a more humanitarian world view.
Knowledge of the Final Solution
Despite Hitler’s many fulminations against Jews, knowledge of the Final Solution was not widespread in Germany – even in his hierarchy. When high officials (such as Hans Lammers) heard disturbing rumors, they were told any number of lies. They were even shown photographs of workers happily making shoes and clothing. The degree of compartmentalization of knowledge is a surprise to those of us who assume that everyone in the hierarchy knew what was going on. Others, however, found it convenient to lie to themselves or act as if they didn’t know the details. And within his family and circle of close friends, many could not imagine that Hitler (Uncle Adi, as je was called) had authorized the murder of Jews.
Some people even built in their minds a father-friendly image of the Fuhrer in which the Final Solution was an example of out-of-control, renegade officials whom Hitler would rein-in if only he knew what they were up to. It’s the kind of excuse you still hear expressed by many Americans when it comes to the nefarious activities sponsored by the U.S. government: “Surely no one I voted for would do something like that.”
Later on, one effective technique was to “medicalize” what was going on. The Final Solution was “keeping the “contagion” of Jewry from spreading. And this medicalization was tied up with language that portrayed the Nazis and Germans as victims in need of defense against the all-powerful Jewish conspiracy. Instructively, it resembles the habitual victimology routine of today’s antifa-socialists, who physically attack people whom they oppose. Likewise, after the events of 9/11 many people seemed to think that before 9/11, the U.S. government had been going along peacefully on its way and that America was attacked out of the blue. Here are a couple of quotations made to Martin Bormann (head of the Nazi Party Chancellery) that show both the habit of medicalization and victimization in language:

  • “For us, this has been an essential process of disinfection, which we have prosecuted to its ultimate limit and without which we should ourselves have been asphyxiated and destroyed.”
  • “…On the eve of the war, I gave them [Jews and their supporters] one final warning. I told them that, if they precipitated another war, they would not be spared and that I would exterminate the vermin throughout Europe, and this time once and for all. To this warning they retorted with a declaration of war and affirmed that wherever in the world there was a Jew, there, too, was an implacable enemy of National Socialist Germany. Well, we have lanced the Jewish abscess; and the world of the future will be eternally grateful to us.”

There are echoes of this today when psychologists with a political axe to grind hope to dismiss their opponents by referring to them in clinical ways. It makes it easier to de-humanize those with whom we disagree. And even if Hitler’s supporters knew what was going on in Germany, Hitler had reassured them that “it was their own fault,” meaning the Jews, of course. In his most heated moments, Hitler had told his many audiences that an international Jewish conspiracy was responsible for launching a war against Germany. In this reading of world events, it was the international socialists (the Bolsheviks) who were so heavily influenced by Jews and had schemed against the national socialists (the Nazis).
Among the general population, ignorance about the Final Solution was not surprising. It was illegal – and punishable by death – to listen to foreign broadcasts. Furthermore, the death camps were all in Poland, planted in empty swaths of land that were miles from inhabited areas and protected from curiosity by signs that warned against being shot on sight. And language itself – as with all government-speak – cloaked more than it revealed. Just as the U.S. Department of Defense is itself a euphemism for what was once more truthfully named the War Department, so the Nazis used political euphemisms such as “special treatment,” the “East,” and “concentration,” “transit,” “labor,” and “PW” camp. Even within these facilities, the crematoria and gas chambers were called “corpse cellars” and “bathhouses.”
Concentration Camps
For those who wish to compare conditions in the Soviet camps with those in the Nazi camps – both of which contain their own horrors and dismal realities – Margarete Buber-Neumann offers some insight. Ms. Buber-Neumann was a German communist turned anti-communist. As a German communist (she became one after she had divorced her first husband, Martin Buber), she fled Nazi Germany with her communist second husband, Heinz Neumann, who was also second in command of the German Communist Party. Her husband “disappeared” during Stalin’s Great Purge, and she herself became a resident of the Soviet Gulag and survived. But afterward, at the time of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, she was deported to a German prison.
After World War II, she wrote her memoirs as an anti-communist, Under Two Dictators. Then, during a libel trial in Paris (in 1949), she was called to testify as a witness against a French left-communist journal (Les lettres francaises) for making false claims to discredit former-communist-turned-anti-communist Victor Kravchenko. It is important for people to understand that in post-war Paris, communists wore a kind of heroic halo, and there was very little knowledge about or even willingness to believe that Stalin and the Soviet Union were swimming in atrocities such as concentration camps. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had not yet published Gulag Archipelago or his other works, and survivors of the camps were few and far between – especially in the West, where they could publish their memoires. And as a result, leftists were able to pose as heroes (often members of the French Resistance) in contrast to Nazi collaborators. Any claims to the contrary were vehemently denied and ridiculed – or worse. But according to Ms. Buber-Neumann, not only did concentration camps exist in Soviet Russia, but Hitler’s camps were to be preferred to Stalin’s – at lease if barbarity counted for anything.
The Warsaw Ghetto and Today’s Anti-Gun Craze
Many have pointed out over the years that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (April 9 [Toland] through May 16, 1943) illustrates the value of widespread civilian gun ownership in resisting a tyrannical government. It also serves as a warning against the anti-second-amendment stance that appears to dominate the thinking in public schools and certainly among public-school students, who engaged in a fundamentally anti-second-amendment National Walkout Day protest in March 2018.
Of the 380,000 Jews originally crowded into the Warsaw ghetto, only 70,000 were left by April 1943. When a force of 2,000 Waffen SS infantrymen with tanks, flamethrowers, and dynamite descended on the ghetto, they were staggered by 1500 Jewish fighters who (after various groups within the ghetto community had resolved their differences over the issue of resistance) were armed with weapons that included several hundred pistols and revolvers, rifles, and Molotov cocktails. Heinrich Himmler expected his final mop-up operation to take only three days, but by nightfall of the first day, his troops had to withdraw! General Jurgen Stroop, the SS commander, couldn’t understand why “this trash and sub-humanity,” who are “cowards by nature,” had not surrendered. The rebels usually consisted of groups of 20 to 30 Jewish men accompanied by a corresponding number of women. In particular, the women were noted for tossing grenades hidden in their bloomers.
The Nazis realized they had to systematically approach the ghetto resistance, so they set fire to the area, block by block. The inhabitants preferred to burn alive than suffer capture. According to Toland, they would sometimes jump from windows in the upper stories at the last minute, breaking bones upon impact in the street. And even then, they would attempt to crawl across the street into buildings not yet set ablaze. Eventually, the resisting Jews took to the sewers, and the battle was over by May 16. Of the 56,000 Jews rounded up afterward, some 7000 were shot, and the rest were sent to various camps. There were only 16 German fatalities and 85 wounded reported. But this force of trained soldiers with superior armaments was held off for a month.
Unexpected Hero: Konrad Morgen, SS Lawyer
We’ve all heard about various German citizens hiding Jews or employing them in their factories to salvage their lives. But Toland’s biography of Hitler also relates the fascinating story of Konrad Morgen, who became an assistant SS judge and a real thorn in the side of the Final Solution. And irony of ironies, he worked for Heinrich Himmler himself! His faith in the concept of law was so annoying to his superiors that he was posted to the front lines as punishment. But his high reputation led to being transferred to an office that investigated financial corruption at Buchenwald concentration camp. Apparently, the commandant (Karl Koch) was profiteering off of the forced laborers by renting them out to civilian factories and by selling food supplies. Just to show how well kept was the secret of the Final Solution, even among Himmler’s group, Konrad Morgen’s investigation gradually led him to suspect that murders were taking place at the concentration camps. His persistence led him to uncover evidence of embezzlement and the murder of prisoners at time to cover-up the corruption. This infuriated Morgen.
As a result, Morgen, his briefcase bulging with evidence, went to Berlin to present his findings to his superior, the chief of the criminal police. The chief became pale upon viewing the records. He had not wanted or expected such diligence in the investigation! So he kicked the can to another superior, who did the same thing yet again, saying, “That’s not my business. Take it to your own boss in Munich.” The process was repeated again, and it eventually was kicked up to Himmler himself, now posted at the Reichsfuhrer’s field headquarters. Denied access to Himmler, Morgen sent a telegram (carefully worded, says Toland) that got through the bureaucratic maze for Himmler to read. Oddly, Himmler then gave him permission to proceed against the camp commandant!  
On one hand, this shows an amazing sense of courage and dedication to principle on the part of Morgen: How many people would take the risk of uncovering such a well-kept secret and make a fuss about it instead of just going along and getting along? This is so anal retentive, so “Prussian,” and so very socialistic in a dark-humor sort of way: In the middle of the Holocaust, the architect of the Final Solution, Himmler himself, is worried that somebody is making illegal profits! You can’t make this stuff up.
More on Heroes and Villains
As a final note, many readers are already aware of the fate of the SS St. Louis, a luxury cruise liner that set out in 1939 from Hamburg, Germany, and was refused permission to dock at a U.S. port, despite direct appeals to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As a result, of the 900 Jews aboard the ship, 250 were condemned to death after the ship returned to Germany. Here are a few more facts about the plight of the Jews among the Allies:

  • Neither the British nor the American governments granted sanctuary to Jewish refugees in any meaningful numbers.
  • The Moscow Declarations of 1043 listed Hitler’s victims only by national group – Italian, French, Dutch, Belgian, Norwegian, Soviet, Cretan, and of course, Polish. The World Jewish Congress protested vehemently that the Jews, the main target of Hitler’s ethnic cleansing program, were simply counted as Poles.
  • But there was a stark and noble contrast offered by some nations, including allies of Germany. The Danes defied the Germans and transported every last one of their 6500 Jews to Sweden. The Finns, who were allies of Hitler, saved all but four of their 4000 Jews. And even the Japanese gave sanctuary to 5000 Jews in Manchuria. I’ve personally known some of these survivors from China.
  • The much-maligned Pope Pius XII also deserves recognition. Many still reproach him because of his careful silence, which is so very disappointing but in some contexts understandable. Unlike government spokesmen, he had no army, and unlike many governments, he was under direct threat during the war years since Mussolini was an ally of Hitler. Some of the hostility may even be a result of the Pope’s politics: He viewed the Bolsheviks as a far greater danger than the Nazis, which was a justifiable, but nonetheless minority viewpoint. The passage of time and opening of records, however, has proven his assessment to be correct. Lenin and Stalin (and the Chinese communists) killed civilian populations in far greater numbers than Hitler – by multiples. Nonetheless, despite his early failure to denounce antisemitism, under Pius XII (according to Toland), the lives of more Jews were saved than by all other churches, religious institutions, and rescue organizations combined. He enabled their concealment in monasteries, convents, and in Vatican City itself. Too often it is easier to attack a target for failing to do more even though more obvious targets surround you.



Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

I mentioned this to some extent in the piece, but Hitler was always pontificating about "social justice," and among the chief objects of his hatred were prostitutes. The lemon-pucker-faced social justice warrior scolds are always carrying on about how horrible it is that some people are enjoying life. They are closet prudes. Not that prostitution is the best choice or even desirable as a choice for many women, but the point is that the SJW/temperance-movement/equality-obsessed never celbrate any of the pleasure of life. Instead, they hate those with a capacity to enjoy it. See my essay on the Purgatorio of Dante at fff.org for more on this -- under the sin of envy.

Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

I was asked (in an email request by one reader) to provide details about Hitler's Jewish friends in Vienna. Here are the details:
In John Toland's book, Adolf Hitner (p.45), Toland writes about a "one-eyed locksmith named Robinson" who often helped him and a part-time Hungarian art dealer, Josef Neumann, who gave him a coat. Likewise, three Jewish art dealers bought most of his work. Hitler even told Hamisch: "...that he preferred doing business with Jews 'because only they were willing to take chances.'"