A TV documentary on BBC2 investigated the guilt feelings of descendants of various Third Reich officials, including the grandson of the Commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp. The program, ‘Hitler’s Children’, was horrific and moving, but I don’t see why any of these descendants should feel guilt for what their parents and grandparents did. I do see, however, that they would have very mixed emotions as to how they relate to these parents and grandparents.
I also see that as terrible and horrific as the Holocaust was with the gas chambers, extermination camps, crematoriums, etc. the Allies of World War II came out of it little better. RAF, American and Allied airforcemen flew nightly over Germany and the occupied countries dropping bombs which killed thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands or even millions of completely innocent citizens, including little children. Some were blasted to death, others were suffocated from lack of air, some buried alive beneath rubble, many others burnt alive. The German Luftwaffe did the same to British civilians. All these things are part of the horror of War, and all are guilty.
You could argue that the Holocaust was not part of the War, but the fact remains it happened in wartime when German civilians were being killed nightly by Allied air raids. In wartime all moral standards of behavior break down and anarchy rules. The ‘enemy’ is dehumanized by political and militaristic propaganda, and in the Third Reich various minority groups such as the Jews, Communists, gipsies, gays, etc. were classed as part of the ‘enemy’. I’m not excusing what happened at all, just saying atrocities of this kind happen in all wars.
The Jews and others started being rounded up by the Nazis before War broke out, put in ghettoes, etc. but the Final Solution (the Holocaust) happened in the conditions of all-out War when all standards of civilization had broken down on all sides. I really see little difference in sending civilians, including children, into the gas chambers than bombing them and burning them from the air. Both are equally heinous crimes of genocide.
So if the descendants of the Nazi officials feel guilt for something they didn’t do, then the descendants of the Allied and Luftwaffe airmen who bombed innocent civilians should also feel this guilt. However I don’t feel any guilt for what my father may have done. He didn’t fight in the War, but I know he did many things I wouldn’t be proud of. I don’t know or particularly want to know everything my mother or grandparents did in the War – did some of them work in munitions or bomb making factories? I know my grandfather was a soldier in the First World War, but I’m damned if I’m going to feel guilty about that or the German conscripts he may have killed.
We all have to move on, and learn lessons from the past. What concerns me more than the horrors of past wars are the terrible things being committed now in our name, and being planned and prepared for. Britain is now spending billions of pounds in a time of hardship on renewing the Trident nuclear-armed submarine system. Weapons of mass destruction that would kill millions of innocent civilians, including future generations by the radioactive fallout, and cause many more to be born deformed or with cancers. These make even the Holocaust look tame by comparison. Yet all this is done in our name for political reasons. Whether it’s supposed to be preserving our way of life, defending freedom/our country, or preserving the ‘purity of the Aryan race’, it is all political and the end never justifies the means if the means are this brutal and murderous.
Ah, but nuclear weapons are just a deterrent, we are told. If so they haven’t worked very well as we’ve had constant wars ever since the Second World War ended. Also consider this. Hitler said, before the Second World War broke out, that if War did start he’d kill the Jews. Was that threat ‘just a deterrent’? If so it didn’t work either. The reverse side of this is, of course, what would have happened had War not broken out? Could the Nazis have gotten away with the Final Solution in the conditions of peacetime? We’ll never know for certain, but my bets are on an arrangement with the Zionists to ship the Jews out of the Third Reich to Palestine where the state of Israel would have been established as a Jewish homeland (on Palestinian soil).
This could hardly be done in the conditions of War when shipping large numbers of civilians out of the Third Reich by train or boat was out of the question. You cannot divorce the Holocaust from the War or what was happening at that time, with German soldiers being killed on two fronts, and German civilians being killed every night by Allied bombing. Everyone’s life was in danger.
There’s also the undeniable fact that, when the Jews and others started to be rounded up by the Nazis before the War started, very few were accepted by the future Allies as refugees. Political asylum was not offered en masse to all the Jews and persecuted minorities in the Third Reich by the future Allies of WWII. Therefore if Germans feel guilty about the Holocaust, then so should the Allied governments which left these persecuted minorities to their fate.
It was this guilt, shared by the Allies of WWII and the Germans themselves, which led to the establishment of Israel after the Second World War. So the horrors of WWII led directly to the horrors now suffered by the Palestinians, thrown out of their homelands by Jewish settlers and their descendants, a classic case of colonialism. The Nazis talked of the ‘master race’ and needing more ‘lebensraum’ (living room), so they invaded all their neighboring countries to create a greater Third Reich (first just reclaiming the lost territories stolen from Germany by the victors of World War I).
The Israelis have also expanded from their original 1948 borders, invading and occupying land around the original state to create a Great Israel for all the Jews in the world to regard as their homeland, a physical impossibility if they all decided to emigrate to Israel. They are not the ‘master race’, of course, just the ‘chosen race’. The Palestinians are the new ‘untermenschen’ or sub-humans. Ironically, due to the backlash from Palestinian terrorists exploding bombs in Israel, that country is probably the least safe place for Jews to reside in the entire world.
What can clearly be seen from this blog is that WWI led directly to WWII and the rise of the Nazis, and WWII led to many of the problems in the volatile Middle East centered on the existence of Israel and the backlash of Islamic/Arab/Palestinian terorrism (a tactic the Jews used in Palestine against the British occupiers prior to 1948).
War leads to more war and more atrocities. WWII also led to the division of Europe for over 40 years, with the nuclear arms race between East and West which could so easily have resulted in an exchange which would make the Holocaust pale into isignificance, with hundreds of millions of completely innocent civilians slaughtered by both sides. This was only narrowly avoided in 1962 at the time of the Cuba missile crisis, a crisis, you will notice, CAUSED by nuclear weapons, and only resolved when the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw its missile installations in Cuba (bordering the USA) on the condition that the USA removed its nuclear missiles from Turkey (bordering the USSR).
Wars cause more wars, nuclear weapons have almost caused a nuclear war by their very existence, and the reasons we went to War in the first place in 1939 are conveniently forgotten. It was, supposedly, to defend the freedom and independence of Poland? Why then, at the end of the Second World War, did the Allies agree to hand Poland, Czechoslovakia and many other countries occupied by Hitler over to the dictator Stalin? They could at least have negotiated neutrality, which was granted to countries like Finland, Austria and Switzerland.
The sins of the older generations bear heavily on their descendants, but shouldn’t do. What we must all do is learn from the mistakes and crimes of the past, and vow never, ever to repeat them.
Unfortunately the arms manufacturers and the powerful, profitable interests behind the military-industrial complex have other ideas. We are all just cannon fodder in their drive for more and more profits, propping up the unstable capitalist system, grabbing dwindling oil and other resources, with no regard for the consequences for human beings or the planet. This HAS to change, and quickly, or things will just get worse till we destroy the planet and the human race with it.