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The New Holocaust Discoveries
Rabbi Benjamin Blech

The New Holocaust Discoveries

With more than 42,000 ghettos and concentration camps scattered throughout Europe, almost everyone had to know what was happening.


The latest revelation about the Holocaust stuns even the scholars who thought they already knew everything about the horrific details of Germany’s program of genocide against the Jewish people.

It’s taken more than 70 years to finally know the full facts. And what is almost beyond belief is that what really happened goes far beyond what anyone could ever have imagined.

For the longest time we have spoken of the tragedy of 6 million Jews. It was a number that represented the closest approximation we could come to the victims of Hitler’s plan for a Final Solution. Those who sought to diminish the tragedy claimed 6 million was a gross exaggeration. Others went further and denied the historicity of the Holocaust itself, absurdly claiming the Jews fabricated their extermination to gain sympathy for the Zionist cause.

But now we know the truth.

The reality was much worse than whatever we imagined.

The unspeakable crime of the 20th century, more than the triumph of evil, was the sin of the “innocent” bystander.

It wasn’t just the huge killing centers whose very names – Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau, Majdanek, Belzec, Ravensbruck, Sobibar, Treblinka – bring to mind the ghastly images by now so familiar to us. It wasn’t just the Warsaw ghetto. It wasn’t just the famous sites we’ve all by now heard of that deservedly live on in everlasting infamy.

Researchers at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have just released documentation that astounds even the most informed scholars steeped in the previously known statistics of German atrocities. Here is some of what has now been conclusively discovered:

  • There were more than 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe from 1933 to 1945.
  • There were 30,000 slave labor camps; 1,150 Jewish ghettos; 980 concentration camps; 1000 prisoner of war camps; 500 brothels filled with sex slaves; and thousands of other camps used for euthanizing the elderly and infirm, performing forced abortions, “Germanizing” prisoners or transporting victims to killing centers.
  • The best estimate using current information available is 15to 20 million people who died or were imprisoned in sites controlled by the Germans throughout the European continent.

Simply put, in the words of Hartmut Berghoff, Director of the German Historical Institute in Washington, “The numbers are so much higher than what we originally thought; we knew before how horrible life in the camps and ghettos was, but the actual numbers are unbelievable.”

And what makes this revelation so important is that it forces us to acknowledge a crucial truth about the Holocaust that many people have tried to ignore or to minimize – a truth that has profound contemporary significance: The unspeakable crime of the 20th century, more than the triumph of evil, was the sin of the “innocent” bystander.

For years our efforts to understand the Holocaust focused on the perpetrators. We looked for explanations for the madness of Mengele, the obsessive hatred of Hitler, the impassive cruelty of Eichmann. We sought answers to how it was possible for the criminal elements, the sadists and the mentally unbalanced to achieve the kind of power that made the mass killings feasible.

That was because we had no idea of the real extent of the horror. With more than 42,000 ghettos and concentration camps scattered throughout the length and breadth of a supposedly civilized continent, there’s no longer any way to avoid the obvious conclusion. The cultured, the educated, the enlightened, the liberal, the refined, the sophisticated, the urbane – all of them share in the shame of a world that lost its moral compass and willingly acceded to the victory of evil.

The numbers negate the possibility for collective ignorance.

“We had no idea what was happening” needs to be clearly identified as “the great lie” of the years of Nazi power. The harsh truth is that almost everyone had to know. The numbers negate the possibility for collective ignorance. And still the killings did not stop, the torture did not cease, the concentration camps were not closed, the crematoria continued their barbaric task.

The “decent” people were somehow able to rationalize their silence.

Just last year Mary Fulbrook, a distinguished scholar of German history, in “A Small Town Near Auschwitz ”wrote a richly and painfully detailed examination of those Germans who, after the war, successfully cast themselves in the role of innocent bystanders.

“These people have almost entirely escaped the familiar net of ‘perpetrators, victims and bystanders’; yet they were functionally crucial to the eventual possibility of implementing policies of mass murder. They may not have intended or wanted to contribute to this outcome; but, without their attitudes, mentalities, and actions, it would have been virtually impossible for murder on this scale to have taken place in the way that it did. The concepts of perpetrator and bystander need to be amended, expanded, rendered more complex, as our attention and focus shifts to those involved in upholding an ultimately murderous system.”

Mary Fulbrook singled out for censure those who lived near Auschwitz. But that was before we learned that Auschwitz was replicated many thousands of times over throughout the continent in ways that could not have gone unnoticed by major parts of the populace. Millions of people were witnesses to small towns like Auschwitz in their own backyards.

And so Elie Wiesel of course was right. The insight that most powerfully needs to be grasped when we reflect upon the Holocaust’s message must be that, “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”

That remains our greatest challenge today. If we dare to hope for the survival of civilization we had better pray that the pessimists are wrong when they claim that the only thing we learn from history is that mankind never learns from history.

March 4, 2013

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Visitor Comments: 84

(65) Anonymous, May 22, 2018 6:26 PM

I keep thinking about what my hubby and neighbor said back in the 1980s. .They had to very different jobs working where no one was Jewish. Those who lived in Germany said they knew it all along. This is pretty much common knowledge, Germans could have done more. IN the beginning they could have resisted. Conformity, confusion, hate, etc. Bad character traits that lead to millions of deaths.

(64) No need for a shallow grave, May 9, 2016 11:13 AM

Psychological abuse of endless repetition/amplification may lead to Indifference

I am here, because the unjust death of anyone bothers me. Unspeakable horrors inevitably follow the designation of the "other" group as an enemy. Who our so called leaders choose to decry as enemy is often quite fluid.

The deployment of nuclear weapons over Japanese civilian populations should have simply been unthinkable. But instead it was considered justified.

The firebombing of entire German cities in successive waves of aerial attacks, timed carefully to exterminate firefighters and civilian refugees, should have been unthinkable.

Rounding up Jews, Poles, Roma, and others, and imprisoning them, only to have them converted to slaves, executed, or mistreated in other ways was bad enough. But were they BURNED ALIVE? The suffering described was indeed great. But there is monumental danger in demanding a trademark for that suffering.

That danger is the consumers of media building up a tolerance for the suffering industry that the Shoah has become. Indifference will truly become the byproduct. Just imagine Israel without the American aegis of funding and military support.

The above article expands the "traditional" number of loss of life from 10 million to 20 million, while probably using redefinition as to what a "ghetto" was by including any area with a fence, a gate, and a guard post.

There is a special tragedy to the voices I keep hearing. "How could anyone ever hate us? We have NEVER done anything wrong." Aren't we all supposed to learn from history? What if all of those complicit bystanders felt... JUSTIFIED in their lack of intercession?

(63) Lynn, November 9, 2014 3:40 AM

This is not totally surprising. Just very very very sad. What's more sad is that there were so many lives lost and so much of this world hasn't learned anything from all of this. That is the bottom line. Remembering the dead respectfully and thinking that we are responsible for setting a better example than we have been doing. I know I can do more and so can most of us. The only way to teach some people not to hate is to show them reasons not too. Which unfortunately isn't enough sometimes..

(62) Anonymous, November 4, 2014 6:59 PM

Shoah Numbers

May I make a suggestion and simultaneously ask a question? We must keep the memory of the Shoah alive. I wonder if it would be appropriate to copy down the tattoo numbers of survivors and put them on lapel pins, bracelets, and other forms of jewelry so that when someone asked "what do those numbers mean?" we can tell them about the Holocaust.
Where could one get them made?
A few years ago I attended the State Fair of Texas in Dallas. They had a pretty good temporary museum of the Holocaust. A young lady asked her mother if Anne Frank was a real girl.
"Yes, she was" I replied before the mother could think about it, "she was my cousin."
The woman gave me a look that suggested I was some kind of a nut (okay, I readily admit, I AM some kind of a nut ) so I continued to speak. "Ma'am, I am a Jew. All Jews, especially my branch of Judaism, are all related. Although I cannot prove that Anne was a direct relative of mine, I can prove our relationship."
That lead to a half hour of pleasant discussion among the three of us. The woman admitted that she had doubts that the Holocaust could have happened, but that her doubts were gone after discussing it with me. WHY did she have doubts? Because the Germans, in her experience, were too civilized to have permitted something like that.
It just goes to show how decent people can try to deny the truth.
Am Yisroel Chai

(61) Beverly Margolis-Kurtin, November 4, 2014 6:49 PM

And then there was nobody to help me

One of my earliest memories is of going to the movies and watching the newsreels that first showed the liberation of the concentration/death camps.
I remember that even as a fairly young girl I began to scream when I saw the bodies piled up as so many logs. The faces of the dead still are seared into my mind's eye.
Of course, that was before PG, PG14, etc had been mandated to "protect" the young. I am glad to this day that I saw what I saw; I will never forget, NEVER.
For those who wish to deny the Holocaust, there are some people whose minds simply cannot process man's inhumanity to man; the other deniers simply want to carry on the old fears and hatreds.
The European governments who have opened their arms to the Muslims are discovering the errors of their ways but in typical European fashion, try to deny that they have destroyed their own countries AGAIN.
Another wave of Jew hate is rising its ugly head across Europe, into Oceania, and most horribly, here in the United States...and much of it is coming on the heels of Muslim emigrants and CHURCHES who will not separate the truth from their fiction.
FREE GAZA, FREE PALESTINE. Yeah, it means exactly this: KILL ALL THE JEWS. I'm sorry, this Jew, if confronted, is not going to the sheep like the slaughter, my family and I are armed.
I feel that ALL JEWS around the world need to own at least one weapon. My favorite is a shotgun because one doesn't have to be exactly on target to affect the desired effect.
I support the SPLC in Alabama because they keep me and others aware of the hate groups in the United States and exactly where they are and who they hate. For some reason, Jews are always at the top of their lists.

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