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Quotes / The Holocaust

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And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.
Elie Wiesel's 1986 Nobel Peace Award speech

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So, we are now going to have a total solution to the Jewish question. The programme is clear. It reads: total separation, total segregation! What does this mean? It does not only mean the total exclusion of the Jews from the German economic system... It means much more! No German can be expected to live under the same roof as Jews. The Jews must be chased out of our houses and our residential districts and made to live in rows or blocks of houses where they can keep to themselves and come into contact with Germans as little as possible. They must be clearly identified.... And when we compel the rich Jews to provide for the `poor' of their race, which will certainly be necessary, they will all sink together into a pit of criminality. As this happens, we will be faced with the harsh necessity of eradicating the Jewish underworld, just as we root out criminals from our own orderly state: with fire and sword. The result will be the certain and absolute end of Jewry in Germany; its complete annihilation!
Das Schwartze Korps, November 24th, 1938

As far as the historical appearance of the Jew in Europe is concerned, we believe that the hour of his death has irrevocably arrived.
Walter Gross (1939 speech)

We are going to destroy the Jews. They are not going to get away with what they did on November 9, 1918. The day of reckoning has come.
Adolf Hitler to František Chvalkovský. January 21, 1939

Today I will once more be a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshivization of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.
Adolf Hitler to the Reichstag. January 30, 1939.

If the Jew wants to fight, it is fine with us. We have wanted that fight for a long time. There is no room in the world for the Jews any more. The Jew or us, one of us will have to go. We know that the Jew will lose, that he and his devilish, life-denying and destructive doctrines will be destroyed (vernichtet),
"The Jews or Us..." speech by Robert Ley (March 31, 1939)

A punitive expedition must come against the Jews in Russia. A punitive expedition which will provide the same fate for them that every murderer and criminal must expect. Death sentence and execution. The Jews in Russia must be killed. They must be exterminated root and branch. Then the world will see the end of the Jews is also the end of Bolshevism.
Julius Streicher, Der Stuermernote  (May 1939)

[If England won the war, then] The German people, man, woman, and child would be exterminated. We know it. The Jew would be wading in blood. Funeral pyres would be built on which the Jews would burn us. [...] Hence, it should rather be the Jews that fry, rather that they should burn — that they should starve, that they should be exterminated. Germany will live. That will be our slogan.
Robert Ley in Lodz (december 1939)

The Holocaust

Overall this country makes a ghastly impression on me [...] beginning with the roads, which are indescribably bad and dusty, then this dump with its many pests and finally the endless great number of Jews, these disgusting Stürmer-types.
— September 24, 1939 letter by an unnamed soldier

Wherever one looks there is filth, and the Jews themselves are full of filth. It is really comical: The Jews all salute us, although we don’t respond and aren’t allowed to. They swing their caps down to the ground. In fact, the greeting is not compulsory, but is a remnant from SS times; that’s how they trained the Jews.
When one looks at these people, one gets the impression, that they really have no justification for living on God’s earth. You must have seen this with your own eyes, otherwise you cannot believe it.
Private E., in a letter for his family (November 17th, 1940)

It would not be a bad idea then to send our dear ones back home a picture, and tell them: well now, there are not so many lice and Jews any more, and conditions here in the Government General have changed and improved somewhat already. Of course, I could not eliminate all lice and Jews in only one year's time [public amused]. But in the course of time, and above all, if you help me, this end will be attained. After all, it is not necessary for us to accomplish everything within a year and right away, for what would otherwise be left for those who follow us to do?
Hans Frank, Fall 1940.

I hope to see the very concept of Jewry completely obliterated.
Heinrich Himmler (March 23, 1941)

Anyone who has ever looked into the face of a Red commissar knows what the Bolsheviks are. There is no need here for theoretical reflections. It would be an insult to animals if one were to call the features of these, largely Jewish, tormentors of people beasts. They are the embodiment of the infernal, of the personified insane hatred of everything that is noble in humanity. In the shape of these commissars we witness the revolt of the subhuman against noble blood. The masses whom they are driving to their deaths with every means of icy terror and lunatic incitement would have brought about an end of all meaningful life, had the incursion not been prevented at the last moment [by Operation Barbarossa]
German Army Information Pamphlet, June 1941.

I charge you further to submit to me as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired Final Solution of the Jewish Questionnote .
—Order from Hermann Goering to Reinhard Heydrich, July 31, 1941.

I still have something else to report to you. So I was really there at the great mass dying the day before yesterday. When it came to the first vans my hand was still trembling when I shot, but one gets used to this. When it came to the tenth van I already aimed calmly and fired surely at the many women, children and babies. Considering that I also have two newborn babies at home, which these hordes would treat just the same way, if not ten times worse. The death that we gave them was a nice, short death, compared [to] the infernal torments of thousands upon thousands in the dungeons of the GPU. Newborn babies were flying high through the air and we picked them off in flight, before they even fell into the pit or the water. Just do away with this brood that has thrown all of Europe into war and is now also mongering in America until it has also drawn the same into the war. Hitler's word becomes true, when he once said before the beginning of the war: if Jewry thinks that it can again start a war in Europe, then Jewry will not win, but it will be the end of Jewry in Europe. […] M. has again lost a number with three zeroes, but that is of no consequence here. I am already looking forward to it, and many here say that we will go back home, for then it will be the turn of our local Jews
Walter Mattner to his wife. October 5, 1941

Regarding the conduct of troops towards the Bolshevistic system, vague ideas are still prevalent in many cases. The most essential aim of war against the Jewish-Bolshevistic system is a complete destruction of their means of power and the elimination of Asiatic influence from the European culture. In this connection the troops are facing tasks which exceed the one-sided routine of soldiering. The soldier in the Eastern territories is not merely a fighter according to the rules of the art of war but also a bearer of ruthless national ideology and the avenger of bestialities which have been inflicted upon German and racially related nations.
Therefore the soldier must have full understanding for the necessity of a severe but just revenge on subhuman Jewry. The Army has to aim at another purpose, i.e. the annihilation of revolts in hinterland, which, as experience proves, have always been caused by Jews.
Walter von Reichenau, Severity Order. October 10, 1941

But what is to become of the Jews? Do you think that they will be settled in villages in the conquered eastern territories? In Berlin we have been told not to complicate matters: since neither these territories [nor our own] have any use for them, we should liquidate them ourselves! Gentlemen, I must ask you to remain unmoved by pleas for pity. We must annihilate the Jews wherever we encounter them and wherever possible, in order to maintain the overall mastery of the Reich here….
Hans Frank to administration members. December 16, 1941.

Gentlemen, if ever a generation comes after us that is so cowardly and so weak that it cannot understand our good and so necessary work, all of National Socialism was for nothing. Quite the opposite, one must bury a bronze tablet that it was us, us, that had the courage to carry this gigantic work to its end.
Odilo Globocnik, Lublin District SSPF, early 1942 speech to construction team of unnamed extermination facility

Under proper guidance, in the course of the final solution the Jews are to be allocated for appropriate labor in the East. Able-bodied Jews, separated according to sex, will be taken in large work columns to these areas for work on roads, in the course of which action doubtless a large portion will be eliminated by natural causes.
The possible final remnant will, since it will undoubtedly consist of the most resistant portion, have to be treated accordingly, because it is the product of natural selection and would, if released, act as a the seed of a new Jewish revival (see the experience of history.)
Wannsee Protocol (January 20, 1942)

Comrades, believe me. I’m not painting too grim a picture. It is bitter for me, bitterly serious. The Jew is the great danger to humanity. If we don’t succeed in exterminating him, then we will lose the war. It’s not enough to bring him someplace. That would be as if one wanted to lock up a louse somewhere in a cage. (Laughter) They would find a way out and again they come out fromunder and make you itch again. (Laughter) You have to annihilate them, you have to exterminate them [for what] they have done to humanity (interrupted byongoing applause).
Robert Ley to the workers of an Amsterdam factory (May 10, 1942)

I did not know what was threatening us. The taking of the sick from the hospitals caught me completely by surprise. And I give you the best proof there is of this: I had my own nearest and dearest among them and I could do nothing for them! [...] I thought that would be the end of it, that after that, they'd leave us in peace, the peace for which I long so much, for which I've always worked, which has been my goal. But something else, it turned out, was destined for us. [...] Yesterday afternoon, they gave me the order to send more than 20,000 Jews out of the ghetto, and if not - "We will do it!” So the question became, 'Should we take it upon ourselves, do it ourselves, or leave it to others to do?". Well, we - that is, I and my closest associates - thought first not about "How many will perish?" but "How many is it possible to save?" And we reached the conclusion that, however hard it would be for us, we should take the implementation of this order into our own hands. I must perform this difficult and bloody operation - I must cut off limbs in order to save the body itself. I must take children because, if not, others may be taken as well - God forbid.
Speech from Mordechai Chaim Romkowski, head of the Jewish Council of the Łódź Ghetto (September 4, 1942)

The attention of the Belgian, Czechoslovak, Greek, Jugoslav, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norwegian, Polish, Soviet, United Kingdom and United States Governments and also of the French National Committee has been drawn to numerous reports from Europe that the German authorities, not content with denying to persons of Jewish race in all the territories over which their barbarous rule has been extended, the most elementary human rights, are now carrying into effect Hitler's oft-repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe.
From all the occupied countries Jews are being transported in conditions of appalling horror and brutality to Eastern Europe. In Poland, which has been made the principal Nazi slaughterhouse, the ghettos established by the German invader are being systematically emptied of all Jews except a few highly skilled workers required for war industries. None of those taken away are ever heard of again. The able-bodied are slowly worked to death in labor camps. The infirm are left to die of exposure and starvation or are deliberately massacred in mass executions. The number of victims of these bloody cruelties is reckoned in many hundreds of thousands of entirely innocent men, women and children.
Joint Declaration by Members of the United Nations (December 17, 1942)

On Horthy's retort, what should he do with the Jews then, after he had pretty well taken all means of living from them - he surely couldn't beat them to death - The Reich Foreign Minister replied that the Jews must either be annihilated or taken to concentration camps. There was no other way.
Minutes of a discussion between Joachim von Ribbentrop and Admiral Horthy

Where the Jews were left to themselves, as for example in Poland, gruesome poverty and degeneracy had ruled. They were just pure parasites. One had fundamentally cleared up this state of affairs in Poland. If the Jews there didn't want to work, they were shot. If they couldn't work, they had to perish. They had to be treated like tuberculosis bacilli, from which a healthy body could be infected. That was not cruel, if one remembered that even innocent natural creatures like hares and deer had to be killed so that no harm was caused. Why should one spare the beasts who wanted to bring us Bolshevism more? Nations who did not rid themselves of Jews perished.
Adolf Hitler to Admiral Milos Horthy. April 17, 1943.

Shocking reports come in from the good [Max] Fraunendorfer [administrator in the General Government] in Poland. While [Hans] Frank publicly declares he wanted to give Poland a dignified and free existence, and while the gang tries in vain to befuddle world opinion about [better 'with'] the Katyn murders, the SS in Poland carries on most shamefully. Countless Jews have been gassed in specially built chambers, at least 100,000. [...] Meanwhile the unhappy remnants of the Jews [in Warsaw] prepared to defend themselves, and there is heavy fighting which will certainly lead to their complete extermination by the SS.
Ulrich von Hassell's diary (M Ay 15, 1943)

I am now referring to the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish people. It's one of those things that is easily said: 'The Jewish people are being exterminated', says every party member, 'this is very obvious, it's in our program, elimination of the Jews, extermination, we're doing it, hah, a small matter.' And then they turn up, the upstanding 80 million Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. They say the others are all swines, but this particular one is a splendid Jew. But none has observed it, endured it. Most of you here know what it means when 100 corpses lie next to each other, when there are 500 or when there are 1,000. To have endured this and at the same time to have remained a decent person — with exceptions due to human weaknesses — has made us tough, and is a glorious chapter that has not and will not be spoken of. Because we know how difficult it would be for us if we still had Jews as secret saboteurs, agitators and rabble-rousers in every city, what with the bombings, with the burden and with the hardships of the war. If the Jews were still part of the German nation, we would most likely arrive now at the state we were at in 1916 and 17
Heinrich Himmler, First Posen Speech (October 3rd, 1943)

I ask of you that that which I say to you in this circle be really only heard and not ever discussed. We were faced with the question: what about the women and children? – I decided to find a clear solution to this problem too. I did not consider myself justified to exterminate the men – in other words, to kill them or have them killed and allow the avengers of our sons and grandsons in the form of their children to grow up. The difficult decision had to be made to have this people disappear from the earth. For the organisation which had to execute this task, it was the most difficult which we had ever had. [...] I felt obliged to you, as the most superior dignitary, as the most superior dignitary of the party, this political order, this political instrument of the Führer, to also speak about this question quite openly and to say how it has been. The Jewish question in the countries that we occupy will be solved by the end of this year. Only remainders of odd Jews that managed to find hiding places will be left over
Heinrich Himmler, Second Posen Speech (October 6th, 1943)

Whoever does what a Jew does is a scoundrel, a criminal. And he who repeats and wishes to copy him deserves the same fate, annihilation, death.
Julius Streicher, Der Stuermer. February 1944.

Jewish plutocracy and Jewish communism are after the German people who have escaped their slavery.
V. The battle to the end.
The Jew wants to force us back to a life of slavery so that he can live off us as a parasite and suck us dry. The healthy life of our people stands against the parasitic life of the Jew.
Who in this struggle can still speak of pity, brotherly love, etc.? Who believes that a parasite (e.g., a louse) can be improved or changed? Who believes that one can come to an agreement with a parasite? We can only choose between being devoured by the parasite or destroying it.
The Jew must be destroyed wherever we meet him!
In so doing, we commit no crime against life, but rather serve life’s laws of battle, which always oppose that which is an enemy to healthy life. Our battle serves to maintain life.
A German victory — the victory of the created order.

In the brief monthly reports of the Security Police, I only want figures on how many Jews have been shipped off and how many are currently left.
Heinrich Himmler to Ernst Kaltenbrunner


The most interesting—although horrible—sight that I encountered during the trip was a visit to a German internment camp near Gotha. The things I saw beggar description. While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape. I interviewed them through an interpreter. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said that he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to “propaganda.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower after visiting Ohrdruf concentration camp (April 12, 1945)

When we began to approach with our troops, the Germans thought it expedient to remove the evidence of their crime. Therefore, they had some of the slaves exhume the bodies and place them on a mammoth griddle composed of 60-centimeter railway tracks laid on brick foundations. They poured pitch on the bodies and then built a fire of pinewood and coal under them. They were not very successful in their operations because there was a pile of human bones, skulls, charred torsos on or under the griddle which must have accounted for many hundreds.
George S. Patton's diary after visiting Ohrdruf (April 12, 1945)

The German people have been told that stories of German atrocities were Allied propaganda. Here, you can see for yourself. Some will say that the Nazis were responsible for this crime. Others will point to the Gestapo. The responsibility rests with neither — it is the responsibility of the German people....Your so-called Master Race has demonstrated that it is master only of crime, cruelty and sadism. You have lost the respect of the civilized world.
US Army Colonel George Lynch to the population of Gardelegen, where SS burned alive 1016 slave laborers in a barn. April 25, 1945.
You, who represent the fathers and brothers of German youth, see before your eyes some of the sons and daughters who bear the direct responsibility for this crime. They are a small portion only. Therefore, it is more than the human soul is able to bear. But who bears the real responsibility? You, who allowed your leader to carry out this horrible madness; you, who couldn't do enough for this degenerate triumph. You, who were a part of this camp...
Unnamed British officers speaking from a loudspeaker to local German officials forced to visit Bergen-Belsen. April 1945.

Scholarship about the Holocaust

The road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference.
Popular Opinion and Political Dissent in the Third Reich: Bavaria 1933-45, Ian Kershaw (1987)

"So genocide was there implicit in that attack on the Soviet Union and nobody really attempted to hide this at all in the German leadership. But once it didn’t work out in terms of the Nazi vision of totally destroying the Soviet Union and having this option of pushing the European Jews into it then, of course, the actual genocide that came out with this so-called 'Final Solution' took place in extermination units on Polish soil which was something that was devised as the war in the East didn’t go according to plan in the autumn and the winter of 1941-2. But genocide was there absolutely as a central point of this war in the East and therefore you could say that genocide was a central component of the Second World War itself."

They came first for the communists
And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist.
Them they came for the trade unionists
And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews
And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew
Then they came for me
And no one was left to speak up

Appropriating the victimhood of the Jews was a rather common feature of post-Holocaust politics of memory, commemoration, rhetoric, and historiography. The Soviet Union refused to recognize the unique fate of the Jews under German occupation; the Poles claimed that they too had six million victims (conveniently forgetting that half of them were Polish Jews and that many Poles had collaborated in their murder or stood passively by as it took place); the Germans insisted that the "catastrophe" that ended the "thousand-year Reich" made them into the moral equivalents of their victims; the French made the Jewish victims of Vichy vanish under the mantle of heroic Resistance deportees; the Dutch made Anne Frank into a symbol of compassion rather than of denunciation and betrayal.
Omer Bartov, The "Jew" in Cinema, page 76, Indiana University Press.


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