How the Nazis made Germans complicit in the killing of the Jews

A review of recent breakthrough historical writing


How culpable are all Afghan men for the misogyny of religious zealots among them? How widely were Canadians responsible for the harm done to native children in residential schools? Were nearly all Rwandan Hutus implicated in the 1994 mass killings of Tutsis? Whenever the extent of group guilt is at issue, the ur-question lurking in the background is, How much did ordinary Germans know about the Final Solution? This review of recent breakthrough historical writing suggests a nuanced answer, perhaps best summed up as “enough to know that it was better not to know more.”

The Atlantic

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How the Nazis made Germans complicit in the killing of the Jews

  1. A very worthwhile read – thanks for noting it.

    I’m not sure that the residential school example is equivalent in the Canadian context (the extent of abuse was not widely known by mainstream Canadians until after the fact, as I understand it). Perhaps the internment of Japanese Canadians during WWII or the more recent use of Security Certificates are better comparisons? (Without equating imprisonment to genocide, I hasten to add.)

  2. this article is very helpful for providing a framework for understanding this most terrible history. i would recommend the evans’ trilogy to anyone trying to understand how germany ended up murdering as systematically as it did. the reason this trilogy is important is because it emphasizes by the weight of example how the murderous potential that was eventually harvested by the nazis was nurtured over a very, very, very long period of time. the murder of the jews and others became the raison d’etre of german society by 1940 because the language of its politics had already been cultivated to this end. an event of the scale of the holocaust is impossible without deep cultural and political preparation that then draws in the whole citizenry with the exception of the very, very few who are prepared to die — often horribly. the issue is not if german citizens are ‘guilty’ but how human beings anywhere and at anytime could be convinced that other fellow human beings are so different that they should be segregated and in some cases slaughtered. that is the real issue at hand and it may never be completely within our grasp to explain.

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