Auschwitz. A name that hisses with a diabolical resonance. The largest mass murder site in history was liberated 75 years ago this month by stunned Soviet troops who discovered 7000 skeletal prisoners standing with bare feet in the winter snow, staring at them behind barbed wire fences. This earthbound place of limitless hell, the centrepiece of Hitler’s Final Solution – the meticulously planned annihilation of Europe’s 9.5 million Jews, conceived by 14 Nazi chiefs, eight of them PhDs – reminds us that no so long ago, in the heart of Europe, an entire “civilised” country participated in the attempted destruction of the Jewish race.
The capacity of ordinary people – “murderers at the desk” such as civil servants filling out the train schedules that took the unsuspecting victims in sealed cattle cars to the camps – to commit acts of unspeakable cruelty, the role of the collaborators who betrayed their friends, the wilful blindness of bystanders who watched as their neighbours were hauled off to be massacred, are still difficult to fathom.
Auschwitz stands for the ultimate consequence of antisemitism. In 1919, Hitler wrote that the “final goal must be the uncompromising removal of Jews altogether”. Twenty six years later, six million Jews, including 1.5 million children, were dead, savagely murdered because they were seen as sub-human. But the Holocaust was also a crime against all humankind. Homosexuals, Roma gypsies, the disabled, Poles, political prisoners and others who were deemed unworthy, were also murdered.
[“an entire “civilised” country participated in the attempted destruction of the Jewish race.” Mr Abramovitch should know better. It was the Nazis that tried to classify the Jews as a race.
According to the Reich Citizenship Law and many clarifying decrees on its implementation, only people of “German or kindred blood” could be citizens of Germany. The law defined who was and was not a German, and who was and was not a Jew. The Nazis rejected the traditional view of Jews as members of a religious or cultural community. They claimed instead that Jews were a race defined by birth and by blood.
Despite the persistent claims of Nazi ideology, there was no scientifically valid basis to define Jews as a race.]