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How could the European Jews have let an act like the Holocaust take place?

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yoyo1998 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 2) Honors

Posted May 7, 2013 at 5:46 PM via web

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How could the European Jews have let an act like the Holocaust take place?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 7, 2013 at 6:03 PM (Answer #1)

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This question is based on something of a misconception about the Holocaust.  Some people think that the Jews did not try to resist the Holocaust.  This is simply not true.  It is not correct to say that the Jews “let the Holocaust take place.”  This is like saying that people who were taken as slaves allowed that to happen or that the people on the airplanes that hit the World Trade Center in New York allowed that to happen.

Jews resisted in many ways.  Some resisted militarily.  The point is that they did not simply fail to resist in any way.  But there is a fundamental imbalance of power between a small group of people in a country and the government of that country.  It is hard to know how a group like the Jews could have prevented the Holocaust from happening when the entire might of the German state, along with the efforts of local people in places like Poland and parts of the Soviet Union, was being used to make the Holocaust happen.

True, Jews did not typically choose to fight to the death instead of being put on trains to camps.  However, it is not at all clear that we should expect them to have done so.  This is where “mindset” comes in.  It would have been very hard to believe that the Germans were really going to take all of them and kill them all.  This, I would imagine, was part of what happened with the 9/11 passengers.  Those on the first planes would surely not have imagined what was going to happen.  It would have been outside of their realm of experience.  The same is true with the Jews.  They would have not believed they would be killed.  They would have feared that resistance would surely lead to their deaths where going along quietly might not. 

So, it is not really right for us to say that the Jews allowed the Holocaust to happen to them as if we could expect that they would have been able to prevent it.

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