What does the following quote by John Conway mean: “The Nazis victimized some people for what they did, some for what they refused to do, some for what they were, and some for the fact that they...

What does the following quote by John Conway mean:

“The Nazis victimized some people for what they did, some for what they refused to do, some for what they were, and some for the fact that they were.” 

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The quote attributed to English mathematician John Horton Conway -- "The Nazis victimized some people for what they did, some for what they refused to do, some for what they were, and some for the fact that they were" -- can best be understood through a review of English historian John S. Conway's 1968 The Nazi Persecution of the Churches, 1939-1945, in which the latter Conway discussed the courageous decisions by many Churches to reject Nazi doctrine and to refuse to cooperate in activities that contributed to the genocide known as the Holocaust. In his book, Conway described in meticulous detail how the Jehovah's Witnesses, deemed a threat by the Nazi establishment because of this small but dedicated group's "reliance on Old Testament apocalyptic prophesies were taken together as 'proof' of their being disciples of the Jew Karl Marx and 'pacemakers of world Bolshevism'." The Jews, so John Horton Conway and others have contended, were victimized because they fell outside the parameters within which the Nazis, led by Adolf Hitler, defined the ideal human, or the model Aryan. Even descendants of Jews who had converted, usually under threat of death, to Christianity were targeted for persecution because of the impurity of their blood. Jews, in short, were victimized for what they were. Jehovah's Witnesses were victimized for what they refused to do, in effect, swear allegiance to the philosophy of hatred promulgated by the National Socialist Party of Germany.

Conway's oft-cited quote is a reference to the fact that the German nation systematically persecuted and in most instances targeted for elimination all those who failed to live up to the Nazi ideal. That "failure" may have been physiological, it may have been theological or philosophical, but it amounted to the same thing: defilers of Aryan purity and/or proponents of alien ideologies intended to subvert the German nation. Not even religious conversion could protect someone if he or she had "Jewish blood" running through his or her veins. Racial "purity" was Hitler's goal, and he was astonishingly close to success, at least within the confines of those territories his armies controlled. 

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