There are many popular misconceptions about the Holocaust. Not all of these myths, of course, are held by all people. Let us look at a few of these misconceptions.
- Jews were the only victims of the camps. While Jews did make up the largest group of people who were killed, there were other groups who were targeted. These included Gypsies, homosexuals, prisoners of war from the Soviet Union, and the Nazis’ political opponents. We tend to focus on the Jews because they were the largest group and because genocide seems worse to us than, for example, killing political prisoners. Also, there are many more Jews in the West than Gypsies and so the story of the Jews feels more real to us.
- All of the camps were death camps. There were camps for other purposes. The most important other type of camp was the labor camp. Prisoners in these camps were often worked to death, but they were not simply brought there and killed in gas chambers as we sometimes think.
- Nazis used Jewish bodies for various things like making soap. The Holocaust was so terrible that we sometimes think that anything about it could be true. The Nazis did do things like extracting gold teeth from the victims, but outside of that they got rid of the bodies as best they could, usually by burning them.
- Jews did not resist. When we see pictures and videos of Jews seemingly going quietly to be killed, we think that they did not resist at all. This is simply untrue. They resisted as much as was possible in the circumstances. We may think that we would have acted differently, but this is rather unlikely.