crimes. Squads of Jewish slave laborers then ripped out gold teeth, and searched the bodies for gold, jewelry, and gems, before burning or burying the dead. In a few hours, all trace of the slaughter was removed—bones, blood, ashes, all vanished. At Auschwitz, the most efficient of the death camps, the
Germans used this pitiless system to kill as many as 18,000 people per day, and a total of perhaps 2.5 million during its years of operation. Responses to the Holocaust . Why did no one intervene to stop the slaughter? Much of the killing happened in secret. But by 1942, the Allied governments understood that the Germans were murdering Jews on a large scale. The British general staff, however, turned down Churchill’s requests for bombing raids of the railroads used to transport Jews to the death camps. Military leaders did not want to place British pilots in harm’s way for what they considered a non-military purpose, and the prime minister did not press the issue. Countries living under Nazi occupation responded to the Holocaust in dramatically different ways. Pétain’s Vichy government proved nearly as zealous as the Nazi regime itself in sending Jews to death camps. The legacy of collaboration would haunt French society in the postwar years. Contrary to the country’s postwar reputation as a bastion of tolerance, the Dutch did little to resist the Nazis’ campaign of killing. Local Nazis offered a monetary reward to any Dutch citizen who revealed the whereabouts of a Jew; by the end of the war, a higher percentage of Jews had been deported to concentration camps from the Netherlands than from any country in Europe. Other occupied states did much more to protect the lives of their fellow citizens. The Danish underground, with the support of the country’s prewar political establishment, audaciously slipped nearly all of Denmark’s 7,200-person Jewish population to safety in neutral Sweden. The Finnish government, despite joining Nazi Germany in the invasion of the Soviet Union, rebuffed Hitler’s demands to hand over Jews (many of them German) who had fled to Finland. Hungary (until early 1944) and Bulgaria also resisted German calls to deport Jews from their countries. By early 1944, Hitler was a sick man physically—he did not deliver a public address all year—and increasingly divorced from reality. But he still pressed for the execution of all Jews, even at the expense
of the German war effort. Deportations of Jews from Holland and France increased. Hungary’s ruler, Admiral Horthy, caved in to intense German pressure to hand over his nation’s Jews. Over 400,000 Hungarian Jews went to their deaths until international pressure led Horthy to reverse his position in June 1944. Shortly thereafter, the Nazis invaded Hungary, deposed Horthy, and established a puppet government under the fascist Arrow Cross movement.
You've reached the end of your free preview.
Want to read all 26 pages?