FIRST-PERSON: Silent amid the killing
A book by an American historian and a German sociologist makes the case that a significant number of German citizens were complicit in the systematic murders due to their silence.
"What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder, And Everyday Life in Nazi Germany –- An Oral History" published by Eric Johnson and Karl-Heinz Reuband in 2005 contains the results of hundreds of interviews and surveys conducted with Germans who lived under Hitler's Third Reich.
From their extensive research, Johnson and Rueband conclude that information about the Holocaust was widespread among Germany's Jewish and non-Jewish populations during the war years.
Reuband believes that one-third of the Germany people were aware of the Holocaust while it was taking place. Johnson believes the number to be up to one-half of the population. "[R]egardless of the estimate one uses, this means that the mass murder of European Jews was no secret to millions of German citizens while it was still being carried out," according to the authors.
Information about the mass murder of the Jews was available to the average German via a variety of sources.
Foreign-language radio broadcasts, particularly from the British Broadcasting Company, reported on the reality of the German death camps. Though the Nazis labeled it a crime to listen to such broadcasts, Johnson and Reuband found that many Germans regularly tuned in.
Soldiers on leave who were involved in the transport of Jews to the concentration camps were another source of information. One woman interviewed by Johnson and Reuband indicated the soldiers spoke freely about what they had observed.
And those who lived in close proximity of the camps were keenly aware. One young man recalled riding his motorcycle and stopping at a community near a camp. "I don't know what town it was...," the man told Johnson and Reuband. "But, anyway, we made a stop there and the place was stinking: 'What is that smell?' 'Over there is a concentration camp, that's where the corpses are being burned, where soap is being made from the Jews."
Johnson and Reuband noted that great numbers of Germans also knew about the killing of the mentally ill and the handicapped.
"This unspeakable crime against humanity," Johnson and Reuband conclude, "could not have been possible without the indifference and complicity of a large part of the German population."
Here in the U.S., Jan. 22 will mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court's infamous decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion. More than 55 million unborn babies have been murdered in their mothers' wombs in the 41 years since Roe became law.
Though information about abortion abounds in America, abortion on demand for any reason, or for no reason, continues unabated. While some states have made it difficult to obtain an abortion, the killing continues.
Studies have found that more than 90 percent of all abortions in America are not medically necessary and occur as a matter of convenience, while 90 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted.
Medical science has proved the baby in the womb is indeed a living being. Tests have established that the unborn child experiences pain.
With all the information on the horrible reality of abortion, how does the practice remain unfettered in America?
Too many Americans remain indifferent to the practice. It's as if we have come to accept the killing of unborn children as normal.
Amazingly, Johnson and Reuband found that some Germans viewed the mistreatment and subsequent killing of the Jews as just part of life. In the introduction of their book they wrote, "As one we interviewed for this book told us in the comfort of his home in Michigan in May 2001, 'To us it was the most exciting time of our lives.... You see, when the Nazis came to power, I was five years old. I grew up in this. So it was a normal part of life for me."
History, it seems, is once again repeating itself.
Yet there's a huge difference between the Holocaust and the tragedy of legal abortion in America. Germans risked imprisonment and worse if they sought to oppose the extermination of the Jews. But there is no such threat to Americans who take a stand against abortion.
Our silent indifference makes us complicit in this unspeakable crime against humanity.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention's office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).