Book Excerpts and Overview
The book has 116 pages.
It's chapters are presented below, most with one selected
About this Translation
Erhard Roy Wiehn
2. The Story of the Boy Erwin Katz
3. "What Should Never Have Been Allowed to Happen"
The authority of those who suffer
To have a consciousness of history
and to try to live out of this consciousness means
not to avoid the disasters, it also means
never to denounce or make contemptible this one authority:
the authority of the sufferers.
If this applies anywhere in our Christian and German
then especially for Auschwitz.
The Jewish fate must be remembered morally
– precisely because it already threatens to become
Johann Baptist Metz
4. Antisemitism in Germany Before 1933
Throughout the centuries: Christianity
socialized 'instincts of prejudice`
Anti-Semitism is usually sown in the earliest years of
The child loves his/her Christchild, his/her Savior;
given a representation of the crucified Savior, he/she
asks the mother,
who had done this horrible atrocity to the beloved Savior.
Hatred against and disgust towards the Jews descend into
the child's soul.
Years pass, the lost experience transforms
into an artificial instinct.
5. Exclusion, Deportation, Murder
"When the heart contracts itself with indignation"
(Armin T. Wegner)
On the night of the 9th to the 10th of November 1938,
when in a small village in Germany
its small synagogue, too, was in flames, there was hearty
For the Jews attempted desperately to rescue the Torah
They forced their way into the burning building.
Then, when some Jewish men came out of the house of God
with Torah scrolls in their arms,
the fire marshal of the volunteer fire department
Thus, the fire department did not extinguish the fire, but
sprayed the Jews.
More exactly: the hard water jet brought them down.
Even lying on the ground, the firemen continued
to direct the water towards them.
So they rolled with the Torah scrolls in their arms across
the village street.
And the people who watched found it funny and had a good
People told me this and they felt ashamed.
Günter B. Ginzel
(from a conversation with witnesses of
the Nazi era)
6. The Few Survivors
"Why have you done this to me?"
Often we cannot sleep.
To this day we hear the cattle cars leaving the stations
and frightened voices of those we love.
To this day we smell the stench of smoke
from the chimneys of the crematoria.
Images of dead bodies haunt us in our memories.
Survivors of the Holocaust
7. About the Perpetrators
So we are commanded to proceed
Since Saturday, the Berlin Jews are being rounded up.
In the evening at 9.15 p.m. they will be picked up
and locked up in a synagogue overnight.
Then it continues on
to Lodz and Smolensk with what they can carry in hand.
They want to spare us the sight of them
simply being left to perish in hunger and cold …
A female friend saw how a Jewish man collapsed in the
when she wanted to help him get up, a policeman
denied her the opportunity to help
and kicked the man lying on the ground
so that he rolled into the gutter.
Then he turned to the lady with a slight sense of shame
and said: "So we are ordered to do."…
If I could only get rid of the horrible feeling
that I had allowed myself to be corrupted,
that I no longer reacted sharply to such things,
that they torture me,
without resulting in spontaneous responses …
Count Helmuth James von
(from a letter dated October 21, 1941;
von Moltke was arrested in January 1944 and was executed
on January 23, 1945,
because he had warned a friend before the friend's
8. Looking Away and Keeping Quiet
"The crime of indifference" (Hermann
The imagination of the people may have been insufficient
to grasp the kind and level of extermination that it was.
But in reality, even in my generation, added to the crime
came the attempt of too many
who were young and uninvolved in the planning and
execution of the events
not to take notice of what happened …
Who could remain unsuspicious after the fires of the
the plundering, the stigmatization with the yellow star,
the continual desecration of human dignity ...
Those who opened their eyes and ears and who wanted to be
could not escape the fact that deportation trains rolled …
All of us, whether guilty or not, whether old or young,
must accept the past.
We are all affected by its consequences and are held
Whoever shuts his eyes to the past becomes blind to the
Whoever refuses to remember the inhumanity
is susceptible to the risks of new infections.
Richard von Weizsäcker
(excerpt from his speech at the memorial service 40
years after the war
in the plenary hall of the German Bundestag on May 8,
Pray for me
I have to tell you the sad news
that I was sentenced to death, I and Gustav G.
We have not signed on to join the SS,
therefore they have condemned us to death.
You had of course written to me that I shouldn't join the
my comrade Gustav G. has not signed on either.
We both want rather to die than to stain our conscience
with such atrocities.
I know what the SS has to carry out.
Oh, dear parents, however difficult it is for me and for
forgive me everything, if I offended you,
please forgive me and pray for me.
If I would fall in the war and had a bad conscience,
that would also be sad for you.
Still many parents will lose their children ...
I thank you for everything you have done for me since my
forgive me, pray for me …
Young farmer's son from
(Farewell letter to his parents, dated February 3, 1944,
shortly before his execution)
10. The 'Second Guilt' of the Germans
Perpetrators declared they were seduced,
collaborators as being victims
The Germans found an apologetic explanation
by presenting the oppressors as barbarians, as wild
animals, as satanic seducers,
who had approached the innocent and gullible nation of
and deprived it of its own will as with a drug,
a disease or a diabolical possession.
The obsession with the crime had to be pathological,
inevitable and fateful,
the people of Germany had been 'blinded and seduced,
innocent and unsuspecting.'
This demonization of Nazi rule
divested the nation not only of its responsibility and
but made it even appear as the real victim of Nazism.
11. Remembering Truthfully
Defense and displacement
The charm of knowledge would be small
if it would not have to overcome so much shame on its
'I did that,' says my memory.
'I can not have done this,' says my pride
and remains inexorable.
Attempts at Interpretation
12. Historical Roots of the Disaster
Performance of duty, willingness to make sacrifices,
In Prussia, performance of one's duty
was the first and paramount commandment
and also the doctrine of justification.
Whoever did his duty, did not sin whatever he might want
A second commandment was to kindly not be sniveling;
and a third, compared to the others even weaker:
to behave towards others
– perhaps not totally unselfishly as that would be
an exaggeration –
Performance of one's duty in relation to the state came
One could live with this substitute for religion,
and even live properly and decently,
as long as the state which one served remained proper and
13. Auschwitz, a Phenomenon of Modern Civilisation?
Buchenwald adjacent to Weimar
"Does humanism then not protect against anything?"
All my work revolves around the pressing question:
Do the roots of the inhumanity intertwine with those of
Auschwitz did not come out of the jungle, nor from the
Barbarity attacked modern man in the center of culture,
of universal education and the scientific miracle.
Only a few kilometers away from some of the finest
libraries, concert halls, Buchenwald polluted the air.
Men who tortured during the day, hanged children –
read Rilke in the evening, listened to Schubert.
This is an ontological puzzle, the mystery of the
civilized ennui or of evil,
and for me it puts the future of mankind in general into
If the humanities contribute nothing to humanization,
if the same man playing Bach can set fire to the Vilna
where then is civilization?
Why educate, why read?
Is it possible that in classical humanism itself,
in its tendency toward abstraction and its aesthetic value
a radical failure is already determined?
Could it be that mass murder and indifference to the
that abetted Nazism are not enemies or negations of
but rather its ghastly, although natural accomplice?
14. From a Social Psychological Perspective
'Education for Humanity'
(At the beginning of every school year the director of an
used to write to the teachers at his school the
Dear colleague, I have survived the concentration camp.
My eyes have seen what no man should ever see:
Gas chambers, built by educated engineers,
children poisoned by doctors who knew what they were
infants killed by experienced nurses,
women and children killed and burned by people
who had completed high school and university.
That is why I am suspicious of education.
My concern is: Help your students to become human.
The result of your efforts may not be well-trained
qualified psychopaths, learned Eichmanns.
Reading, writing and arithmetic are not important if they
do not serve
to lead our children towards more humanity.
15. Yearning for Reconciliation and Redemption
What happened in Auschwitz
superimposes itself on all my political thinking and
and causes – often unconsciously – a grief that cannot be
Today this context is clearer to me than it was fifty
The darkest chapter of our history
can only be manageable through grieving remembrance,
that is, in congruent thoughts and actions.
The millennia-old Jewish wisdom,
that remembrance is the secret of liberating relief
while forgetting prolongs the exile,
holds true in our dealing with this difficult legacy.
16. Responsibility for Freedom and Democracy
"Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom" (Robert
(The Jewish couple Langer got to know each other after the
in an orphanage in Krakow and emigrated to Israel in1950;
40 years later they moved to their son living in Germany:)
We had just arrived in Germany.
And of course we had seen it.
"The swastika," big and ugly,
painted on the wall of the supermarket.
We were shocked and almost stunned.
At night, we headed out
with spray bottles in the bag,
because we couldn't tolerate it any longer.
But when we arrived at the supermarket,
we saw a "sun" beaming at us.
Someone else had already done it.
We were happy.
adapted from Felicia and
17. Chronology of the National Socialist Persecution of