NAZI GERMANY COMPARED TO THE SOUTH
Nazi Germany . . .
Nature: The following unit consists of a description of some aspects of Nazi Germany paralleled by a description of similar features in the South both historically and at present. In particular the unit focuses on the parallel conditions of persecution and ultimately relates these conditions to the general nature of the respective systems.
1. The chief purpose of this unit is to bring into focus certain aspects of Negro life in the South through comparison with a historical situation which, while more extreme, nevertheless contained many similar features. In fact, the very exaggerated character of the Nazi experience should serve to bring into clearer focus an understanding of realities latent or only partially observable in Negro history and in the South today. Much valuable research which has been done on the Nazi system might be applied to a comparative analysis of the Negro in the South in order to gain greater insight into:
a. the nature of slavery and persecution
b. its effects on both Negro and white
c. its relation to the Southern power structure
d. the means by which this system can be resisted successfully and overcome.
2. In revealing certain universal tendencies in societies characterized by persecution of minority groups, the student should see that persecution and its debilitating effects on the victim can not be limited to their own race, but can involve any group of people, depending on the particular historical conditions of a society.
The tendency of so many Negro youths to accept the values of “white” (majority) culture as to their own inferiority may be overcome somewhat in this manner. In fact, the whole idea of employing a comparative study first occurred to me as a result of attending a lecture on slave revolts delivered to a Negro high school audience. The lecture was quite competent and thorough in its description of events, but the students appeared rather disappointed after it was over. In discussing the lecture later, many admitted that while they had hoped to find evidence of really active resistance on the part of slaves, instead, the white stereotypes of Negro passivity and dependence seemed to have been at least partially confirmed by evidence of so few and rarely successful revolts. I think a comparative study would be more convincing proof of, for example, the debilitating effects of a slave system on any people forced into such a system. Nor do I mean to de-emphasize heroism in Negro history which will be discussed in this unit and, I assume, in others in the summer program. In fact it would seem that a greater appreciation of this heroism might be derived through understanding of the incredible handicaps it overcame. But I think that in addition to bringing out the heroes in Negro history, an understanding of the degrading effects of institutionalised persecution on the human personality together with an understanding of the reasons for persecution, in terms of their universal applications, will more effectively help the student overcome his own partial beliefs in the old myths.
3. Another purpose is to broaden the students’ knowledge of history, other peoples, and other places. Use maps if possible.
4. . . . to give the student a slight acquaintance with 20th century political realities and the relations of men in the modern world.
5. . . . as a purely academic exercise in abstract and comparative reasoning. The student may be presented with an event from Nazi Germany and one from Negro history, and asked to find a similar meaning behind two different events. Or he may be presented with an event in Nazi Germany, given the meaning behind it, and asked to think of a similarly meaningful situation in either Negro history or his own personal experiences.
6. In drawing out these parallel situations from personal experience, the student should have an opportunity at self-expression and at exposing his beliefs.
7. This unit should come close to the end of the session, providing the student with an opportunity to review previously studied material from Negro history and the Mississippi social structure by drawing parallels from units previously studied.
Suggested methods for teaching the unit:
1. The case-study method should be used as much as possible. Narratives and descriptions of specific cases should precede generalizations which they illustrated. It is suggested that specific events from Nazi Germany be described, followed by a description of specific events from, for example, the institution of slavery, and finally a drawing together of these two cases into a general meaning. (e.g., description of Nazi methods of arrest and transport to concentration camps, followed by descriptions of captures of Negroes in Africa, their sale to European slave-traders, Middle Passage; followed by a discussion of the effects these might have on the victims). As the unit progresses, the teacher should be able to draw on students’ previous knowledge by describing the situation from Nazi history, discussing its meaning, and asking the students to think of a parallel situation in Southern politics or history.
2. Contrasts as well as comparisons should be pointed out—as, for example, the basic difference between the “legality” of the Nazi system and the “illegality” ( in terms of the U.S. Constitution) of institutionalised persecution in the South today, thus providing a recourse unavailable to the victims of both Nazi persecution and U.S slavery. Similarly, the extreme difference in degree between the “closed” society of Nazi Germany and some features of a closed system which exist in Mississippi today should be kept in mind.
3. Since much of the unit deals in personality types which result from specific conditions described, role-playing by students as a means of self-expression and understanding might be used effectively (e.g., given the conditions described in the Middle Passage and sale into slavery, act out the way the victim might react at the end of this ordeal; or, given certain conditions of the poor white’s existence in the South, act out his reaction to the dominant planter class).
4. The Nazi situations should always serve merely as an introduction or background against which comparable and contrasting situations in the Negro’s environment are discussed, since the ultimate concern of the unit is to focus on the problems affecting the students and the movement in the South. I have devoted more space to the Nazi background in the following outline only because most teachers cannot be expected to be as familiar with it as with Negro and Southern history and politics. While some parallel cases from the latter are suggested, it is assumed that teachers will be able to draw upon their own knowledge of a more meaningful treatment of American case studies.
5. The outline described below should be thought of as suggestive only. Teachers may draw upon this information to suit their own purposes. Teachers should also be encouraged to formulate additional ideas suggested by the nature of the unit, though not directly discussed in the outline.
The outline should be preceded and introduced by a brief narrative of Nazi Germany in order to give the student information necessary for the analysis which follows. The narrative should be as brief as possible. The following points should be included in it:
1. The conditions in Germany surrounding Hitler’s rise to power.
a. economic insecurity and a wide gap between rich and poor, aggravated by the 1929 depression.
b. political insecurity resulting from the loss of World War I and resentment over heavy reparations.
c. lack of meaningful democratic tradition in German political history. The democratic constitution existing at this time had been in force only since 1919 and never really had the support of the people.
(Note: you may find that the students will find the narrative more interesting if parallels to Southern history are drawn. For instance, conditions in Germany preceding this era of mass persecution were not too different from those in the South in the years following the Civil War. This drawing of parallels in the narrative may break its continuity and perhaps should not be used unless the students’ interest lags.)
2. Methods by which Hitler came to power involving both political chicanery and the apparent support of a wide section of the German population.
3. The creation of a closed authoritarian society in which all citizens were forced to behave as the power structure, which, it should be stressed, consisted of a tiny minority of the population, dictated—even in their most intimate and non-political private activities (such as taste in art).
4. Characteristics of the state were a heavy emphasis on pomp, ritualism, ceremony, glorification of strength, and eventually making war on much of Europe.
5. A chief characteristic of the system was institutionalised persecution in the form of restrictive laws and of concentration camps where certain groups or members of groups were interned for the purpose of slave labor and/or extermination.
6. Various types of groups were persecuted. Chief among them were the Jews (it will probably be necessary to define this group to some extent): of 11,000,000 living in Europe at the time of Hitler’s rise to power, over 6,000,000 were killed, and most of these within a four-year period (1941-45).
The narrative, in simply describing events, leaves basic questions as to the nature of these events unanswered. These questions might be drawn out from the students, each question then serving as an outline heading:
Hitler came to power in 1932—he was eventually defeated in war in 1945. For 13 years he was able to achieve and maintain absolute control over Germany (later, parts of Europe) and to carry out some of the most brutal crimes against mankind. It is estimated that he destroyed 12,000,000 civilians. What are some questions we might raise concerning the events you’ve just learned about in order to understand the nature of this system?
I. How were a handful of Nazis able to control and destroy millions of victims in these camps without encountering successful resistance from them?
II. How was the regime able to impose this system of slavery on its victims initially, i.e., while they were still free men?
III. Why was persecution of minority groups a policy of this regime, and why did the rest of the citizenry support or, at least, not protest against this policy?
IV. Why did the masses of citizens support Hitler’s entire regime initially, and continue to support him (or not resist)?
V. From what areas was there effective resistance?
This outline may seem to be working backwards. But I think this might be the most effective way of presenting it to the students—working from a concrete example such as concentration camps toward broader questions. Thus, one ultimately arrives at the basic question made more meaningful to the student after understanding the brutality of these systems: how was the whole regime able to come into power and to sustain power? —question IV.
Almost any competent encyclopedia or text on German history should contain basic background information. One of the most interesting texts is Koppel Pinson, Modern Germany (New York: MacMillan, 1954)—particularly useful as it contains many interesting illustrations of policies. It might be consulted further in dealing with the rest of the unit.
The chief books upon which this unit is based are:
1. Bruno Bettelheim, The Informed Heart (Glencoe: Free Press, 1960). This analyses the effects of the Nazi regime upon the personality of both its victims and its subjects and its effective destruction of potential resistance.
2. Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem (New York: Viking, 1963), analyses the successful process by which the regime was able to enslave its victims, the cooperation elicited from the victims, comparisons of resistance and lack of resistance, and the nature of its supporters (i.e. Eichmann).
3. Stanley Elkins, Slavery (Chicago: u. of Chicago Press, 1959), pp. 98-139. While the material contained here is of use only in Section I of this unit, it is most valuable since its approach is the same as that of the entire unit: it compares the institution of slavery in the U.S. to the concentration camps.
Additional books will be suggested in the section to which they relevant.
SECTION I: How were a handful of Nazis able to control and destroy millions of victims in these camps without encountering successful resistance from them?
SECTION I. Information for the teacher.
The main points to be brought out in this section are:
1. The nature of a “closed” system requires total adaptation on the part of the prisoners to the demands of the system, thereby breaking all resistance.
2. Total adaptation to the demands of the system for the purpose of physical survival can result in the destruction of inner freedom, of the individual human personality.
3. Both 1. and 2. reflect the crucial importance of environment on human development regardless of prior cultural training.
A comparison of the concentration camps with the institution of slavery in the U.S. would be most useful in teaching this section of the unit (although certain features of life in Mississippi today might be drawn upon).
The application of this study to the student’s understanding of Negro history as well as more personal applications might involve the following points:
1. “innate” or prior cultural characteristics had nothing to do with the Negro’s submission to slavery.
2. Given the nature of a “closed” system, the slave revolts which did occur can be appreciated as all the more remarkable than resistance in an open society.
3. The destructive effects of a “closed” system (or of a system which tends in that direction) upon its victims cannot be overcome through cooperation with the system but rather through the tireless maintenance of inner convictions and the strengthening of these convictions by action consistent with them wherever possible.
SECTION I: Suggested procedure
(Note: information in parentheses contains generalizations for the teacher and should not be explained to the student until after a description of the case study.)
How were a handful of Nazis able to enslave and destroy millions of people in the Concentration camps (hereafter abbreviated as cc’s ) without encountering significant resistance from them?
Interest in this question might be stimulated by describing certain facets of cc life which would make the question a more urgent one: e.g., a few hundred SS guards were able to control hundreds of thousands of prisoners; most prisoners knew that death awaited them when their labor power was no longer effective. Therefore, why didn’t they revolt?; The Nazis successfully used prisoners for administrative functions, including the transporting of bodies of fellow victims from the gas chambers to the crematoria.
The institution of slavery may be brought up and the question raised as to why there were not MORE slave revolts.
A. Purpose of concentration camps and methods of achieving its purposes.
The primary purpose of the cc’s, initially , was to provide cheap labor for the Nazi regime. Later they became extermination centers. In both instances, total obedience and submissiveness was required in order for the SS men to carry out their purpose. Since, as in U.S. slavery, the requirements of the system were those to which free human beings would not voluntarily submit, and since those who ran the camps were greatly outnumbered by its prisoners, as on the individual plantations, resistance had to be avoided at all costs and obedience elicited.
Thus, an important secondary purpose of the camps as well as of the institution of slavery in the U.S. was the “deliberate infliction of various forms of torture upon human beings in such a way as to break their resistance and make way for their degradation as individuals.” (Elkins, p. 105) This was done in the following ways:
1. Initial introduction to the camp and to slavery (shock and detachment from previous life, leading to bewilderment and inability to act in a situation so totally different from anything one has known).
a. Description of prior culture may be brought out here showing how both Jews and Africans were products of vigorous cultures and were not culturally prone to submissiveness.
b. Description of the process by which Nazi victims were arrested: “The arrest was typically made at night, preferably late; this was standing Gestapo policy, designed to heighten the element of shock, terror and unreality surrounding the arrest. After a day or so in a police jail came the next major shock, that of being transported to the camp itself. It involved a planned series of brutalities inflicted by guards making repeated rounds through the train over a twelve- to thirty-six-hour period during which the prisoner was prevented from resting. If in cattle cars instead of passenger cars, the prisoners were sealed in, under conditions similar to those of the Middle passage. Upon their arrival . . . there might be sham ceremonies designed to reassure temporarily the exhausted prisoners, which meant that the fresh terrors in the offing would then strike them with redoubled impact. An SS officer might deliver an address, or a band might be playing popular tunes, and it would be in such a setting that the initial ‘selection’ was made. The newcomers would file past an SS doctor who indicated, with a motion of the forefinger, whether they were to go to the left or to the right. To one side went those considered capable of heavy labor; to the other would go wide categories of ‘undesirables’; those in the latter group were being condemned to the gas chambers. Those who remained would undergo the formalities of ‘registration,’ full of indignities, which culminated in the marking of each prisoner with a number.” Elkins, pp. 105-106).
c. Description of capture, transport, and sale of Africans into slavery (Elkins contains a brief but useful description of this, pp. 98-102).
d. Reaction of a person who survived to reach the destination: would he be likely to resist or be unable to act?
A general description of concentration camp life might follow here in order to provide the context in which further methods of destruction took place.
“There was a state of chronic hunger whose pressures were unusually effective in detaching prior scruples of all kinds; even the sexual instincts no longer functioned in the face of the drive for food. The man who at his pleasure could bestow or withhold food thus wielded abnormal power, for that reason alone. Another strain at first was the demand for absolute obedience, the slightest deviation from which brought savage punishments. The prisoner had to ask permission—by no means granted as a matter of course—even to defecate. The power of the SS guard, as the prisoner was hourly reminded, was that of life and death over is body. A more exquisite form of pressure lay in the fact that the prisoner had never a moment of solitude: he no longer had a private existence; it was no longer possible, in any imaginable sense, for him to be an “individual”. (Elkins, 107)
Parallels from U.S. Slavery should follow.
2. Forcing of childlike behavior (Bettelheim, 131-34)
“. . . childlike feelings of helplessness were created much more effectively by the constant threat of beatings than by actual torture. During a real beating one could, for example, take some pride in suffering manfully, in not giving the foreman or guard the satisfaction of grovelling before him, etc. No such emotional protection was possible against the mere threat.” (Bettelheim, p. 13)
Difficulty of maintaining one’s self image as an adult in the face of constant screaming threats, strict regulation of defecation, need to ask permission for anything and everything, doing nonsensical work such as digging holes and covering them up again all day, being forced to gallop like horses and sing rollicking songs.
Parallels of this type of treatment in U.S. slavery are numerous: the position of the slave child who had no real father and was totally dependent upon the master; the general treatment of slaves, even when “benevolent”, their absolute dependency upon the master for food as well as punishment.
Parallels from attitudes in the South today might be drawn upon: the significance of calling adult Negro males “boy”.
General effects: loss of self-respect in a system where there are no authorities or judges of a man (e.g. church, family, friends, school) other than the person who treats him like a child.
3. Destruction of individuality and submergence into the group (Bettelheim, 134-145).
a. All inmates were branded with identification numbers upon their arrival at the camp. They were henceforth referred to only by their numbers. (Explore the importance of name to individual identity.)
b. All orders, demands, and work involved group effort. Any person who made himself conspicuous was likely to be killed, thus creating a tendency for each to make himself as inconspicuous as possible, lest he come to the attention of an SS man.
c. Since each moment in the prisoner’s life is involved in group activities and since he hardly had time for sleep, he had neither the time nor the energy for “free thinking”.
d. Individual acts of resistance resulted in punishment of his whole group, e.g. prisoners were forced to stand at attention after 12 hours of work if anyone had tried to escape until the fugitive was found. Many died of exposure under such conditions.
e. Of course, any successful resistance was carefully kept from the other inmates, thus further discouraging individual initiative and heroism.
i. Prevent all individual behavior
ii. Identify with the mass for safety
iii. Group tends to punish individual attempts at resistance for fear of SS retaliation against the group.
i. Attempts at destroying individuality in U.S. slavery are obvious, and should be brought out.
ii. In addition, the denial of the individuality of the Negro is an integral feature of Southern (maybe U.S.?) life today—persecution involved his membership in a group rather than his individual personality traits.
iii. Examples of point e. can be found in Miss. high school textbooks and newspapers, through their omissions.
4. Destruction of the capacity for self-determination (Bettelheim, pp. 145-159).
“The question arises as to why, in the concentration camp, although some prisoners survived and others got killed, such a sizeable percentage simply died.” (Bettelheim, 147)
a. “prisoners who came to believe the repeated statements of the guards—that there was no hope for them, that they could never leave the camp except as a corpse—who came to feel that their environment was one over which they could exercise no influence whatsoever, these prisoners were, in a literal sense, walking corpses. In the camps they were called “Moslems” . . . they were people who were so deprived of affect, self esteem, and every form of stimulation, so totally exhausted, both physically and emotionally, that they had given the environment total power over them. They did this when they gave up trying to exercise any further influence over their life or environment. . . .
“These things could be readily observed in the deterioration of moslems. It began when they stopped acting on their own. At this point such men still obeyed orders, but only blindly or automatically; no longer selectively or with inner reservation or any hatred at being so abused. They still looked about, or at least moved their eyes around. The looking stopped much later, though even then they still moved their bodies when ordered, but never did anything on their own any more. Typically, this stopping of action began when they no longer lifted their legs as they walked, but only shuffled them. When finally even the looking about on their own stopped, they soon died.” (Bettelheim, 151-153)
b. Physical survival would seem to involve the total adaptation of the prisoner to the demands of the SS man or the master. He must act as the master requires, which really means inaction since he is not free to determine his own actions. But can one act one way and believe another? Can one maintain an inner freedom in outer bondage, particularly when he is shown no alternative?
5. Destroying potential group solidarity by dividing the prisoners against one another (p 180-192, Bettelheim)
a. Some prisoners were given special privileges, such as an easier labor detail (working in the kitchen) as a reward for obedience. If they used this to help other prisoners (sneak food), they would lose these privileges—and possibly their lives. Thus they refused to help fellow prisoners for the sake of their own physical survival. Further, they tended to promote the efficiency of the system in order to survive physically (by adapting to demands of the system)
Parallels: House slaves, “Uncle Toms”:
b. Some prisoners who were allowed to exercise limited power over fellow prisoners tended to enjoy the exercise of power as a substitute for their lack of freedom. (This is an important concept which should be explained carefully through the description of personality types).
c. Hostility felt by the prisoners for the SS men could, of course, not be expressed; thus it was often directed against one another.
Parallels: I am not acquainted with the types described in (b) and (c) in Negro history—perhaps there are examples. It may be easier to find examples among some of the more “prominent” members of the Negro communities today. Relations of poor Whites and Negroes could serve to illustrate the above two concepts (the poor White who enjoys exercising power over the Negro in part because of his own unfreedom and sense of impotence: and the poor White whose hostility over his own exploitation by the power structure is misdirected and finds outlet by violence against the only group that cannot retaliate: the Negro. (Section IV deals more thoroughly with these cases).
6. Summary: the various means by which the cc and slavery system prevent resistance by destroying the human personality might now be drawn together in terms of the following points:
a. Definition of a “closed” system: all lines of authority descend from the master, and alternative social bases (family, friends, hobby groups, church, law) that might have supported alternative standards are systematically suppressed. The total control over life and death by a single source makes adaptation to the requirements of that source a vital necessity. (If time permits, a comparison might be drawn between U.S. slavery and slavery in South America as a means of drawing a contrast between a closed and open system. Elkins, 133-139; Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen)
b. By adapting to the demands of the system, the prisoner might pay the price of inner destruction for physical survival. Can one maintain one’s inner convictions when one acts contrary to them every minute of his existence? By totally cooperating with the system, the prisoner was in danger of losing his self-respect, individuality, and independence of action, as well as betraying fellow prisoners. An extreme example of inner destruction resulting from outward adaptation could be seen in a few cases where prisoners ended up by internalising the values of the SS men, hating their fellow prisoners, hating themselves, and eventually destroying themselves. A parallel example of this type was described by J.H. Griffin in Black Like Me on his first bus ride out of New Orleans. It should be stressed, of course, that this type was by no means common, but is an extreme example o the effects of the “closed” system on the human personality.
c. “What happened in concentration camps suggests that under conditions of extreme deprivation, the influence of the environment over the individual can become total.” (Bettelheim, 147)
i. submission to ccs and slavery had nothing to do with prior culture or personality. Environment of cc could determine behavior of diverse individuals from varied backgrounds.
ii. The influence of one’s actions on one’s beliefs. When one is restrained from free action, convictions tend to weaken and disappear.
d. Mississippi today: In what way is Mississippi not a closed system? What features of a closed system does it possess? Can you think of examples which indicate that some people have been affected by these features?
Resistance in closed systems.
Here resistance involves not only action against the system, but even the ability to survive as a human being (i.e.—more than physically) must be considered a form of resistance, given the aims of the ccs and the institution of slavery to destroy the human personality.
1. What types survived best—inner resistance—in the ccs.
a. Those with strong religious commitments: esp. conscientious objectors and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
b. Political prisoners—those who felt their imprisonment was for a purpose, demonstrating their danger to the Nazi regime. This increased their sense of importance and individuality.
c. In general, those whose convictions, whose inner reality was strong enough so that they were never completely submerged by the environment. “. . . whether or not one survived may have depended on one’s ability to arrange to preserve some areas of independent action, to keep control of some important aspects of one’s life, despite an environment that seemed overwhelming and total. To survive, not as a shadow of the SS but as a man, one had to find some life experience hat mattered, over which one was still in command.” (Bettelheim, 147)
d. Great participation of slaves in civil war on the Union side indicates that they were more successful in maintaining their inner personalities.
e. It might be interesting here to bring in the situation of the POWs in Korea: Negro inner resistance to the propaganda of the Chinese was far greater than White (American ) resistance. This is discussed in Seven Stayed Behind.
2. What types were able to actively resist the system?
a. “Once, a group of naked prisoners about to enter the gas chamber stood lined up in front of it. In some way the commanding SS officer learned that one of the women prisoners had been a dancer. So he ordered her to dance for him. She did, and as she danced, she approached him, seized his gun, and shot him down. She too was immediately shot to death.” (Bettelheim, 265) Why? “isn’t it probable that despite the grotesque setting in which she danced, dancing made her once again a person? Dancing, she was singled out as an individual, asked to perform in what had once been her chosen vocation. No longer was she a number, a nameless, depersonalised prisoner, but the dancer she used to be. Transformed, however momentarily, she responded like her old self, destroying the enemy bent on her destruction, even if she had to die in the process.” (Bettelheim, 265)
b. In general the most active resistance came from those who, by virtue of their strong convictions and, in addition, by virtue of little jobs in camp administration, were able to carry on petty underground activities. For them, the SS was no longer the ONLY one. They were able to engage in meaningful activities, had alternative roles, and exercised initiative. (Elkins, 134-5)
c. Under slavery, those who were able to escape the full impact of slavery on their personalities were most active in resisting it. E.G., Wm. Johnson—Natchez barber; Gabriel—blacksmith; Denmark Vesey—freed Negro artisan; Nat Turner—preacher. (Elkins, 137-139)
3. Summary: What qualities are most necessary to develop in order to successfully resist—internally or externally—a system of persecution.
a. An awareness of the dangers of cooperation with the persecutors
b. The need to carve out an area of individual identity, initiative, especially in the face of attempts to reduce Negroes to a “group-status.”
c. The maintenance of inner convictions and of the freedom to chose one’s attitudes.
d. The importance of group solidarity and rejections of divisions based on privileges or rewards.
In concerning himself with how best to overcome submission to a system of persecution, the student should be concerned further with avoiding the process by which such a system is able to develop absolute control, since resistance in a closed system is understandably rare, and indeed, usually hopeless. This could lead directly into the next section of the outline.
SECTION II. How was the Nazi regime able to impose this system of slavery on its victims initially—i.e., while they were still free men?
SECTION II: Information for the teacher
The chief purpose of this section is to explain the success of the Nazis in herding millions of people into death camps
1. in terms of their methods:
a. the intertwining of laws with the encouragement of criminal behavior
b. the gradual erosion of human rights
c. the use of written laws to “legitimise” their actions
2. in terms of the victims’ reactions to these methods:
a. cooperation and compromise with the enemy in the hopes of special or fair treatment
b. refusal to face reality: the maintenance of a “business as usual” attitude
Here the parallel of conditions which brought the African into slavery would be useless, since it was simply a matter of overwhelming the Africans with superior arms and force, rather than lack of resistance on the part of the Africans.
Parallels might be drawn from Mississippi conditions since Reconstruction. It is important that the teacher also draw out contrasts.
The material may be applied to the students’ own lives by the fact that methods of the present Mississippi power structure are very similar to those outlined above. The lesson, then, is to avoid the mistakes of the Nazi victims.
SECTION II: Suggested Procedure
A. Process by which the Nazi power structure instituted the concentration camps and the policy of extermination:
Had all this been done overnight with complete suddenness, it is likely the Nazis would have encountered massive resistance (as did the slave traders in Africa).
1. Description of process
1933: law passed by state which removes all Jews from public office and makes them 2nd class citizens.
1935: Nuremberg Laws (legalizes discrimination): deprives Jews of political rights. Mixed marriages forbidden. Later, civil rights taken away.
1937: the state passes a law to sterilize all sex offenders; later the law comes to include those with “bad genes”; later the law is further extended.
1938: Krystallnacht (Night of Broken Glass): an apparently spontaneous outbreak of destruction against incurably sick persons. (It should be pointed out that the idea of eventually exterminating Jews developed out of this euthanasia program. Arendt, p. 95)
Jews are deprived of their German nationality
Transported into ghettoes (this does not occur as much in Germany as in the countries she conquered).
Deportation of Jews—expulsion from Germany until Germany began conquering the rest of Europe where the Jews had fled.
Extermination—began systematically in 1941
2. Analysis of its success
a. The use of legality makes “criminal” acts more palatable to people once it has the sanction of a written statute. Dangerous tendency of many to accept “laws” regardless of the principles on which they are founded.
b. The intertwining of unjust criminal laws emanating from the power structure and criminal behavior emanating from elements of society not directly related to the power structure and who correctly see these laws as encouraging criminal behavior—whether on paper or not. Krystallnacht was only one small example—thugs continually roamed the street destroying property without danger of arrest—though the Nazi power structure never openly acknowledged them. I cannot resist the parallel of Governor Wallace and the bombing of the church in Birmingham; and the absurdity of his piously decrying this criminal action. In what way was he, as governor of Alabama, responsible for this bombing?
c. Gradualism. The state which gradually erodes human rights is more successful and, hence, more dangerous than that which attempts to destroy them suddenly—a procedure that usually results in massive resistance.
1. People need not be aware of the principle behind each encroaching law and often don’t resist if the particular law does not affect them directly and immediately. For example, euthanasia when used on incurably ill people, is often not seen as dangerous by those who are healthy—i.e., they see in the legislation something directed against a category of people of which they are not a part rather than the principle involved in the nature of the law: the right of the state to destroy the lives of innocent human beings. Another example was the procedure of the Nazis, upon taking over a country, to divide Jews into categories of nationals (citizens of that country) and non-nationals (those who were not citizens). The non-nationals were immediately deported to ccs, the nationals only had to wear yellow arm bands identifying themselves as Jews; later they were rounded up into ghettoes; eventually when the people of the country were numbed by or used to the gradual and increasing encroachment on human freedom by the Nazis, these Jews too were deported to ccs. But the effect of this categorization was just what the Nazis had hoped: the non-Jews of the country involved hardly protested the deportation of non-nationals since they were “foreigners”; and even the national Jews hardly protested—in fact, many felt lucky to have been exempted from deportation. The teacher might find it useful at this point to review some laws and bills before the Miss legislature: have the students pinpoint the principles (or violations of principles) behind this concept. (This exercise might also be used above in 2a of this section). Have the students explain how, once the principle is established in law, it might tend to extend over other areas—ask for concrete examples.
2. People “adjust” to each gradual encroachment, so that the climax of such a system appears as another small law having a little more effect on their lives, rather than becoming enraged over a sudden awareness of the loss of their freedom.
Parallels from past and contemporary laws in Mississippi can be beautifully applied here. This can be done while describing the process of Nazi development or during the analysis. The student may be asked which laws described in A1 of this section are in existence in Mississippi, which are not, and of those which are not, which are based on principles which are written into law in Mississippi. I think this would be an effective way of seeing the areas of similarity and difference between Mississippi and Nazi Germany as well as the dangers latent in many Mississippi laws which, while not as extreme as certain Nazi statutes, are based on similar principles.
B. How did the Jews, as a whole, react to this process?
(It should be pointed out that there were many that escaped or fought back—and these will be dealt with in Section IV—but our chief concern here is to understand how so many millions were taken into slavery in order to understand how such a possibility might be avoided)
1. Refusal to face reality: “business as usual”
This attitude involved not only Jews but also diverse citizens of countries conquered and subjected by the Nazis.
Many refused to see the “emergency nature” of the situation and were unable to come to terms with changing their accustomed pattern of living.
Many feared more harm would come to them if they resisted than if they kept quiet and hoped that the danger would by-pass them.
These reactions were strongest among the European middle class—both Jew and non-Jew. Their attachment to “things” which were so much a part of their existence that they were simply unable to conceive of the emergency nature of the situation which required action, and may have required parting with their “things”—i.e., by escaping or fighting. (There would seem to be a similarity to the concentration camp inmates’ loss of inner reality; except that the middle class Europeans did not have to undergo torture in order to substitute “things” for convictions—it was often a normal part of their existence).
The resulting inertia may be looked at as the first step toward the death camps. In their still free environments, these people were reacting much as the “Moslems” reacted in a closed society.
Thus, it might be said that the social effects of most European economic systems worked in the Nazi’s favor in creating a class which could be enslaved with relative ease.
All these tendencies occurred least among the young people.
Example: Perhaps the experience of the Frank family (Diary of Ann Frank) might serve to illustrate the refusal of accept the reality of the situation, by focusing on the following questions:
a. Why didn’t the Franks, with all their connections, attempt to leave Holland?
b. Why didn’t they divide up the family unit, since individuals who were hidden had a far better chance of avoiding detection than did groups?
c. Why didn’t they have a gun? Had each Jew who was captured shot the SS man who arrested him, there never would have been available manpower to carry out the extent of the Nazi destruction.
(This should not be thought of as an attempt to cast aspersions on the characters of the Franks. Rather the attempt is to understand what apparently is a universally human trait: the inability to comprehend the magnitude of such an evil situation and the refusal to alter radically one’s life in order to meet such a situation. Compassion and understanding should be felt).
Here, too, parallels should be to draw out—more likely in terms of middle-class Negroes in the North.
2. “Negotiating with the enemy.”
The typical pattern which the Nazis set up for rounding up and deporting Jews involved the use of Jewish community leaders to administer these plans. (Arendt, pp. 178-181)
“Without Jewish help in administrative and policy work . . . there would have been complete chaos or an impossibly severe drain on German manpower.” (Arendt, 104)
“If the Jewish people had been unorganised and leaderless, there would have been chaos and plenty of misery but the total number of victims would hardly have been between four and a half and six million people.” (Arendt, 111)
Reasons for negotiating:
a. Many felt that they would be kinder to their fellow Jews than the Nazi officers would have been, thus alleviating some of their discomfort.
b. Many felt the Nazis would be less harsh on them if they cooperated with them.
c. Some felt they might be able to save at least some Jews (perhaps family, friends, etc.) if they cooperated in helping to round up the rest of the Jews—this, they felt, would be better than having ALL Jews of the particular community exterminated.
d. Those who felt that if the Jews tried to escape they would be shot, while in the concentration camp there was at least a chance for survival. Thus, many of the Jewish leaders who loaded their fellow men into cattle cars never told them of their destination in order to avoid panic.
Actually, 50% of those who did escape were killed, while 99% of those who did not escape were killed in the ccs. One can only speculate what might have happened on a train containing several thousand prisoners and a few hundred guards had the prisoners known the true nature of their destination.
Parallels from among Negro leadership—past and present—can be drawn upon. These are obvious and can be left to each teacher’s ingenuity.
C. Summary discussion: given the authoritarian features of life in Mississippi, how can we (the Movement) best avoid the successful encroachment by the state on human life? How can we avoid the mistakes made by the victims of Nazi system?
1. Understand the principle behind laws: differences between the legality of a statute and the justice of a principle.
2. The importance of actively resisting even the smallest violation of principle—even if the particular violation has no direct and immediate application to you.
3. Inaction due to fear of the consequences of resistance only encourages persecutors to extend their actions in full confidence that they’ll encounter no resistance. It is, for instance, doubtful that Hitler would have thought of implementing a systematic extermination of a people in 1933. By 1941, however, he had seen the continued lack of effective resistance and had no fears of arousing massive protests by establishing death camps.
4. Cooperation with persecutors similarly encourages their criminal actions. Your expectation that they will repay you in kind for your cooperation assumes that they act under a concept of justice or fairness. Such, of course, is not the case: witness their laws.
Discussion of cooperation vs. militancy.
5. Importance of possessing the ability to alter your life to the demands of the situation—awareness of danger of becoming tied to things rather than to principles.
The above points should be drawn out from the students in terms of what they learned from this section as it might be applied to their personal lives as well as to the Movement. Get them to formulate these points themselves by going over with them examples from the section.
SECTION III: Why was persecution of minority groups a policy of this regime, and why did the rest of the citizenry support, or at least not protest against this policy?
(This section can be impossibly vast—only a few points are suggested.)
A. Economic—man as commodity
1. Examples: cheap labor of concentration camps
confiscation of property of victims
2. Why must the desire to exploit a group economically be accompanied by persecution of that group?
a. To deter resistance against a system to which no one would voluntarily submit.
b. In order to justify transforming man into a commodity, it is necessary to convince the rest of the populace that he is “less human” than the exploiters. This may serve to allay feelings of guilt and would also assure the rest of the populace that they are in no danger of being used as commodities since they are “human,” “superior”, etc.
B. As a common denominator to unite a people under a single power, by the use of a scapegoat.
1. Germany in the thirties may be compared to the South after the Civil War.
a. 1929 Depression—economic destruction wrought by Civil War.
b. Bitterness over having lost WWI—Civil War and military occupation.
c. Lack of democratic tradition
d. The economic systems in both cases were characterized by a great gap between rich and poor and a consequent division of society into potentially antagonistic classes.
Both societies thus were characterized by division and insecurity. Only through the use of a scapegoat could the people feel:
1. A sense of unity based on a “common enemy”
2. A sense of superiority much needed by a people degraded by war and economic ruin.
The real conflicts could be hidden by this crusade against a common enemy, to the point where the power structure could convince the weakened populace to act against their own economic interest (and to the advantage of the power structure. See Jamie Whitten tractor deal, and Lillian Smith, Killers of a Dream (New York: Anchor, 1963), pp. 154-168: “Two Men and a Bargain”
C. The creation of a “common enemy” could be used by the power structure as an excuse for assuming more power over the entire populace, i.e., we need more power in order to deal effectively with this internal danger.
1.This can be seen by both the Nazis and the South’s imbuing the persecuted group with dangerous attributes:
a. Nazis claimed Jews were international bankers interested in destroying the world for international communism.
b. Southern politicians claimed that the Negro was a violent savage, “raping our white women.”
c. J. Edgar and the Communists, concerning present movement.
Therefore the state is able to get public support for laws designed specifically to protect society against a particular group—actually these laws give the state power to apply them to other groups.
Review the notion of law and principle dealt with in Section II as well as specific examples of laws from that section.
D. Use of persecution by power structure to oppress the entire society. Promote fear that any action not in line with the dictates of the power structure is evidence of supporting the “enemy”. Human actions become more and more limited since the state aims to destroy all areas of free thought in order to assure itself of absolute control (see example below on regimentation in art).
Process in Nazi Germany: (Bettelheim, 272-282)
1. Intimidation from below—encouraging youth to report suspicious behavior on the part of their parents.
2. Punishment of a cross-section of groups:
Hitler punished a cross-section of a group of artists who were opposed to his regimentation of cultural activities and his banning of “decadent” art. Many of the imprisoned artists had nothing to do with the opposition movement. This was quite intentional: all artists were terrorized by this action and were discouraged from even associating themselves with any organization for fear that it might eventually be considered “subversive”. Thus, the existence of organizations within the system was discouraged, promoting the development of a thoroughly closed society where all authority emanated from a single source.
3. Eventually this led to the destruction of whole groups whose existence involved loyalties outside or additional to the state. The first such group to be so destroyed were the gypsies.
4. Random terror. Unorganized efforts at independence of thought and action were also punished. Those who listened to foreign broadcasts, “mutterers,” those accused of miscegenation and homosexuality, were denounced and punished WHETHER OR NOT they had actually been involved in any of these activities. The message was clear: denunciations, arrests at night, rumors of horrible punishments all tended not only to discourage any action which the citizen might anticipate to be subversive, but further it produced a tremendous “self-conformity” on the part of the citizenry to the wishes of the state.
Thus a basic relationship between an authoritarian system and persecution as a policy becomes evident: persecution is used as the chief and most effective means of achieving a closed system.
I think many parallels to this process can be drawn from the South today. The contrast, of course, is vital: LEGALLY the government is not a closed system: a citizen of Mississippi has rights as a citizen of the United States. But the fears on the part of the citizenry of deviating from “Southern tradition” has tended to create in much of the South more and more features of a closed system.
Speeches of Southern political leaders denouncing those who disagree with their policies as “Nigger-lovers”, “Communists”, “left-wingers” etc. and linking them all together, has tended to produce a submissive body politic in the South.
Numerous examples of legislation: the attempt to outlaw the Republican party, for one.
See Lillian Smith, Killers of the Dream, for cases of oppression throughout the white South and their links to the persecution of the Negroes.
SECTION IV: Why did the masses of citizens support Hitler’s entire regime initially, and continue to support him (or not resist)?
SECTION IV: Suggested procedure:
Why did the masses of citizens support Hitler’s regime originally, and why did they continue to support him? (Parallel question for the South should also be raised.)
(Much of this will consist of summing up points dealt with previously and thus should provide a summing up of the unit. It should further provide the students with greater insights into White society in the South.)
A. Many of the factors which encouraged a society to accept persecution of a minority group also encouraged them to support an authoritarian government, e.g. conditions described under III. B. could also result in the desire for a strong leader to identify with as a substitute for one’s own feeling of insecurity and weakness. W.J. Cash, The Mind of the South, brings this point out in the relation between “crackers” and planters as one of identification (of the former with the latter) rather than antagonism or envy.
Points made in III. C. and III. D. would, of course, enable the state to appeal to the populace for more power to deal with the “enemy” and would subsequently enable the state to subdue any and all opposition.
B. Factors which “lulled” the victims into an unawareness of the extent of danger from the regime (Section II) also worked to prevent the average citizen from becoming fully aware of the nature of this system (at first): e.g., “legalism” intertwined with “spontaneous” criminal behavior and a gradual erosion of human rights. Since the initial actions seemed to be directed against the persecuted group, the rest of the population was even less aware of the dangers than were the victims of these actions.
C. Finally, once the system is set in motion, its effects on the populace serve to increase the authoritarian tendencies of the system and submissiveness of its citizens—it becomes, in other words, self-perpetuating. In this sense the entire system can be looked at as a macrocosm of the concentration camp (Section I).
1. The terror created by conditions described in III.D. would tend to promote among the populace the attitudes of apathy; inaction; a refusal to believe the reality of a system to which one belongs, yet which is morally indefensible, but one which the citizen feels unable to resist. Examples: Many Germans refused to believe in the existence of death camps though they lived only a few miles from them; many Southerners refuse to believe Negroes are unable to vote—they want to believe they are too lazy to bother or too illiterate to qualify.
In extreme cases, many attempted to cover up their terror and their fear of non-conforming to the demands of the state by internalising the values of Nazi ideology—become a “better Nazi than the Nazis” for the purpose of self-preservation. Examples of all these types can be found in Miss. today—see Lillian Smith; student’s own experiences and observations of white society. The dangers of outward adjustment and compromise created by fear of resistance and resulting in a genuine internalisation of the values of the system might be made meaningful to the students through role-playing.
Thus, the entire society is as unfree in both thought and action as are the inmates of the cc’s.
Integration of personality depends on consistency of belief and action—in a closed system, therefore, one must change one’s beliefs or resist actively the system.
2. The loss of individual responsibility and submergence into the mass.
a. One can remove oneself from the need to understand a system which one feels powerless to resist and which one cannot defend morally by hiding behind the mask of being anonymous and of obedience to the group.
b. Eichmann was an excellent example of this type of thinking: “He had consoled himself with the thought that he no longer was ‘master of his own deeds,’ that he was unable to ‘change anything’.” (Arendt, Eichmann, p. 121)
c. A similar example was the defense by a German general of his support of the Nazi regime: He claimed it was “not the task of a soldier to act as judge over his supreme commander. Let history do that or God in Heaven.” (Arendt, p. 133)
d. Southern (and Northern) protests of innocence and lamentations of “What could I do?” are numerous enough to provide many parallels.
Class discussion should bring out the debilitating effect this has on one’s powers of judgement, independence of thought, and self-respect.
3. Another effect is that guilt over the injustices perpetrated by a state to which one belongs may result in increasing that person’s prejudice against the group (against which the injustices are perpetrated) because:
a. the need for ideological reinforcement of a social structure to which one is committed. Hence, the treatment of the Negro is justified by assuring oneself that “he is biologically inferior”, in an attempt to dispel one’s sense of guilt.
b. People tend to resent those who make them feel guilty: Example: the following is an experience recounted by a young girl living under the Nazi regime: “The girls in her school were asked to take a census of the population one day. To refrain from taking part would have meant risking the well-being of herself and her family. Moreover, the request seemed innocuous enough. But in taking the census she suddenly found herself having to ask for private details from a Jewish family. She realized that these Jews saw her as a symbol of the regime and hated her. She resented this, and then realized that she was feeling just as the regime wanted her to: resentful of Jews.” (Bettelheim, 292-3).
4. “The more absolute the tyranny, the more debilitated the subject, the more tempting for him to ‘regain’ strength by becoming part of the tyranny and thus enjoy its power.” (Bettelheim, 294).
a. This concept is similar to the idea of identifying with a powerful state out of a sense of one’s own impotence resulting from insecure economic and political conditions. But the more one supports such a state, the more power it acquires over the individual, which further increases his initial sense of impotence and anonymity. And this, finally, serves to increase his initial identification with a powerful state.
b. Thus the pomp, display, and ritualism of the Nazi regime—together with its expansionistic policies—served an important function: they served to attract its citizenry who could become involved in a mass demonstration of power as a substitute for their own lack of personal autonomy.
Parallels of this can be seen in the symbols associated with “Southern tradition such as the massive and elaborately gauche ante-bellum houses, the recounting of the grand exploits of the Confederate army, the glorification of duelling, and a general glorification of violence. It is significant of course that a very small fraction of Southern society has ancestors who partook of these grand symbols, and even fewer are alive who can remember these past glories. Yet all identify with it and glorify it to the point of insanity: e.g. the ritual pilgrimages to the ante-bellum mansions as well as the exorbitant amount paid to restore and maintain them. (see Lillian Smith)
c. In a peculiar way the victim of such a system is more fortunate than the rest of its citizens in escaping this identification with tyranny. For while he is often reduced to a position of impotence by the system, he is of course explicitly excluded from identifying with it. There are exceptions (See Section I.A.6.b.), but on the whole, they have escaped this identification.
d. Basic points to be brought out from this section:
1. The authoritarian character of Southern society; those features which are characteristic of a “closed” system.
2. An understanding of the position of poor whites
a. in their identification with the power structure which continues to exploit them,
b. in their acts of violence committed against the Negro,
c. both instances indicate the extent to which they are unfree, insecure, and oppressed resulting in a need to identify with power and violence.
3. Advantages derived by the power structure in the South from the system of discrimination:
a. A means of increasing the power of the state over all its citizens.
b. A means of directing the poor white away from normal economic self-interest by directing his attention toward controlling the Negro and by the substitute gratification of allowing him to feel superior to the Negro.
4. General attitudes resulting from the authoritarian character of Southern society tend to perpetuate the system of discrimination by means of
a. apathy resulting from fear and oppression,
b. denial of realities which one feels powerless to change
c. Guilt together with the inability to act in order to remove the evils which create the guilt result in resentment toward the source of guilt.
In addition to gaining the insights into the authoritarian nature of Southern society and its effects on both its explicit victims and its general populace, it would seem most important that the student tie together this unit by “learning from the past”—that is, through his understanding of the workings of this system, he should be able to prescribe areas of action whereby he can successfully overcome it.
The dangers of a “closed” system have been made clear. How then does one successfully resist a system which has features of this “closed” nature? Areas already discussed in this unit provide some clues to action, but chiefly in a negative sense—e.g., one should NOT compromise with persecution in the hopes that one’s own position will remain secure; or the importance of maintaining one’s inner conviction is crucial in order to maintain one’s freedom and avoid subjection.
A final section, dealing with concrete case studies of resistance would supplement previously discussed prescriptions for action which have been studied only on a hypothetical level.
SECTION V. From what areas was there successful resistance?
(I have chosen the resistance of the Danish people because it seems to contain many lessons; it illustrates the successful carrying out of actions discussed hypothetically in the previous sections; and it contains many features from which parallels in the Movement today can be drawn; it was perhaps the most dramatic example of successful resistance to modern tyranny.)
A. The Story of the Danish resistance should be preceded with a brief general account of Hitler’s military conquests in Europe. Chief points included would be:
1. the policy of gradualism was followed in achieving total subjection over the conquered nation and, in particular, in exterminating its Jewish citizens:
a. forced to wear yellow arm bands
b. moved to ghettoes
c. confiscation of all property
d. deportation to extermination camps
2. As part of this gradualism, the policy of dividing the subjected people against each other was followed: initially the non-Jews were appealed to for support against the Jews; the Jews themselves were divided against one another by creating a distinction between nationals and non-nationals (i.e., those who were citizens of the country and those who were refugees), then eliciting support from the “Nationals” for the policy of deportation of “non-nationals” by assuring the “nationals” they were in a privileged category. (Eventually, of course, they too were deported.)
3. The general effect of the populace of each subject country—including both Jew and Non-Jew—was similar to the effect of the system within Germany:
a. many people felt safe by the persecution of another group
b. many were lulled into an unawareness of the gradualism employed until it was too late.
c. many hoped that, by belonging to a “privileged “ category, they would escape the fate of others.
d. a general atmosphere of fear and terror caused most to remain apathetic. This attitude was most typically expressed by thousands who, when later asked why they remained silent during these criminal actions, why they didn’t resist them, replied: “What else could I do?”
Bibliography for Danish resistance:
Harold Flender, Rescue in Denmark (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963). Most thorough and detailed account.
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem pp. 154-158, contains a brief summary of the Danish resistance together with an interesting comparison of reactions in every country occupied by the Nazis.
B. Narrative of Danish resistance:
1. Invaded by Germany in 1940—no resistance—had made no military preparations to protect itself against German invasion.
2. Active resistance begins only when the Nazis propose to introduce anti-Jewish measures. This elicits a firm refusal on the part of the Danish government, and people to compromise even with small gestures of discrimination. When the Nazis proposed having Jews wearing yellow armbands, they were told that the King of Denmark would be the first to wear one. Government officials announce that ANY anti-Jewish measures would result in their resignation from office.
3. Refusal of the Danes to allow distinction between Danish and non-Danish Jews. Since Germany had declared German Jews stateless, the Danes claimed that the German government no longer had any jurisdiction over the ones who had led to Denmark.
4. All these open declarations of protest against proposed anti-Jewish measures served to bolster the morale and resistance of the Danish Jews.
5. Nazis postponed action against Danish Jews until 1943, by which time the German officials who had been in the country for three years, were “no longer the same”. Nazis prepared the night of October 1, 1943, for the secret arrest of all Jews in Denmark. Danes were secretly informed of this by a German official in Denmark; they contacted all Jews they knew, told tem the information, and offered them hiding places in their own homes. Out of 7,800 Jews in Denmark, the Nazis were able to find and arrest only 477. The rest were hidden in Danes’ homes, most of them with people they didn’t know.
6. The more than 7,000 Jews ultimately escaped to neutral Sweden via the voluntary services of the Danish fishing fleet which risked death three times a night in helping the Jews escape. Danes paid costs of those who could not afford it. Among the Danes, the hiding of Jews and helping them escape to Sweden was a completely open matter: Danes would walk up to one another I the street the openly solicit aid: tacit assumption that resistance was the NORMAL and typical course of behavior.
7. As a result of the murder by Nazi officials of a small band of this resistance movement, every single worker in the city of Copenhagen staged a mass general strike. When the Nazis retaliated with violence, every city I Denmark joined the strike. The strike was ended only when the Nazis granted concessions involving release of political prisoners, removal of Nazi officials from public offices, etc. other acts of resistance were: Sabotage against factories—2,548; 2,156 acts of sabotage against railroad installations, which resulted in Nazi supplies arriving two weeks behind schedule during the Battle of the Bulge.
8. Meanwhile the Danes continued to apply pressure to the Nazis in protest over the arrest of the 477 Jews, as a result of which the Nazis sent them to a “special” camp for important prisoners and allowed delegations from the Danish Red Cross to make periodical inspections at the camp. Danish citizens and government leaders sent periodical shipments of good to the Jews at the camp. The effect of this concern on the morale of the Jews interned in the camp was tremendous. The knowledge that people outside cared about them increased their determination to resist. Only 48 died during the course of the internment—most of them from old age.
9. Toward the end of the war. The Danes as a result of constant protests and pressure acquired from the Nazi government permission to have the Jews in the camp shipped to neutral Sweden (the camp was in Germany). The trip was made via Denmark by bus, and the following events greeted travellers as the bus entered Denmark:
“Just beyond the frontier, the prisoners saw an incredibly stirring sight, a sight that was to be repeated with each town that they passed through on their way to Copenhagen—thousands of Danes of all ages were lined up along the road, waving Danish flags and joyously shouting, “Welcome to Denmark!” . . . Suddenly the crowds lunged forward and surrounded the buses, forcing them to stop. While continuing to wave their Danish flags, to throw kisses and to chant, the people passed through the open bus windows bouquets of flowers, boxes of candy, chocolates, cigarettes and bottles of milk. The passengers were overwhelmed . . . . Throughout the long drive to Copenhagen, the roads were filled with Danes joyously welcoming home their fellow countrymen.” (Flender, p. 251)
10. After the war, the 7,000 Jews returned to Denmark, and most found their apartments freshly painted, food I the refrigerator, etc. Fellow Danes had kept their businesses going for them and had deposited the profits in banks for them; some Jews even found that their plants had been watered while they were in Sweden.
C. Analysis (in analysing each of the following pints, the teacher can draw upon literally hundreds of parallel case studies from both American history and the movement today that serve as further illustrations of the points to be discussed):
1. Resistance came about on moral grounds. For three years the Danes lived quietly under Nazi rule, but once persecution began, it encountered total and unanimous resistance. “What else could I do?” was the most typical answer given by Danes when asked why they risked their lives to help the Jews.
2. Refusal to compromise with even the smallest crimes. They drew the line firmly and immediately (e.g. yellow arm bands).
3. Solidarity. All were involved; no fear about trusting anyone with your plans; thus al were able to help each other and effectively shipped 7,000 Jews secretly to Sweden. Solidarity further made active resistance effective—the Nazis could not retaliate against a whole nation, though they could have retaliated against individuals or small groups. Nazis had to give in to general strikers not out of consideration, of course, but out of fear of open revolt of the ENTIRE people. Solidarity also was indicated I the refusal of all to accept any divisions or privileged categories—refusal to allow distinction between Jew and non-Jew.
4. Willingness to act quickly even at the risk of death, to upset their whole way of life in order to help their fellow countrymen. Awareness of the extraordinary nature of the situation rather than the security of “business as usual.”
5. Role of the Danish power-structure, a leading element in the resistance: King, Church, businessmen, parliament (cf. The role of John Adams in the Amistad incident)
6. Demonstration of “the enormous power potential inherent in non-violent action and in resistance to an opponent possessing vastly superior means of violence.” (Arendt, p. 154)
a. King declares himself prisoner of war
b. Underground newspapers,
c. Danish navy dissolves and sinks its ships rather than be used to increase the strength of the Nazis
d. Effect on Nazis: prior to eth arrest of the Danish Jews, one of the Nazi officials in Denmark tried to discourage the German government from the planned deportation, saying that “some of the German soldiers had even become ‘infected’ by the atmosphere of racial and religious tolerance in Denmark and might not be willing to cooperate in drastic anti-Semitic measures.” (Flender, p. 29) German informers who revealed secret arrest plans to eth Danes were an example.
7. Why did the Danes react so heroically when no other peoples had?
a. Personal answers (given by various Danes)
1. “It was exactly the same as seeing your neighbor’s house on fire. Naturally you want to try to do something about it.” (Flender, p. 56)
2. “Even under serious or desperate conditions it is often a happy feeling to be able to devote oneself to a cause that one feels convince is both unconditionally just and absolutely binding.” (Flender, p. 71)
3. “We helped the Jews because it meant that for once I your life you were doing something worthwhile. There has been a lot of talk about how grateful the Jews should be to their fellow Danes for having saved their lives, but I think that the Danes should be equally grateful to eth Jews for giving them an opportunity to do something decent and meaningful.” (Flender, pl 144)
b. Social and historical conditions in Denmark
1. Danish Jews were the most assimilated group of Jews in Europe.
2. Power structure had traditionally provided moral leadership
3. Historical traditions—One of the first Western countries to declare racial discrimination illegal (1814).
One of the world’s oldest democracies with the emphasis on equality as well as freedom:
1. Education through the university is free for all citizens; illiteracy is non-existent
2. Leader in social security; unemployment insurance, workmen’s compensation; socialized medicine; old age pensions;—for ALL citizens—long before World War II.
“Nazi Germany” was written by Chicago Law School graduate and SNCC organizer Aviva Futorian (Personal communication to the editors, June 25, 2004)
The document is from:
SNCC, The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Papers, 1959-1972 (Sanford, NC: Microfilming Corporation of America, 1982) Reel 67, File 340, Page 1052.
The original papers are at the King Library and Archives, The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Atlanta, GA