Scenes from Buchenwald

Although I usually post on art, a post by Mogromo about his Uncle at Dachau concentration camp got me thinking about a shocking film I saw that the Allies took shortly after WWII. They forced German civilians (mainly women, who else was left?) to witness the atrocities at Buchenwald. (They are shown dead bodies stacked like firewood, skin used as writing paper, shrunken heads, and men with gangrene.) You expect to see shock, horror, shame. This is the way most Germans feel today about the Holocaust and Germany has been one of the biggest supporters of the state of Israel. Then it was another story, which you see from the unmoved expressions of the people (some of them even smiling). This apathy reflects the following: the power of anti-semitism and ideological indoctrination to poison minds, and the power of propaganda (Goebbels) to dehumanize the captors and victims. Also, we should be just as skeptical of  the elites in government as of the “masses.” We have already seen ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzgovenia and atrocities around the world. Nothing at this point quite equals the horror of the Holocaust, but as the last of the survivors die, the world will be at even greater risk for more bloodshed as we forget the lessons of the past. Hatred is not the only danger, but indifference to the fate of others.

Happy day for some of the visitors at Buchenwald, 1945.

Happy day for some of the visitors at Buchenwald, 1945.

The look that says it all.

The look that says it all.

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About kinneret

Hello, and welcome. I'm writing this blog under an alias. Why an alias? I started to write what may be described as an "American Gothic" novel (sort of Henry James/ Franz Kafka with violence) with some autobiographical details. ..when I started this blog I just decided to use the alias. This blog is about art and art history, but my interests also include literature, film analysis, psychology, forensic psychology, faerie tale analysis, cognitive therapy, cognitive linguistics, classical theater, World War II, and Russian and British history. My favorite writers include Kafka, the Brontes, and Philip K Dick. Thank you for reading this blog and I will happily reply to any comments.
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5 Responses to Scenes from Buchenwald

  1. emily says:

    Thanks for writing about this, it’s an important example that needs to be discussed over and over to ensure it never happens again. I have understanding of what the attitude of some of the Germans was like quite well as when I was a child, I found out my father’s father was a Colonel in the Luftwaffe, and it shocked and saddened me terribly. More to the point, he had been a Nazi, was active in the party, but I don’t think he participated in the killing of the Jews. Who knows for sure, as it’s not the sort of thing you discuss with your granddaughter is it? Now I’ll never know, I guess I could find out, but I’m afraid of what I’ll uncover quite frankly. The people who bought into this terrible properganda were all ‘normal’ people before the war and had to change their attitude in a climate of fear, but they still had a choice, we all do, and we as human beings must exercise the right of making informed choices when it comes to the Death Cult (ISIS) and anyone else who treats human life with contempt.

    • kinneret says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, Emily. Yes, so many people bore responsibility (to varying degrees, from not resisting it, looking the other way, to the pacifism of many countries before WWII even though then Hitler was a demagogue aggressor, to active participation and collaboration). There are some interesting books and novels out there about post-war response including The Clown by Heinrich Boll and The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass. I just read that Gunter Grass actually admitted he served in the SS for a while.

      • emily says:

        That’s a huge thing to admit, and it illustrates tthe saying ‘For evil to triumph, good men need do nothing’ and this was the crux of your argument. I have no idea what I personally would have done if I had been trying to protect my family, but I like to believe I wouldn’t have just blindly gone along with Goebbels’s propaganda (Hitler managed to stay out of it by getting others to do his nasty bidding, he only ever hinted at what he wanted so that it would be subject to interpretation, then he could say he never gave any orders) and I certainly wouldn’t have taken any pleasure in anyone’s death. I’ll have a look at the books you recommended thanks very much. I know I’ve read Grass but a refresher would be good.

      • kinneret says:

        You are certainly very well informed on the subject, Emily (regarding Hitler’s subtle manipulations that would give others clearance to carry out a destructive frenzy without necessarily having to take responsibility himself). I don’t know how much I recommend the Grass, I really can’t remember it that well anymore. What I would recommend is certain partisan memoirs which are really incredible. Incidentally, I am not without my own shame/guilt for crimes my ancestors committed (the not Jewish side, not much info about the Jewish side).One great partisan memoir was by Faye Schulman– A Partisans’s Memoir: Woman of the Holocaust

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