German Guilt

Published: 2011-12-14

By Wilfried Heink-

The subject of what was known about the event now referred to as The Holocaust – and when it was known – has interested me for a while. During the occurrence of this alleged event – and it is referred to as an “event” more often than a “crime” -- we have no solid information as to its actual occurrence. There were some reports, but they can be dismissed as rumors. But:

“It can be shown that the intelligence services of the Western Allies had a fairly accurate picture of what was going on in Germany. This was the case even before Mr. Allan Welsh Dulles, as head of the continental branch of the OSS, went to Switzerland (November 1942) and established permanent contacts with the Underground[...]” (Hans Rothfels, The German Opposition to Hitler, Henry Regnery Company, Hinsdale, Illinois 1948, p. 20)

True, Rothfels writes about the German opposition, but that the western intelligence services were well informed as to happenings in Germany is a fact, and that includes detailed information about concentration camps. For instance, Erwin von Lahousen, a high ranking Abwehr (intelligence service) official testified at the IMT:

“We were currently informed of all happenings by our officials at the front or in the camps. Offices of the Abwehr Division III were active in these camps, and in this way, that is, through the normal service channels, we were informed by reports and oral presentation of all these measures and of their effects.” (, p. 458)

And still, even though spies and traitors were everywhere, nothing of substance was known about this alleged mass murder of Jews. In fact Rothfels writes in the abovementioned book, on p. 18:

“Of course, all this changed in the spring of 1945. The unbelievable horrors which were then discovered in the liberated camps...shook the western world[...]”

Nothing during the war? The alleged horrors were only discovered after it ended? That this is impossible has been realized and is of concern, thus efforts are made to rectify it, sort of. In a news article of January 16, 2009 in Spiegel Online, re. the upcoming (2010) publishing of “Das Amt und die Vergangenheit” we read that 200,000 Germans and Austrians were directly involved in the mass killings, with another 200,000 assisting. If this was so, details about it would have been known without the assistance of the secret services, but that was not true. Most of the ‘details’ disappeared after the Nuremberg trials. Perhaps this is why we are now back to square one. In the latest publishing “Neue Studien zu Nationalsozialistischen Massentötungen durch Giftgas” (2011) we read in the introduction that: “Even when it became known following the war what had happened in the camps...”, echoing what Rothfels wrote back in 1948.

There’s no consensus here either, as is the case with all things “Holocaust.” But this is a serious issue, for if it happened it would have been known, and since nothing was known...

But assuming it did occur. But, if the “Nazis” did murder millions of Jews in gas chambers of various designs, then Germans would have known about it and the subject of guilt would certainly arise. We are aware of Goldhagen's assertion that ordinary Germans killed Jews willingly and happily. Basically if “The Holocaust” happened, then his is the only plausible theory.

But this theory can not be substantiated and to try and find an answer I look to older books, to find out how this issue was addressed in earlier publications. One of those books, Jewish Frontier, Anthology 1934-1944 (Jewish Frontier Association, Inc. New York, 1945), contains an essay by Hannah Arendt, titled “German Guilt”. It appeared in January 1945. And it is this essay I will take a closer look at, because of Arendt's desperate attempt at an explanation.

Arendt starts out with:

“The greater the military defeats of the Wehrmacht in the field, the greater becomes that victory of Nazi political warfare which is so often incorrectly described as mere propaganda. It is the central thesis of this Nazi political strategy that there is no difference between Nazis and Germans, that the people stand united behind the government, that all Allied hopes of finding part of the people uninfected ideologically and all appeals to a democratic Germany of the future are pure illusion...”

The fact that the majority of Germans supported Hitler and the “Nazis” (I don't like the term, it is used in a derogatory fashion) troubles Arendt, and as an explanation she claims that “Nazi political warfare” is to blame: Germans fell for it, which is of course nonsense. Winfried Knörzer writes that following the war the “virus theory” was advanced, the virus spreading from Hitler to infect the otherwise healthy populace (W. Knörzer, Stufen der Dämonisierung in der deutschen Vergangenheitsbewältigung [stages in Germany’s attempt to deal with the past]). And, efforts are still made to come to terms with this. In August of this year The End, Hitler's Germany, 1944-45, by Ian Kershaw, was published. And although Kershaw only deals with the last two years of National Socialism, in an article in The Observer we read:

 “...Because no one, he maintains, has tried to answer the most important question – why did the Germans keep fighting to the bitter end, long after it was clear to any rational person that the war was lost and that to prolong it would only add further destruction to Germanys cities and misery to its population? Why were Hitler's suicidal orders still obeyed? Kershaw argues that the answers are to be found by examining the structures of rule and states of mind inside Germany at this time.”(

Kershaw completely ignores the traitors in the thesis he advances. His thesis is useless. But that is not the issue here, for he clearly also tries to find an answer as to why Germans supported Hitler to the bitter end. His endeavors of explanation fall flat, but these strenuous attempts to find the answer as to why a highly advanced, civilized people could become complicit in mass murder are an indication that all is not well with the official narrative. All of them ignore the elephant in the room, i.e., what is alleged could not have happened or Germans would have found out and turned against Hitler. They stopped the euthanasia program. Also, Germans did very well in that time period and therefore knew that the war was forced on them, thus the support.

Now back to Arendt. She continues:

“The implication of this thesis is, of course, that there is no distinction as to responsibility, that German anti-Fascists will suffer from defeat equally with German Fascists, and that the Allies had made such distinctions at the beginning of the war only for propaganda purposes. A further implication is that Allied provisions for punishment of war criminals will turn out to be empty threats because they will find no one to whom the title of war criminal could not be applied.”

Guilt by association. All Germans were guilty: an early Goldhagen theory. And Arendt means what she wrote, as she continues, and this is still from the first page of her essay, p.470 in the book:

“That such claims are not mere propaganda but are supported by very real and fearful facts, we have all learned in the past seven years. The terror-organizations which were at first strictly separated from the mass of the people, admitting only persons who could show a criminal past or prove their preparedness to become criminals, have since been continually expanded...Whereas those crimes which have always been a part of the daily routine of concentration camps since the beginning of the Nazi regime were at first a jealousy guarded monopoly of the SS and Gestapo, today members of the Wehrmacht are assigned at will to duties of mass murder.”

There’s no credible evidence that crimes were committed in the camps. Nor was there any direct mention of mass murder. All of that was put together following the war and never substantiated. She ignores the brutal partisan warfare, which sometimes elicited stern countermeasures by the Wehrmacht (armed forces). In her world Germans were willing mass murderers. But it doesn't stop there:

“These crimes were at first kept secret by every possible means and any publication of such reports was made punishable as atrocity propaganda. Later, however, such reports were spread by Nazi-organized whispering campaigns and today these crimes are openly proclaimed under the title of "measures of liquidation" in order to force "Volksgenossen" whom difficulties of organization made it impossible to induct into the "Volksgemeinschaft" of crime at least to bear the onus of complicity and awareness of what was going on.” (pp. 470/71)

And there goes the ‘Top Secret’ theory, everyone in Germany – if not complicit – knew about it. The “Nazis” made sure of it. It is hard for me to understand how a seemingly intelligent woman can spout such nonsense. The only explanation: this was a desperate attempt on her part to try and find an answer as to why the majority of Germans supported Hitler to the end. Arendt was born in Germany; she knew Germans and sensed that what later was to become known as “The Holocaust” would be a hard sell. I lived in Germany at that time. My father, who hated “Nazis,” listened to the BBC, but even he never mentioned anything about mass murder of Jews. And here we are being told that all of Germany knew about “these crimes”. Though Arendt is vague as to specifics. German officials visited Switzerland, for instance, but seem to have 'forgotten' to go into details about “these (alleged) crimes” when talking to foreigners. Hans Gisevius, a one time secret service official with good connections, was one of them, but never told Dulles, whom he met in Switzerland, about any mass murder of Jews, even though people like Gisevius tried to topple Hitler (Allan Welsh Dulles, Germany's Underground, Da Capo Press, 2000, pp.125ff). In fact, Dulles never mentions anything about “The Holocaust” in his book, much to the dismay of Neal H. Petersen (Ibid, p. xxiv). Also, at the IMT at Nuremberg, not one of the high-ranking officials who should have known about what was alleged knew anything at all. Thus it was established that only 200-300 were 'in the know'. Arendt then tells the truth, but tries hard to explain it away. From p. 471:

“In order to appreciate the decisive change of political conditions in Germany since the lost battle of Britain, one must note that until the war and even until the first military defeats only relatively small groups of active Nazis, among whom not even the Nazi sympathizers were included, and equally small numbers of active anti-Fascists really knew what was going on. All others, whether German or non-German, had the natural inclination to believe the statements of an official, universally recognized government rather than the charges of refugees, which, coming from Jews or Socialists, were suspect in any case. Even of those refugees, only a relatively small proportion knew the full truth and even a smaller fraction was prepared to bear the odium of unpopularity involved in telling the truth.'

With the “change of political conditions” she is referring to what she wrote above, Germans were turned into accomplices and willingly allowed this to happen. The important part here is that rumors were spread about “these crimes”, but since nothing could be substantiated, a given, they were dismissed. Arendt however claims that the stories were not believed because they were told by “Jews or Socialists” and that people refrained from talking about “these crimes” for fear of becoming unpopular. Nonsense is not a strong enough term, pure desperation describes it better. But she is not done. On the same page:

“As long as the Nazis expected victory, their terror organizations were strictly isolated from the people and, in time of war, from the army...It was only their defeats which forced the Nazis to abandon (p. 472) this concept and pretend to return to old nationalist slogans. The active identification of the whole German people with the Nazis was part of this trend. National Socialism's chances of organizing an underground movement in the future depend on no-one's being able to know any longer who is a Nazi and who is not, on there being no visible signs of distinction any longer, and above all on the victorious powers' being convinced that there really are no differences between Germans. To bring this about, an intensified terror in Germany, which proposed to leave no person alive whose past or reputation proclaimed him an anti-Fascist, was necessary.”

One needs to read this slowly to let it sink in. We are told here again that at first “these crimes” were kept a secret. Fact is, however, that this secret was kept till the very end. But Arendt understands that if what is alleged did happen it could not have been kept secret, thus she transforms the whole of the German population, minus the anti-fascists, into accomplices. To realize this she claims terror was unleashed; this of course never happened, although because of the many foreign workers in Germany, and thus acts of sabotage, police presence had to be increased. She has to admit, however, that:

“In the first years of the war the regime was remarkably "magnanimous" to its opponents, provided they remained peaceful.”


“Of late, however, countless persons have been executed even though, by reason of years without freedom of movement, they could not constitute any immediate danger to the regime.”

How would Arendt have known about this change of policy? She fled to Paris in 1933 and moved to the US in 1941. As for communists and others being a danger to the regime, they were. The National Socialists were far too lenient when they came to power. But Arendt is not done, she continues, still on p. 472:

“On the other hand, prudently foreseeing that in spite of all precautionary measures the Allies might still find a few hundred persons in each city with an irreproachable anti-Fascist record—testified to by former war prisoners or foreign laborers, and supported by records of imprisonment or concentration camp internment—the Nazis have already provided their own trusted cohorts with similar documentation and testimony, making these criteria worthless. Thus in the case of inmates of concentration camps (whose number nobody knows precisely, but which is estimated at several million), the Nazis can safely either liquidate them or let them escape: in the improbable event of their survival (a massacre of the type which already occurred in Buchenwald is not even punishable under the war crimes provisions)—it will not be possible to identify them unmistakably.”

One has to marvel at those clever “Nazis”, providing their followers with documentation to show that nothing happened. She has it right of course, the documentation discovered does not prove that “The Holocaust” happened, but these are original documents, not forgeries to influence public opinion. As for murdering all the inmates, that also did not happen, the world was full of “survivors” after the war, in fact still is and I have no idea what the reference to Buchenwald is all about.

As for good and bad Germans, Arendt has this to say on p. 473:

“The most extreme slogan which this war has evoked among the Allies, that the only "good German" is a "dead German," has this much basis in fact: the only way in which we can identify an anti-Nazi is when the Nazis have hanged him. There is no other reliable token.”

Incredible, but she is only warming up:

“These are the real political conditions which underlie the charge of the collective guilt of the German people. They are the consequences of a policy which, in the deepest sense, is a- and anti-national; which is entirely determined that there shall be a German people only if it is in the power of its present rulers; and which will rejoice as at its greatest victory if the defeat of the Nazis involves with it the physical destruction of the German people. The totalitarian policy, which has completely destroyed the neutral zone in which the daily life of human beings is ordinarily lived, has achieved the result of making the existence of each individual in Germany depend either upon committing crimes or on complicity in crimes.”

Words fail me. According to this person, obviously filled with hate, existence in Germany depended on complicity in crimes, and Germans either become “Nazis” and murderers or they deserved to die. As for propaganda:

“The success of Nazi propaganda in Allied countries, as expressed in the attitude commonly called Vansittartism, is a secondary matter in comparison. It is a product of general war propaganda, and something quite apart from the specific modern political phenomenon described above.”

Allied propaganda, i.e., Vansittartism which was dripping with hatred, was ineffective when compared to “Nazi” propaganda, but it gets worse. On pp. 473/74 we read:

“But even the best-intended discussions between the defenders of the "good Germans" and the accusers of the "bad" not only miss the essence of the question—they plainly fail to apprehend the magnitude of the catastrophe. Either they are betrayed into trivial general comments on good and bad people, and into a fantastic over-estimation of the power of education, or they simply adopt an inverted version of Nazi racial theory. There is a certain danger in all this only because, since Churchill's famous statement on the subject, the Allies have refrained from fighting an ideological war and have thus unconsciously given an advantage to the Nazis”.

Aha, no ideological warfare by the Allies. They fought “the good war.” To stay with German guilt:

“The true problem however is not to prove what is self-evident, namely that Germans have not been potential Nazis ever since Tacitus' times, nor what is impossible, that all Germans harbor Nazi views. It is rather to consider how to conduct ourselves and how to bear the trial of confronting a people among whom the boundaries dividing criminals from normal persons, the guilty from the innocent, have been so completely effaced that nobody will be able to tell in Germany whether in any case he is dealing with a secret hero or with a former mass murderer.”

No comment, but she seems to waver a bit later on. From pp. 474/75:

“Among the responsible in a broader sense must be included all those who continued sympathetic to Hitler as long as it was possible, who aided his rise to power, and who applauded him in Germany and in other European countries...Yet these people, who were co-responsible for Hitler's crimes in a broader sense, did not incur any guilt in a stricter sense. They, who were the Nazis' first accomplices and their best aides, truly did not know what they were doing nor with whom they were dealing.”

Innocent accomplices? This is exactly what she is implying, claiming that although Germans were made aware of the crimes, they somehow did not consider them to be crimes. This yarn is spun 'till today. In “Death Dealer. The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz”, concerning the alleged confession written by commandant Höß, the translators/authors write:

“It is only at the end of his autobiography, written almost two years after the war had ended, that the moral implications of what Hoess did occurred to him and began to affect him consciously”.

Hard to believe anyone can write this, or in the case of Arendt suggest it. But, she has more to say on this subject, after she told us that starving “of seventy to eighty million Germans” would “simply mean that the ideology of the Nazis had won” she continues on pp. 475/76:

“Just as there is no political solution within human capacity for the crime of administrative mass murder, so the human need for justice can find no satisfactory reply to the total mobilization of a people for that purpose. Where all are guilty, nobody in the last analysis can be judged.*

* That German refugees, who had the good fortune either to be Jews or to have been persecuted by the Gestapo early enough, have been saved from this guilt is of course not their merit. Because they know this and because their horror at which might have been still haunts them, they often introduce into discussions of this kind that insufferable tone of self-righteousness which frequently and particularly among Jews, can turn into the vulgar obverse of Nazi doctrines; and in fact already has.”

She spares no one and goes into detail:

For that guilt is not accompanied by even the mere appearance, the mere pretense of responsibility. So long as punishment is the right of the criminal—and this paradigm has for more than two thousand years been the basis of the sense of justice and right of Occidental man—guilt implies the consciousness of guilt, and punishment evidence that the criminal is a responsible person. How it is in this matter has been well described by an American correspondent, in a story whose dialogue material is worthy of the imagination and creative power of a great poet.

Q. Did you kill people in the camp? A. Yes.

Q. Did you poison them with gas? A. Yes.

Q. Did you bury them alive? A. It sometimes happened.

Q. Were the victims picked from all over Europe? A. I suppose so.

Q. Did you personally help kill people? A. Absolutely not. I was only paymaster in the camp.

Q. What did you think of what was going on? A. It was bad at first but we got used to it.

Q. Do you know the Russians will hang you? A. (Bursting into tears) Why should they? What have I done? (Italics mine. PM, Sunday, Nov. 12, 1944.)”

No mention of Jews, just people, the Jewish “Holocaust” was invented later. Arendt continues along the same lines and for her, Himmler was the arch villain. We learn that:

“Heinrich Himmler is not one of those intellectuals stemming from the dim No-Man's Land between the Bohemian and the Pimp, whose significance in the composition of the Nazi elite has been repeatedly stressed of late. He is neither a Bohemian like Goebbels, nor a sex criminal like Streicher, nor a perverted fanatic like Hitler, nor an adventurer like Goering. He is a "bourgeois" with all the outer aspect of respectability, all the habits of a good paterfamilias who does not betray his wife and anxiously seeks to secure a decent future for his children; and he has consciously built up his newest terror organization, covering the whole country, on the assumption that most people are not Bohemians nor fanatics, nor adventurers, nor sex maniacs, nor sadists, but, first and foremost job-holders, and good family-men”.

The “Banality of Evil” as she would term it later, ordinary people turning into mass murderers, (allegedly) committing crimes of an immensity that boggles the mind, but without realizing that they were doing wrong. Some might say: Oh well, this was written in 1945, we now know much more. To them I reply: A crime of that enormity, had it happened, could not have been kept secret. But, nothing of substance was known about it during or shortly after its alleged occurrence; no investigation by experts in crime investigations was ever undertaken. Why not? Because what is alleged never happened, and the mental contortions of Arendt are evidence of that. If facts about this alleged crime had been available, then there would have been no need for these daring mental gymnastics performed by Hannah Arendt.

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Author(s): Wilfried Heink
Title: German Guilt
Published: 2011-12-14
First posted on CODOH: Dec. 14, 2011, 6:40 a.m.
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