Holocaust Bystanders; Placing the Blame on Surrounding Citizens and Allied Nations
It is commonly believed that the members of the Nazi regime directly responsible for the mass murders of European Jews in the mid 20th century are solely accountable for the Holocaust. As a result, local civilians, allied nations, as well as German soldiers that were, “just doing their job” by following orders do not share the burden of guilt that the perpetrators endured at the expiry of the massacre. However, through inaction I believe that several of these people and nations categorized as bystanders facilitated the mass extermination of the Jews and as a result should share some of the guilt and blame for the unfortunate plight of the European Jewry. By defining these bystanders, illustrating their roles in the liquidations, and examining the motivations behind their negligence toward the Nazi misbehavior, societies will begin to reconsider the innocence of the thousands of onlookers that indirectly experienced the Holocaust.
A great deal of people throughout the Holocaust played the role of the bystander. By definition, a bystander is, “one present but not taking part in a situation or event: a chance spectator (Bystander).” While the definition provides a general understanding of how a bystander should be described, the portrayal of a bystander is much more complicated. The bystander definition is largely subjective and debated amongst historians and Holocaust scholars. The term is broad, and elusive by nature. Yet, regardless of how expansive the term may be, I believe that there are three conditions necessary to be considered a bystander.
The first condition is the awareness that an event is taking place. In the example of the Holocaust, the event is the mass extermination of the Jewish population under the Third Reich. A bystander must have known that widespread killings were happening inside of the concentration camps. As Raul Hilberg simply puts it, “Many...