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  • 89. The Experience of the Nazi Concentration Camps

The Experience of the Nazi Concentration Camps

  • Category(s): Modern Historical Essays
  • Created on : 19 November 2013
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  • Author: Richard Michael Lamb


Through the experience of the camps due to the remarkable foresight of one man, Bomber Harris, the suffering of the Jews (1940-1945) in Nazi Germany did not go unacknowledged and unanswered.

1. First thoughts

The Camps were misery, hunger and death not to mention torture and disfigurement to their inmates. There was no way out or escape for the Jews in 1940 onwards to 1945. For the Jews the Camps were the final destination and solution. No one would slip through the net such was the rigorous searching process when it had begun in earnest.

2. The 1930’s

This persecution policy had begun before the War as the German Jews who managed to emigrate to England would testify. Krystallnacht when the Nazi Brown Shirts damaged the Jewish commercial premises at night was before the War broke out. Clearly it was known to British diplomats based in Berlin in the 1930’s that the Nazis were hell bent on this persecution policy. Hitler’s speech at the Nuremberg Rally spelt out his policy with infamous stress and strident emphasis. The average Englishman even was aware of Mr Hitler and his obnoxious measures against his Jewish countrymen. Certainly British and American journalists knew all about this unequal and severely discriminatory regime. During the War the shutters came down and the full assembly line of horror was curtained off. Enough was known in the 1930’s to leave no one in doubt about the intentions of the Nazi Party in Germany and when it came occupied Europe. We may not have had visible proof of the Wartime Camps until 1945 but Hitler and his crew were never going to have a change of heart. The obvious deduction was the machinery was being put in place to eliminate the Jews by the Nazi Party higher echelons. Hitler went to war to conquer Europe not to liberate, rejuvenate and strengthen the Jews. It was his motivating cry to liquidate the Jews as the Nuremberg Rally so aptly demonstrated. The Nazi leadership did not seek to hide the evidence. Goebels the propaganda chief for the Nazis fanned the anti-Semitic flames in Germany and made no secret of his hatred for Jews. He was proud of his anti-Semitism. This hatred was built on the erroneous belief the Jewish upper class controlled the means of production through the large Banks. This thinking sucked in the ordinary Germans to support anti-Semitism. Simple propaganda by Goebels but still effective false logic through the Radio and newsprint. The net result was pre-September 1939 no one in Europe and the USA was left in any doubt as to Nazi aims in respect of Jews under their control. Goebels became Minister for Propaganda (dissemination of false information) for the Nazi Party well before 1938.

3. How did Britain (the only effective belligerent) respond to this policy before the Americans arrived in force 1942/43?

Essentially by Bomber Command taking the fight to the German cities and industrial zones and military bases from 1941-43. Bomber Harris almost sensed the vital importance of this strategic heavy bomber policy (Wellingtons and Lancasters). It was as though he knew Jews were being gassed and Germans must suffer because of their government’s cruel and evil extermination policy. You cannot now ask him the question – he would most certainly have given you a straight answer. He was an unassuming man but took the mantle of Bomber Command very seriously to defeat Germany and he knew how to do it and why it should happen that way. At the very least he was guided to pursue the carpet bombing policy and repeated raids and missions to as it were staunch the flow of Jewish lifeblood. He more than anyone was out to win the War the hard way before we locked horns with German land forces. He could not wait for June 1944 – the Jews had to be avenged well before. He could not release the Jews and feed them – that came later. Harris was an extremely intelligent and redoubtable strategic commander of the highest calibre. Such men do not make errors. He knew perfectly well the Jews in occupied Europe and Germany were under threat at the very least and probably facing immediate annihilation. He did not lose his grip and concentration – for him there was one single aim to kill and maim Germans as they were liquidating the Jews. He could not halt the extermination policy but he did make it hurt for the Germans. He never bombed a Camp – his reconnaissance crews would have told him where those Camps were and he avoided them.

4. Was the discovery of the Camps by Allied Land Forces in 1945 a surprise?

It was not something they had been lead to expect and British and U.S. Information Bureaux concentrated on the military battle. The political leadership and military High Command of the Western Allies knew this horror was going to be there according to my argument. It was not widely voiced during the War – the Germans would have paid no notice to Allied propaganda. A leaflet dropping exercise by the British had failed on the Western Front in the Phoney War (1939-40). The Germans were a militarised nation slavishly obedient to the Fuhrer. Germany had to be defeated quickly and the Western French Front took far too long to be opened up. Harris started with his foresight the bombing offensive in 1940.

5. Conclusion

We have a picture of appalling Jewish suffering in the War in Nazi occupied Europe and Germany. Why was more not done to end this slaughter? No one in Germany lifted a finger to stop it. Harris was the voice crying in the Wilderness yet that voice was seminal as with John the Baptist himself in the Bible. Quite simply without Harris the rapier would never have left its scabbard. With Harris justice was seen to be done which was only done on paper at the Nuremberg post-War trials and executions. The innocent sometimes suffer for the guilty as Harris realized. He claimed the pound of flesh with more than a drop of blood. That is the way it had to be for the German citizenry under Harris Bombers’ bombardment.