Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Trick Question

Here’s my favorite trick question:

(Disclaimer: this is not meant in any way to be funny, but only to draw attention to a common misconception.)

Question: how many German Jews were murdered in the Holocaust?

Answer: about 165,000 (One Hundred and Sixty-Five Thousand).*

The remainder of the six million Jews to be murdered by the Nazis came mostly from Poland, Belarus and the Ukraine. Jews from Russia, France, etc. were also murdered, but the overwhelming preponderance came from those first three countries.

Someone involved in one of the presidential campaigns recently mentioned the “six million German Jews” that the Nazis killed. It’s an annoying mistake.

Hitler came to power in 1933. There were only about 400,000 Jewish Germans at the time. By the start of the war, in 1939, that number had been reduced by more than half through emigration. Those that remained in Germany were ultimately murdered.

While I have on my academic mantle, allow me to put in a good word for the Roma (Gypsies). Quite a lot of them were murdered by the Nazis as well, and for very similar racial reasons. It isn’t fair to leave them completely out of the equation. “The Holocaust” has become a Jewish-only event, I believe, and I’m not complaining about that. We should remember the poor Gypsies, though. They suffered and died in much the same manner.

We needn’t worry as much about the non-Jewish Germans who were consigned to concentration camps. They were sent to work camps, which were certainly no walk in the park, but their survival rates were high. They were not sent to extermination camps, like the Jews were. This group included homosexuals, political dissidents, and other groups deemed “undesirable.” They suffered, and many died, but most lived to tell their stories. (To be fair, the "Pink Triangle" prisoners seem to have fared worse than the political prisoners. Worse than some, but not as terrible as the fate of the Jews.) 

So, to be clear, I am not in any way denying that the Holocaust actually happened, nor am I disputing the figure of six million Jews exterminated. To believe, however, that the dead were “six million German Jews,” works a mischief on history and is a grave injustice to the true identities of the victims.

*Figures, and information in general, from “Bloodlands,” by Timothy Snyder. 

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