It was not a hard decision to click an article this morning by the title, “The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking,” published at the New York Times. Here’s how the article begins:
Thirteen years ago, researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum began the grim task of documenting all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe.
What they have found so far has shocked even scholars steeped in the history of the Holocaust.
The researchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, duringHitler’s reign of brutality from 1933 to 1945.
The article describes what went on at these different places:
The documented camps include not only “killing centers” but also thousands of forced labor camps, where prisoners manufactured war supplies; prisoner-of-war camps; sites euphemistically named “care” centers, where pregnant women were forced to have abortions or their babies were killed after birth; and brothels, where women were coerced into having sex with German military personnel.
At the time this research began, only 7,000 camps were expected to be found based on previous estimates. So, the sheer number of camps is astounding, which further illustrates the brutality of Hitler’s reign. When Holocaust scholars are shocked to make a discovery about the Holocaust, it’s bad.
But the meaning of this number yields an additional insight. Given that there were 42,500 camps, how did we not know about them until now? Here’s how the article ends:
Dr. Dean, a co-researcher, said the findings left no doubt in his mind that many German citizens, despite the frequent claims of ignorance after the war, must have known about the widespread existence of the Nazi camps at the time.
“You literally could not go anywhere in Germany without running into forced labor camps, P.O.W. camps, concentration camps,” he said. “They were everywhere.”
The average American would not be able to relate to the Nazi soldier, even though we’re all sons of Adam. But the average American would probably relate in many ways to the average business owner, homemaker, or farmer in Germany in the 1930s.
I can’t stop thinking about that last paragraph.