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Holocaust Misconceptions

There were 11 million victims of the Holocaust (or 6 million Jewish victims and 5 million non-Jewish victims) 

The number 11 million is a fictitious number on a number of levels. “11 million Jews” is the population census that is mentioned in the 16th copy of the Wannsee Protocol, notes taken by Eichmann (January 20, 1942), only about the Jews. The issue also seems to be the differentiation between victims based on NSDAP race policy versus civilian deaths during war (i.e.: victims of genocide or casualties of war) if the latter, the correct number is probably between 30-35 million deaths, maybe more. The death toll on the territory of the former Soviet Union is generally regarded to be about 27 million including Soviet military. 

It is best when referencing the total number of victims of the Holocaust to say 6 million Jews and millions of others. All Holocaust organizations are making a united move to adhere to this message, and we must maintain a consistent record as a center of Holocaust education. 

Hitler was elected to political office (Often used to emphasize the power/importance of your vote; or the need to vote) 

Hitler was not elected to office. By the end of 1932 the Nazis were the largest party in the German parliament (Reichstag), and the Nazis formed a coalition government with the conservative German Nationalists in 1933. The Nazis had 3 members of the cabinet, and the conservatives had 9. Hitler was appointed chancellor by President von Hindenburg, and not elected. In the last relatively free election in March of 1933, Hitler received 37% per cent of the vote. 

“The Final Solution” was decided at the Wannsee Conference 

While thousands of Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators or died as a direct result of discriminatory measures instituted against Jews during the initial years of the Third Reich, the systematic murder of Jews, or “The Final Solution” began with the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 – killing entire Jewish communities mainly through shooting or gas vans. 

In ninety minutes, on January 20, 1942, fifteen mid-level Nazi officials met to ensure the cooperation of various administrative departments to make the killing that was already happening more efficient. It is important to note that while the “Holocaust by bullets” was inefficient and psychologically draining on its perpetrators, the killing centers did not replace the mobile killing. In fact, the Einsatzgruppen continued its actions well into 1943. 

Number & Types of Camps 

Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany and its allies established more than 40,000 camps (slave labor (30,000); concentration (980); POW camps (1,000); “care” centers; internment and killing centers (6)) and other incarceration sites. The perpetrators used these sites for a range of purposes, including forced labor, detention of people thought to be enemies of the state, and mass murder. The total number of sites is based upon ongoing research in the perpetrators’ own records. 

The Allies could have saved more Jews 

Perhaps, but most of the killing occurred while Germany appeared to be winning the war. By mid-March 1942, the Nazis and their collaborators, had killed 20-25% of the Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. By the time the war turned in favor of the Allies, February 1943, the Germans and their collaborators had killed 75-80% of the Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. In addition, 75% of the Jews killed in the Holocaust perished before the tide of war turned in the Battle of Stalingrad. 

Further, half of all Holocaust victims came from interwar Poland. Poland was in the core area of German-occupied territories during the war and remained out of reach from Allied forces till 1944. The decision to systematically kill all Jews – men, women, and children – was implemented extraordinarily quickly, at a time when Germany was at a zenith of military success, and when the Allies could do almost nothing to stop it. 

The Role of Hitler – Precision of Language 

Such phrases as “Hitler’s War,” “Hitler’s Holocaust,” “Hitler’s army,” “Hitler did this or decided this…” are easy statements to make. While we do not want to ignore or negate the crucial role that Hitler played, overemphasizing his role leads to “The ‘One Man’ or “Evil Man’ Theory,” namely that the Holocaust was the result of a single individual (Hitler’s) will, plan, ideas and drive. We then unintentionally ignore the many collaborators and bystanders, and as a result might have our visitors conclude that the Holocaust was “an aberration, something that was the result of ‘one sick individual,” a view counterproductive to developing an accurate understanding of the Holocaust. 

Norwegian non-Jews wore paper clips to express solidarity with Norwegian Jewry 

Between 1,700 and 1,800 Jewish people were living in Norway when the Nazis occupied the country in June 1940. Most Jews were living in the capital city of Oslo at that time, and all but 200 Jews were Norwegian citizens. The new Norwegian collaborationist government followed German demands and quickly implemented anti-Jewish legislation. More brutal demands soon followed and in November 1942 the Nazi controlled Norwegian government began rounding up more than 700 Jews. They were subsequently deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau where most were killed while the remaining Jews were able to be smuggled by the Norwegian resistance to neutral Sweden.  

However, the wearing of paper clips did not have anything to do with the operation to smuggle Jews out of Norway nor was it a symbol of solidarity with the Norwegian Jewry. Instead, the wearing of paper clips represented one of many non-violent examples of Norwegian nationalism and loyalty to King Haakon VII. These acts included listening to foreign news broadcasts, printing and distributing underground newspapers, and wearing symbols that showed their support for Norway. Some such symbols included wearing pins created from coins that showed the face of the king, wearing various “flowers of loyalty,” wearing the symbol “H7” (which showed support for King Haakon VII), and wearing paper clips either on one’s jacket or as a bracelet.  

Many scholars believe Norwegians wore paper clips as a sense of national pride since the creator of the paper clip, Johan Vaaler, was Norwegian. Vaaler invented the paper clip in 1899 and, ironically enough, had to patent the invention in Germany because Norway did not have patent laws at the time. However, after he got the paper clip patented, Vaaler did not capitalize on his invention. In the ensuing years, the paper clip was manufactured and mass-marked by US and UK firms (most notably, the British based Gem Company who originated the “double-U” slide-on clips, which the Norwegians may have worn during Nazi occupation.) 

German Jews were a large proportion of Germany’s population 

When Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, the global Jewish population was around 15.3 million. Approximately 9.5 million Jews lived in Europe, making Europe the home of more than 60% of the world’s Jewish population, even though Jews only comprised of 1.7% of the total European population. The largest Jewish community was in Poland where 3,250,000 Jews, 9.8% of the Polish population, lived. Germany had approximately 565,000 Jews that made up less than one percent of its total population. 

Adolf Hitler was Jewish 

While this myth has endured over time, Adolf Hitler was not Jewish. The idea stems from rumors that Hitler’s grandfather was Jewish. However, few historians and scholars believe this is true. Hitler’s father, Alois, was registered as an illegitimate child with no father, meaning that Hitler was unable to produce the certificate of origin he required of every German citizen. Another rumor was that Alois’s mother, Hitler’s grandmother, worked in the home of a wealthy Jew and there is some chance a son in the household got Hitler’s grandmother pregnant. While Hitler’s grandmother did work for a wealthy Jewish family, no evidence suggests she was impregnated by someone in the family. 

A Jewish doctor killed Adolf Hitler’s mother 

There have been some scholars that claim that Hitler’s hatred toward Jews stems from the death of his mother. It is believed that Dr. Eduard Bloch, the Hitler family’s Jewish physician in Linz, Austria, incompetently treated Klara Hitler’s breast cancer, causing her to die in December 1907. However, according to Bloch’s own testimony to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1943, Hitler thought Bloch had treated his mother’s illness to the best of his ability and harbored no ill will toward him. Bloch recalled that after Klara’s death, “[Hitler] stepped forward and took my hand. Looking into my eyes, he said: ‘I shall be grateful to you forever.’ Then he bowed.” In the years that followed, Hitler would send Bloch postcards, warm holiday greetings, gifts of his artwork, and expressed concerned about Bloch’s wellbeing after he implemented anti-Jewish laws once he became Führer. Bloch noted that in 1937 Hitler asked a delegation of Linz Nazis “for news of me. Was I still alive, still practicing?” and adding “‘Dr. Bloch… is an Edeljude – a noble Jew. If all Jews were like him, there would be no Jewish question.’” Bloch further testified that “Favors were granted me which I feel sure were accorded no other Jew in all Germany or Austria.” This meant that the higher ups in Berlin directed the Linz Gestapo to remove the yellow star from Dr. Bloch’s apartment and office and allowed the Bloch family to remain in their home. Also, they were allowed to leave Austria in 1938 during the Anschluss – although they were not permitted to keep their lifesavings and the Gestapo confiscated all gifts and notes Hitler gave the Bloch’s, as well as the record book that detailed Klara Hitler’s treatment.  

The Germans manufactured soap from Jewish bodies 

The belief that Germans made soap from dead humans stems from French propaganda during World War I. Specific claims that Nazi forces were using the fat from Jewish bodies to make soap began to surface in concentration camps as early as August 1942. However, scholars believe that these stories were nothing more than rumors as the lack of proof, such as shipping bills, physical evidence from manufacturing plants, or receipts for economic transactions, has never been found, while such evidence is clear for shipments of human hair and gold teeth that were removed. 

Moreover, these rumors disturbed leading Nazi member and head of the SS Heinrich Himmler since the Nazis’ extermination plans were top-secret. After hearing that New York Rabbi Stephen Wise had mentioned the soap rumors to the American press on November 24, 1942, Himmler wrote to the head of the Gestapo Heinrich Müller on November 30. Himmler wrote:  

In view of the large emigration movement of Jews, I do not wonder that such rumors come to circulate in the world. We both know that there is [at] present an increased mortality among the Jews put to work. You have to guarantee to me that the corpses of these deceased Jews are either burned or buried at each location, and that absolutely nothing else can happen with the corpses at any location. Conduct an investigation immediately everywhere whether any kind of misuse [of corpses] has taken place of the sort as listed in point 1, probably strewn about in the world as a lie. Upon the SS-oath I am to be notified of each misuse of this kind. 

While scholars and historians disregard the soap rumor, some Holocaust survivors have presented small blue and green cakes of soap, claiming they were created from the human fat of Jews because they were stamped “RIF.” However, senior researcher Aaron Breitbart at the Simon Wiesenthal Center explains the letters stand for “Reich Industry Fat.” Nevertheless, Jewish prisoners within the camp believed the “I” was a “J” and the acronym stood for “Pure Jewish Fat.” When these bars of soap were analyzed, no evidence of human DNA turned up in the findings, meaning that the soap allegations were nothing more than a terrifying rumor. 

King Christian X of Denmark wore a Jewish Star badge to protest German orders that Danish Jews wear such badges 

There is no proof that Danish king Christian X wore a Jewish Star to protest Nazi persecution, even though many throughout Europe believed he did. In reality, the Nazi occupiers of Denmark never required Danish Jews to wear any kind of identifying badge. Many historians believe the Nazis did this because implementing the Jewish Star badge would not only deepen Danish solidarity but also further Danish discontent toward Nazi ideology. Nevertheless, King Christian X and much of the Danish people supported their Jewish population and were against German occupation. To show solidarity with his people, Christian would ride on horseback in Copenhagen while scores of Danes would escort their king through the streets to protest Nazi rule. 

Jews were foreigners and aliens who controlled the economy and culture of Germany and other countries 

Judaism has been an integral part of Western Civilization since the beginning of the Fertile Crescent civilizations (circa. 5,000 years ago) and in Europe since Roman rule (1,500 years ago). Negative stereotypes about Jews became prominent in the late Roman Empire period. The stereotypes stem from the 4th century when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Jewish people were vilified as “Christ-killers,” a reference to the Biblical story of Judas’s betrayal of Jesus Christ. During the Middle Ages and Early Modern period, Jews in Europe were increasingly persecuted. Jews were regularly beaten or killed, driven from their homes, put into ghettos, or pressured to convert to a different religion. They were forbidden to own land and prohibited from pursuing most occupations except for certain trades such as peddling goods, working in factories, dealing in grain, wood, and cattle, and “money trades,” such as lending money for interest or banking. Because of these occupations, Jews were identified with money, creating the stereotype of Jewish people being selfish, unethical, and exploitative money grubbers. Unfortunately, this stereotypical impression of Jews has persisted for hundreds of years.  

When Hitler and the Nazi power came to power in the 1930s, they combined these traditional stereotypes of Jews with the growing fear of a Jewish presence in mainstream European culture and society, which was occurring throughout the 19th and into the 20th century. They believed that the small number of Jews in Europe held too much power and stressed that there was a “secret” Jewish plot to take over the world. Sadly, this thinking permeated throughout the world, from France and the Alfred Dreyfus affair to Russia and Tsar Nicholas II, who wrote about his fears of a Jewish takeover, and in the United States where automobile mogul Henry Ford publicly preached of his distrust of the Jews. While these myths have been thoroughly debunked, many people still preach antisemitic ideology today. 

Jews are a race   

In the late 19th century, eugenics became popular. Part of the theory of eugenics categorized people into specific “races,” each with had its own unchangeable traits. Some “races” were considered biologically, culturally, and morally superior to others. The 1943 movement to categorize Jews as a “race” in the United States was part of this pseudo-science ideology of eugenics which has now been proven false.

The Nazis promoted racial antisemitism. It did not matter whether a person practice the Jewish faith. The Nazis believed Jews belonged to a separate race and had distinct “Jewish blood.” This belief was false: there is no biological difference between Jews and non-Jews.

Additionally, race is a social construction, a grouping of humans based on shared physical or social qualities into categories generally viewed as distinct by society. These features include skin color, hair color and texture, eye color, and body shape and size. All these features are inherent in genes and cannot be changed. Judaism has created a culture that has evolved based on laws and rituals regarding diet, the Sabbath, and customs that can vary from place to place because the Jews live in many parts of the world. Any person can convert to Judaism if they wish to do so.

How did Adolf Hitler die? 

There is much speculation surrounding the death of Adolf Hitler. Since his death on April 30, 1945, theories have ranged that he may have poisoned himself, shot himself, or both. As well, some conspiracy theorists claim that Hitler’s “double” was killed, allowing the real Hitler to escape. The fact is there is a lack of physical evidence to determine how exactly Hitler died. While it is certain that Hitler died in his Berlin bunker, it is most likely that on the morning of April 29, 1945, Hitler married his companion of many years, Eva Braun, in a civil ceremony. The next day, the couple bit into thin glass vials of cyanide with the intent to die by suicide. Furthermore, Hitler shot himself in the head. The remaining Nazi loyalists in the bunker wrapped Hitler’s body in a gray army blanket, carried him to the shell-blasted Chancellery Garden, saluted in honor, and lit his body on fire. 

Dr. Josef Mengele made all selections upon arrival at the camps 

Dr. Josef Mengele is known for being the Senior SS physician at Auschwitz-Birkenau from 1943 – 1944 and performing deadly experiments on prisoners. Mengele was one of the multiple physicians who “selected” prisoners upon arrival at the camp. While Mengele did make many selections, so did other doctors, especially when the prisoners were regularly forced to parade before the doctors at frequent selections inside the camps. 

Every concentration camp had a gas chamber and crematoria 

While some camps had both deadly mechanisms, this was not true for the majority of camps that were made for slave labor, transit, and political prisoners. By 1945, the Nazis had established thousands of camps. However, only six camps were designated killing centers. Nazi camps equipped with gassing facilities for the mass murder of Jews and other victims included Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek-Lublin, Sobibor, and Treblinka. Approximately 2,700,000 Jews were murdered at these camps, along with tens of thousands of Siniti and Roma, Soviet prisoners of war, Poles, and other victims. 

Auschwitz-Birkenau was the only camp that existed in Auschwitz 

Auschwitz had many satellite camps that surrounded the main camp, encompassing a total area of 20 square miles. By 1944, more railroad tracks led to Auschwitz than to the world’s largest railroad station – Penn Station in New York. In total, there were three major camps in Auschwitz that were surrounded by subcamps: 

Auschwitz I: The original and main Auschwitz camp located in southern Poland. It served first as a Polish military barrack before being converted into a concentration camp during Nazi occupation at first for non-Jews. 

Auschwitz II (Auschwitz-Birkenau): The largest Nazi camp created. It was opened in October 1941 and was specifically used for the extermination of Jewish as well as Sinti and Roma peoples. Auschwitz II had four gas chambers on its premises. 

Auschwitz III (Buna-Monowitz): The camp was used as a labor camp for chemical giant I.G. Farben.  

All Jews in camps received tattooed numbers on their arms 

All of those imprisoned in the camp system received a serial number upon first entering. This was assigned not only for identification, but also served an integral part of the Nazi system of dehumanization in the camps. These numbers were sewn onto uniforms, usually along with other patches of classification, such as reasons for arrest and national origin. Only individuals imprisoned at Auschwitz received tattoos, and not all who were imprisoned at Auschwitz were given a tattoo. 

All Jews were forced to wear the yellow Star of David badge 

Nazi-occupied Denmark was the only country in occupied Europe where Jews were not forced to wear the yellow Star of David badge.  Jews in Nazi-occupied central Poland did not wear the yellow star badges. Instead, they wore white armbands with a blue Star of David. 

What Pastor Niemoeller really said 

One of the misquoted citations of the Holocaust is the “confession of guilt” by Pastor Martin Niemoeller. According to his widow, Sybil Niemoeller, these are his exact words: 

First they came for the Communists 
and I did not speak out – 
because I was not a Communist. 

Then they came for the Socialists 
and I did not speak out – 
because I was not a Socialist. 

Then they came for the trade unionists 
and I did not speak out – 
because I was not a trade unionist. 

Then they came for the Jews 
and I did not speak out – 
because I was not a Jew. 

Then they came for me – 
and there was no one left 
to speak out for me. 

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