• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

"A society of onlookers and bystanders. How far do you agree with this description of German society from 1933 to 1939?

Extracts from this document...


"A society of onlookers and bystanders.? How far do you agree with this description of German society from 1933 to 1939? In the years following the electoral victory of the Nazi Party, German attitudes towards the treatment of the Jews can be characterised as passive; the majority were neither actively involved in supporting anti-Semitic policy nor were they willing to offer any significant opposition to it. Saul Friedlander coined the phrased ?onlookers and bystanders?, arguing that the majority of Germans did not share the same degree of enthusiasm for anti-Semitic policy as the Nazis. Goldhagen, however, would argue that Nazi policy towards the Jews was indicative of wider German support, and that the lack of opposition to such policy shows a society that shared in the party?s commitment to eliminationist anti-Semitism. Significantly, from this debate there arises questions of even greater sociological significance ? to what extent is every society comprised of ?onlookers? rather than ?activists?? The attacks on Jews during the weeks following the March 1933 elections, resulting in 40 deaths by June, may seem to indicate a society characterised by the existence of widespread anti-Semitism. However, such actions did not hold the support of the majority of the German people,[1] with even the government distancing itself from these ...read more.


committed by ordinary Germans who had ?lived, worked, given birth, and buried parents, side by side with them?.[6] Increasing hostility towards the Jews, culminating with Kristallnacht in November 1938, is seen by Goldhagen as revealing the spontaneous nature of actions taken against the Jews. Although the brutality of the original SA perpetrators had been orchestrated by higher party officials, principally Goebbels, many Germans "availed themselves of the opportunity to join the assault on the Jews",[7] and "without provocation or encouragement, participated in the brutalities".[8] Kater has criticised recent historiography that has ?overemphasised the degree of high-level Nazi management,?[9] with Goldhagen suggesting that the actions on Kristallnacht represent the existence of wider societal support for action against the Jews. Although there was no significant opposition to the actions of the Nazis on Kristallnacht,[10] the attitude of the majority of Germans was one of widespread indifference rather than active support. Far from taking part in the violence, the majority of Germans were not involved in the looting and destruction of Jewish property, with one eyewitness account saying, ??the state of indignation that would lead to such excess... was non-existent.?[11] Erich Johnson points out that had such violence been characteristic of the entire population more Jews would have decided to leave Germany than did ...read more.


[3] Norbert Frei, National Socialist Rule in Germany, p.47. [4] Longerich, Holocaust: The Nazi persecution and murder of the Jews, p. 60 - 61 [5] Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Hitler?s Willing Executioners, p. 90. "Here was the sight of the German volk, organised by the German state, collectively boycotting an entire German group of German citizens" [6] Ibid. p. 94 [7] Ibid. p. 100 [8] Ibid. p. 101 [9] M. H. Kater, Everyday Anti-Semitism in Pre-War Nazi Germany: The Popular Basis [10] Any disgruntlement came predominantly from the wasteful destruction of millions of Reichsmarks worth of property rather than due to ideological objections. [11] Ronnie Landau, Studying the Holocaust, p.63. From the American consul in Leipzig. [12] Eric Johnson, The Nazi Terror: Gestapo, Jews, and Ordinary German, p.140 ?? had the bloodthirsty SA and SS bullies and zealous anti-Semitic Nazi party members been characteristic of the German population, more Jews might have made the decision to leave before it was too late.? [13] http://www.thirteen.org/openmind/foreign-affairs/hitlers-willing-executioners-part-i/563/ ?Individual Germans in Germany could have done little to prevent what happened but if millions of Germans had been opposed to the persecution of the Jews in the 1930s? then they could have done something?? [14] Ian Kershaw, Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution, p.199 [15] http://heroicimagination.org/public-resources/social-influence-forces/bystander-effect-and-diffusion/ ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Modern European History, 1789-1945 section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Modern European History, 1789-1945 essays

  1. Hitlers Germany

    On the other hand, very few young Germans identified with Nazism; the vast majority supported the democratic way of life. The truth is that most Germans surely wanted to get along with their lives in a resurgent economy, unburdened by the weight of historical crimes.

  2. The Holocaust

    This must have helped his political career take off. By 1919 Hitler had already formed some opinions which became the basis of National Socialism. These were a fanatical sense of German nationalism, a racially inspired view of society, encompassing extreme anti-Semitism and a belief in the German Volk as the

  1. Hitler's Willing Executioners - The role of Ordinary Germans during the Holocaust

    However some sources claim that the perpetrators of the holocaust were coerced it is still important that the origins and reasons of this hate is examined. Germany did not invent anti - Semitism, they just "took care" of it. Anti - Jewish policies and actions did not begin in Germany

  2. To what extent did Hitlers Policies attract working class support between 1933 and 1939?

    However, a temporary fulfillment of key economic promises increased working class support and ensured "enormous personal gains... mainly perhaps among workers"4 for Hitler in the early years where security was established. This recognition reveals that the early years enhanced the Fuhrer's aura as a 'man of action' in whom workers could trust.

  1. No Hitler: No Holocaust How far is this statement by the historian Michael Marrus ...

    On the basis of structure of government and decision making, Hitler was Fuhrer and so his will was law. He was a kind of absolute monarch, surrounded by officials all competing with each other and this Fuhrer system meant that there was no need for a decision making structure and therefore decision making was informal.

  2. The Holocaust was the result of Hitlers long held grand design to pursue a ...

    They emphasize the less direct role of Hitler, labelling him as somewhat of an opportunist. They stress that the cumulative radicalism of the racial policy, due to the rivalry within the unstable Nazi power structure, and Hitler?s unwillingness to create an ordered systematic government provided the major driving force behind the Holocaust.

  1. "The Wannsee Conference was entirely responsible for the Holocaust" How valid is this assessment ...

    Robert S. Withrich, Hitler and the Holocaust, How and why the Holocaust happened. Pg.68 The Jewish state has never been delimited by space. It has spread all over the world, without any frontiers whatsoever, and has always been constituted from the membership of one race exclusively.

  2. How far did Hitlers popularity in Germany from 1933 to 1939 depend on his ...

    Hitler overturned the treaty as he regained the Rhineland to militarize. This appeased the public with the need for a strong army and that it purposely went against the treaty.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work