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Week 5 Holocaust Response

Week 5 Holocaust Response

   All students are required to respond to other student posts each week The goal here is to ENGAGE in respectful dialogue – be supportive of each other, even as you are critical of each other’s ideas.    


This sections deal with the evolution of the “Final Solution” and also how the eradication of the Jews and Nazi persecutions were undertaken across Europe, especially in the Soviet Union and Poland.

1. The “Commissar Decree”: This document argues that since Russian Commissars are to be shown little to no mercy.

“Political Commissars have initiated barbaric, Asiatic methods of warfare. Consequently, they will be dealt with immediately and with maximum security,” (Gigliotti and Lang, 178). They are free game because they have been accused of committing war crimes out on the battlefield.

“On capture, they will be immediately separated from other prisoners on the field of battle… Commissars will not be treated as soldiers. The protection afforded by international law to prisoners of war will not apply in their case,” (Gigliotti and Lang, 178). They are not to be considered equal with soldiers because of their higher ranks.

They are shown this treatment because they are considered the leaders of the resistance, and barbarians. “In particular hate-inspired, cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners can be expected on the part of all grades of political commissars, who are the real leaders of the resistance,” (Gigliotti and Lang, 177).

2. Affidavit of SS Gruppenfuhrer: Otto Ohlendorf: The operations undertaken by the Einsatzkommandos and many other Nazis in the Soviet Union were focused on the eradication of the Jews.

“Himmler stated that an important part of our task consisted of the extermination of Jews – women, men, and children – and of communist functionaries. I was informed of the attack on Russia about 4 weeks in advance,” (Gigliotti and Lang, 181). Himmler was telling these German soldiers to kill the Jews and Communists in Russia during Operation Barbarossa.

“The men, women and children were led to a place of execution which in most cases was located next to a more deeply excavated antitank ditch. Then they were shot, kneeling or standing, and the corpses were thrown into the ditch,” (Gigliotti and Lang, 182). The Nazis did not only kill the full-grown Jewish men, but also the women and children.

“…we received gas vehicles… The man responsible for the cars… was Becher. We had received orders to use the cars for the killing of women and children. Whenever a unit had collected a sufficient number of victims, a car was sent for their liquidation,” (Gigliotti and Lang, 182).

3. Jurgen Forster: Operation Barbarossa was an ideological war against what was deemed as “Jewish Bolshevism”.

“…Hitler had remarked that what mattered in the war against the Soviet Union was ‘first of all to quickly finish off the Bolshevik leaders.’ In unambiguously defining his target as ‘Jewish Bolshevism’ Hitler not only proceeded from his dogma, but he also saw the ‘Jewish Bolshevik intelligentsia’ as the germ-cell of any resistance to a long-term German occupation…” (Gigliotti and Lang, 185-86). The operation was focused on the eradication of what was a cooperative hatred of both Judaism and Communism.

“The impending campaign… entails a struggle between two ideologies… The Jewish-Bolshevik intelligentsia, as the oppressor in the past, must be liquidated…” (Gigliotti and Lang, 185). This quote was said by a chief of the Wehrmacht, to show that the operation is not simply a conquest, but painted as a war of good against evil. The Nazis were demonizing the Jews even further and hoping that painting them as Communists, could be an excuse to kill them (though neither should be killed).

“The ‘Jewish-Bolshevik state administration’ was to be totally annihilated, ‘undesirable elements of the population’…” (Gigliotti and Lang, 191). The Soviet Union was seen as being ruled by Jews. They were responsible, according to the Nazis, for Communism and undermined the whole of the Soviet Union with their supposed manipulation.

4. Peter Longerich: The Nazis were told to kill the Jews during Operation Barbarossa but at a gradual rate.

“The commanders received, before 22 June, a kind of carte blanche to murder an unlimited number of Jews in conquered areas, at first mostly males. In about August 1941, the Germans began systematically to extend the mass shootings so as to include the whole Jewish population,” (Gigliotti and Lang, 212). There was general progression to the extent of what Jews were killed, but the end goal was for them all to be killed.

“The decision to annihilate all European Jews… occurred at about the same time as the radicalization in the methods of the Einsatzgruppen,” (Gigliotti and Lang, 212). When the time came for the extermination of the Jews, those during the war with the USSR radicalized.

“Prior to 22 June, involved a mass murder whose limited were unclear. This order already contained within it the tendency towards total annihilation…” (Gigliotti and Lang, 214). Though it was not entirely explicit, the plan was to kill all the Jews during Operation Barbarossa.

5. Omer Bartov: The German army committed the worse genocide in modern history as a result of conditions of Operation Barbarossa.

“The… ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question’ by mass, industrial murder of the Jewish population of Europe, could hardly have taken the form which characterized it… had the Wehrmacht not created the necessary military, logistical, demographic, and psychological preconditions for its implementation by its invasion of the Soviet Union and the vicious war it conducted there,” (Gigliotti and Lang, 223). It was in Russia that the Germans sought to make way for a great deal of killings and there they had the nerve to commit genocide.

When Germany entered Russia, it caused the death of millions simply be sapping Russia’s resources for the army. It also engaged in a scorched earth tactic, “which devastated vast regions… and led to the death by deprivation of whoever was not killed right away…” (Gigliotti and Lang, 225).

The genocide was unique in comparison to other armies. The Americans were not nearly as racist in World War II, and he Japanese had not been as racist as the Germans and it was said the “rate of survival of [POWs] in Japanese was twice as high as that of Soviet soldiers in German hands… It is, indeed, on the issue of genocide that the German military surely comes out worse than another modern army,” (Gigliotti and Lang, 229). The many POWs of the Germans resulted in the deaths of many, aside from the persecutions already occurring with the Jews and so on. 

I found Jurgen Foster to be the most illuminating. It was interesting to draw the connection between the anti-Communism and anti-Judaism of the Nazis and why they had been so extreme agains the USSR. It was also not a war of attrition simply, though that was deeply part of it. Rather, this was really a war of ideology that sought to dehumanize the Slavs and Jews in order for soldiers to gain the nerve to kill them.

ideas you find MOST troubling or problematic, and why, with 3 specific pieces of evidence.

What I found the most troubling was the account of Otto Ohlendorf. He stated above that he and the soldiers rounded up victims for gas chambers, killed even women and children, and was ordered by Himmler himself to kill them all.

How do you think soldiers felt after the war for their actions?


 My project is about the Nazi Doctor experimentations done on prisoners.

  1. Nazi doctors did experimentation in the concentration camps to test drugs and methods of medical treatment to help heal their own military personnel. The holocaust encyclopedia gives good insight on what they did when they say, “scientistsused camp inmates to test immunization compounds and antibodies for the prevention and treatment of contagious diseases, including malaria, typhus, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, yellow fever, and infectious hepatitis” (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2006). And one must remember, all of the testing was done without the consent of the inmates being tested on.
  2. The doctors also did experiments in which they would freeze the inmates so they could figure out a probable medication to treat hypothermia, again to be used in helping their army men out of situations like this. The site mentions, “[Physicians] conducted high-altitude experiments on prisoners to determine the maximum altitude from which crews of damaged aircraft could parachute to safety. Scientists there also carried out so-called freezing experiments on prisoners to find an effective treatment for hypothermia. Prisoners were also used to test various methods of making seawater drinkable.” (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2006). This testing was so inhumane, as they did not listen to any modes of ethics. The Nazi’s really believed that their Jewish prisoners were of a different world, that they should not have any rights, not even to their own bodies.
  3. Lastly, I found that one of the Doctors names was Josef Mengele, who was very intrigued with twins in his experimentations on the Jewish prisoners. Some of what he did while at Auschwitz included, “He himself also conducted several experiments in an attempt to unlock the secret of artificially changing eye color.” (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2006) and “He also attempted to demonstrate the “degeneration” of Jewish and “Gypsy” blood through the documentation of physical oddities and the collection and harvesting of tissue samples and body parts. Many of his “test subjects” died as a result of the experimentation or were murdered in order to facilitate post-mortem examination.” (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2006). But this is really only the start of the heinous crimes committed within the walls of the concentration camps.

One single open-ended question for US to ponder:

The one question I have for the class this week is, regardless of beliefs on if someone is a bad person or not, how could these doctors proceed to kill them and torture them? I just don’t see how someone could do that to another human being with feelings, family, and a whole life.


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (2006, August 30). 2. United States holocaust memorial museum. Retrieved September 27, 2022, from 

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