The German Population and the Jews
Yad Vashem Studies, Volume XVI
Otto Dov Kulka and Aron Rodrigue
The German Population and the Jews in the Third Reich - Recent Publications and Trends in Research on German Society and the “Jewish Question”
The authors react to Ian Kershaw’s study Popular Opinion and Political Dissent in the Third Reich: Bavaria 1933–1945. Prior to this publication the social role of the German population in the Judenpolitik of the Third Reich had been neglected, but may be related to the power of totalitarianism as Jacob Talmon and Hannah Arendt have argued. New material shows that the totalitarian regime collected reports on German society, often relating tangentially with antisemitism. Reactions to anti-Jewish measures in the 1930’s ranged from acceptance, criticism of being too moderate, open objection to the measures by devout Christians and Communists, to a complete absence of reaction. Economic self-interest overcame ideology and business dealings with Jews continued for some time. The churches were ambivalent about antisemitism and the higher clergy adopted no official stance on the issue. Kershaw’s studies showed incontrovertible evidence that knowledge of the mass murders of the Jews was widespread, and was met by apathy and indifference. The general reaction to Kristallnacht was pragmatic, hence the economic waste and destruction was criticized but with little regard for the human factor. Most people passively complied with the radical solution of the Jewish problem as entailed by deportations to the east.