Introduction

The term “Holocaust” means a sacrifice consumed by fire on a large scale, this aims to completely annihilate a race or religious group through acts of slaughter and massacre[1]. With regards to the 1939-1945 Holocaust there was a systematic plan to kill inferior groups of people. This was named the Final Solution to the Jewish question; Gypsies, Poles, Soviet Prisoners of War, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and people with deficiencies were also targeted[2]. Between the years 1939-45, 6 million Jews, 3 million Soviet Prisoners of War and 70,000 with physical deficiencies were victims of the genocide. In the introduction to the Diary of Anne Frank, Storm Jameson states that “the human reason is able to justify any cruelty by showing that it is necessary, part of a process[3].” Some historians believe there were three steps that led to the Holocaust and the belief that the Jews were racially inferior:

  1. “You have no right to live among us as Jews.”
  2. “You have no right to live among us.”
  3. “You have no right to live.” [4]

The question is why did this happen and how could this section of totalitarian ideology, whereby a dictator control of all aspects of life in a country, be obeyed? The introduction of the diary of Anne Frank states that: “Human beings made Belsen. What they did there is what human beings can find in their hearts to do, if they so will. The question becomes not: How could they do it? But: What moved them to do it? …What moves a man to feel such contempt for his fellow human beings that he comes to believe that a Jew or a political opponent may, must, be treated as vermin and stamped out?”[5]

My project aims to answer this question through examination of totalitarian ideology and psychology, in addition to a brief history of the Final Solution, looking at how the totalitarian ideology of Nazi Germany shaped the ‘evil’ aspect of the inhuman objective. I will explore how complicity in the demoralisation of the victims can be explained by Milgram’s study on obedience, how the reluctance from other countries to put an end to the Holocaust explained by Piliavin’s theory of Diffusion of Responsibility. In addition I will be looking at how the inhuman actions contrasted with the resistance towards the Holocaust can be explained by Kohlberg’s theory of Moral Development, followed by the aftermath of these actions.

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