How Could the Holocaust Happen?


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A companion PPT for a discussion on human nature and various social experiments conducted in the decades following the war. Have an outline of the various experiments to fill in the gaps.

Published in: Education, Spiritual
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How Could the Holocaust Happen?

  1. 1. How Could the Holocaust Happen?
  2. 2. Intro  How could millions of Jews and other people in society be systematically killed by other human beings? 1. World War I was never totally resolved 2. An old prejudice rears its ugly head 3. A new level of hate and blame 4. People can easily be manipulated
  3. 3. World War I was never totally resolved     Ravaged by World War I, the German state was already in poor economic shape before the Depression of the 1920's struck Reparation demands and a weakened infrastructure led to inflation and unemployment. The feeling of global alienation as a result of a guilt clause and land seizures in the Treaty of Versailles make the social turmoil worse and left Germany looking for someone to blame. The Weimar Republic, a weak democracy, never really effectively governed Germany and therefore was not much of a match for the Nazi party when it gained power.
  4. 4. An old prejudice rears its ugly head  Anti-Semitism was not unique to Germany. Jews were historically persecuted as excellent scapegoats. In the medieval times they were blamed for the plague, depicted as having horns and cloven feet as well as sacrificing Christian babies.  Jews were often subjected to prejudice, boycotts, exclusion, restrictive laws, attacks, and killings.    A forged book, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, published in 1900 and proven to be a fraud led to the belief that there was a Jewish world domination plot. To this very day it remains in translation around the world, despite its well documented status as a complete fake. However, none of the discrimination that Jews were subject to elsewhere could match the inhuman extremes of Adolf Hitler (and the Nazis), who claimed he was acting with the Lord and "finishing the job."
  5. 5. A new level of hate and blame      Hitler was able to exploit anti-Semetic feelings. His plan to do so was spelled out in Mein Kampf in 1924 (written during his short stay in prison for a failed coup); by 1933 it had sold over a million copies. His singular leadership seemed to have ignited problems boiling under the surface of Germany. It is a classic example of hopeless people falling in love with someone who tells them what they want to hear: Germany was in sad shape, and Hitler and his ideals made it easy for them to say it was someone else's fault. Hitler felt that the Jews were an evil that was at the root of Germany's problems and must be therefore must be eliminated. Hitler claimed that Germany never really lost World War I but was stabbed in the back by a Jewish/Communist conspiracy. The discovery of a scapegoat gave the Germans something to work toward eliminating. The anger and humiliation was now directed away from themselves, Germans could focus all of their negativity on the Jews. Nazism became widespread and its oppression of the Jews grew into the genocide that was the Holocaust.
  6. 6. People can easily be manipulated  After the war many people pondered how a whole population could be moved to kill other human beings in such an inhumane way  Psychologists and Sociologists looked for reasons and performed test to simulate similar circumstances  Two that stand out were the Milgram and Zimbardo Experiments
  7. 7. Milgram Experiment  It was intended to measure the willingness of a participant to obey an authority who instructs the participant to do something that may conflict with the participant's personal conscience.  Milgram devised the experiment to answer the question "Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?"
  8. 8. Milgram Results    In Milgram's first set of experiments, 67.5 percent (27 out of 40) of experimental participants administered the experiment's final 450volt shock, though many were quite uncomfortable in doing so; everyone paused at some point and questioned the experiment, some even saying they would return the check for the money they were paid. No participant steadfastly refused to give further shocks before the 300-volt level. Variants of the experiment were later performed by Milgram himself and other psychologists around the world with similar results. Apart from confirming the original results the variations have tested variables in the experimental setup. None of the participants who refused to administer the final shocks insisted that the experiment itself be terminated, nor left the room to check that the victim was well without asking for permission to leave, according to Milgram's notes and recollections
  9. 9. One Participant:  "While I was a subject [participant] in 1964, though I believed that I was hurting someone, I was totally unaware of why I was doing so. Few people ever realize when they are acting according to their own beliefs and when they are meekly submitting to authority. ... To permit myself to be drafted with the understanding that I am submitting to authority's demand to do something very wrong would make me frightened of myself. ... I am fully prepared to go to jail if I am not granted Conscientious Objector status. Indeed, it is the only course I could take to be faithful to what I believe. My only hope is that members of my board act equally according to their conscience..."
  10. 10. Zimbardo Experiment  The Stanford prison experiment was a landmark psychological study of the human response to captivity, in particular, to the real world circumstances of prison life, and the effects of imposed social roles on behavior.  It was conducted in 1971 by a team of researchers led by Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University.  Volunteers played the roles of guards and prisoners and lived in a mock prison.
  11. 11. Zimbardo Findings     The experiment's result has been argued to demonstrate the impressionability and obedience of people. It is also used to illustrate the power of authority. The results seemed to entail that the situation caused the participants' behavior rather than anything inherent in their individual personalities. In this way it is compatible with the results of the alsofamous (or infamous) Milgram experiment, in which ordinary people fulfilled orders to administer what appeared to be fatal electric shocks to a confederate of the experimenter.
  12. 12. Overall Conclusions  People can become dehumanized when: Told to by authority Their individuality is removed Placed in a group setting Taking a stand is VERY rare, conformity is the norm  People in Germany got caught in this because no one stood up
  13. 13. Sources: 