Everyone knows that there were 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, but how many of them were Jewish citizens of Germany?
This question was on my mind today, as I was reading an article on the Huffington Post with the title “An American Jew Roams in Germany.”
This quote is from the article, which was written by a Rabbi:
Although this was my fifth visit, the specter of the holocaust always accompanied me. How could it not? The enormity of the crime leaves permanent shadows. Hints of it exist in all the holocaust symbolism that one cannot shake: the trains that pass, the Synagogues that were burned to the ground and later rebuilt, the large Third Reich ministries that still remain, and the police who carry automatic weapons (ironically, most of them are posted outside Jewish community centers to protect them). This was once the most dangerous of all places for a Jew and even today, though Germany is a thoroughly modern and tolerant society, the ghosts of six million dead still haunt it.
In reading this article, I was struck by the fact that this man was in so much pain on his FIFTH visit to Germany; he could not get past “the enormity of the crime” committed by the German people against the Jews three generations ago. Strangely, he did not say in his article whether or not any of his family members were among the German Jews who were killed in the Holocaust; nor did he say that anybody in his family was a Holocaust survivor.
On my last visit to Germany, I was in Munich and I wanted to visit the new Synagogue. I knew approximately where it was, but I couldn’t locate the building because it is set back from the street. I was within a block or two of the Synagogue when I decided that I should just ask one of the Germans on the street. I stopped three or four people and asked them in German where the Synagogue was located. Each and every one of them looked at me with fear in their eyes, mumbled “Ich weiss nicht.” and hurried off.
Finally, I approached an elderly German woman and began by saying in German: “Ich bin kein Jude.” She smiled and gave me detailed directions in English. My point is that now it is not the Jews who are afraid of the Germans; it is the Germans who are afraid of the Jews. The German people try their best to be nice to the Jews today, but it is never enough.
Even in America, one can’t be too careful about offending the Jews. Last night, Bill O’Reilly asked Alan Colmes if he was a “Jewish person?” He acted as if he were afraid to say the word Jew.
Getting back to my question of how many Jews from the country of Germany were killed in the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum gives this information on their web site here:
In January 1933, some 522,000 Jews by religious definition lived in Germany. Over half of these individuals, approximately 304,000 Jews, emigrated during the first six years of the Nazi dictatorship, leaving only approximately 214,000 Jews in Germany proper (1937 borders) on the eve of World War II.
In all, the Germans and their collaborators killed between 160,000 and 180,000 German Jews in the Holocaust, including most of those Jews deported out of Germany.
So the maximum number of German Jews who were killed in the Holocaust is 180,000. I recall reading somewhere (I can’t remember where) that the number of German Jews killed was 120,000. I also recall that the number of Jews who hid and were never sent to a camp was around 10,000 and that 60,000 Jews had returned to Germany immediately after World War II ended.
At the Wannsee Conference on Jan. 20, 1942, the minutes of the meeting stated that there were 131,800 Jews in “Germany proper” and 43,000 Jews in Austria. In view of this, it seems to me that the number of 120,000 is more accurate than the figures given by the USHMM.
I checked with the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, which gives this information:
There is no precise figure for the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. The figure commonly used is the six million established by the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1946 and repeated later by Adolf Eichmann, a senior SS official.
So the 6 million figure was “established by the Nuremberg Tribunal,” but how many of these 6 million Jews were German Jews? As the saying goes: Even one would be too many.
In the article entitled “An American Jew Roams in Germany,” the author mentions that he went to the Memorial in Berlin. He wrote this about his emotions when he saw the Memorial:
It is a stunning and sobering site, consisting of thousands of coffin-like objects that form a maze. Underneath it all is a small and powerful museum that neatly captures the horror of the crime. Reading the panels and seeing the pictures of my people being slaughtered en mass brought sadness but also anger, conflicting emotions made all the more strange by the fact that I was feeling anger at the very people who had put up the memorial up to take a measure of responsibility. One picture in particular left me numb. It was of a little girl, about five years of age, who had just stepped off the train in Auschwitz. It was bitterly cold around her and she had no shoes. Yet she was playing with something in her hands, oblivious to the horror that surrounded her. No doubt she was dead less than an hour after the picture was taken, her young lungs filled with German poison gas.
I’ve never been to the Museum at the Memorial site in Berlin, so I don’t know what picture the Rabbi was talking about, but it was probably one of the photos from the Auschwitz Album. The photo below shows a group of Hungarian Jews who have just gotten off a train at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. One of the children looks like a five-year-old girl, although she is wearing shoes. There were many similar photos taken in May 1944 when the Hungarian Jews were deported.
In October 1999, I visited the Museum at the Wannsee mansion where the Wannsee Conference was held on Jan. 20, 1942. Section 14 in the Wannsee Museum is the last display; it is entitled “Liberation of the Camps.” Here is a quote from Section 14:
All historical investigations and calculations agree that between five and six million Jews were killed. More than a million met their deaths in ghettos and camps; at least as many died in mass executions, the remainder perished in the gas chambers.
The total number of Jews that were gassed, according to the Wannsee Museum, was 3,652,000. The Museum does not give numbers according to the country of origin.