What did the German people know about the Holocaust?

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Most had some idea of what was going on. Unless they lived in places where there were no Jews, they must have noticed the yellow stars and surely known that it was a hostile, discriminatory badge. They certainly knew their Jewish neighbours were disappearing - though many Germans may have believed that they were simply being resettled in Eastern Europe.
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I think, I do not know, the answer to this is that most Germans were wholly unaware of what happened to those that were no longer to be seen on the streets anymore. And of course it was in their interests not to want to know. Not even to ask. Secrecy pervades during the rule of tyrants, darkness cloaks their dishonour. But of course that is the way of warfare, but it does in no way excuse the terrible actions carried out by the Nazis. As I say I do not think most Germans had knowledge of what was going on elsewhere, which was just what the Nazi hierarchy wanted created.
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One can add to the above. The German historian Helga Grebing (born in 1930) wrote in her book on Nazism (Der Nationalsozialismus: Ursprung und Wesen, which was first published in 1959) about the importance of avoiding 'blanket' verdicts on what people in the Third Reich did and did not know. (She was writing at a time when it was very fashionable in Germany to claim to have known nothing about the atrocities committed by the regime). She writes on pp. 130-31 of the 1964 edition of the book that many soldiers on the Eastern Front had a pretty good idea of what was going on, though usually without knowing all the details. From time to time they went home on leave and talked ... The attitude of the folk back home was 'hear no evil, see no evil'. In other words, most of them did not want to know. After all, many had voted for the Nazis in 1930-33, and accepting the stories they heard would have meant admitting that they had made a colossal error of judgement.
Later research by Martin Broszat in the 1970s broadly confirms this. Ordinary Germans were 'vaguely aware' - and didn't want to know more ...
It's is worth bearing in mind that until 1944, the British and U.S. governments also downplayed the Holocaust. When the first report from the Polish underground about routine mass gassings of Jews at Chelmno reached London late in December 1941, the Foreign Office official who read the report wrote in the margin 'Bolshevik propaganda?' (!) So, not wanting to know was not peculiar to the German population.
See also Jan Karski's accounts of his meetings with President Roosevelt. When Karski - who was a courier for the Polish underground - reported on conditions in the Warsaw Ghetto and one of the extermination camps to Roosevelt face to face twice, the latter just kept on saying, 'Tell them that the wrongdoers will be punished'. Karski's plea for immediate action fell on deaf ears.


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Recent research by Peter Longerich has tended to confirm the points made by Helga Grebing in the 1950s. (See above).
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