Hitler had an invincible ally without whom he could have never flourished. His ally was the world that chose to endure silence as Germany kept challenging the boundaries of the universal acceptance for its evil actions. The Holocaust didn’t begin with crematoria. Hitler moved gradually, carefully intensifying his anti-Jewish guidelines. In 1935, he approved the Nuremberg Laws, depriving all Jews of German citizenship. Jews were then streaked from the businesses, their stores were rejected, they were singled out for unusual taxes, and they were forbidden from “intermarrying” with Germans. The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference. And if one can generously say that the entire world didn’t hate the Jews at the time of the Holocaust, most of the nations were powerfully and oddly indifferent. Hitler triumphed that while some spoke contemptuously of his Jewish policies, no one was eager to take in the Jews that were escaping Germany.
The British imposed the White Paper, limiting the possibilities of the Balfour Declaration and stopping emigration of the Jews to Palestine. The United States refused to increase its limited share for immigrants. When a Canadian official was asked how many Jews his nation could accommodate, his response was, “None is too many.” Though the allies had precise maps of Auschwitz and their planes were capable of finding their way to the oil house five miles away from the slaughterhouse, they never demolished the crematoria or gas chambers, which would have seriously disadvantaged the German-programmed mass killings. Arthur Morse’s book, While Six Million Died, makes upset reading as we are required to recognize the complicity of so much of the world in what is usually observed as the wrongdoing of the Nazis. The destiny of the S.S. St. Louis is the brightest sample of the remorse shared by so many. 937 Jews with permits for Cuba set sail from Germany in May 1939.
They knew they could not continue in a land that exhilarated Kristallnacht. Cuba declined them entry, so the skipper set sail for Florida. When the ship approached its territorial waters, the coast guard fired a cautionary shot, and the ship had to seek alternative harbor where it could land. The extended journey in search of a sanctuary eventually carried the S.S. St. Louis back to Germany and to death for most of its travelers. The American press had published scores of articles detailing abuse of the Jews in Germany. By 1942, many of these newspapers were broadcasting facts of the Holocaust, stories about the mass murder of Jews in the millions. For the most part, these articles were only a few inches long, and were hidden deep in the newspaper. This information were either denied or unverified by the United States government.
When the United States government did obtain indisputable suggestion that the reports were true, U.S. government officials suppressed the information. U.S. investigation photos of the Birkenau camp in 1943 displayed the groups of victims moving into the gas chambers, authorizing other reports. The War Department vowed that the information be kept confidential. Pictures of mass tombs and mass slaughter, smuggled out under the most hazardous of circumstances, were also classified as secret. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called for the death camp at Auschwitz to be demolished. He was disregarded. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Jews could have been protected had the Allies approved the plan to bomb the death camps or the rail lines which were feeding them.
Frantic for war material, the Nazis offered the British a million Jews in interchange for 10,000 trucks. When asked why he had declined to discuss the deal, a British diplomat responded, “What would I do with one million Jews? Where would I put them?” Runaway prisoners from the death camps filed information on what was happening. Again, many of this information were suppressed. Eventually, President Roosevelt, under stress from the community, agreed to issue a declaration condemning the German government for its genocidal procedure against the Jews. Other support trailed. The Pope demanded that his diplomats help hide Hungarian Jews. In September 1944, the British demolished factories and the train track lines of Auschwitz.
Why was the world silent during the Holocaust? It’s hard for us to imagine that the world could stand silently by. There are many factors that can be contributed to that. Those reasons include economic, social, and a general apathy for the plight of the Jewish people. From an economic stand point, the Allies were financially strained due to the cost of fighting a global war. Socially, the question of how and where to offer refuge to millions of Jews would have seemed like an impossible task. Finally, there were those who felt and believed that the Jewish people were somehow responsible for the death of Christ led to a general feeling of contempt towards the Jewish people. These are just a few of the reasons that the world stayed silent. We can never understand all of the factors that contributed to that silence. We can only vow to never be silent again.