Atrocities of War
The Second World War is a result of the German aggression towards different European states they intended to invade for the purpose of lebensraum. Hitler wanted to create an empire that would last a thousand years, where the Aryan race would prevail and conquer the world. He led a German campaign that shaped and revolutionized the landscape of modern day politics and international relations. The German role in World War II has become the impetus for human drive against racial discrimination, drive towards scientific advancement, and drive to safeguard civil rights. Both the political and economic portrait that we know of the world today is primarily the product of the numerous efforts during the war. Because of the many lives sacrificed so that future generations may live, evil did not prevail, not when the collective forces of millions of heroes can help it (Bullock, 3-12).
In order to understand Nazi Germany’s actions during the war, it is important to consider the mindset and the background of the leader who marched them to power. Adolf Hitler is indeed one of the most influential figures in the history of the world. His persona is characterized by both notoriety and insanity, and his legacy is mixed with both greatness and disgust. For our generation knows only too well that both Hitler’s ascent to power and his capacity to lead and entire nation towards evil acts are indeed very astonishing (Adolf Hitler, no page; Warner 9).
Hitler has a tremendous ability to impact the consciousness of the German people and blind them through his theatrics and oratory. He has a remarkable way of impressing his beliefs towards the public. In addition, he was successful in altering events through his ideas and concepts, instead of changing his perception because of these events that transpired. And because of the dire economic situation that Germany was suffering during the 1930’s decade, Hitler was able to allure the entire Germany to his ideologies. He corrupted the people through his indoctrination of racial superiority, which gave the Germans hope that this person would elevate them back to the years before the First World War (Adolf Hitler, no page; Weinberg 30-32).
Germany was in great economic turmoil, setting the nation in serious chaos. People in suffering mostly divert their efforts towards blaming others for their misery. And this was taken advantage by Hitler by manipulating the people into believing that Germany was not defeated during World War I. However, due to the Jewish race and those who supported them, these people stabbed the Germans in the back. This is a highly racial concept that is crucial in implanting the ideas that rejected the separation of man from other organisms. It was a relatively new form of paganism that meant the need for racial hegemony through selective breeding. The Nazis exploited the writings of Charles Darwin and claimed that people must be segregated accordingly not in the basis of morality, but of utility. Therefore, the people belonging to what the Nazis considered as alien racial stock were threatened of elimination. Such races include not only the Jews but also the Gypsy tribes Sinti and Roma. The Slavic people including the Russians were also the target of racial crimes. The Nazis held that these people are impurities that pose danger to the Aryan race due to their dispersion and eventual assimilation. In fulfillment of their creed, Germany committed the systematic extermination of six million Jews and another five million comprised of the Gypsies, the freemasons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and other enemies of the state (Adolf Hitler, no page; Bullock, 625; Weinberg 32-33).
The most infamous crime of Nazi Germany against humanity is what we know today as the Holocaust. This is Hitler’s Final Solution to the Jewish Question. By deploying various military and civilian units of the Schutzchaffel, the Getapo and the Einzatzgruppen, the Germans were able to round up the Jews and force them into internment with inhumane living arrangements. Their first destination was the ghettos, but they were eventually sent to different concentration camps across German occupied Europe. One of the most renowned, and is considered as the most notorious, camps built by the Nazis is the one called Auschwitz-Birkenau located in Poland. The camp facilities do not only include gas chambers and crematory ovens, they also had rooms for medical experimentations conducted by Nazi doctors. The most renowned of them is Dr. Mengle who had an inclination and special interest towards identical twins. When the Russians liberated the camp, many children accounted to have survived suffered from genetic manipulation attempts and physical deformations. Dwarfs were also examined for their skeletal structure and other normal individuals were experimented on for high altitude, temperature, and salinity tolerance. Others were tested on for the potential of biological warfare by deliberate injection of diseases and seeking possible antidotes. Others were subjected to experimental surgical procedures without sedatives, and other women were inseminated with animal sperm (Bullock, 625; Medical experimentation, no page).
Two conventions were held in effort to establish the basic rights of both soldiers and civilians. The Geneva and the Hague conventions of 1906 and 1907 respectively were international treaties that define the different protocols in times of war. No single nation has the power to make amendments on these set of rules. No government has the right to give permission of the perpetration of such actions in their individual forces. According to these agreements, “In belligerently occupied territory, ‘family honor and rights, the lives of persons, and private property, as well as religious convictions and practices, must be respected. Private property cannot be confiscated. Pillage is formally forbidden. No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted upon the popultion on account of the acts of individuals for which they cannot be regarded as jointly and severally responsible” (Fried, no page; Kafala, no page).
Using both military and moral points of view, what the Nazis perpetrated during the war were clear violations of the rights of men and are therefore crimes against humanity. Using first the definition of war crimes, “violations of the rules of war” (Fried, no page), we can say that deliberate civilian killings are against rules of engagement. Not only did the Nazis kill in concentration camps, but they also shot people in the streets, whether in groups or separately. Therefore, civilians who are unarmed and have no military affiliations are not supposed targets of those in uniform. It is the right of an individual to live, and it is the duty of the soldier to not violate this rule. And in the moral point of view, only soldiers in the front lines of battles are supposed to engage in artillery and gun encounters, and therefore must not transgress the rights of a person to live accordingly. The actions of the Nazis of conducting human experimentation, forced labor, deliberate killings, and mass murders are clear violations and crimes against humanity. Not only are they crimes because they are indicated so by the conventions signed by different countries, but because they are moral transgressions against others. Not only because of the dictates of pieces of papers with signatures, but because of the truth that it inflicts sufferings of great extent to those who are not directly involved in a war (Kafala, no page).
War is a savage conflict that brings out the worst out of man. But in times of great peril, we must never neglect our rights as persons and our duties towards others in order for us to keep the goodness in us. In a world that has gone half mad, our moral compass will dictate our course. And such course may allow us to either die or survive, but with it we would never lose ourselves. There is no justification for the atrocities done by the Nazis during the war, and for that they and their actions must forever be condemned. We should always remember, and let the future generations know of what price our forefathers had to pay in order to make this world a better place to live.
“Adolf Hitler.” Solar Navigator. 06 March 2008
Bullock, Allan. Hitler and Stalin. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.
Fried, John H. E. “War Crimes.” 06 March 2008 <http://www.grolier.com/wwii/wwii_warcrimes.html>.
Kafala, Tarik. “What is a war crime?” 06 March 2008 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1420133.stm>
Warner, Philip. World War Two: The Untold Story. London: Cassell and Company, 2002.
Weinberg, Gerard L. Germany, Hitler, and World War II. New York: Press Syndicate of the
University of Cambridge, 1995.
“Medical Experimentation.” Jewish Virtual Library. 06 March 2008