Holocaust awareness

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How many were aware of the alleged genocidal killings during the Holocaust has been debated by non-revisionists and some Holocaust revisionists.

Extreme secrecy, "code words", verbal only orders, and "need to know only" policies are argued to have been practiced regarding the Holocaust (see the article on Holocaust documentary evidence). This would have severely limited any Holocaust awareness.

A common assumption is that everyone (Germans, Jews, and others) at the alleged extermination camps saw genocidal killings. Therefore, a very large number of potential witnesses/confessors are sometimes assumed to exist. However, even according to the standardized politically correct version, the number of individuals who saw the alleged gas chamber killings was very limited (and even more so since allegedly the Jewish Sonderkommandos working in the gas chambers were regularly killed). Thus, even at the camps, most individuals would only have been aware of the alleged genocidal killings through hearsay and rumors.

Some non-revisionists have despite this argued that even ordinary Germans were aware of a planned Holocaust and/or an ongoing Holocaust. Also many other non-revisionists have criticized such claims.[1][2] One problem for any claim of an early intention (and awareness of such an intention) of exterminating all the Jews in the future is that before 1941 (when the genocide allegedly started), the German Jewish policy was to openly and strongly promote Jewish emigration (and many Jews did emigrate). See also World War II statements argued to support Holocaust revisionism.

"At the Irving-Lipstadt libel trial it was conceded by Lipstadt’s team of anti-revisionist Holocaust experts that prior to 1941 there was no Nazi policy to exterminate Jewry. Justice Gray noted: “It is common ground between the parties [Irving and Lipstadt’s team of Holocaust experts] that, until the latter part of 1941, the solution to the Jewish question which Hitler preferred was their mass deportation.” The anti-revisionist experts at the Irving-Lipstadt libel trial further admitted: “…that in the 1930s Hitler should not be understood to have been speaking in a genocidal terms.”"[3]

After this, the Posen speeches and the allegedly relatively widely circulated Einsatzgruppen reports are often cited as evidence for knowledge of the Holocaust among many top German leaders. See these articles regarding Holocaust revisionist criticisms.

David Irving has proposed the unusual theory that Hitler was unaware of the Holocaust' which instead was implemented in some forms by underlings' in particular Heinrich Himmler and/or his deputy Reinhard Heydrich. See also Holocaust revisionism lite.

Before the German trial of John Demjanjuk, a prosecutor had to prove that an accused had committed a specific Holocaust crime. However, after Demjanjuk, it is enough to simply prove that a German has been stationed at a camp in order to be convicted as an accessory to mass murder, thus implying that all German at the camps had reliable knowledge of the alleged mass exterminations without this having to be proven for a specific individual. Jewish Sonderkommando members, on the other hand, are never charged, despite not just allegedly having reliable knowledge, but also directly participating in the mass killings, such as by deceiving other Jews to go into the homicidal gas chambers.

See also Holocaust testimonial evidence: Witness testimonies on various argued reasons for incorrect testimonies. The section also discusses aspects such as argued bad smell and smoke from crematoria in the camps, which are sometimes claimed to mean that everyone in the camps were aware of the alleged genocidal killings.


  1. Norman G. Finkelstein. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's 'Crazy' Thesis: A Critique of Hitler's Willing Executioners. New Left Review (London), Nr 224, in July 1997, p. 39-88. http://www.vho.org/aaargh/engl/crazygoldie/FINKEL1.html
  2. Groth, Alexander J. Demonizing the Germans: Goldhagen and Gellately on Nazism. Political Science Reviewer 32 (2003): 118-158. http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.com/articles.aspx?article=1587
  3. In Defense of Holocaust Revisionism: A Response to Shermer and Grobman's Denying History http://www.vho.org/tr/2002/1/tr09denyhist.html