Explore further

Explore further

Further resources for self-study, research, and teaching: textual sources, images, and videos with questions for discussion, and useful external links.

The following sources and questions may stimulate critical discussion of key issues.

  • Conformity and compromise
    A young woman’s experiences of life in 1930s Germany
  • Kristallnacht: The difficulty of interpreting contemporary sources
    Reports for the Social Democratic Party in Exile (Sopade)
  • ‘Justifications’ for killing
    Letters sent to his wife by Walter Mattner
  • Bystanders to deportations
    Extracts from the Diary of Berlin journalist, Ruth Andreas-Friedrich
  • Facilitating ‘Aryanisation’
    Report of an interrogation by Saul Padover and Lewis Gittler, Psychological Warfare Division, 12th Army Group US Army, with Arthur Koenig, 19 November 1944
  • Innocent Bystanders?
    US Marine Corps Reserve Captain P. Dickson interrogated German civilians in the Rhineland in March 1945
  • Knowledge about atrocities
    Daniel Lerner, Chief editor of the Allied Psychological Warfare Division, reported after travelling through occupied Germany in the first two weeks of April 1945
  • Post-war justifications
    Hans Baumgartner, one of the former shooters involved in mass killings in Libau between July and December 1941, was interrogated by the Stasi in the GDR 1969-1970. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death.
  • Conformity and Hypocrisy
    Elisabeth Langgässer (1899-1950) was a writer. The story ‘Start of the Season’ was published in 1947 in her collection of short stories, The Torso.
  • Choices in dictatorships
    In Imre Kertész’s novel Fiasco, Köves describes his experience of being called up to do military duty under the Hungarian regime of János Kádár (1956-1988). He was asked to sign a piece of paper committing him to become a prison guard in the central military prison. Despite not wishing to assume this role, he signed.
  • The representation of violence
    Jonathan Littell’s novel The Kindly Ones depicts many scenes of graphic violence

B. Questions around visual images

1. Segregated park bench

The segregation of Jews from non-Jews affected all spheres of everyday life. Jews faced restrictions on public transport, food supply, employment, and medical care. ‘Only for Aryans’: Inscription on park bench in Berlin c.1935.

Can you think of other times and places where segregation took place?

What are the similarities and differences?

© Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, 30022201. Photographer: unknown.

© Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, 1996/5252.33. Photographer: Raumbild-Verlag Otto Schönstein.

2. Hitler Youth pose under a sign saying ‘Jews not welcome’

German boys in the uniforms of the ‘Jungvolk’, the Nazi youth organisation for boys aged 10-14, pose under an antisemitic sign outside the entrance to Behringersdorf, a village near Nuremberg. The sign reads ‘Jews not welcome here’. Such signs became a common sight in shops, pubs, and village and town entrances in Germany from 1933. This image was taken in 1933 by Otto Schönstein, who aligned himself with National Socialism and created propagandistic photographs.

What might have been the purpose of this photo?

Does it tell us more about the extent of popular support for antisemitic policies and practice or more about the way in which the regime wanted to present itself?

3. Kristallnacht, 1938

Historians debate how to interpret evidence of popular opinion in a regime where few dared to express their true feelings and open opposition was violently suppressed. Germans widely criticised the destruction of property, and many said they were ‘ashamed’. Very few expressed support for Jews or intervened on their behalf in public, although some did in private, while many others joined in the jeering and looting. German onlookers outside burning synagogue at Steeler Strasse in Essen, 10 November 1938.

What do you think is the value of photographs of onlookers such as this?

© Stiftung Ruhrmuseum. Photographer: unknown

Bundesarchiv, B 162 Bild-04126.

4. Lietukis garage photo

This photograph shows Lithuanian nationalists – instigated and encouraged by a German Einsatzkommando and watched by german soldiers – beating Jews to death in Kovno (Kaunas) shortly after the German invasion in June 1941. There is considerable debate about showing images of victims of violence. Some see this as a form of ‘Holocaust pornography’, or a way of continuing the dehumanisation of victims. Others, including survivors and their relatives, think it is essential to bring home the horrific reality of what happened.

What do you think?

5. Hangings as public spectacles

German soldiers take photographs at a public hanging of several men and women as ‘partisans’ near Orel, Soviet Union, 1941/42.

Why do you think they took photographs – and what might have been the implications for wider knowledge within the Reich?

Who else can be seen in the photo?

How was the ‘anti-partisan’ fight related to the genocide of the Jews?

Bundesarchiv, Bild 101l-287-0872-28A. Photographer: Koll.

Good times, bad rumours

How do people negotiate positive memories of their childhood and youth later in life in light of what they know about Nazi crimes?

Hitler enthusiast

Why might people refuse to acknowledge the genocide of the European Jews?

How do you interpret Erna F.’s story about her neighbour who was denounced and killed?

Exciting times

To what extent was Margarethe S. complicit in the persecution of Jews and other groups and individuals imprisoned in concentration camps?

Sad accomplice

Do the former librarian’s feelings of sadness and pity for the victims change our perception of her and our evaluation of her involvement in ‘everyday’ discrimination?

Shame about a Nazi past

How can we interpret expressions of ‘shame’ as a response to someone’s behaviour under Nazism?

How widespread might the former nursery nurse’s readiness to denounce someone who voiced criticism of Hitler or the Nazi Party have been?

How to be a ‘decent’ Nazi

In light of historical documentation, it is unlikely that the story the interviewee’s husband allegedly told her actually happened, and certainly not in this way in Romania. What might be the function of the story?

Her father’s involvement in Aryanization also raises questions about the complicity of different professions in persecution: many benefitted materially, while not necessarily being anti-Semitic themselves. How far do claims to have been friendly with Jews serve to cover up a degree of complicity in having benefitted from their distress?

Victim as perpetrator?

How do you rate the interviewee’s role in the public hanging of alleged partisans?

His father was imprisoned at Dachau concentration camp and the family suffered severe consequences as a result of his arrest and incarceration. The interviewee himself is also a victim of National Socialist persecution. How can we make sense of this in light of his later involvement in anti-partisan warfare?

Perpetrator as rescuer?

Why might the interviewee be attempting to downplay his role in the deportations of Jews in Miskolc, Hungary?

How do you rate his claim to have spared a Jewish man’s life?

Keeping the trains rolling

How does the interviewee feel about his father’s role in facilitating deportations to Auschwitz?

What does that tell us about the difficulty of confronting the roles played by parents and grandparents under Nazism?

D. Useful external resources

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Encyclopaedia, online exhibitions, primary sources, and resources for educators.

Yad Vashem

Digital collections, online exhibitions, and educational materials.

NIOD- Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies

Collections, research, and educational activities on the Holocaust and other genocides.

EHRI – European Holocaust Research Infrastructure

Portal connecting Holocaust-related collections, online resources, and online course for educators and students.

Echoes and Reflections

Videos and discussion questions for classroom learning.

Through the Eyes of Youth: Life and Death in the Będzin Ghetto

Online exhibition on life and death in the Będzin ghetto with further resources.

Perpetrator Studies Network: Bibliography

Perpetrator Studies Network: Annotated bibliography.

Perpetrator Studies Network: Events

Useful links to digital collections relevant to the study of perpetrators.

Będzin: A Small Town Near Auschwitz

Mary Fulbrook explores complicity and perpetration in relation to the Nazi civilian administration of Bedzin, a small town just 25 miles from Auschwitz through which some 85,000 Jews passed on their way to slave labour or the gas chambers.