According to Yehuda Bauer, in Holocaust we can find elements that can not be found anywhere else, that are totally unprecedented. Victims were all Jews, people who had one or more than one grandparent. Wherever they could, Nazis identified and defined Jews: who is Jew, who is quarter Jew, half Jew. Then, Jews were defined, marked, dispossessed, humiliated, concentrated, transported and killed.
Every single person Nazis could reach. Everywhere in the world.
“Nazis had shiny boots and they were looking through us”, said Nechama Tec.
She also said she had never seen that kind of behavior before.
Another Holocaust survivor, Paula Lebovics, in her testimony said, “Even today I can hear those boots, and it chills me to the bones.”
Besides that, Nazis wore neat, ironed suits. It was part of their presentation. They wanted to seed a fear.
In the Auschwitz camp there weren’t so many German guards. Everything was organized, so as they needed more men or women, they used Jews or other prisoners.
And they did their best to seed a fear. They used sticks, guns and sound of their boots was one of their weapons.
Daily killings were part of the ritual to seed a fear.
Another Nazi weapon — there were signs. Signs were everywhere.
On the entrance there was slogan “Arbeit Macht Frei” that means “labour makes (you) free”.
Even people who were arriving, were deceived. They thought that they are coming to work.
Germans acted as if they are not performing such atrocity. Nobody believed that it was happening. Not citizens of Europe or people in America.
It was important that nobody finds out. If it gets revealed, they won’t have such a success rate or no success at all.
So, it was secret for several years. There were rumors, but nobody actually knew. They succeeded in their deceit.
5.7 million people were killed, gassed, shot.
On the other hand, people like Nechama Tec, had a slight chance – it was to act, act like they are somebody else. Pretending she is a Polish girl was her salvation.
Or like grandfather in the movie “Everything is Illuminated”, who acted as if he’s anti-Semite, whilst in reality he was a Jew. He had his reasons. Around himself he had made impenetrable shell. He even fooled himself. It was his life time burden. He felt guilt – he was alive but he did not deserve to live – it was his opinion (as Jew). So, he passed in his reality to anti-Semite. Until revelation and recognition that he has no guilt. His only guilt was that he is a Jew.
Or like Paula, who said, “I made myself invisible”. She floated in her mind somewhere else and although she witnessed horrid, unbelievable events, she learnt to become invisible. Encounters with death were frequent. The only thing victims could rely on was hope.
And that was ephemeral.
Those who did not lose their faith and hope had no chance at all.