Conscience and Complicity During the Holocaust

by Victoria J. Barnett

Print Flyer
Abortion in the United States

June 1999


Pages 208
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Religion/General

The Holocaust did not introduce the phenomenon of the bystander, but it did illustrate the terrible consequences of indifference and passivity towards the persecution of others. Although the term was initially applied only to the good Germans—the apathetic citizens who made genocide possible through unquestioning obedience to evil leaders—recent Holocaust scholarship has shown that it applies to most of the world, including parts of the population in Nazi-occupied countries, some sectors within the international Christian and Jewish communities, and the Allied governments themselves. This work analyzes why this happened, drawing on the insights of historians, Holocaust survivors, and Christian and Jewish ethicists. The author argues that bystander behavior cannot be attributed to a single cause, such as anti-Semitism, but can only be understood within a complex framework of factors that shape human behavior individually, socially, and politically.

Table of Contents

Who Is a Bystander?
Individual Behavior
Collective Behavior
Interpreting the Holocaust
The Role of Totalitarianism
Attitudes Toward "The Other": Prejudice and Indifference
The Dynamics of Indifference
A Broken World: Religious Interpretations of the Holocaust
Acts of Disruptive Empathy: One Village
The Individual as Ethical Being

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