Guilt and Responsibility: Lessons from the Holocaust

If you shoot a person dead, you are rightly held accountable for their death. What happens though if you press a button to initiate a machine that shoots a person, are you just as responsible? How accountable are you if you are in the room at the same time that the process is occurring and you choose do nothing to stop it? Where does the responsibility for the death of a person begin and end?

In the late 1930’s and the early 1940’s Nazi Germany and its allies and satellite states embarked on a process of human extermination. The event we know as the Holocaust saw the most depraved and barbaric actions a human being is able to inflict upon another. Though exact figures are impossible to decide upon, approximately 11 million people were killed for being considered sub-human. Among them were the deaths of over six million Jews, as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis looked to eradicate the Jewish people from the face of the earth.

In camps set up around central and eastern Europe, victims were transported to their deaths. The names of these camps will forever be etched in the history of the human race. A constant reminder of the cruelty that we as a species are capable of. Treblinka, Belzec, Buchenwald, Chelmno, Sobibor and Auschwitz are places that are considered as manifestations of pure evil. It is important to remember though, that evil did not create such suffering and destruction; humans did.

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