Q&A
Open daily from 10 am to 1pm except Saturdays and outside these hours by special arrangement. Contact us on +64 4 801 9480

Students Q&A

When students visit the Centre, they are encouraged to ask questions. Questions are also sent to us from school students across the country who are working on research into the Holocaust. Some questions recently submitted by intermediate and secondary school students are listed below.

What made Hitler so powerful?

      1. He was the leader of the Nazi Party and as Chancellor, the Head of the State.
      2. He was a charismatic orator who could sway large crowds 

Why did he want the world to be just German/Aryan? Why did he idolise the Aryan race?

          1. The concept of 'Aryan' race is rooted in the romantic engagement with myths and folk tales, and a faith in the wisdom of the simple peasantry.
          2. It is based on a misunderstanding of the Theory of Evolution. If finches can 'evolve' so can human races, and there are races that are superior and inferiror, stronger and weaker, and more capable and deserving of survival.

How much did his close government support his decision?

Hitler's orders were often ambitious, and Nazi leaders interpreted them in their own way. For example, Hitler never gave explicit orders for the mass murder of the Jews. The leaders of the Gestapo, Himmler, Heidrich, and others put their own interpretation on what they thought Hitler meant.

Did the Germans who didn’t support Hitler get punished?

They were certainly punished if they engaged in active resistance, but if they did nothing to oppose Nazi rule they were not punished, but their job prospects and chances of promotion were limited.

Why were Jewish people targeted?

  1. The roots of anti-Semitism go back thousands of years. Jews were always the 'other', considered different from the mainstream of society. They had different sets of beliefs, they believed in the word of the Bible as their guide to life, including business transactions. But these were interpreted by generations of scholars to confront contemporary challenges.
  2. Jews did not fit into homogeneous societies where the word of the ruler, be it the king, emperor or the Church had complete and final authority. Thus they did not fit the Nazi view of a society completely ruled by the Führer.

Did the “perfect Germans” get any special treatment?

There were no concepts of prefect German. You were either German or not. But many who were considered German on racial lines were persecuted if they were handicapped, gay, or stood up in oppositions to the Nazi regime, eg, Pacifists. 

Did people survive the concentration camps? What was life like afterwards for those who did?

A very small proportion, perhaps less than 10% survived. They almost always tried to rebuild their lives, looking for relatives, children, parents, who were mostly murdered. Many could not face living among people who murdered their families and moved to Israel, and other countries like New Zealand.

What was life like inside the camps?

For most, there was no life, they were murdered on arrival. Those few who were selected for slave labour were beaten, starved, their names and humanity were taken from them. They were worked until they dropped dead. They were just numbers with no names.

Who were the people who were bought to the camps?

The large majority were Jews from all parts of German occupied Europe, but there were also Russian prisoners of wars, Roma / Gipsies, pacifists, and in particular, Seventh Day Adventists, homosexuals and criminals.

How did Hitler come up with the idea for concentration camps?

Concentration camps were not Hitler's idea. It was his deputy, Himmler, head of the Gestapo, the secret police, who was initially responsible for setting up concentration camps. Concentration camps were a feature of the Nazi state right from the beginning, Dachau, Buchenwald and others, but extermination camps where no-one survived, like Sobibor, Chelmno, Bełżec and Treblinka were only introduced after the German attack on Russia. Auschwitz was both a concentration camp using slave labour and an extermination camp where people were killed on arrival.

Was there contact between the different concentration camps?

Staff, officers, and inmates were moved from one to another.

Did anyone escape from the camps? What happened afterwards? What was the effect on others?

Two men escaped from Auschwitz. They wrote a report on what they saw and experienced and sent this to the Red Cross in Switzerland and then it was circulated to the governments of Britain, America and other countries. Probably as a result of this the Hungarian government stopped the deportations.

What were the ways Hitler used to “exterminate” people?

Initially mobile killing units would go from town to town, village to village, gather all Jews and shoot them into mass graves. Later they set up special exterminations camps where people were killed by poison gas, carbon monoxide at first, and zyklon B later. 

Did Hitler ever do “the dirty work”?

There is no record of Hitler personally killing anyone.

What happened to those who were Jewish in and around Germany after the war ended?

Some tried to resume their previous life, many left, moved to Israel and other countries like New Zealand, taking their skills with them.

Did the Nazis do anything to Jewish babies?

Babies were killed, along with other children as well as older people who could no longer be used for slave labour.

What happened to the mass graves after the war ended?

Most were covered over leaving no trace.

What happened to the German government after Hitler’s death?

The Nazi leaders were tried for War Crimes, the occupying Allied powers, Britain, France, the US and the Soviet Union installed an administration to run the country until a democratically elected government could take over. 

How were the Gestapo chosen and what happened to them after the war?

People volunteered. The vast majority of Gestapo officers came from the police forces of the Weimar Republic, members of the SS, the SA, and the NSDAP also joined the Gestapo. When the Nuremberg trials began in 1945, some Gestapo members were individually convicted.

Did they really experiment on twins? What did they do?

Mengele did indeed experiment on twins. He selected twins on the arrival of each transport and searched for hereditary traits. Very few twins survived.

How did Hitler come up with the idea for the Nazi flag?

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler defined the symbolism of the swastika flag: the red represents the social idea of the Nazi movement, the white disk represents the national idea, and the black swastika, used in Aryan cultures for millennia, represents "the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man, and, by the same token, the victory of creative work."

Where does the word “Holocaust” come from?

"Holocaust" comes from the the Greek word holokauston, itself a translation of the Hebrew olah, meaning "completely burnt offering to God," implying that Jews and other "undesirables" murdered during World War II were a sacrifice to God.

What does the word “Nazi” mean?

An acronym for National Socialist; from the German Nationale Sozialist. The term refers to members of the National Socialist party, or anything to do with the National Socialist party.

What happened to all of the belongings, artwork and books that were taken?

Some were reclaimed by their owners, many are still lost or held by people who have no rights to them.

What happened to the books that were related to the Jewish culture?

Many books were destroyed.

Were Jewish people forced to work in munitions factories?

Some worked as slave labourers wherever they were sent.

What is the history behind the star that Jewish people had to wear?

The star of David is a modern symbol of Judaism that was used by the Nazis to identify and distinguish Jews.

What were the consequences of hiding a Jewish person?

The lucky ones were sent to concentration camps, the unlucky ones were shot, often on the spot.

Before the war, how many Jewish people were there? How many remained after the war? (How many had lost their lives?)

There were approximately 9.5 million Jews in Europe in 1933. About 5.6 million were killed during the Holocaust.

What happened to those who were both Jewish and German?

These presented a problem for the Nazis. They were both Jewish and Aryan. By and large they were allowed to live, but were ostricized.

end faq

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