The vast majority of people in Germany and occupied Europe were aware, to at least some extent, of how the Nazi regime was treating the Jews. Nevertheless, they took no active position on the matter. They did not openly persecute the Jews but they did not actively help them either. This was sometimes due to antisemitic sentiments but primarily because they felt that it was an assault not on them but on another.
Each camp operated according to gaping power imbalances between camp guards and inmates. Interestingly, there was also a delicately balanced hierarchy amongst the prisoners too, enabling some to receive preferential treatment and leading others to exact cruelty on those lower ranking than themselves. Ernst comments insightfully on this power play and reflects on the importance of playing within the rules of each camp’s leadership structure.
Jewish Life in Camps
This section explores how Ernst and his fellow inmates were able to practice some aspects of their religious laws and customs in the face of crushing inhumanity.
Exploring the abuse of power and control at the hands of the Nazis and others within the camp hierarchy. The cruelty and immoral acts witnessed by Ernst and his fellow inmates are described in dispassionate detail.
Read how good fortune coupled with Ernst’s physical and psychological traits contributed to his survival.