A Jewish Man Being Shot And Dumped Into A Mass Grave

Jewish Man Shot

Photograph from the Library of Congress, courtesy of the USHMM Photo Archives.

German soldiers of the Waffen-SS and the Reich Labor Service look on as a member of Einsatzgruppe D prepares to shoot a Ukrainian Jew kneeling on the edge of a mass grave filled with corpses. (1942)

He’s that friendly guy down the street you have had coffee with a number of times, you and your friends, at that little outdoor cafe, at least in summer time, down the street.

Now like a fever, like an epidemic even, war has come upon you and all the people of your land, your neighborhood, and even your good earth and sky.

Who would ever think that you have been made to dig such large graves in the ground?

Who would have thought it on this earth that you would be digging your native soil so someone could shoot you in the head, destroying your brain, your hopes, your fears, your knowledge, your humor, your fantasies of that girl next door, your memories of that longed for kiss, the book you have read, the last one you were reading before this, the work at hand teaching or making shoes, but earning your daily bread, and the folks at home, the meals to be made and eaten. You each had your jobs to do in that big house where you all lived.

Now someone has taken you away from all this normal life and brought you to the edge of this woods. These foreigners, these aliens, these Germans of a strange and killer race like doing this to you and your fellow human beings.

They like killing you for no other reason than that you are a Jew.

And what have you ever done to them?

It’s too late, but what should you have done to them? Would you not, if you had a gun now, shoot as many of these aliens in uniform before they shoot you and your fellow human beings.

My Gott, they shoot women and children, and old people as well, and they are about to shoot you in your head and take a picture of it.

My God, what is the world coming to? It’s just incomprehensible, isn’t it?

Do we have your attention, all you Lookers-On? We are going to kill a Jew!

Walking To Babi Yar Ravine, Kiev, Ukraine, To Be Executed

Waking To Execution

Photograph from the Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives.

The date is September 29, 1941, not so long ago. The people are Jewish. The German army has recently conquered this part of the Soviet Union. Notices have gone up around the city of Kiev that all Jews are to assemble at a certain spot.

Notice our words used. Assemble seems reasonable and modern. If you were an adult Jew then you would be wondering what this means. You have been singled out as a Jew. The notice does not say that all Russians of the city are to assemble at a certain place outside of town.

No, because you are Jewish you are to assemble at the edge of the city, and you have to walk there in these long lines past people already dead. What must you be wondering? Who has given this order? How will they enforce it?

You are living somewhere in your mind and your body is doing the walking. They do not tell you what will happen to you. Just picture it yourself. You are a human being. You are one of these people in the photograph. You are born into this life. Your parents had sexual intercourse. You are born a Jew.

Now, other human beings have ordered you to go somewhere because all Jews have been ordered to go somewhere. You leave your apartment, your homes, your Russian neighbors. They say goodbye to you, in their minds thankful they are not Jews. They look at you. You look at them. Friendly greetings and goodbyes. Nobody steps forward and says to you, “You don’t have to go. Don’t go! If they want you so much make them find you!”

Yet you know enough about the war happening around you that the Germans have guns and you don’t. They live by different laws than they apply to you. You know it in your heart. You see the evidence that the Germans shoot people. You don’t want to be shot.

Your body is walking along but you are living in your mind trying to figure it all out, trying to figure this day out especially. It was not a good sleep last night. The notices had gone up only two days ago and you had talked with your family and friends. What does it all mean? you had been asked and you had asked.

Now you were walking the long walk. Now your body was doing the walking for you, automatically. Somehow your brain was telling you, walk, walk, they told you to, they said you would be punished if you didn’t, they said all Jews, and it looks like all Jews are here, people you know and people you don’t know.

You are a Jew and so on this one day you are walking into the unknown and it will not be good, you think. Yet, you don’t think the ultimate. You don’t think death by firing squad. They have told you and all Jews to assemble that day at the railroad station. Any Jews not doing this will be rounded up and shot. Jews are already being shot. You are in your mind and not your body. You don’t run. You don’t hide. You just walk the long walk.

Because? Because you are a Jew. Because? Because arrogant Germans have invaded your country with guns. Because? Because arrogant Germans have shot Jews. So now you are a true Jew, are you? And because you are a true Jew they have ordered you to do something you don’t want to do.

Notice also as you are there in this picture, this image of a true life event on this planet earth, that there are no guards in the picture. You a Jew are walking into the unknown, some of you, many of you, without suitcases even. And you walk by death, you walk by the corpse of a young man.

What was his story? you wonder, but still you march on. Before the end of the day, though you still don’t know it in your mind, your whole body, your system, that because you are somebody called a Jew you will be horribly, despicably dead, shot down by machine guns and falling into a ravine with thousands upon thousands of other bodies, some moaning, a living hell, and you are there with them, in your mind somewhere thinking your last thoughts because you are a Jew.

And because you are a Jew you are dead.

Is there any worse fate than to be killed by other human beings when you have done nothing wrong to deserve this fate?

Is there any worse fate?

Write about it, why don’t you? Think about it! Feel in your gut the horror of being a member of humanity where force rules often over right.

Think how useless they, the oppressors, have made your life, how very useless you must feel walking the long road, walking past death, walking perhaps to your death, though you don’t know yet, do you?

And simply because you are pariah, a Jew, someone being excluded from the human race because other human beings, the bigots, the Fascists, the Germans, the good soldiers, the killers, the insane bureaucrats that follow the armies in, the workers who take advantage, the Jew-haters among your neighbors, just because all these people have singled you out for destruction.

Ah, what power they must have, must feel!

And how useless you are really to fight back!

This is war, you think. This is evil.

But what can I do about it? I will hide out in my mind for as long as I can.

I have nowhere else to go . . ..

You think, anything is better than this life . . . even death.

Q&A on Holocaust Reactions

[blip.tv ?posts_id=787909&dest=-1]

1-What is this Holocaust Q&A about?

Because people have strong reactions to the photographs we present of actual Holocaust pictures and people we need a way to process and understand this historical tragedy. The responses by Strephon Kaplan-Williams, psychologist-philosopher, presented here are based on his work with survivors of tragedy and his own work with his Jewish background, including his father being a child survivor of the Russian pogroms.

2-Lisa writes: Why would they do something like that to them that is very wrong?

Strephon Kaplan-Williams Response: Yes, Lisa, it is very wrong. It is so wrong that it is inconceivable almost that this could happen. Yet it did happen. What is involved is that our own life-view must include the presence of evil, of suffering, of death, in life. We still have people killing each other in stupid wars led by stupid people. It is estimated that a million children disappear each year. So when we are looking at holocaust pictures are we not also seeing that the world is far from a perfect place to be in, and yet survive, and even prosper, we must!

3-Christine writes: this is unnessasary i have family that was there and they were killed how could they do somthing like this especially to women?

SKW Response:
This picture was put here to show how horrible it was to kill human beings, and to kill the innocent and vulnerable. It still goes on today. Who does the killing? Almost always men do the killing. Does this not tell you as a woman that many, if not most, men are capable of killing and abusing women? As a psychologist I would say from personal experience in working with myself and men, that even if we have fantasies of killing someone we then are capable of killing, given the right circumstances. Insanity is acting out the fantasies in real life. As a woman you will have to learn that any man you relate to is capable of violence. The holocaust shows the extreme of this tendency because the killing of Jews was sanctioned by government officials and officers. In your own relating to men, always remember the harm they can do to you, given stressful circumstances. It does not end! Violence does not end! You have to learn to deal with it in yourself and in others. Men have to analyze themselves as to their own tendencies to be violent. I recommend that women both know their own violence and also help men to recognize their aggressiveness towards women. Some male aggressiveness is instinctual, just as males are aggressive towards other males. But to take responsibility for ones own aggressiveness in relationship is a major relationship task for either sex.

4-Tiffany writes: this men are sick what was the point of doing this to the women it is repulsive to look at these pictures because you would never believe a human could find it in their will to do such horrible things to another human being.

SKW Response:
Yes, these men are totally sick. One way to face this as either a man or a woman is to fantasize if you were there in this true scene? What would I do if a man in the village, if I could do anything? My fantasy is that I would be in the resistance. Jewish partizan groups did go after the Jew-killers they could find and execute them after telling them their crimes. But this is hard, dangerous work. There were a lot of Jew-haters willing to kill. Luckily enough people were good enough in the world to want to destroy Nazi Germany and stop the killing finally.

SKW Response: Yes, it is repulsive to look at these pictures. That’s why they are posted here with comments available. We must look on evil and let it move us. Your reaction of horror is very real. However, your world view, how you see life and existence must be just as real. You are born into this existence. It goes better for each one of us if we take in the probability of evil, in ourselves, in our own lives, and in other people. Never be so innocent that you close your eyes to the evil that surrounds you and is in you. Because of the presence also of good in the world and in you and others, does not mean you can close your eyes to evil, does it?

5-Ash writes: uhh i just want to hurt that guy! how on earth could he even want to do this to such inacient people. i just want to say how wrong it is!

SKW Response:
It is terribly wrong, and nothing will make it right. That’s for sure! Wanting to hurt and stop these people is also a right response. However, in this life there are so many people out there ready to exploit you and others, ready to terrorize you and steal from you, steal your children, your goods, your freedom, and so on, that you have to ask yourself things. How much power have you made for yourself to protect yourself and those you love? How much effective power are you building up with others to protect yourself and others from atrocities that evil people do in this life? The truth is that it remains our own responsibility to protect ourselves in life. Become good at it! Become really good at it!

6-Amber says: Hi, i’m 13 and i’ve just read a book about this. This is soo wrong. I dont understand how one human can do this to another human. It really sickens me. I just about cried while I read that book. ((Night by Elie Wiesel)) Its horrible. I dont understand.

SKW Response: It is perfectly clear that holocaust events shock us so deeply that it makes it so difficult to understand such things. Ultimately is this a world that we can understand? Is it meaningful? Is it basically good? Is there more good in the world than evil? These are the questions that we are always facing as we live our lives. We don’t have the perfect world many of us would like to have. We seem to have a world in which evil destructiveness is always at work just as building, caring and creation are always at work. One Jewish friend reported that Elie Wiesel became more positive once he had a wife and child. If true this says that despite the evil done to him and humanity he affirmed life by living love and producing out of that union the next generation.

7-Hunter reports: This is sick. These Germans are so messed up. I bet they enjoyed the naked jews. They all got boners and then raped them. This picture aroused me. Im hacking off to this picture.

SKW Response: As a psychologist I can tell you that it can be a natural reaction to feel sexual in the face of suffering and death. Nature as instinct does have sex, the producing of the next generation, as a response to death. Raping in war can be seen as the combining of violence with sex as an unconscious but instinctual reaction to the decay and arbitrariness of violence and death. Of course, since it is unconscious in perpetrators, then people doing pure instinctual behavior are not conscious enough to have values and choice regarding their behavior. In war the whole group and organization go crazy. Any army is insane because their purpose is to kill, and to do so they have to kill other human beings by giving up their normal, civilized personalities.

8-karah says: i dont see how it is possible for mankind to do this, this is a massive disgrace upon the germans and all who died shouls be remembered as brave and couragous people.

SKW Response: Of course sometimes it is better to let oneself be killed than to kill someone else. The Germans would sometimes give a choice to a mother: You can save one child. We take the others. Which one do you choose? Yes, what is courage here? Not to play the game of evil? To risk ones own life to uphold value despite the threat to oneself and those one loves? The Germans apparently still have a hard time with war guilt. However, when they can see other countries, including the United States, also doing evil, they do not feel alone. To remind ourselves that we are all members of the human race is to remind ourselves that we are all capable of doing evil, as individuals and in groups. Show me a righteous person and I will show you a person without a shadow.

9-Stephanie says: I don’t understand why Hitler would want to do that, guess he was just plain evil.

SKW response: Apparently Hitler was truly evil, but this can also mean insane. Some like to say the Nazis did the killing, while others point out that it was the Germans and their allies. As a psychologist we take the position that becoming part of a killing machine happens in any culture, American, British, Israeli, German, Arab, African, whatever. It is happening all over the world now. It comes down to our individual choices. I went to military school but I chose to leave it and to go further and become a conscientious objector who did non-combatant service. Yet, to feed my aggressive side I watch war films sometimes. Again, violence and aggressiveness is in us all and can become a collective thing when leaders push for killing other people, right or wrong. We each need to take a stand in life regarding individual and collective violence, however the world goes. We can’t control the world but we can make choices for ourselves.

10-Ben says: Everyone thinks that this is very unhuman to do to those millions of Jews, but did the Germans really pay for it, they got away with murder by the millions. I think all those bastards should burn in hell, and Hitler may have been genious but he was a fuckin syco killer to, dont ever forget that.

SKW Response: Again our problem of what to do with evil in ourselves and in the world? We see people doing terrible evil and we want to cream them, destroy them, and rightly so. It’s a great fantasy. If I were actually in the Second World War and I had a chance to kill Germans, would I do so? If they were attempting to kill me? It’s good to fantasize, what would you do? Role play it even. These are such difficult choices. Those who have been in actual war might laugh at the rest of us, so it is good for all of us who have not lived through battle conditions to take seriously our reactions and to work with them, whatever they are. Where do our own fantasies of killing the enemy come from inside ourselves? How is our own sense of powerlessness in life being fantasized? What are we doing about this powerlessness that is both ethical and effective? How do we need to realistically protect ourselves in life, man or woman? Whom can we trust, if anyone?

11-Andrea asks: where was God? I dont understand why or how that happened under Gods skies…. little girls are the most innacent, and i dont see how anyone could ever harm them.

SKW Response: We humans have to realize that some of us project onto what people call God some sort of parent in the sky that should save victims from evil. The history of the Christian religion shows how millions of Christians were killed and also how Christians killed millions of people, Christians and non-Christians. It would be foolish to attribute to God the power to save the innocent from evil. However, sometimes in individual cases some are saved by accident or mysterious forces. Also, some concentration camp inmates overcame their captors and escaped to live while others died in the attempt. Statistically we are not going to see some power called God going around and saving people. Better to revise ones world view and see that if anyone is going to save you from the worst in life, it is going to be yourself! Revise your world view. Accept the presence of evil in yourself and others. Do self-analysis. Make yourself strong and conscious. Develop power and effectiveness. Live a life of value. All these things will help you, even though for some of us terrible things will still happen. The point is, just because the world has a lot of evil in it, don’t be such a wimp! Develop yourself as best you can! God won’t save you but maybe you can save yourself.

12-James says: thi shit is disgusting….. it embarrases me that i’m human, because its humans killing humans for no damn reason….. i hate disgusting scum like the nazis in this world…. hitler hated jews and jesus was a jew so what does that tell you….? despicable bastard!!!!

SKW response: The old way was to repress ones own dark emotions. Here James expresses his, evoked by people who chose to act out evil in life. Again, my own litany as a psychologist-philosopher: face your own evil so as to better deal with other people’s evil in life. Expressing anger and judgment is probably better than repressing it. The Germans and the educational systems of the other countries on both sides of the war used violence, hitting and terror, to control kids in school and in families. Repressing our sense of hurt and anger then makes killers of us and the hurt and violence comes out in extreme ways. So we need to be against violence towards children anywhere so the next generation does not grow up wanting to kill others projected onto as “the enemy.”

13-Breana says that: HITLER WILL BURN IN HELL KILLING HUMANS FOR NO DAME REASON he is just plain evil

SKW Response: Yes, Hitler can serve to represent “the face of evil” in this life. It may be that the only hell we create is the hell we create on earth. How to not create of our own lives a living hell? That is the question for each one of us!

14-Jessy Mae says: I’m 13 and I am allowed to do a project in History, and I am picking to do about the women and children of the war. This image made me feel ill and I wanted to say to all the people who supported Hitler, you are SICK. Children as young as 3 were gassed by that sick, psychopathic, raving lunatic! How could you be so horrid? I hope you are turning in your graves right now, look at all the pain you caused!

SKW Response: As I have had to say to many people, and to myself: look on the face of evil and experience it! Suffer! Face the suffering that is part of life and life will go better for you. Don’t be unrealistic. Yet what people usually do is try to avoid the pain, to only hope for or look for good things. This will keep you unrealistic. What people most need to face is the Dark Side so that they can the better deal with it in themselves and in life. Sorry, but it is so!

15-serena says: I think some people are taking this picture to serious, beacuase we can’t sit around an just chant and rave about how it makes us sick and how much we hate these men it is just not right, i’m not saying i support them AT ALL but if you are look at these picture’s and all you can say about the holocaust is bad thing’s than you are blind! My grandmother was striped of her hair and clothing, EVERYTHING! here husband died she lost her brother and her only son, but you know if you ask her about the holocaust she will only say the good things that happended such as how she and her duaghter got out safely and how she made such good friends and the misgeff my mother and her got into. It is HALARIOUS!!!!! so next time think about the good things in life ensted of ranting and raving about the bad(;

SKW Response: Yes, some will flee towards the good things as a way of compensating for the bad that has happened. However, Primo Levi, another Jewish survivor-writer besides Elie Wiesel, committed suicide in his later years. He had success after but then the camp’s “dark night of the soul” must have overcome him. Survivors have had a terrible time, as do their children, carrying the burden. Bringing transformation of the dark side does seem the way to go for healing. However, your grandmother differs from you probably in that she experienced the worst. To a person like you and I, feeling really bad about what happened is probably a good sign since then we feel the impact of the dark side, the evil, violent side of life. There are two forms of psychological release: One is to react as negatively as one feels to the realization of evil, as expressed here by many respondents to the holocaust picture. The other is to experience the impact of evil but to transform it with going to its opposite, the good, the positive, the humorous. Jewish humor often has an edge of making ridiculous the evil done to Jews. One of the people coming to a lecture of mine on dreams had to leave right away because her husband told us she still dreamed her holocaust experiences as nightmares. For her it was impossible to face them. One would have wished otherwise, but I could do nothing to help her because she and her husband did not come to see me for a session on dealing with nightmares.