This dissertation has felt like a very long, complicated journey. However, I would like to thank Matthew Feldman for getting me started, by showing me that the Holocaust is not just a subject for historians. Grateful thanks must also go to Doug Rae, who gave me the confidence to stick to my original idea, and for providing a refuge of sanity in times of crisis.
On a less academic note, I am truly grateful to Mike and Saffron for putting up with me, they have accompanied me (both mentally and physically) every step of the way. Dawn has provided me with chocolate, Tricia with bacon rolls, both supplied with love and good humour for which I am eternally grateful.
And finally, thank you to my two mums for all their support, plus the pride and confidence they have shown in me (even when they didn’t really understand what it was I was attempting to do).
This piece of work firstly defines the Holocaust as a series of interlinked crimes which turned Europe into a vast crime scene. It then goes on to provide evidence to show that Criminology until recently, avoided the study of the Holocaust. It extends to discuss just some of the reasons for this absence.
From this point, it moves on to looking at some of the methodological problems associated with studying the Holocaust. These range from issues of emotion and morality, to identifying and defining the roles played by individuals and organisations.
It is suggested that Criminology is in an ideal position to both inform and be informed by an understanding of the Holocaust. Furthermore, it is posited that as the discipline has the advantage of a long history of critically analysing criminal justice agencies, as well as those involved; this should prove invaluable when looking at the structure of Nazi Germany.
The focus of this dissertation is on two case studies, which hopefully illustrate the ambiguous nature of labelling.
Genocide is a phenomenon that explodes the myth that there are either good or bad people (Stone, 2004 p. 59).
At first glance, the Holocaust may not appear to be an obvious candidate for a criminological dissertation, despite Hall’s (2005 p. 109) contention that ‘…mass killing, and in particular genocide, undoubtedly represent the most extreme examples of hate crime’. Furthermore it is posited that to ignore arguably the twentieth century’s “greatest” crime is not only a wasted opportunity, but in turn brings the validity of criminology into question (Friedrichs, 2000 pp. 21-41, Yacoubian Jr., 2000 pp. 7-19, Jamieson, 1998 pp. 480-506).
It has been contended that of all the genocides committed, the Holocaust is the most studied and documented (Totten and Parsons, 2004 p. 8). Mann (2005 p. 188) insists that ‘the Final Solution was the most single-minded attempt at genocide the world has ever seen’. It is for these reasons, that the Holocaust is suggested as the ideal place to attempt, to apply a criminological perspective. Recognising that this dark period of history does not lend itself easily to objective analysis places some huge methodological obstacles which need to be overcome.
Friedrichs (2000 pp. 26-33) proposes three ways in which criminology could attempt to understand the Holocaust:
In terms of criminality (ibid. pp. 26-30)
In terms of crime (ibid. pp. 31-32)
In terms of criminalization (ibid. pp. 32-33)
Criminology suggests that every one of us has the propensity to commit some form of crime, but in Nazi Germany not all participated. Perhaps criminology could look at individuals in order to understand the ways in which they adapted to highly unusual circumstances (Bovenkerk, 2000 p. 249).
Hilberg (1988 p. 17) succinctly records that the Holocaust is ‘…a process, wilfully shaped by perpetrators, suffered by victims, and observed by bystanders’. Leading from this, one can understand the problems when attempting to study this area, as there are at least, three different versions of testimony to consider, that of the Nazis, the victims, and the bystanders. However, Primo Levi (1988 pp. 22-51) emphasises that within the Holocaust, it is extremely difficult to distinguish one typology from the other. In essence, there is what he refers to as the Grey Zone (ibid. p. 22-51):
It is a grey zone, with ill-defined outlines which both separate and join the two camps of masters and servants. It possesses an incredibly complicated internal structure, and contains within itself enough to confuse our need to judge (ibid. p. 27).
Thus for the purpose of this dissertation, it is intended to take as a starting point, Friedrichs (2000 pp. 32-33) third option, and attempt to
apply this to two case studies.
These studies have been chosen with reference to Levi’s Grey Zone (1998 p. 22-51), that is to say they have been selected for their ambiguity. Although Levi refers directly to the Lager or camp it is suggested that the concept need not be constrained to that area. As Browning (1992 pp. 186-188) has shown, this concept is adaptable (in his case to the study of Reserve Police Battalion 101), it is therefore contended that the concept is equally as adaptable to other areas of the Holocaust as well as to definitions of criminality.
From the outset, this whole process has felt like a journey of discovery (both mentally and physically). The many complex issues involved within the Holocaust, require a great deal of reflection, and it is for this purpose I have kept two personal diaries. The first diary, documents my visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau in July, 2006 (see Appendix 1). Although I do not refer directly to this document, I have enclosed it in order to illustrate the influence this visit had on my dissertation. The second diary (see Appendix 2) gave rise to my methodology. Again it is not an academic document, but it does show the reflexive process I underwent.
This methodology may differ from that which is traditionally expected within a Criminology dissertation. It attempts not only to explain the tortuous thought processes involved, and provide a literature review; but also endeavours to define and address the interplay between Criminology and the Holocaust.
Defining the Holocaust
The Holocaust may not appear to be an obvious subject for a criminological discussion, in part due to its traditional situation, of being primarily within a historical, philosophical, theological or legal framework.
It can also be argued that the Holocaust as a phenomenon, has been explored in every conceivable way, and that now there is very little left to say or do, other than to simply commemorate. My intention is to show that there is much that Criminology can learn from the Holocaust.
Definitions of the Holocaust are often fiercely contested, and I do not propose to add to this debate. Friedrichs (2000 p. 33) states that:
…the Holocaust was not only a crime but a crime on a monumental scale is certainly a widely accepted proposition, and the term “crime” is commonly applied to the Holocaust.
In agreement with the above statement, this dissertation will take as a viewpoint that in the 1930s and 1940s, Europe became one vast crime scene.
Definitions of Criminology are also highly contested and fiercely debated (McLaughlin and Muncie, 2001 pp. xi-xii). For this reason, the definitions selected are decidedly broad in their outlook in order to offer the most scope for a study of the Holocaust. Jupp (2000 p. 16) states that:
Criminology focuses on… the nature of crime and its extent; the perpetrators of crime; the victims of crime; the institutions of criminal justice and their workings; punishment and penology; and the role of the state.
This contention is also supported by Hil and Robertson (2003 p. 94) who insist that at the heart of Criminology should lay a desire to understand ‘crime, criminality and the crime problem’. Day and Vandiver (2000 p. 56) are less specific, although arguably more relevant to this dissertation, when they refer to ‘deviant behaviour’. Although the Holocaust may not fit easily into everyday Criminology, it is posited that the Nazis (National Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei. [NSDAP]), were not that dissimilar to other generations (Scarre, 1998 p. 424). Indeed they had a highly developed set of values and morals, plus a strong sense of community, unfortunately all of which were at the expense of those they deemed ‘degenerate’ (ibid. p. 424). As Kauzlarich et al. (2001 p. 190) point out ‘state crime is real, it is harmful, it produces victims, and therefore should be subject to social control and criminological analysis’.
It is suggested that during the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis instigated, encouraged and sponsored crimes ranging from theft and arson, all the way to mass murder. They also defined, through their policies, who and what constituted criminality and crime (Friedrichs, 2000 p. 26). Although these crimes occurred many generations ago, I would argue that they continue to hold massive relevance, not least for Criminology. As Brants (2000 p. 213) asks ‘at what point on the scale of good and evil do we start talking about crime?’
Approaching the Holocaust
From the outset the only real option available to me was to undertake a library based dissertation. This was in the main, due to the time which has elapsed since the events of the Holocaust, but also an appreciation that there are very difficult ethical problems attached to researching genocide. By simply placing a reliance on both primary and secondary documents, I originally felt confident that most of these problems could be overcome.
However, after visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau and having the opportunity to simply sit and reflect, I realised that there were many more issues to consider. In actual fact this simple process of reflection proved so much harder, both emotionally and academically, than I could have anticipated. Along the way, I have discovered that the Holocaust presents unique methodological concerns which I believe can be resolved, but only with detailed planning.
Dr Matthew Feldman taught me that it is imperative not to lose sight of the horrific nature of the Holocaust. For this reason I have constantly refocused, my attention by watching documentaries, films, and listening to and reading survivor testimony. I have also availed myself of every opportunity to attend lectures relating to the Holocaust. It is all too easy to become engrossed in abstract theories and concepts, and to lose sight of the people whose lives were affected. I feel adamant that this dissertation should not be purely academic in basis, instead it is of paramount importance that there is recognition, that the Holocaust is a hugely complex series of human events, which must not be mechanistically reduced, otherwise meaning will be lost.
Naturally it was also important, that I did not simply look at the historical nature of the Holocaust, but instead attempted to apply a criminological focus. My visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau reinforced my belief, that the Holocaust should be a focus for Criminology.
Regrettably, recognition does not seem to be given to the fact that genocide is a real and present danger (Kauzlarich et al. 2001 p. 175, Totten and Parsons, 2004 p. 10). To me it appeared ironic that Criminology would be absent from both genocide and Holocaust discourses. Unfortunately, very early on I realised that this was the case, an appreciation which at times made me feel as though I was undertaking an impossible task.
A Criminology of the Holocaust?
In the many Criminology books I laid my hands on, I searched in vain for ways of understanding, exploring and explaining genocide. This apparent lack of research seemed fundamentally remiss to say the least. Both Friedrichs (2000) and Goldhagen (1996 p. 4) have made the case for the Holocaust as the most shocking crime of the 20th century. Indeed it is contended that ‘…the totality of the event itself and its aftermath – renders the Holocaust a criminal event apart from all others’ (Friedrichs, 2000 p. 23). Others such as Bartov (2004), Bauer (2001 p. 115) and Browning (1992a p. xiii) also stress the inherent criminality of both the Holocaust and the Nazi Regime. Indeed Ruggiero (2005 p. 247) contends that ‘…crime is encouraged as one of the forms of war’.
It is recognised that Victimology’s roots are firmly embedded within the experiences of Holocaust survivors (van Dijk, 1997). It should therefore follow that Criminology, as a closely related discipline, should be equally as interested in the events of the Holocaust. Unfortunately I could find no real evidence to suggest that Criminology has meaningfully engaged with the Holocaust. This lack of involvement frustrates me. In recent years, Criminology has recognised hate crime and other issues of ethnicity as highly important (Hamm, 1993, Philips and Bowling. 2002, Hall, 2005). Arguably Nazi Germany’s attempt to play God, to decide who could and couldn’t reproduce, who should live and who should die, is one of the most extreme cases of hate crime ever recorded (Friedrichs, 2000 p. 32-33, Carrabine et al., 2004 pp. 357-358)
Morrison (2006 p. 50) implies that the only subjects relevant to Criminology, are those which are situated within its traditional framework. He (ibid. p. 52) explores further by insisting that:
In a century literally awash with human blood and reeking with the stench of corpses, mainstream Criminology seemed to inhabit another world.
As the Holocaust is generally seen as a matter for historians, this perhaps explains the lack of criminological engagement. Despite this, McIllwain (2000 p. 1) argues that the Holocaust is best viewed as multi-disciplinary in nature, allowing approaches from many different fields.
My first thought was, that perhaps Criminology simply did not exist in the form we would recognise today, and that is why it does not feel a need to participate in this particular debate. Sadly this does not seem to have been the case. It has been recorded by Nagel (documented in Bovenkerk, 2000 p. 246), that international Criminology conferences prior to WWII, placed shoplifting at the top of their agendas. He then noted (ibid. p.246) that despite the horror and destruction, these conferences reconvened only to continue their debates about shoplifting – a case of business as usual. Yacoubian, Jr., (2000 pp. 10-13) has carried out research looking at the contents of both criminological journals as well as conferences (1990-1998), in order to measure the amount of material relating to genocide. His findings would appear to show that criminology has virtually ignored the whole issue of genocide (ibid. pp. 10-13). Others such as Bovenkerk (2000 p. 246) and Morrison (2006 p.52), also assert that Criminology is simply absent from any debate about the Holocaust and genocide.
Wetzell (2000 p. 11) goes further, and points to an ambivalence within Criminology throughout the Nazi regime. He suggests that although mainstream Criminology could not be said to have been complicit, other strands of the discipline may have become ‘Nazified’ (ibid. p. 10-11). Although much has been said and written about the influence of Cesare Lombroso on Nazi policy, Wetzell (ibid. pp. 28-38) recognises that biological Criminology was in fact much more subtle than this.
Criminology and the Holocaust
Fortunately, there are signs that things are beginning to change, and that finally Criminology is starting the process of engaging with the Holocaust. Recent works by Browning (1992a) and Goldhagen (1996), have looked at perpetrator motivations, and it could be argued that they are almost doing the work of criminologists (Brannigan, 1998 p. 258, Woolford, 2006 p. 101, Friedrichs, 2000 pp. 27-29). Historians such as Hilberg (1992), Barnett (1999), Bartov (2004), Bloxham and Kushner (2004), have looked at victims, perpetrators and bystanders in order to gain some insight into the different participants. Other recent research has begun to see a subtle synthesis between History and Criminology, with authors such as Evans (1996), Wetzell (2004), and Wachsmann (2004), beginning the process of unravelling the German application of the death penalty, the Nazi prisons and German Criminology respectively.
It is wrong to view this cataclysmic event in purely historical terms, or as a representation of the battle between good and evil (Seeskin, 1988 pp. 111-112). Bauman (1989 p. vii) suggests that one view of the Holocaust is that of …a horrible crime, visited by the wicked on the innocent. A world split into mad murderers and helpless victims…
Unfortunately, if we view the Holocaust as ‘sacred’ and ‘untouchable’, we are left only with remembrance, which in turn reduces our ability to comprehend the world we live in (Scarre 1998 p. 424, Baumann, 1989 p. 223).
It is also essential that we recognise that many voices and experiences are lost forever (Hilberg, 1988 p.22). Even, if every survivor was able to relate their experiences, whether written, oral or through their art, we know that millions of voices are missing. Because of this there will always be a massive void. It is virtually impossible to see the whole picture when the jigsaw is so incomplete. We must always acknowledge that millions of different experiences were lost in the shooting pits, the gallows, the gas chambers or by simply being worked to death (Ashworth, 2004 p. 5). It is also important to remember that each experience is unique to the individual, it is their reality and their truth, and cannot be judged as representative of the whole (Langer, 1988 pp. 26-40, Levi, 2005 p. 16). We can compare, contrast and combine these experiences, but their individual nature should be recognised.
Use of Language
One problem with an academic approach to the Holocaust is that, you can produce a cold, logical and dispassionate piece, which has virtually diffused all the raw emotion (Woolford, 2006 p. 102, Friedrichs 2000 pp. 25-26). This may be deemed more objective, but unfortunately also mimics the Nazi style of conveying information, particularly in respect of the ‘Final Solution’. It is also debatable as to whether it is desirable to attempt to ignore so many individuals’ feelings, or to try and categorise people’s personal experiences. Fundamentally, the Holocaust is about the abuse, loss of dignity and suffering of humankind and this must always shine through (Levi, 2005 p. 16). Despite the millions of people involved, each individual voice must be heard loud and clear. If not, we run the risk of doing exactly as the Nazis did, making decisions about who is important and who is not.
It should be noted that the nature and meaning of certain words have changed since the Holocaust (Langer, 1988 pp. 29-30). Terms such as “Final Solution” (Endlösung), “living space” (lebensraum), “work makes free” (Arbeit Macht Frei) and “peoples’ community” (volksgemeinschaft), all mask their real intentions; however, they must be understood (Seeskin, 1988 p. 113). The Nazis’ use of everyday apparatus, such as the transport infrastructure, the criminal justice system and the media, has also given these facets of everyday life, a different, and more sinister interpretation. This is problematic when relying on Nazi documentation (Hilberg, 1988 p. 18). It must also be recognised that by relying on the perpetrators’ official documents you could end up with a purely administrative exercise (ibid. p. 18). Although this may avoid the problem of sentiment, it is doubtful whether it can aid understanding or feeling.
There is a hidden and insidious danger when looking at these documents, a sense that you are beginning to see the perverted logic behind their plans (Seeskin, 1988 p. 113). You can become caught up in the ideas, almost oblivious of the fact that these plans and designs were intended for human beings. Many of these documents do not refer to people directly, but instead read like a company’s profit and loss record. It is because of this fear; there is a need to continually refocus on the victims.
Reliance on perpetrator testimony offers another set of problems. Much of this was written soon after the end of WWII, and often whilst the individual was in the custody of the Allies. This obviously has massive validity problems. Those facing the death penalty may have used the opportunity to purge their soul, or to try and gain some advantage when it came to their day in court. Others, who gave testimony away from a court setting, may have embellished or hidden the truth; after all, very few perpetrators were brought to justice, so there were benefits in downplaying the past. There is a possibility that the reader may empathise with the testimony of the perpetrator, unaware of any contextual material. Criminology tries hard to understand the motivation of perpetrators to some extent, but this offers a moral dilemma. As Friedrichs (2000 p. 26) points out: ‘for some, explanation inevitably leads us to a posture of excusing, in some sense, the actions of the perpetrators’.
Arguably the most valuable testimony is that of the victims, which has been described as a ‘unique contribution’ (Totten and Parsons, 2004 p. 6). Though many years have passed, and the events recounted are understandably horrific, there is recognition that the memory can play tricks (Langer, 1988 pp. 28-29). It also has to be taken into account, that these individuals were (and possibly still are) very vulnerable and traumatised people. Though their testimony reflects this, it is essential that this element is captured. It is therefore vital that wherever possible they are allowed to speak for themselves (Langer, 1988 p. 32). Due to the international nature of the victims, it is often necessary to rely on a translator, and a consequence of this may be that the meaning of their testimony may be unintentionally distorted (Mendel, 1998 p. 12). Although researchers may feel they are representing the themes spoken of, it is the survivors’ own words which tell the full story (ibid. p. 32).
When it comes to writing about the Holocaust it is very easy to write in clichés, in order to try and find the words which do it justice, it is also extremely difficult to write about the Holocaust without the use of academic apparatus. In many ways academic language allows the writer to remain invisible, sterile and aloof, after all these are somebody else’s experiences which are being analysed. It is also worth noting that most of these experiences are retold via media, thus removing the intimate proximity from the researcher. Whilst this protects the interviewee from unnecessary intrusion, it does mean the researcher is further removed from any emotion, and leads to the survivor almost being dehumanised and in some ways an abstract figure (Levi, 2005 p. 16). This is perhaps symbolic of the way in which they were treated by the Nazis and must be guarded against.
Defining and Labelling Individuals
It is easily observable that different groups judge different things to be deviant. This should alert us to the possibility that the person making the judgement of deviance, the process by which that judgement is arrived at, and the situation in which it is made may all be intimately involved in the phenomenon of deviance. (Becker 1963 p. 240)
When interpreting the Holocaust, individuals are divided into five distinct categories: perpetrator, bystander, collaborator, rescuer or victim. Yet these labels can restrict our ability to see the whole picture, because very few people fit completely, into just one of these categories. I also recognise that the way in which the Holocaust resists definition, has inherent problems of its own. The blurring of lines offers potential safety, in as much as it provides the opportunity to avoid the apportioning of direct blame to individuals, other than those in positions of power. It is always going to be easier to look at Hitler and his entourage, with their almost mythical image, than it is to try and look at any ordinary man and woman. It is also important to remember that judging is not productive. We should always bear in mind that the immorality lay in the hands of the Nazis, not those destined for extermination (Holocaust: A Music Memorial Film from Auschwitz., 2006).
I feel that there is now a hierarchy of suffering when we talk about the Holocaust. Although the Jews were deliberately targeted, and as a race suffered the greatest loss of life, other groups such as the Roma and Sinti, the disabled, criminals, a-socials, Slavs, and homosexuals were also targeted, and treated in the same sickening way by the Nazis (Wetzell, 2000 p. 9). It seems wrong that their experiences are treated as a separate issue, becoming complicit in perpetuating discrimination.
When researching the Holocaust you will inevitably come across material produced by Holocaust deniers and apologists for the Nazis (Lang, 1988 pp. 2-3). This is most obvious when looking on the Internet (Berg, 2005). There is also a concern, that research into the Holocaust could end up being viewed as supplying the far right with ammunition to further their cause. The problem with any academic study is that, it is important to unravel or unpack the subject, following themes as they are discovered, with little thought for the impact of the end result. Friedrichs (2000 p. 26) opposes that such fears, whilst needing to be acknowledged as problematic, should not be confused with ‘…the pernicious phenomenon of Holocaust denial’. Instead researchers from all disciplines should be free to explore and understand the Holocaust in their own way (ibid. p. 26).
Unfortunately, when it comes to the Holocaust an academically acceptable study may not be seen in the same light by those who lived through those times (Baumann, 1989 p. 29). It is important to note that the Nazis had quasi scientific and academic rationale for their actions. After all the ‘Final Solution’ was seen as a logical answer to ideologically, complex questions (ibid. pp. 29-30). This can be seen, time and time again, throughout the Nazi regime, as what happens when logic takes the place of morality (ibid. p. 29).
Some Advantages Offered by Criminology
Because of the many difficulties outlined in the previous pages, it is recognised that any criminological research will find it difficult to remain objective. However, if this is accepted as a given, it should still be possible to undertake a criminological study, although perhaps not in the traditional, expected or accepted way (Bauer, 2001 p. 1).
None of these problems outlined should negate or excuse Criminology’s responsibility to attempt to explain or understand the Holocaust. Instead it should strengthen the desire to create a framework within which, it is possible to retain the passion for humankind. I believe that there are many positives which will enable Criminology to join with other disciplines in understanding the Holocaust, some of which I will now detail
To start with Criminology recognises the law as a social construct written and put into place by men (Emsley, 2002 p. 202, Woolford, 2006 p. 99, Hillyard, 2004 pp. 271-272, Bilsky, 2000 p. 7). Although there may be certain pragmatic reasons to do so, Criminology does not have to be constrained by definitions of legality (Woolford, 2006 p. 99).
As Taylor et al. (1973 p. 145) suggest, the rule-creators in society are able to extend .‘…their definitions and constraints to include previously non-deviant groups’. Although the Nuremberg Trials arguably framed the end of the war and retrospectively made organisations and their members’ illegal (Niemann, 2005 pp. 211-214), Criminology does not have to simply rely on the definitions they provide. In fact there are dangers inherent in purely relying on a legal framework:
The truth that is relevant in criminal law therefore, is not, and never can be, the whole truth. Alone, it cannot provide an adequate reaction to the great evil of war and armed conflict, for it must ever reduce it to the small evils of individual crimes (Brants, 2000 p. 234).
Bovenkerk (2000 p. 247) suggests that this may in fact offer criminology an opportunity to further define crime, criminality and criminals. The Holocaust shows us that these terms are not fixed but are instead fluid.
It must be recognised that Criminology is very used to dealing with the difficult and emotive subject of crime, albeit not necessarily on this scale (Woolford, 2006 p. 88). The Holocaust is made up of a variety of crimes, the worst of which is clearly mass murder, but also includes rape, theft, arson, deception, handling stolen goods, fraud etc (ibid. p. 88). In recent years, Criminology has come to focus on the idea that crime is not simply an abstract concept, but instead, is an important issue which causes real harm to individuals (Lea and Young, 1984 pp. 11-49). It has also become increasingly apparent, that different groups experience events in different ways. Criminologists have looked at the different ways in which crime and criminal justice impact on women (Walklate, 2003 pp. 73-94), as well as those with different ethnic backgrounds (Phillips and Bowling, 2002 pp. 579-619).
Criminology is aware that it is important to pay heed to the historical, social, economic and political climate, when looking at any phenomena (Woolford, 2006 p. 98, Friedrichs, 2000 p. 31). This skill is of paramount importance when looking at the Holocaust, otherwise we run the risk of moving away from the reality experienced by so many individuals, plus there is the danger of seeing the Holocaust as a unique phenomenon (Woolford, 2006 pp. 98-99).
It has long been understood by Criminology, that statistics do not show the complete picture. With its understanding of the ‘Dark Figure’ of crime, Criminology is used to looking beyond quantitative data (Emsley, 2002 pp. 204-207, Maguire, 2002 p. 322). Although the sheer numbers involved are daunting, this ability to reflect on the individual should be helpful.
Criminology has identified the concepts of exclusion and inclusion, as relevant to the study of crime. Jamieson (1999 p. 134) suggests that ‘genocide constitutes a ‘social exclusion’ of a final and irrevocable kind’. This would appear to follow on from Bauman’s seminal work, Modernity and the Holocaust (1989), with its themes of ‘moral indifference’ (ibid. pp. 18-23) and ‘moral invisibility’ (ibid. pp. 24-27).