It is a travesty of historical education that few people in this world are aware that the Nazis’ primary means of eliminating Jews was not the extermination camps that everyone knows. The preferred method of extermination was a single bullet to the head.
The corollary to this is that the Nazis’ preferred means of disposing of bodies was not the crematorium, but the mass grave. The vast majority of Jews who perished in the Holocaust met their demise this way. Frequently, they dug the giant ravine in which they were shot and buried, en masse.
In the Ukraine and the Baltic States, the executioners were frequently locals, not the Nazi invaders. As students of antisemitism have pointed out, these regions were as ripe as Germany with extreme antisemitism, and the Nazi approval of the wholesale slaughter of Jews was sufficient license and encouragement for these populations to participate actively in the process.
This remarkable New York Times story of a remarkable Frenchman, Patrick Desbois, is a stark reminder that, in as much as the general public is concerned, the account of the Holocaust is as yet incomplete. Besides reading this disturbing account in the New York Times, everyone ought to read Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen in order to begin to understand the evil in the service of which ordinary people are willing to be conscripted, to acquire an awareness that such ignorance and barbarism persist, and to realize that Bosnia and Rwanda prove that the machete and the bullet remain far cheaper, far more efficient and absolutely real methods of genocide.
Alas, it is clear that neither the Musuem of Tolerance in Los Angeles nor the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, has succeeded in educating the masses of the simple, cheap and fast ways in which genocide was perpetrated by the Nazis, still is perpetrated by Serbs, Rwandans, and will be perpetrated by the next gang of ignoramuses who will be permitted to wield weapons. Perhaps the Taliban, perhaps the warlords in Somalia, perhaps ….