I believe the entire discourse when it comes to approaching Nazi war crimes needs to steer away from the Holocaust - a relatively medium-sized part of them - as the center of attention and instead look at the German concentration camp system as a whole.
The most bleak, most monstrous institution, was the entire camp system. Only a small part of it operated for the final solution, and in fact was in place for a long time even before the war. Most common people found here? Criminals, from simple thieves to murderers, political dissidents, POV's, random civilians that got unlucky, "sexual deviants", foreign politicians, foreign intellectuals, failed NSDAP members… all were put to the same inhuman place. A massive industry of work camps, worst of which meant certain, torturous death for their inmates. It was a slavery-based industrial complex for all kinds of porky companies (one of the reasons why I believe wiping it all under a singular "final solution" rug by western media was appealing). In fact, I would say that this system of forced, fatal labour was EVEN WORSE than the holocaust. But don't take my words. Take the words of someone who survived it all:
>In the morning after all the columns have left for work, a shoal of specters seeps out from somewhere into the yard. It's all so strange!
>This sea doesn't walk; it slinks. Slowly, very slowly, without a sound, as the shadows of a fleeting cloud.
>Slinking… Once, maybe not even so long ago, these specters were humans. They had a shelter, a home, parents, sisters, brothers, maybe a wife, maybe children. They had a homeland, they had a life - a will, freedom, desires!
>Slinking: clinging one to the other; one holding up another; leaning on each other. No one nags them anymore; no one hits them anymore. Nothing in the world matters anymore.
>Their clogs no longer clump. They no longer have the energy to raise their feet from the ground. They drag their feet along the ground so slowly that even their shuffling is barely heard. Some hang their heads down on their chests, sometime still scanning the ground, sometimes not looking anywhere. Others, with misty sleep-filled eyes, still glance around, but they see nothing, understand nothing, want nothing. Others lean back against their friends, close their eyes as in a casket and barely, barely drag their heavy feet. But the faces, the faces! Each is more horrifying, more anguished than the next.
>It wouldn't cause such agony to look at these faces if the feet didn't move, if they were really corpses!
>What could you possibly expect from a corpse? A corpse certainly doesn't care. But when such a face still goes to work!
>What kind of moral, what land of historical justification could be imagined for those who send others to a concentration camp, without so much as a second thought? None. They might redeem their human wretchedness only if they themselves ended their days in the hell on earth to which they sent others, oppressed by the same lunatic ideological fictions they imposed on their victims. Otherwise they will be eternally damned in memory, even by the children of their children.
>Slinking, slinking… humans of al nations, of all professions. A month ago, or two or three, they had arrived in camp sound, whole.
>A newcomer can't even force himself to get near the specters - the stench of rotting corpses drives him away. Their hands are crusted with sores; their feet are covered with sores. Under the sores mill various parasites ignored completely by these former members of the human race.
>Slinking, slinking… So slowly!
>Occasionally one, occasionally another wanders off from the tribe. He totters around as if unable to decide what he should do now. He takes one step to the side. Another step. Keels over onto his knees. Drops his hands to the ground. Crawls a few paces. Loos around with the eyes of a mad man. Lowers his chest, then his face to the earth. Becomes rigid in an instant. A shudder jolts him. He raises his head. His eyes show a terrible longing, terrible yearning. He utters not a word. Not a moan. Lips won't even move. Silently he crawls towards a secluded spot. To the fence, to the barrack wall he crawls. He lies down. Closes his eyes. Now, nothing matters anymore.
>Another specter doesn't even move away from the flock. He falls to the ground and lies there. His neighbors have no strength. They can't manage to raise him. Those slinking behind trip on him, stumble. Some are still able to lift a foot over him; others can't even do this. They stumble on top.
>Slinking, slinking… What a lot of them! One hundred, another hundred, a third…
>This is the camp's detachment of cripples. It too is a labor detachment! The cripples "go to work" and "work" according to their capabilities.
>It's a very stable detachment: never diminishing, never disappearing.
>So what if most of this detachment's members die off during the day - in the barracks, en route to work and during "working" hours! In the evening the forest labor detachment will return. It will supply cripples for tomorrow, no fewer the number that died during the day. The cripples' detachment will not suffer in regard of size.
The forest detachment receives new members to replace those given to the cripples. In a month or two these initiates will transfer to the cripples in their own turn. And so spins the wheel of life. Every day new people are herded into the camp, but the camp's population increases very gradually.
>People die in the battlefields in horrible agony. But there everyone is equal. There aid is rendered to the wounded. There the injured individual is respected even by the enemy. There you have a weapon; you can defend yourself. Your death and suffering have some kind of meaning: you're fighting for a purpose, for your homeland, for your freedom…
>But here - nothing! No meaning!
>No one will come to your aid. No one will comfort you, console you, offer parting words of love as you approach the mystery of death.
>Isn't it better to be sentenced to death or hung than to die this way, caving in to rotting wounds kept open by terrible hunger?
>In earlier times, in other countries, a final wish was granted to the one about to hang: a last meal, a shot of booze to toss down… But here - a kick in the butt - that's all.
>The other extermination camps, where a prisoner was brought in and immediately killed, were atrocious, too. This same killing took place under the skies of the Forest of the Gods; the only difference was that here a person was tortured to death. His health, his energy were sucked dry, he died by degrees of starvation…
>Which type of camp better compliments the achievements of our century's culture? God knows! After all, it's a matter of individual taste…
>Slinking, the detachment of cripples is slinking, slinking…
>For every convict, this is the convincing memento mori. Everyone's desire to live is equal. And everyone is equally aware: in one month, or two - you'll most likely end up in the cripples detachment.
>From here comes within the prisoners this bestial instinct to survive: to hang in there at any price. From here comes that hyena like brutality between the prisoner's relations. These things become clear much later on. A newcomer, having barely arrived here from the real world, understands very little.
A newcomer witnessing the detachment of cripples for the first time in his life comes close to losing his mind. It's not death that's horrible - what's horrible is the sight of desecrated man. And not only is man desecrated, even death is desecrated - defiled, befouled, adulterated.
>A newcomer doesn't even notice how he begins to shake all over as his taut, ashen lips murmur:
>"Oh Lord, oh my Lord!"
This comes from the .pdf related. I highly recommend the book, it's probably one of the best I've ever read, and sheds much needed light on the day to day life of the concentration camps.