London: A new book ''The Death Marches: The Final Phase of Nazi Genocide'' by author Daniel Blatman chronicles how German civilians murdered many concentration camp survivors.
The book depicts how ordinary people were so indoctrinated with Nazi hate they were prepared to kill defenceless people in cold blood.
“They were the bodies of prisoners from various camps who had been forced inside,” the Daily Mail quoted Blatman, an Israeli, as writing in his book, which is published this week and goes on sale in Germany.
“It was later discovered that people had volunteered to guard the prisoners, including ordinary civilians, some of them armed with hunting rifles, who mutated into prison guards of their own volition.
“We're going hunting, to shoot down the zebras!'' cries youths, in reference to the striped uniforms of the inmates. Men from the Volkssturm militia, police officers, soldiers from a paratrooper division barracked nearby, guards and civilians helped drive the doomed prisoners into the barn.
“Then they locked the doors, lit gasoline-soaked straw on the ground and tossed hand grenades into the building. Anyone who attempted to escape the inferno ran into a hail of bullets.
“Some 25 prisoners survived, while about 1,000 died,” he writes.
“Some will say that the Nazis were responsible for this crime. Others will point to the Gestapo. The responsibility rests with neither. It is the responsibility of the entire German people,” said Colonel George P Lynch, of the 102nd US Infantry Division.
The same thing happened in Celle, where prisoners were ''killed like animals'' in a forest according to a British military report.
“The more the war approached its end, and the more obvious the prisoners'' presence in the midst of the German population became, the more regularly German civilians participated,” said Blatman, a historian at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Blatman believes tens of thousands of ''ordinary Germans'' became killers despite no documentary evidence whatsoever that any of the S.S. or Nazi party hierarchy had ever ordered them to behave in such a fashion.
“A decade of indoctrination, a genocidal mentality that had systematically dehumanized the Jews and the Slavs, led to the collective hunt,” he said.
First Published: Tuesday, January 18, 2011, 15:31