Discussion of the documentary, Confessions of a Hitler Youth
Humanities 221 Professor Easton
1. What do you think made the Hitler Youth organization attractive to children like Alfons Heck? Heck's analysis is that HY was a "massive case of child abuse," turning children who were "empty vessels" into "monsters." Do you agree?
2. In what way is "racial science" "scientific"? How is it not "scientific"? What attracts people to theories of eugenics and racial science?
3. Frederick Douglass said that slavery degrades everyone, slave, slave-owner, and free man. Does anti-Semitism degrade everyone? How? Outside of the context of the Holocaust, what are examples of anti-Semitism?
4. When Alfons Heck watched the first deportation of Jews from his home town in the Rhineland, he commented "What a misfortune that they are Jewish." As an adult he recognized the ignorance of that childhood comment. How did such attitudes contribute to the Holocaust?
5. Despite documentary evidence, Alfons Heck and his Hitler Youth comrades denied the horrors of the Holocaust presented them by their French captors. Heck says that he denied it for a full year until he heard evidence presented at the Nuremberg War Crimes trials. How do you explain such denial? Does such denial continue today?
6. A current controversy in the ethics of science and medicine involves whether or not to consult data collected by Nazi doctors and scientists like Josef Mengele. The experiments on human beings tested, for example, tolerance to heat and cold, effects of radiation, reactions to pain, etc. Should scientists use data that is gathered in immoral conditions?
7. The "Sonderkommando" of the concentration camp was often composed of Jewish inmates who did the "dirty work" for the Nazis. What were their ethical choices, given the threat of death for refusing to serve, given the extra rewards for serving, given the contributions they made to the deaths of their fellow concentration camp inmates?
8. Why do you think the Nazis kept such highly detailed records, such as lists of deportees, the tattooing of every camp inmate, and explicit directions for selecting, gassing, and cremating people?
9. Although surviving Nazi war criminals are now elderly, some have eluded prosecution during the last 54 years. If they are found today, should they be prosecuted?