General Question

ibstubro's avatar

Is there reason to believe that the general German population viewed the Nazi concentration camps any differently than the American population viewed the "Japanese-American internment camps" during WWII?

Asked by ibstubro (18636points) June 1st, 2014

It’s a question of What did they know, and when did they know it?

If the US government had chosen to exterminate Japanese-Americans rather than segregate them, how much of the American population would have known?

“Succumbing to bad advice and popular opinion, President Roosevelt signed an executive order in February 1942 ordering the relocation of all Americans of Japanese ancestry to concentration camps in the interior of the United States.”

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50 Answers

Bill1939's avatar

They are the same in that few citizens in either country knew about the internment camps. They are different in that America was not intending to rid the country of Japanese while Germany intended to rid the world of Jews.

zenvelo's avatar

There were plenty of Germans who knew of the general slaughter of Jews, perhaps not through witnessing the extermination camps, but through visible massacres and communication with soldiers in Poland and France and elsewhere.

If the US had decided to exterminate Japanese Americans, it would have come out in the same manner in the US.

Bill1939's avatar

@zenvelo it is true that, given the same type of propaganda that the German people received, few Americans would have been against the extermination of the Japanese. There are Americans today that would like all nonwhite people exported or annihilated.

gailcalled's avatar

Um, the smell of the gas chambers and the ovens did give some indication of nasty goings’-on in the Nazi concentration camps, whatever the propaganda said..

The US Japanese internment camps had huge amounts of non-secret traffic in and out daily.

bea2345's avatar

At the beginning of World War II, in Trinidad and Tobago, immigrants of German ancestry were interned. That came to an end when their local (mainly black) wives and children appeared at the camp gates because their sole wage earners were in prison. I got this story from my late mother.

jaytkay's avatar

They could have been secretly massacred – if the Manhattan project (with 125,000 workers!) could be kept secret, pretty much anything could be

But the government would have had to take much more extreme steps to carry out genocide.

The Jews had been persecuted for years before the extermination camps were running. The population knew anyone could be tortured or killed for defying the Nazis. And they knew the Jews were treated worse than the rest.

People were beaten in the streets, shops and homes were taken from them, and they were forbidden from participating in public life – they couldn’t have jobs. Jews were banned from driving cars, from public transport, and even walking certain streets. They weren’t allowed newspapers or magazines or pets (seriously, the Nazis killed their cats and dogs). And of course, they had to wear yellow stars.

American internees could communicate with the outside world. A few people left the camps for college and to join the armed forces. They had family living normally in cities away from the west coast.

The internments were shameful, but if you want something analogous to the Holocaust, look to the American Indian Wars, not WWII.

Jaxk's avatar

I have a bit of trouble equating the two scenarios. There is no question that the Japanese internments were a blemish on our history but the Holocaust was something quite different. There was no war against a Jewish army. No danger of a Jewish invasion. No Jewish state to battle.

However flawed the logic for Japanese internment may have been, it was not the same as the slaughter of the Jewish citizens in Germany. A lot of things go wrong during war but the Holocaust was not a war related mistake.

BeenThereSaidThat's avatar

OMG, I hope you are joking. Both camps were wrong but the Nazi Death camps were terribly wrong. The Japanese were not tortured, starved, experimented on and gassed in the American camps during world war two.

I am assuming this is just another anti American question like usually happens on sites like this one.

ibstubro's avatar

The question is about the awareness of the general public of the German people and the American people during periods when the government was segregating certain citizens, @Jaxk & @BeenThereSaidThat.

Please see @jaytkay‘s excellent and thoughtful answer just preceding your respective comments.

I was in my 20’s before I ever even learned that Japanese-Americans had been interred.

stanleybmanly's avatar

America perhaps can be forgiven, because just as with 9/11 we stampeeded in panic. It is important to note and often forgotten that there were vociferous objections from a substantial portion of this country’s legal talent about the flagrant illegalities surrounding the roundup of Japanese Americans. It is also true, that the Nazis were at first stunned when Jews, the mentally ill, Gypsies, homosexuals etc. sought relief through the German courts, and WON. To my mind the 2 great lessons to be derived from both experiences are worthy of frequent review. First of all is the sheep-like inability of the membership in a population to empathize with the sufferings of their fellows or to even anticipate the question “if they can do it to them, how long til it’s MY turn?”. The next observation is that morality aside, no one will ever top the Germans when it comes to regimented efficiency in achieving a task.

JLeslie's avatar

Many Jewish people were well intergrated throughout German society, and then they were taken from their homes. The neighbors probably knew what happened. Jews were sometimes shot on the street. Hitler spoke of the Jewish problem in public to the citizenry in speeches.

The American government and some Americans might have worried about trusting Japanese-American, but that is not the same as saying the Jewish citizens of the country should all be destroyed.

I think Germans had more awareness than you think. There were Germans as we know who protected the Jews at risk to their own life.

When the Nazis came in to Denmark the Danish people rounded up the majority of their Jewish citizens and helped them escape in secret to Sweden. It was an incredible thing they did. Both Denmark and Sweden knew the risk the Jewish people were in, I find it hard to believe Germany didn’t.

I don’t know if the German citizens knew Hitler was also killing the handicapped, gypsies, and some others, almost 3 million others, but I definitely think a very large portion of German citizens knew about the Jews. The Germans were basically being told they were a superior race.

Darth_Algar's avatar


Gassed? No. Tortured? Maybe not. Our citizens (and the vast majority interred were US citizens) did, however, experience much hardship during their internment. Lack of health care, poor food, inadequate heating, loos of businesses, looting of personal property, and so on. Many died from illness during their time in the camps. Many others were murdered (or wait, it’s not murder when an agent of the government does it).

stanleybmanly's avatar

One of the great ironies and truly uplifting episodes regarding the Holocaust is the story of Chiune Sugihara, who during the war was the Japanese consul to German occupied Lithuania. Japan being a trusted and reliable ally of Germany, Sugihara was directly responsible for saving between 6000 -10,000 Lithuanian and Polish Jews, many of them escapees from concentration camps. He achieved this by granting them travel visas to visit Japan. Sugihara and his wife worked virtually round the clock for weeks printing, stamping and handing out visas. When the consulate was closed down, Sugihara and his wife transferred his operation to the taxi transporting him to the railway station, distributing the documents from the cab to desperate people. He was still at it when the train left the station, hurling documents from the windows as the train gathered speed. But that isn’t the end of it. Sugihara left behind with trusted individuals, seals and equipment with which to forge papers, so the true number of people rescued remains unclear to the present day.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

In the US, in 2013, from the Boston Globe:

Last year, at least 60,000 immigrants worked in the federal government’s nationwide patchwork of detention centers — more than worked for any other single employer in the country, according to data from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE.

Did you know about that?

MollyMcGuire's avatar

No, not in my opinion and I’ve never read anything to suggest it. Germany was not at war with the Jewish population.

ibstubro's avatar

GA @stanleybmanly, in that this is new information to me!

Source, @Imadethisupwithnoforethought. Not as a challenge, but because I’m interested.

I think your point is unclear, @MollyMcGuire? Can you explain?

ibstubro's avatar

Before I open your link, @Imadethisupwithnoforethought? I recently heard that Edward R. Murrow did an expose on migrant workers in the US in the 1950’s. The quote I remember from the piece? A farmer [in the 50’s] saying, “We used to own our slaves, now we just rent them”.

Nothing’s changed?

I guess too many stayed?

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@ibstubro I don’t know where you are going sir. I am saying, right now, we have the population of a good sized city working as slaves detained indefinitely. You are saying you did not know. I am pointing you to the paper of record letting you know.

JLeslie's avatar

Let’s remember that the Nazis murdered 9 million people, 6 million of whom were Jews. Germany at the time of the holocaust had a population of something like 65million. The Jews killed were not all in Germany of course, but still it is a large number. In America, we had a population of around 120 million and the Japanese kept in camps were a few hundred thousand and we are a much larger country in land mass. With those statistics it is much easier for Germans to know what is going on than Americans. Plus, the Japanese were fairly concentrated in cities, so I am sure many parts of the US the people might not have known the gravity of what was going on.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Is anyone surprised that the “free” market would find a way to employ people for less money than even illegal immigrants (not locked up) would accept? Notice the concentration of employment “opportunities” in our cherished redlands. There is something rather creepy about private prisons for profit. Think about what happens when politically powerful corporations have an incentive to profit by keeping as many people as possible locked up!

Buttonstc's avatar

I should think that the smell of rotting flesh and burning corpses would be difficult for the German population to be totally unaware about.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@Buttonstc That problem was solved by locating most of the camps and crematoria outside Germany. Remember the classic images of thousands of people being packed into freight cars and shipped East to Poland? The Germans were VERY careful about concealing the reality of the camps from German citizens. It would appear that the massive number of people on the trains were being deported. As the war dragged on, however rumors were flying. It was impossible to keep so much slaughter a secret. Soldiers who worked at the camps would talk when on leave. By the way, the United States and Britain were very much aware of what was going on nearly from the outset. We are not blameless, because the U S had the strategic capability to bomb and disrupt those rail lines and marshaling yards. The decision was made that it wasn’t worth the effort, or rather that other targets had priority.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@stanleybmanly Is correct. The Aktion T4 (the precursor to the the Nazi’s “Final Solution”) program had proven extremely unpopular with the German populace, so when the Nazis set up the extermination camps they were very careful to hide it from the the people as much as possible.

Quakwatch's avatar

Regarding the camps, while the majority of the large extermination camps were indeed in Poland, there were quite a few labor/extermination camps in Germany proper. Dachau was only 10 miles from Munich. The idea that the Germans were oblivious to the Final Solution is naive, as has been outlined in a book titled Hitler’s Willing Executioners, which documents that most of the populace knew about the atrocities and either didn’t care or cared enough to participate.

Darth_Algar's avatar

I don’t think anyone here is saying that the German’s were oblivious. And Dachau was a labor camp (which were well known, and often well supported, to the German public), not an extermination camp. The extermination camps were all placed outside of Germany, mostly in Poland and the Ukraine.

zenvelo's avatar

@Darth_Algar Actually, @Bill1939 said that the Germans were pretty oblivious. He says the only difference is the intention of the governments.

JLeslie's avatar

@Darth_Algar Do you think the Polish people were oblivious? I watched an episode of Lisa Kudrow’s show Who Do You Think You Are and she travels back to the town her ancestors lived in Poland and with the help of a historian and towns people she is told how the Jewish people were rounded up, forced to walk over to an open pit that had been dug out, they were either shot or pushed into the pit (I don’t remember) and then they were set on fire. Screams were heard for a very long time coming out of that pit. It was done right there in the town, not some special crematorium set up. They weren’t gassed, they were set on fire. Needless to say that story was another one of my, I wish I had ten children moments, and just repeating it makes me feel that way again. I try not to watch stories about the Holocaust, but sometimes they creep up when I didn’t expect it. I didn’t know that particular episode of that show as going to lead there.

Darth_Algar's avatar


No, but the question is about what Germans knew/thought, not Poles. The Nazis didn’t give much of a shit about what Poles thought.

JLeslie's avatar

@Darth_Algar Even if a lot of the Germans didn’t know exactly what was going on, I think a lot (I’m not saying the majority, I really don’t know what percentage I think ) of Germans were happy to get rid of the Jews however it was being done. I think the creation of Israel was partly Europe being happy to give the Jews a place to go to (and leave their own countries).

stanleybmanly's avatar

link failure 10:45 a.m. I want to address @Quakwatch contention that the majority of the German population was cognizant of, and therefore complicit in the extermination of 6,000,000 people. This is certainly the assertion of the book “Hitler’s Willing Executioners”, in which Goldhagen attempts to demonstrate that the Germans in particular were infected with a rabid strain of antisemitism. Scholars and Historians (many of them Jewish) have declared the book to be playing free and loose with the facts, and due to the ultimate indictment (that the book in effect reflects Nazi methods in the slandering of an entire people) has sparked great controversy. I’m not writing this to either attack or defend Goldhagen’s position that every German knew. What bothers me is the proposition that the holocaust was the result of a particular German hatred for Jews. It is a dangerous distraction from a MUCH more likely reality; for if Goldhagen is correct (that everyone knew), the defective German conclusion deflects from the likelihood that ANY and ALL of us can be bent collectively to commit unspeakable horrors. If you want to understand what I’m talking about, try reading some of the personal recollections of participants in the rampage of lynchings in 19th and early 20th century America.

JLeslie's avatar

@stanleybmanly There have been many studies showing that not just Germans, but simply all too many human being will go along with harming another person if they feel they have no choice, or to be obedient to an authority figure. I think this question is mainly about whether the Germans knew what was going on, not whether they participated in the horrors.

I asked a question yesterday about Americans who were born before 1968, what they knew about segregation. In the answers you see that many northerners did not experience, didn’t even know about, things like colored and white drinking fountains, or black people only being allowed on certain train cars, that sort of thing. There still might have been some discrimination even in the north, but it was not done in such a public way where a black or white person literally could not go to the same places. The jellies talked about moving or vacationing to the south and seeing for the first time bathrooms that were separate for white and black people. Larry King, the talk show host. Has talked about it himself the first time he went to FL and saw a sign on a drinking fountain for black people, and he went ahead and took a drink. There were entire parts of America who did not realize the extent of it in the south I think. I guess there were some Germans unaware, similar to someone living in very white Maine who maybe was clueless to a black woman having in Alabama to stand on a bus even though there are plenty of seats open in the white section.

Quakwatch's avatar

@Darth_Algar At least 25,000 people, mostly Jews, died at Dachau. It might be splitting hairs, but killing people from forced labor, shootings, disease, etc. is no different from gas chambers. So at minimum the people of Munich could be expected to have a clue what was happening there. Then, of course, there were all the German soldiers and members of the SS that participated in these massacres, not just in extermination camps but all over Europe. Surely they knew, as did their families.

@stanleybmanly I think his book, with its flaws, cast a very harsh light on the “official” story after the war, which is that most of the “average” Germans had no idea, and that only a cabal of Nazis were responsible for the atrocities. How many Germans participated in Kristalnacht? How many were happy to take over Jewish businesses, occupy Jewish houses, loot and steal, and kill? How many “voted for” and emboldened the Nazi party? Whether every single German “knew” is irrelevant. I’d say most knew exactly what was happening and were all too happy about the outcome.

Darth_Algar's avatar


It is not splitting hairs when in my initial post I specified extermination camps so as to avoid confusion with other types of camps the Nazis operated. Yes, scores of people dies at labors camps. I’ve never disputed that, but neither am I talking of casualties in general. I’m talking about the camps set up for the express purpose of exterminating large numbers of people (or which such camps were never built in Germany). If you’re unwilling to acknowledge this distinction then there’s no point in furthering this conversation.

Quakwatch's avatar

@Darth_Algar What, precisely, is your point? Are you a German apologist? You really think the Germans were oblivious? If so, let me introduce you to Buchenwald, in Weimar Germany. Likewise, new data shows just how extensive all of the ghettos, labor camps, concentration camps and extermination camps were. You may feel like only the big and infamous camps were in Poland (where, not coincidentally, were most of the Jews), and that somehow exonerates the average German, but the data indicate the Germans (the entire populace) knew what was going on.

You also make these bizarre comments like “scores of people” as if to minimize the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews outside of Auschwitz (If you die by a bullet to the head rather than CO poisoning, are you less dead?). You try to distract by talking about “casualties in general”, which I assume is your attempt to remove the guilt by saying “Well, shit, people die in war”. It appears that you, not me, is the obtuse one. To quote you, “there is no point in furthering this conversation”.

Darth_Algar's avatar

The point is that I was referring to extermination camps. Period. Not labor camps. Extermination camps. There were no extermination camps in Germany. Fact. That was my point. If recognizing historical fact and understanding the difference between extermination camps and labor camps makes me a Nazi apologist then sieg fucking heil!

anniereborn's avatar

I’m not really sure how most of us can truly know or understand the answer to this question.
Perhaps if one had parents or grandparents that lived through it and talked to us about it in great detail we may have a clue. Otherwise it’s merely conjecture.

Buttonstc's avatar

Speaking of which, both my Mother and Uncle left Germany because of this.

My Uncle was an Engineer and there was no way he was just going to hang around to be drafted into Hitler’s extermination plan.

He came over first and got my Mother out shortly thereafter. For years she would have nightmares about the Nazi soldiers beating the soles of her feet to get her to reveal where the Jews they were hiding were located.

The effort to hide the Jewish people who did not have the opportunity to leave was a group thing and they were rotated among various houses so that few people knew who was where at any given time.

Neither my Mother nor Uncle were particularly well connected nor involved with government. They didn’t live in a major population center like Berlin and were just about as “average German” as you could get.

Yet they and the rest of the town knew what was going on so I think it’s pretty reasonable to conclude that this was the case in most of Germany.

I suppose there were some who preferred to live in massive denial but I think the majority of the population knew whether or not they ever cared to admit to it.

And at war’s end, why would they. When the Nazis were in power they were either part of the problem or part of the solution. If they just turned a blind eye from indifference or cooperated out of fear, it’s not something they were proud about so claiming ignorance would likely be their choice and it would probably be difficult to prove otherwise.

LostInParadise's avatar

This relates to the other question about altering history. War is a kind of madness. It alters people’s perceptions and causes them to turn a blind eye to things that would ordinarily spark outrage. The Japanese internment camps, though nowhere as extensive or severe as the Nazi concentration camps, still ruined the lives of many innocent people. They certainly do not represent the U.S. at its best. The sheer magnitude of the German operation would have made it absolutely impossible to keep secret. I am not exonerating either the U.S. or the Germans. I am just saying that you can’t analyze this type of behavior in purely rational terms.

stanleybmanly's avatar

While there is no settling the dispute on the level of awareness of the holocaust in Germany, 2 facts are beyond dispute. First of all the Nazis went to considerable lengths and devoted vital and scarce resources to concealing the slaughter from the citizenry. Next, regardless of the level of knowledge of the populace regarding the death camps, no German living was unaware of the brutal wholesale persecution of their fellow citizens. While it is easy to state that the Nazis could not have pulled it off without the willing compliance of the German people, one must consider the consequences of resistance in a land where government is a matter of full employment for the country’s psychopaths. Once again it is a GREAT mistake to believe that what happened in Germany is a reflection of German sensibilities. The unfortunate circumstances which allowed a charismatic lunatic to gain control of a great nation might just as easily have occurred wherever the opportunity presented itself. At least after the Second World War, those mistakes were not repeated. But sadly in this respect, the Zionists are correct. Human nature being what it is, it can certainly happen again.

Bill1939's avatar

The mob mentality of the German people is not different from that of the blue and red political radicals in America today. The beginning of the twentieth century saw rampant worldwide prejudice of Jews by Christians. For some, this prejudice still exists in the twenty-first century.

Religious wars (Protestants and Catholics in Ireland, Shiites and Sunnis in the Middle-East, Hindus and Buddhists in the Near-East, Christians and Muslims throughout history) and racial wars (Caucasians and American Indians, Caucasians and any people of color also throughout history) all fostered a mob mentality that robs most of rational thinking.

Those in power or who wish to be in power and those who profit from prejudice find people struggling to survive easy prey. By manipulating their primal instinct and fanning the flames of hatred toward people who think or believe differently, otherwise reasonable people can be lead to perform heinous acts.

ibstubro's avatar

I thought this thread had about played out, and then along came three outstanding and insightful posts. Thanks to @Buttonstc, @LostInParadise and @stanleybmanly for that. It’s not that there weren’t great posts earlier in the thread, just that it seems rare to me to cut back to the chase so late.

@Buttonstc gave personal narrative that was _very relevant.
@LostInParadise got the tie-in to the Change history question.
@stanleybmanly showed an insight into the broad, ‘no black or white’ reality.

Quakwatch's avatar

@Darth_Algar So if I called a camp a vacation and relocation center, but then went on to murder 20,000 people there, that doesn’t qualify as an extermination camp? Get real. As I said, death from hard labor, malnutrition or a bullet to the head is NO DIFFERENT from death via CO poisoning. The Nazis built their large extermination camps in Poland because 1) there had been nearly 3 million Jews in Poland before the war (location, location, location) and 2) they believed in a policy of Lebensraum, which in their mind meant that conquered Poland was basically new Germany. To that end, after 1939 the Germans annexed Poland, with a plan to exterminate/evict all the Poles and to repopulate the area with Germans. None of these things were secrets. The Nazis were open about it, and the German citizens knew full well what was happening to their Jewish neighbors. There can be no exoneration with an ignorance defense.

Bill1939's avatar

@Quakwatch we are in agreement that “There can be no exoneration with an ignorance defense.” Many Americans supported efforts to seize territory from the original inhabitants of our country. We forced the relocation of Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee Creek, Seminole and others, to what was believed to be worthless land and later, when this property was realized to be valuable, we again moved or slaughtered them.

We were not unaware of the Trail of Tears, “a name given to the ethnic cleansing and forced relocation of Native American nations from southeastern parts of the United States following the Indian Removal Act of 1830” that resulted in the deaths of many “including 2,000–6,000 of 16,542 relocated Cherokee” (see), not unlike the Bataan Death March. The Indian Wars, “spurred by ideologies such as Manifest Destiny, which held that the United States was destined to expand from coast to coast on the North American continent” (see), were reported in newspapers and books that were popularly received.

Before we denigrate Germans, Japanese, Italians or any nation’s population for atrocities they committed in World War II or in campaigns waged since the beginning of civilization, we should examine our own history to keep their actions in perspective.

JLeslie's avatar

@Bill1939 I can’t speak for @Quakwatch, but I really don’t see why @Quakwatch would deny in any way some of the horrific things that happened during the founding of America. What does that have to do with whether the Germans knew what was going on or not? Ok, so a lot of Germans probably knew what was going on, and people settling America knew some of what was going on (it’s not like we had TV coverage or even good ways to communicate news in general during the settling of our country). Also, America has a horrible history considering slavery and segregation, so? I don’t think @Quakwatch is trying to say all Germans are some sort of horrible people, more horrible than any other group in the whole wide world, he is not saying anything of the sort. The lesson I believe is to know human beings can do horrific things to each other, and that standing by and letting it happen is as almost as bad as committing the acts oneself. I also think we need to learn that it is important to teach our young people not to hate people who are not like them. We still in the world today have people being wooed by fanatics who want to rid the earth of various groups. We have neoNazis in America today. The KKK still exists in America today. It’s not like we are trying to say America is better than Germany or that Americans are better than German people. If anything the majority of young Germans today have less tolerance than Americans for anything that has the littlest glimmer of nationalism or racism. We didn’t even list Al Qaeda recruiting people, what happened in Rwanda, that not too long ago the Catholics and the Protestants were blowing each other up in Ireland and surrounding areas. It’s not like the Germans had the only lock on ethnic cleansing.

The Germans on fluther have demonstrated to me over and over again how much the history was taught in their country regarding the subject, and that they abhor their past regarding Nazi Germany. I don’t understand why some Americans try to make excuses for the Germans during that time. Certainly, I would agree that some Germans were basically innocent bystanders with little power who did not agree with the Nazis and what they were doing, I think everyone acknowledges that, but there were also plenty of people just fine with what was going on, just like so many people in America were fine with how black people were treated many years ago. Many white people did feel superior to black people, and they thought it was just fine to treat them as second class citizens. Many Germans did feel they were superior to Jews, and superior to just about everyone else who existed. That was the thinking of the day among too many people in the two countries. To deny it, is to allow it to happen again.

Darth_Algar's avatar


This is why I say there’s no point in furthering this conversation – because you seem bent on intentionally misrepresenting (or intentionally misunderstanding) what I’m saying. I have not once denied that people died in labor camps. I have not once trying to gloss over, apologize for or exonerate anyone. However my point was about extermination camps, ie: those camps set up with the express purpose of mass murder (which, despite inhuman conditions, was not the express purpose of the labor camps). My point was that (contrary to what you had claimed) no extermination camps were built in Germany. The point was, as someone else said, the Nazis did go to great pains to hide their atrocities from the German people.

Bill1939's avatar

@JLeslie the original question was whether we could compare the general German population’s view of the Nazi concentration camps with the American population’s view of the Japanese-American internment camps. Some of the responses were as though the question had been whether they knew about the atrocities more so than we know about the internment of many Japanese. Some felt that most Germans, especially those living in rural areas, were unaware of what the Nazis were doing. @Quakwatch said that an ignorance defense does not exonerate the German people from their country’s actions, and I agreed.

Many other responses seemed to focus upon placing blame upon the failure of the German population to revolt against their government’s revolting behavior toward Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, those mentally ill, and the disabled. The point of my previous response was that comparing our actions during WWII with theirs was disingenuous because of our long history of similar actions toward American Indians and other people of color.

You said, “The lesson I believe is to know human beings can do horrific things to each other, and that standing by and letting it happen is as almost as bad as committing the acts oneself.” I agree. However, irrational rationales blind people to the evils they are committing or are allowing to be committed. Mob mentality has always produced inhuman behaviors. I also agree that “we need to learn that it is important to teach our young people not to hate people who are not like them.”

Americans do believe that their country is superior to all other nations. Radical organizations such as the neo-Nazis and the KKK (and some would include the Tea Party) play upon adolescent attitudes that proclaim their elementary, middle and high schools “number one” as well as the dogma of their church. This mentality promotes ethnic cleansing. For me, the question is how do we evolve our proclivity to perceive in terms of “us and them” to a more spiritual understanding of “we” the people of the world.

JLeslie's avatar

@Bill1939 There is a delicate balance of having pride about the group we identify with and also feeling we are one of the many. A recent book looked at successful groups in the US, so they were looking at general statistics, and the groups who were very successful did have a touch of feeling very proud about the group they belong to, and at the same time feeling part of a minority. I guess maybe they feel they have something to prove, but I don’t remember the exact wording the authors used. Cubans and Jews I remember we’re named, and I think a few Asian groups. I do believe we can feel proud of our ancestry or ethnicity without feeling superior, and maybe that is the balance to strive for. It’s a matter of appreciating and accepting everyone’s differences. The extreme groups you mentioned like the KKK do play upon adolescent behavior and also insecurities. It is a way for the insecure to feel powerful in my opinion. So, it is interesting the research from the book I mentioned mentions people from those cultures feeling special because of their background, maybe the special helps avoid radicalization? It’s very complicated I am sure the actual psychology of it all.

gailcalled's avatar

^^^ What’s the name of the book you mention mentioning?

JLeslie's avatar

Amy Chua is the author, she is the one who wrote about the tiger mom, which is probably her more famous book. The book I referenced I believe is called The Triple Package. I saw her making the rounds on the talk shows promoting it, I have not read it. She received quite a bit of criticism regarding the book, but Americans don’t like to look at sociological studies like that in general in my opinion. It is sort of taboo in our society to generalize about groups (and can be a sore point on fluther too). Some people correlate it with racism.

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