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Date Permissions Signed
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Costanzo, Susan E.
Konrad Jarausch was an educated and generally perceptive man with a strong inclination towards humanism. Nonetheless, he aided genocide in Poland and Belarus. Although he did not stand on a firing line or operate a gas chamber, he did abet the callous starvation of tens of thousands of Soviet prisoners. His responsibility for those deaths cannot and should not be dismissed.
He was not, however, a zealot or a sociopath. Though it is no doubt reassuring to think that the Nazis and their acolytes were uniquely evil, that belief is not supported by facts. In reality, the killing was carried forward by ordinary people from all walks of life. Konrad was one among them, and his story gives cause to refigure the stagnant assumptions we hold about the perpetrators of the Holocaust. Contrary to popular portrayal, their brutality did not depend upon any sort of unique rabidity.
Konrad therefore deserves consideration because his example should humble us. His failure to rise above his situation is a familiar human fault. Regardless of the small charities he extended to some prisoners, those gestures could never countervail the pressure of starvation and confinement which weighed upon them, which Konrad helped enforce. Although he felt tremendous angst throughout his service, he never took the daunting steps towards resolving it. Complicity came easier than resistance.
Rather than being called to refuse one clear choice: to murder or not, Konrad acquiesced to a series of small, dooming decisions. His guilt came in increments. As a perpetrator, he served on the very margins of the Holocaust, and his story invites us to reconsider the boundaries of responsibility for atrocity, and the susceptibility of our own societies to its perpetration.
Holocaust, perpetrator, history
Western Washington University
Subjects – Names (LCNAF)
Jarausch, Konrad, 1900-1942
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Christiansen, Nate, "The Accessibility of Atrocity: A Case Study of Responsibility during the Holocaust" (2018). WWU Graduate School Collection. 703.