Saturday, September 10, 2005

Statistical surprise?

A while back, in the course of doing some research on World War II and the Holocaust, I came across a statistic that absolutely stunned me: the percentage of Jews in the population of Germany immediately prior to World War II.

Since then, every so often I will ask people if they can guess what it might have been, and no one's ever gotten it right, or even come close.

So, what percentage of the population of pre-WWII Germany do you suppose was Jewish? Take a moment and think about it. Then guess.

Here's another one that no one ever seems to get right: the percentage of Jews in the population of Baghdad around the time of World War I. Take a moment and think about it. Then take a guess.

Now look here for the answer to the first question (hint: it's in the first sentence).

Now look here for the answer to the second question (hint: it's in the second sentence of the second paragraph).

Okay, let's review. Answer to the first question: just prior to World War II, Jews constituted less than 0.75% of the population of Germany. In case you're bad with figures or think that was a typo, I'll say it in words: less than one percent of the population of Germany was Jewish around the time Hitler rose to power.

Answer to the second question: around WWI, Jews constituted about one-third of the population of the city of Baghdad.

Most people will guess between 5 and 20 percent for the first question, and a couple of percentage points or even less for the second. You get closer to the truth if you reverse Germany and Baghdad.

What does it all mean? I'm not sure, except that it's another case of facts sometimes being quite different than what we suppose them to be.


At 12:49 PM, September 10, 2005, Blogger artemisia said...

Well, I happened to guess quite right, and I'm not a bit surprised, either. And I still don't understand what you're trying to say here.

At 8:35 PM, September 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I quizzed my husband and he came up with the exact incorrect percentages you predicted. I hate to reveal my profound ignorance but what happened to all the jews in Bagdad? Did they migrate enmasse to Israel upon it's establishment? Were they having any problems as citizens of Bagdad during the years they constituted such a significant percentage of the population?

At 11:22 PM, September 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose that people usually try to assume patterns from information. It's correct often enough to be useful, but can easily lead one astray. Though I'd hesitate to call it a pattern...more of a rationalization based on the sheer publicity of the holocaust.

At 1:16 AM, September 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to the Jewish Virtual Library here's what happened to all the Jews in Baghdad:

In June 1941, the Mufti-inspired, pro-Nazi coup of Rashid Ali sparked rioting and a pogrom in Baghdad. Armed Iraqi mobs, with the complicity of the police and the army, murdered 180 Jews and wounded almost 1,000. Immediately following, the British Army re-entered Baghdad, and success of the Jewish community resumed. Jews built a broad network of medical facilities, schools and cultural activity. Nearly all of the members of the Baghdad Symphony Orchestra were Jewish. Yet this flourishing environment abruptly ended in 1947, with the partition of Palestine and the fight for Israel's independence. Outbreaks of anti-Jewish rioting regularly occurred between 1947-49. After the establishment of Israel in 1948, Zionism became a capital crime.

In 1950, Iraqi Jews were permitted to leave the country within a year provided they forfeited their citizenship. A year later, however, the property of Jews who emigrated was frozen and economic restrictions were placed on Jews who chose to remain in the country. From 1949 to 1951, 104,000 Jews were evacuated from Iraq in Operations Ezra & Nechemia; another 20,000 were smuggled out through Iran.

In 1952, Iraq's government barred Jews from emigrating and publicly hanged two Jews after falsely charging them with hurling a bomb at the Baghdad office of the U.S. Information Agency.

With the rise of competing Ba'ath factions in 1963, additional restrictions were placed on the remaining Iraqi Jews. The sale of property was forbidden and all Jews were forced to carry yellow identity cards. After the Six-Day War, more repressive measures were imposed: Jewish property was expropriated; Jewish bank accounts were frozen; Jews were dismissed from public posts; businesses were shut; trading permits were cancelled; telephones were disconnected. Jews were placed under house arrest for long periods of time or restricted to the cities.

Persecution was at its worst at the end of 1968. Scores were jailed upon the discovery of a local "spy ring" composed of Jewish businessmen. Fourteen men - eleven of them Jews - were sentenced to death in staged trials and hanged in the public squares of Baghdad; others died of torture. On January 27, 1969, Baghdad Radio called upon Iraqis to "come and enjoy the feast." Some 500,000 men, women and children paraded and danced past the scaffolds where the bodies of the hanged Jews swung; the mob rhythmically chanted "Death to Israel" and "Death to all traitors." This display brought a world-wide public outcry that Radio Baghdad dismissed by declaring: "We hanged spies, but the Jews crucified Christ." Jews remained under constant surveillance by the Iraqi government.

In response to international pressure, the Baghdad government quietly allowed most of the remaining Jews to emigrate in the early 1970's, even while leaving other restrictions in force. Most of Iraq's remaining Jews are now too old to leave. They have been pressured by the government to turn over title, without compensation, to more than $200 million worth of Jewish community property.

At 10:12 AM, September 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

0.75% of the population! It’s now making sense to me. I previously took it for granted that the figure was somewhere between 5 to 10%. The reality is that Jews simply did not interact daily with most Aryan Germans. They could therefore easily be removed from the general population without hardly causing a ripple. Out of sight often results in out of mind. My guess is that if Jews comprised even a mere 2 percent of the overall population---there would have never been a Holocaust.

At 11:27 AM, September 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, David Thomson, although you are quite logical in that assumption, it isn't really the case. The Jews of Germany were among the most assimilated of all European populations, and in fact for about a hundred years before the Holocaust Germany was considered the most enlightened and progressive place in all of Europe for Jews to be.

See the book "The Pity of It All," by Amos Elon, for the fascinating and ultimately tragic story of the Jews of Germany for the two hundred years prior to the Holocaust.

At 11:44 AM, September 11, 2005, Blogger Judith said...

Most of the Jews Hitler murdered weren't German, they were from eastern European countries, where the percentage of jews in the general population was higher.

At 11:47 AM, September 11, 2005, Blogger Judith said...

PS also from western European countries like France and Holland and Greece, which were either taken over by the Nazis or collaborated with them to round up and deport their citizens.

Jews were a majority in Salonika; the entire community was wiped out.

At 2:16 PM, September 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“The Jews of Germany were among the most assimilated of all European populations..”

Germany was considered only moderately anti-Semitic. So much so, that Jewish Poles were elated when the Germans took over their local governments during WWI. They were treated far more harshly by their fellow Catholic countrymen. It has also been said that the French Dreyfus affair could not have occurred in Germany. The rights of Jewish soldiers were unassailable. What changed? The Nazi Party said that a Jew’s religious affiliation was inconsequential. All that mattered, was their “inferior” genetic makeup.

Numbers are important. It is simply easier to persecute a small group comprising less than one percent of the total population. Nobody would hardly notice their removal. Common sense dictates that most Aryan Germans didn’t even know a single Jew on either a professional or personal level. No, I will only slightly modify my original theory. The Holocaust might have not occurred if the Jewish population was between 5-10% of the total population. We should never forget that the Wannsee Conference was top secret. The German majority was not to know that Jews were being sent to the concentration camps. Such discreteness is not possible if you are dealing with 10% of the general population. Those type of numbers will get anyone’s attention!

At 2:40 PM, September 11, 2005, Blogger ShrinkWrapped said...

This is slightly OT, but if you can, pick up a copy of Terrorist Hunter, written anonymously by a woman whose father was one of Jews hung by Saddam Hussein in the episode you describe in 1969. She and her siblings and cousins were snuck out of the country by her mother a year later (after losing all their wealth and being held in virtual house arrest). The writer lived in Israel for a time and built a successful business, married, and now resides in the US, where she became involved in infiltrating radical Islamic groups, posing as a devout Muslim. She has a fascinating story and tells it well; she is aparently still active as a consultant to several unspecified government agencies.
As an aside, her depictions of FBI and State Dept incompetence, bordering on complicity, will put your blood pressure at risk.
Another point would be that Islam has a long history (which is somehow neglected by the MSM) of ethnic cleansing almost wherever they have been in the majority.

At 4:55 PM, September 11, 2005, Blogger Tom Grey said...

I'm sorry NNC, but even after reading the Holocaust Museum's article, I don't fully believe it -- there is no definition for "who is a Jew". I believe this number is the number of those who self-identify.

It was common in Europe to have one "nationality (ethnic group)" while being a citizen of another group's "nation state". Thus, Germans, Hungarians or Jews in Czechoslovakia.

But yes, even if more than doubled to 2%, it's still smaller than my 5% guess. But I'm sure most wage-earning city folk DID know a Jew or two, and usually as among the more intelligent and financially successful of the the folk known. Jewish success, real and perceived, was used to feed the destructive envy - hate.

You prolly didn't notice in the map that Czechoslovakia extended a bit farther East -- half of sub-Carpathian Ruthenia became part of Ukraine after WW II. Ruthenians are another minority in Slovakia, today.

At 8:16 PM, September 11, 2005, Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

Most of the Jewish deaths were indeed from Eastern Europe, increasing toward the end of the war. Of the 6,000,000 killed, almost 4,000,000 were during the last 2 years of the war, 1943-45. Outside of the camps, the largest numbers were killed in the Ukraine, by Ukrainians. Because they had themselves lost 8-11,000,000 citizens in the previous decade in the enforced famine under Stalin (supervised by Krushchev), it is likely they had little fellow-feeling for anyone perceived to be an outsider. The Poles and Hungarians likewise had many among their number willing to do the executions.

Could extermination have started in a nation with a larger population of Jews? We can't know, but we know that it didn't.

At 10:50 PM, September 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My father's division liberated one of the camps. I called the Holocaust memorial in DC and asked it his division's colors (Timberwolves) were represented.
I was told they were, which was important to him.

One of the curious things about the slaughter of the Jews and others is the massive diversion of resources (transport, personnel, construction, etc.) devoted to an activity not at all connected with winning the war. Despite being behind the curve logistically, with no margin in any category, this heinous activity went on as if it were more important than winning the war.
Think about that.

The only rationale I can think of is that being involved in the mass killing was safer than being sent to the Eastern Front, which meant that it was jobs for the boys. So it couldn't be allowed by its practitioners to become unimportant.


At 11:47 PM, September 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard Aubrey: I don't have the source for it right now, but I've read that there's a lot of evidence that the Nazis did consider the extermination of the Jews at least as important as winning the war. Even as the war effort wound down and the war was seen as all but lost, the killing of the Jews continued.

David Thomson: I certainly don't have the definitive answer to the question of how many Germans knew Jews, either personally or professionally, in pre-WWII Germany. My guess, though, is that--at least in the big cities--the majority of Germans knew at least some Jews professionally, as doctors.

Despite the low numbers of Jews in the German population, 16% of Germany's doctors were Jewish. In big cities the percentage of Jewish doctors was much, much higher. See this. In fact, some argue that one of the motivations for the initial persecution of the Jews in Germany was fear of Jewish "domination" of certain professions such as medicine.

Hitler's goal was to eliminate the Jews of Europe, not just the Jews of Germany. Because of this, it stands to reason that the vast majority of his Jewish victims were not German, simply because the vast majority of Europe's Jews were not German. He not only wanted to eliminate the Jews of Europe, but one could make an argument that he pretty much succeeded in that goal.

At 5:28 AM, September 12, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neo, I've heard the same, esp. in Hitler's Willing Executioners.

The problem is contemplating the idea that it was part of the idea set of a large number of folks at or near the top, including some Wehrmacht officers.

Recall that German soldiers from WW I were considered good citizens and their officers complained to authorities when the persecution started.

It would be one tbing for a few psychopaths to get this idea.
For the rest of them the question is were they newly convinced or merely liberated to anti-Semitism?

At 7:21 AM, September 12, 2005, Blogger Stephen West said...

I came to live in London about 5 years ago, and have been surprised by the number of Jews of Iraqi background that I have come into contact with.

Pierre Rehov made a very moving film about the enormous numbers of Jews forced to leave Arab countries, including Iraq, after the creation of Israel. For some reason they are less famous than the Palestinian refugees. More on his film can be found here: Silent Exodus

At 1:06 AM, September 14, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

The history of the nation of German is a tragic one. A nation that brought itself up as one of the most fragmented and chaotic sets of provinces, the HRE, into a Prussian military warmachine ended up burning itself up for no good end.

German society was ordered around... well Order. Obedience, discipline, etc.

Hitler made all too good use of those character virtues in the German people. Most Germans didn't know what was really going on, information technological flow was barbaric and inadequate in that age. But some Germans did know, in the military, as their failed coup attempt showed.

The concentration camps, required guards. Therefore you had people who knew, but didn't want to be a concentration guard, so they got sent to the East Front. And all the political lackeys went to the recreational camps.

It was like the German nation went schizophrenic and had two personalities. One of them ended up dieing, the good and sane one that is.

At 2:00 PM, September 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Might disagree with the implication that the sane guys were in the Wehrmacht and the nutcases in the SS, Waffen or otherwise.

My father's division pulled Jews out of the line units after finding Jewish soldiers who'd been captured and tortured and mutilated. This was at a time when US soldiers could expect the best treatment the Germans provided for anyone, and, relatively, about as good as anybody not captured by, say, us, has ever gotten.
But not the Jews. Not the American Jews.
And despite the rep of the Waffen SS formations, almost all the fighting was against Wehrmacht units.

And the Eight Air Force provided its Jewish flight crewmembers with bogus ID showing them to be gentiles in order to protect them should they be shot down.

It spread out from a few nutcases.

At 6:48 PM, September 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard Aubrey:

That's a fascinating and disturbing story, although I suppose it really shouldn't be too surprising. Do you know of any sources, online or otherwise, where I could read more about it?

At 7:51 PM, September 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This happened in 1944-45. My father is my source. He, who finished the war as a lieutenant, is the senior officer in a shrunken battalion, so the real-time sources are going fast. I can't think of why anybody would think to put it on line and I've looked at the Timberwolf sites where the reminiscences are pretty thin.
You could start with "Timberwolfstraat", and link to various places from there.
His division general, Terry Allen, was one of a kind, and if my father had been home, I'd probably be named Terry Allen Aubrey, but the nuns and my mother figured Junior was better.
So it is possible that only the 104th Infantry Division did it. Allen would do anything for the troops and he kept his finger on the pulse of the fighting.
So, no, never seen anything on line. There are two questions; One is whether the Jewish US soldiers had a particularly hard time if captured and the other is whether US units took the action described.
My father's first runner was a Jewish guy from New York who spoke Yiddish, which was a help talking to the locals in Holland, and was expected to be useful in Germany, but he was sent to the rear before they got into Germany.

There is one thing I heard, though.
Detroit has had for years a pestiferous weathercaster and all-around jokester named Sonny Elliott. It is said that he is really a nice Jewish boy from Detroit who used the name he was given when flying over Germany as his television name.

His signature line was to always tell us what the temperature was in Engaringadingadine (Engadine, a small town in the Upper Peninsula named after some place in Switzerland.)

Maybe what I've heard about him is true.

Oh, yeah. Third question: Whether the mistreatment of Jews was restricted to the villainous special units, or was common to all German units, or more accurately, possible in all units.

That would have something to do with the question of the German people and anti-Semitism; whether there were separate pockets or a generalized feeling.

At 10:05 PM, September 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard Aubrey:


I just did a bit of research on the topic--you may find this interesting, and also this

At 10:28 PM, September 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I were to aggregate the two, I would say the propensity was widespread, concentrated in the SS and Gestapo and SD, but not absent elsewhere except in unusual individuals.
The exceptions are so exceptional that they seem larger than perhaps they are, in proportion to the rest.
Given what seems to have been known, a commander would have known there was reason to pull Jews out of the frontline units, although other factors may have contradicted that idea.

The flyer, saying he was not going to be shot down, wore his own tags. Doesn't say as opposed to wearing a fake package or wearing none.

See up "Act of Faith" a short by Irwin Shaw. I found it in a book of shorts about WW II. Oddly, it included one of Jacland Marmur's destroyer stories which took place in the Korean War. I say that because, if you have to search, Marmur is less common than Smith.

At 1:47 PM, September 16, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

But the thing is, the US forces had no contact with those forces on the Russian front. So there's no way to tell where all the Germans who knew about the Jew Annihilation policies, but which didn't agree ended up.

My point was that Germany had, during WWII, a great many people with martial qualities. Honor, duty to the Vaterland, and obedience. Some could fight well, but had no honor. Some had honor, and could fight well as well, but those were few, and couldn't make much of a difference in policy.

The military officer who wore an eyepatch and came home from the Eastern Front, to join up with some other officers to attempt to assassinate Hitler because he had seen how much damage Hitler was doing to his own country, such people would be on the front lines, they would not be in charge of the POW camps or the secret police. The Wehrmacht was implicated, since the officers were Army, not Waffen SS. Which meant, after July 1944, most of the real patriots died off. There would have been no one to do any good on the front lines in terms of policy towards POWs.

If a front line unit captured a Jew from the American forces, they would have to send him to the back lines. Where he might disappear.

And despite the rep of the Waffen SS formations, almost all the fighting was against Wehrmacht units.

So where was the Waffen SS units located in? The Panzer Divisions. From what I saw, most of them were on the East.

The original pedigree of the Himmler’s idea for the SS was being diluted – he wanted ideologically pure volunteers; those who were willing to fight and die for the cause. Now, the new units were being made up of conscripts. To go with this, Waffen-SS units were made up of men from Eastern Europe. They went completely in the face of Nazi racial purity but they were needed to fight the Partisans who were becoming more and more successful in the east. The sole qualification to join was a hatred of communism. The Waffen-SS was to include Croats, Albanians, Russians, Ukrainians, and Caucasians etc. Over 100,000 Ukrainians responded to Himmler’s call in April 1943.

That brings up another thing, which is timeline. The timeline bears some relation to the quality and the motivation of the soldiers in the German Forces, as the above quote can attest to from this website.

By all accounts, the Waffen SS fought well and hard. One reason is that they were made up out of ideologues, people sought for their pure blood and their pure beliefs.

Some in the Waffen SS, might have been true patriots, but they kept their mouth shut for the most part.

San Diego, CA (special) -- Sam Kimbarow threw away his U.S. Army dogtags identifying him as Jew before he was captured by German soldiers during World War II's famous Battle of the Bulge.

If he was captured during the Battle of the Bulge, then they were Waffen SS soldiers. The Wehrmacht could not muster the morale to fight an offensive, nor did Hitler trust them to do so.

In the western campaign, six SS divisions fought at Normandy. The stand by the Hitler Jugend at Falaise allowed 20 army divisions to retreat to the West Wall. By now, however, Hitler had lost all faith in the Wehrmacht. He appointed Sepp Dietrich to lead the counter-attack in the Ardennes – the Battle of the Bulge. Here Waffen-SS units fought so well that they pushed back the Allies. Their advance was stopped by lack of fuel for their tanks. However, it was at Malmedy that the SS showed its other side when American POW’s were shot dead by the SS. After the war, Leibstandarte SS officer Joachim Peiper was sentenced to death for his part in this massacre, later reduced to life in prison.

A lot of these seem to be stories about the Battle of Bulge, interestingly enough.

The 106th Infantry Division, said to be beaten back (or destroyed as a division) at the Battle of the Bulge.

I daresay that most of these atrocities were committed by the Waffen SS, when fighting the Waffen SS, and anything before the Battle of the Bulge, was against Wehrmacht forces when the Waffen Panzer Divisions were on the Eastern Front.

At 1:50 PM, September 22, 2007, Blogger Kimberly said...

This blog entry showed up in websearch results for "Sonny Elliot," the Detroit weatherman Richard Aubrey referred to. Sonny is currently working for WWJ newsradio 550 (Detroit). This is his bio as posted on their site (btw, Mr. Aubrey & I both misspelled Mr. Eliot's surname):

" During World War II, Eliot was a B-24 bomber pilot when he was shot down over Germany and spent the next 18 months as a prisoner of war in Stalagluft I. While in captivity he lifted the morale of the other prisoners by staging original skits and revues. He holds the rank of Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and was named Air Force Liaison Officer for the 1st Congressional District. "

I grew up with Sonny Eliot's entertainment & always adored him. Now I'm intrigued by his history. He's more fascinating than I ever realized.

At 2:25 PM, September 22, 2007, Blogger Kimberly said...

Found a little tiny bit more info on Sonny Eliot: "Marvin Eliot Schlossberg, the hardware store owner's kid who enlisted in the Army Air Corps five weeks after Pearl Harbor."

@ (link will probably only be openly available for 2wks from this post, then will move to the archives)


Post a Comment

<< Home

Powered by Blogger