Holocaust - "the mass slaughter of European civilians and especially Jews by the Nazis during World War II"
Anti-semitism - "hostility to or prejudice against Jews."
Background to the Holocaust
During the Second World War, the Nazi party, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler tried to kill all the Jews in Europe. The Nazis and their partners murdered 6 million Jewish people, including 1,500,000 children. This terrible period in history is now referred to as the holocaust.
On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler, leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party, was named chancellor of Germany by President Paul Von Hindenburg after the Nazi party won a significant 43.91% of the vote in the elections of 1932. The Nazi Party had taken advantage of the political unrest in Germany to gain an electoral foothold. The Nazis encouraged clashes with the communists and conducted a vicious propaganda campaign against its political opponents who the Nazi seen to be the Weimar Government and the Jews whom the Nazis blamed for Germany's ills.
who where the victims of the holocaust
- Jews - 5.93 million
- Soviet Pows - 2–3 million
- Ethnic Poles - 1.8–2 million
- Serbs - 300,000–500,000
- Disabled - 270,000
- Romani - 90,000–220,000
- Freemasons - 80,000–200,000
- Solvenes - 20,000–25,000
- Homosexuals - 5,000–15,000
- Jehovah's Witness - 2,500–5,000
- Spanish Republicans - 7,000
How were jews treated?
After January 1933, the Jews became the “Untermenschen” - the sub-humans. Nazi stopped the Germans from shopping in Jewish shops. By 1934, all Jewish shops were marked with the yellow Star of David or had the word “Juden” written on the window. Sturmabteilung (SA) men stood outside the shops to deter anyone from entering. This was not necessarily a violent approach to the Jews – that was to come later – but it was an attempt to economically bankrupt them and destroy what they had spent years building up.
On buses, trains and park benches, Jews had to sit on seats marked for them. Children at schools were taught specifically anti-Semitic ideas. Jewish school children were openly ridiculed by teachers and the bullying of Jews in the playground by other pupils went unpunished. If the Jewish children responded by not wanting to go to school, then that served a purpose in itself and it also gave the Nazi propagandists a reason to peddle the lie that Jewish children were inherently lazy and could not be bothered to go to school.
Die Nürnberger Geletze
The Nuremberg Laws
In 1935 The 'Nuremberg Laws' where released in connection of the Annual event 'The Nuremberg Rally'. These Law's officially excluded the Jews from German Citizenship, and limited their rights of members for society for example these laws prohibited Jews to fly the German flag. More Significantly The Nuremberg Laws allowed the Nazis to determined the 'Who is a Jew?' so that they could isolate them and expel them from German society.
The Night of the Broken Glass
On the night of November 9, 1938, violence against Jews broke out across the Reich. It appeared to be unplanned and set off by Germans' anger over the assassination of a German official in Paris at the hands of a Jewish teenager. German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and other Nazis carefully organised the pogroms. In two days, over 250 synagogues were burned, over 7,000 Jewish businesses were trashed and looted, dozens of Jewish people were killed, and Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools, and homes were looted while police and fire brigades stood by. The pogroms became known as Kristallnacht, the "Night of Broken Glass," for the shattered glass from the store windows that littered the streets.
The morning after the pogroms 30,000 German Jewish men were arrested for the "crime" of being Jewish and sent to concentration camps, where hundreds of them perished. Some Jewish women were also arrested and sent to local jails. Businesses owned by Jews were not allowed to reopen unless they were managed by non-Jews. Curfews were placed on Jews, limiting the hours of the day they could leave their homes.
After the 'KRISTALLNACHT' life was even more difficult for German and Austrian Jewish children and teenagers. Already barred from entering museums, public playgrounds, and swimming pools, now they were expelled from the public schools. Jewish youngsters, like their parents, they were totally segregated in Germany. In despair, many Jewish adults committed suicide. Most families tried desperately to leave.
Life in the ghettos was usually unbearable. Overcrowding was common. One apartment might of had several families living in it. Plumbing broke down, and human waste was thrown in the streets along with the garbage. Contagious diseases spread rapidly in such cramped, unsanitary housing. People were always hungry. Germans deliberately tried to starve residents by allowing them to purchase only a small amount of bread, potatoes, and fat. Some residents had some money or valuables they could trade for food smuggled into the ghetto; others were forced to beg or steal to survive. During the long winters, heating fuel was scarce, and many people lacked adequate clothing. People weakened by hunger and exposure to the cold became easy victims of disease; tens of thousands died in the ghettos from illness, starvation, or cold. Some individuals killed themselves to escape their hopeless lives.
Every day children became orphaned, and many had to take care of even younger children. Orphans often lived on the streets, begging for bits of bread from others who had little or nothing to share. Many froze to death in the winter.
In order to survive, children had to be resourceful and make themselves useful. Small children in the Warsaw ghetto sometimes helped smuggle food to their families and friends by crawling through narrow openings in the ghetto wall. They did so at great risk, as smugglers who were caught were severely punished.
Many young people tried to continue their education by attending school classes organized by adults in many ghettos. Since such classes were usually held secretly, in defiance of the Nazis, pupils learned to hide books under their clothes when necessary, to avoid being caught.
Although suffering and death were all around them, children did not stop playing with toys. Some had beloved dolls or trucks they brought into the ghetto with them. Children also made toys, using whatever bits of cloth and wood they could find. In the Lodz ghetto, children turned the tops of empty cigarette boxes into playing cards.
Einsatzgruppen were squads composed primarily of German SS and police personnel. Under the command of the German Security Police (Sicherheitspolizei) and Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst) officers, the Einsatzgruppen had among their tasks the murder of those perceived to be racial or political enemies found behind German combat lines in the occupied Soviet Union.
These victims included Jews, Romanian (Gypsies), and officials of the Soviet state and the Soviet Communist party. The Einsatzgruppen also murdered thousands of residents of institutions for the mentally and physically disabled. Many scholars believe that the systematic killing of Jews in the occupied Soviet Union by Einsatzgruppen and Order Police (Ordnungspolizei) battalions was the first step of the "Final Solution," the Nazi program to murder all European Jews.
The Final Solution
On 31 July 1941, Hermann Goering orders Reinhard Heydrich to prepare a plan for the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Question'.
During the summer of 1941, in breach of Hitler’s agreement with Joseph Stalin, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Following the German army into battle were the Einsatzgruppen. Local people supported these killing squads, one of the main tasks of which was to kill all Jewish men, women and children in the areas that were being conquered.
What is meant by the term genocide?
Genocide is the specific term, referring to violent crimes committed against groups with the intent to destroy the existence of the group.
How did the jews get to the concentration Camps
Deportation and transportation to camps often took days. Individuals, families and whole communities together with their personal belongings were packed into cattle trucks. They were locked in and transported for days. They had no information. They did not know where they were going, the length of the journey or what would happen to them when they eventually arrived at their destination. The conditions on the journey were appalling.
The packed railway wagons would often be shunted around from one railway siding to another for days on end, and for what must have seemed like an eternity. Many of the very young, the old and the sick would die because of the inhumane conditions during the journey. Those who did survive were severely traumatised by the experience.
Eventually, after days of travelling in the most cramped conditions, the railway carriages arrived at a camp. The doors of the carriages would be pulled open to give the prisoners their first glimpse of daylight, at a place they had never seen before.
Concentration camps and Jews
The most famous concentration camp is Auschwitz.It was established by Germans in 1940, in the suburbs of Oswiecim, a Polish city that was taken over to the Third Reich by the Nazis. Its name was changed to Auschwitz, which also became the name of Konzentrationslager Auschwitz.
The direct reason for the establishment of the camp was the fact that mass arrests of Poles were increasing beyond the capacity of existing "local" prisons. The first transport of Poles reached Auschwitz from Tarnów prison on June 14, 1940. Initially, Auschwitz was to be one more concentration camp of the type that the Nazis had been setting up since the early 1930s.
The first and oldest part of the camp was the "main camp," later also known as "Auschwitz I" (the number of prisoners fluctuated around 15,000, sometimes rising above 20,000), which was established on the grounds and in the buildings of prewar Polish barracks.
The second part was the Birkenau camp (which held over 90,000 prisoners in 1944), also known as "Auschwitz II" This was the largest part of the Auschwitz complex. The Nazis began building it in 1941 on the site of the village of Brzezinka, three kilometers from Oswiecim. The Polish civilian population was evicted and their houses confiscated and demolished. The greater part of the apparatus of mass extermination was built in Birkenau and the majority of the victims were murdered here.
More than 40 sub-camps, exploiting the prisoners as slave laborers, were founded, mainly at various sorts of German industrial plants and farms, between 1942 and 1944. The largest of them was called Buna (Monowitz, with ten thousand prisoners) and was opened by the camp administration in 1942 on the grounds of the Buna-Werke synthetic rubber and fuel plant six kilometers from the Auschwitz camp. On November 1943, the Buna sub-camp became the seat of the commandant of the third part of the camp, Auschwitz III, to which some other Auschwitz sub-camps were subordinated.
The Germans isolated all the camps and sub-camps from the outside world and surrounded them with barbed wire fencing. All contact with the outside world was forbidden. However, the area administered by the commandant and patrolled by the SS camp garrison went beyond the grounds enclosed by barbed wire. It included an additional area of approximately 40 square kilometers ("Interessengebiet" - the interest zone), which lay around the Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau camps.
The local population, the Poles and Jews living near the newly-founded camp, were evicted in 1940-1941. Approximately one thousand of their homes were demolished. Other buildings were assigned to officers and non-commissioned officers from the camp SS garrison, who sometimes came here with their whole families. The pre-war industrial facilities in the zone, taken over by Germans, were expanded in some cases and, in others, demolished to make way for new plants associated with the military requirements of the Third Reich. The camp administration used the zone around the camp for auxiliary camp technical support, workshops, storage, offices, and barracks for the SS.
RESISTANCE among the jews
In October 1943 a transport of Jews arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau from Bergen-Belsen, a camp in Germany. All were selected for death. In the undressing room of crematorium II one of the women seized the pistol from an SS officer. She shot two SS guards, one of whom later died from his wounds. Other women joined the attack. The SS overcame the mutiny and killed all of the women.
There are examples of Jews escaping from the crematoria and gas chambers. One such incident involved men, women and children who had been transported from Hungary. On the night of 25/26 May 1944, they escaped and hid in the woods and in ditches. The SS tracked them down and killed them.
On 10 June 1942 Polish prisoners in a work detail attempted to escape while working on a drainage ditch in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Very few got away. Twenty prisoners were shot by the SS. To prevent future acts of resistance and in revenge, more than 300 Poles were murdered in the gas chambers.
The most ambitious uprising at Auschwitz-Birkenau involved the actions of 250 Jewish Sonderkommando on 7 October 1944. They set fire to one of the crematoria. They managed to cut through the fence and reach the outside of the camp. The SS surrounded them. In the fight that followed, they managed to kill three SS guards and wound 10 of them. All 250 Jews were killed.
One of the work camps made arms for the German army. The SS discovered that four Jewish women had stolen explosive material from this factory and given it to the Sonderkommando. The women were captured and hanged in front of other prisoners – again as an act of revenge, but also to stop others resisting.