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Holocaust (Fall 2012)

            Many groups have been excluded and targeted throughout world history. The Holocaust to this day, however, is one of the most tragic and inhumane atrocities to happen in the world. Uncles, fathers, daughters, mothers, cousins, nieces, in-laws, newly-weds and even new born babies were tormented and seen as an item of disgust. One powerful individual’s thoughts of a group of people led to genocide and almost caused an extermination of one race. Who were these innocent people? They were the Jews. 

            The Holocaust was an attempt to delete the Jewish people from existence. It “was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. ‘Holocaust’ is a word… meaning ‘sacrifice of fire’ due to the fact that the mountains of lifeless bodies were cremated to preserve space in the concentration camps for more innocents Jews (Holocaust History). These families had no idea that an idea by one racist leader could lead to the destruction of a people. 

            The Jews were not the only groups of people targeted, however. “German authorities also targeted other groups because of their perceived ‘racial inferiority’: Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, and some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, others) (Holocaust history).” These groups were seen to imperfect Europe by higher powers. This power crazed hate frenzy created an environment that led to “other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds, among them Communist, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals (Holocaust history).” 

            In January of 1933, the Nazi Party became the head of Germany and were beyond a shadow of a doubt convinced that the German people “were ‘racially superior’ and that the Jews, deemed ‘inferior’, were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community (Holocaust History).” The Germans felt that the only problem in Europe were the Jews infected the German perfection.

            When the Nazis came to power in 1933, there were a little more than nine million Jews who populated Europe. After the Holocaust, two-thirds of the Jewish population was exterminated and forgotten (Rosenburg). In addition to the extermination of Jews, eleven million “undesirable” groups of people were murdered at the hands of the Nazi Party (Taylor). 

            This death of so many innocent individuals was at the hands of the powerful Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler. In 1919, Hitler joined the National Socialists German Workers’ Party or famously known as the Nazi Party (PBS). Adolf Hitler was always seen as a very strategic and wise individual: “It was in the early years of the organization that Hitler formulated his theories of political leadership and propaganda that would lead to his tremendous political success (PBS).” Hitler, though as irrational and out of control as he was, had a plan and executed it with his great leadership skills and confidence that led many Germans to follow and support him. It was the support of his followers that drove his plans into action.

            Hitler had this hate for the Jews that many still do not understand today. He blamed the Jews for the devastation and destruction of Germany because he was sure they were the cause of the war and defeat of Germany. With his confidence and power, he convinced his followers to hate and persecute the Jews as well.

            “After causing the destruction of huge areas of Europe, demanding the sacrifice of millions of lives in pursuit of his political ambitions, and ordering the murder of millions of others, Hitler showed no remorse. Instead, he blamed the Jews for the war he himself had started. ‘It is untrue that I, or anyone else in Germany, wanted the war in 1939,’ he stated. ‘It was desired and instigated solely by those international statesmen who were either of Jewish descent or worked for Jewish interests.’ This earliest obsession of Hitler's, a deep loathing of the Jewish people, remained with him to the very end (PBS).”

            Since Hitler was so popular among the Nazi Party, he won the title of Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933 by President Hindenburg (HOLOCAUST). With this new position, Adolf Hitler targeted the Jews further and decided to begin to take action to this problem. That next year, President Hindenburg dies leaving Presidency unoccupied. Hitler jumps on this position and names himself President and Chancellor of Germany. 

            “Having effectively become the dictator of Germany, Hitler began to pass a series of increasingly severe anti-Semitic laws that excluded Jews from all spheres of public and economic life. Jewish life in Germany became one of terror and abject misery. In mid-1941, Hitler began to realize his repeated threats to rid Europe of the Jews and, with his approval, a cold-blooded, systematic program for their annihilation was set in place (PBS).” 

            His more advanced position gave him the luxury of doing whatever he wanted to whoever he wanted without having to justify his reasoning or actions. The people of Germany just obeyed his commands because they had faith in Hitler. 

            Adolf Hitler and his team of Nazis developed the concentration camps as a way to complete their “final solution” to exterminate the Jews for good. Jewish families were forced out of their homes with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and a small bag if they were lucky. They left fully functioning businesses behind without a memory or penny to their name. The only thing these people had to hold onto was their families and that was if they weren’t immediately executed upon arrival to the concentration camps. 

            At first, the concentration camps served as a kind of containment facility so that the Jews may be monitored and incarcerated (Holocaust History). The Jews were put to work in ghettos without the best living conditions. As the war progressed, the extermination of Jews began first with deaths due to malnutrition and disease (Rosenburg). 

            During the year 1941, Jewish families were more abundantly and quickly transferred from ghettos in Poland to various concentration camps. This is when the selection process began “starting with those people viewed as the least useful: the sick, old and weak and the very young (Taylor).” They wanted to keep only those that could work themselves to death. The ones they thought could not work were sent to their death immediately. Ultimately, the Nazi Party did not intend on any survivors. 

            The concentration camp that first used the mass gassing method as a way to exterminate the Jews was Belzec on March 17, 1942. Since the Nazis saw that this was effective, they developed “five more mass killing centers… including Chelmno, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek and the largest of all, Auschwitz-Birkenau (The Holocaust).” From the premiere of the first use of gas chambers until 1945, Jews and others seen as undesirable in the eyes of the Germans from various parts of Europe were brought to these death camps to unfold Hitler’s “final solution”. These parts of Europe included all the countries Germany occupied and the ones that Germany allied with during the war. 

            It’s hard to imagine that so many innocent people were killed before anybody noticed or interfered. The Nazis operated covertly so that the “final solution” would not be stopped before they had reached satisfaction with their concentration camps. When brought to the public, nobody could believe that this mass genocide had happened right under their noses and had been going on for so many years without intervention.

            “At Auschwitz alone, more than two million people were murdered in a process resembling a large-scale industrial operation. A large population of Jewish and non-Jewish inmates worked in the labor camp there; though only Jews were gassed, thousands of others died of starvation or disease (The Holocaust).”  

            As the end drew close, the Nazis operated in desperation to exterminate what they could of the Jews and forced the survivors on “‘death marches’ in attempt to prevent the Allied liberation of large numbers of prisoners (Holocaust History).” These marches took the lives of 250,000 to 375,000 innocent lives (The Holocaust). 

            When the concentration camps began being discovered in 1945, Allied troops found and encountered “hundreds of thousands of starving and sick prisoners locked in with thousands of dead bodies… evidence of gas chambers and high-volume crematoriums, as well as thousands of mass graves, documentation of awful medical experimentation, and much more (Taylor).”

            Outsiders and Allied forces were baffled and beyond disgusted to walk through these hell camps. The only thing they could do was liberate the survivors and try to sustain the lives of the surviving Jews and other undesirable individuals. After Allied forces intervention, Hitler committed suicide which led to a German surrender shortly after (HOLOCAUST). 

            Though the lives of the innocent Jews will never be brought back, their story lives on, a story that will never be forgotten. It was not easy for the survivors to go back to their “homes” because some of the survivors no longer had a home. They lost their businesses. They were lucky if they had their families which most of them lost their loved ones a long time ago. Others were not welcomed by their neighbors or neighborhood surroundings. Some just could not get over the trauma of going through the whole ordeal of being stripped of every right they were supposed to have and betrayed by their country.

            The Allied powers saw this issue and created shelters for the survivors in displaced persons camps (Holocaust History). “Between 1948 and 1951, almost 700,000 Jews emigrated to Israel, including 136,000 Jewish displaced persons from Europe” while others went to the United States (Holocaust History).” Finally, in 1957, the last displaced persons camp was no longer needed and closed. 

            The Holocaust has made it nearly impossible for Jews to live without worry and devastating memories in Europe. Nevertheless, Jewish communities have found places around the world to live in security and peace. There will always be racism in the world and individual groups will be targeted constantly. But society has to take a step back and look at the bigger picture to prevent mass murders and genocides from happening again like the bizarre inhumanities endured by the Jews during the Holocaust. 

  1. "America and the Holocaust: Adolf Hitler." PBS. PBS, 2009. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/holocaust/>.
  2. "The History Place - Holocaust Timeline." The History Place - Holocaust Timeline. N.p., Feb.-Mar. 1997. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. <http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/holocaust/timeline.html>.
  3. "Holocaust History." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Holocaust Encyclopedia, 11 May 2012. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. <http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?Moduleld=10005143>.
  4. "The Holocaust." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2012. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. <http://www.history.com/topics/the-holocaust>.
  5. "HOLOCAUST." The Holocaust. The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, Jan. 2012. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/holo.html>.
  6. Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Holocaust Facts: What You Need to Know About the Holocaust." About.com. 20th Century History. About.com, Mar. 2012. Web. 04 Dec. 2012.
  7. Taylor, Ann. "World War II: The Holocaust." The Atlantic. In Focus, 16 Oct. 2011. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. <http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/10/world-war-ii-the-holocaust/100170/>.