The Holocaust Research Paper

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The Holocaust

Anti-Semitism in Europe did not begin with Adolf Hitler. Though use of the term itself

dates only to the 1870s, there is evidence of hostility toward Jews long before the

Holocaust--even as far back as the ancient world, when Roman authorities destroyed the

Jewish temple in Jerusalem and forced Jews to leave Palestine. The Enlightment, during

the 17th and 18th centuries, emphasized religious toleration, and in the 19th century

Napoleon and other European rulers enacted legislation that ended long-standing

restrictions on Jews. Anti-Semitic feeling endured, however, in many cases taking on a

racial character rather than a religious one.

The roots of Hitler's particularly virulent brand of anti-Semitism are unclear. Born

in Austria in 1889, he served in the German army during World War I. Like many anti-

Semites in Germany, he blamed the Jews for the country's defeat in 1918. Soon after the

war ended, Hitler joined the National German Workers' Party, which became the National

Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), known to English speakers as the Nazis

(Jewish Virtual Library).

While imprisoned for treason for his role in the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, Hitler wrote

the memoir and propaganda tract "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle), in which he predicted a

general European war that would result in "the extermination of the Jewish race in

Germany"(The History Place). Hitler was obsessed with the idea of the superiority of the

"pure" German race, which he called "Aryan," and with the need for "Lebensraum," or

living space, for that race to expand. In the decade after he was released from prison,

Hitler took advantage of the weakness of his rivals to enhance his party's status and rise

from obscurity to power. On January 20, 1933, he was named chancellor of Germany.

After President Paul von Hindenburg's death in 1934, Hitler anointed himself as "Fuhrer,"

becoming Germany's supreme ruler(Absolute Astronomy).

The twin goals of racial purity and spatial expansion were the core of Hitler's

worldview, and from 1933 onward they would combine to form the driving force behind

his foreign and domestic policy. At first, the Nazis reserved their harshest persecution for

political opponents such as Communists or Social Democrats. The first official

concentration camp opened at Dachau (near Munich) in March 1933, and many of the

first prisoners sent there were Communists. Like the network of concentration camps that

followed, becoming the killing grounds of the Holocaust, Dachau was under the control

of Heinrich Himmler, head of the elite Nazi guard, the Schutzstaffel (SS), and later chief

of the German police (Jewish Virtual Library). By July 1933, German concentration

camps (Konzentrationslager in German, or KZ) held some 27,000 people in "protective

custody." Huge Nazi rallies and symbolic acts such as the public burning of books by

Jews, Communists, liberals and foreigners helped drive home the desired message of

party strength (Holocaust Timeline).

In 1933, Jews in Germany numbered around 525,000, or only 1 percent of the

total German population. During the next six years, Nazis undertook an "Aryanization"

of Germany, dismissing non-Aryans from civil service, liquidating Jewish-owned

businesses and stripping Jewish lawyers and doctors of their clients(The History place).Under

the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, anyone with three or four Jewish grandparents was considered a

Jew, while those with two Jewish grandparents were designated Mischlinge (half-breeds). Under

the Nuremberg Laws, Jews became routine targets for stigmatization and persecution. This

culminated in Kristallnacht, or the "night of broken glass" in November 1938, when German

synagogues were burned and windows in Jewish shops were smashed; some 100 Jews were

killed and thousands...
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