World History II
27 November 2012
The Holocaust is one of the worst scenarios of genocide ever known to the world. The Jewish people of Europe were terrorized and slaughtered over a period that lasted nearly two and half years. During that time, nearly eleven million people were killed, including six million Jews. Even though the actual mass killings of the Jews lasted about two and a half years, the planning of this genocide started many years earlier. In order for the world to never experience this tragedy again, we need to look back at the events of the Holocaust and see how the world might be able to prevent this from happening again. None of these events would have happened, if the Nazi Party had not come into power in the first place. After World War I, Germany was left with a republican government that was not suited to the people of Germany since they had never experienced democracy before. The nation in a whole was very disorganized and segregated, which led to many extremist parties forming. The Nazi party was one of these parties, and Adolf Hitler was its leader. After the German republican government collapsed, the Nazi tried to take power, but we’re ultimately defeated. (The Holocaust) After the defeat, Hitler was thrown into prison, which was where he wrote his famous book Mein Kampf, which in English means “My Struggle.” (The Holocaust - Rise of the Nazis) In Hitler’s Mein Kampf he expresses his ideals about Nazi World Domination, and his racist views of the Jews and society. The article “Nazi Germany and the Jews 1933-1939” states, “Hitler realized that he must employ legitimate democratic means in his struggle to seize power.” (The Holocaust) Hitler was a smart individual that knew how to manipulate the minds of other people to his will. So after a couple years of having mediocre representation for the Nazi Party in the Reichstag election, the Nazi Party finally had its chance. One article about the rise of the Nazis states that, “In July 1932, with 230 mandates, they became the largest faction in the House — a political force that made an impact and acceded to power legitimately. President Paul von Hindenburg gave Hitler the mandate to form a government, and Hitler became Chancellor on January 30, 1933.” (The Holocaust - Rise of the Nazis) This was when the Nazi Party got its foothold in Germany, and started to segregate against the Jews. In September 15, 1935 a set of laws was passed by the German parliament in Nuremberg, Germany. The Nuremberg Laws were the start of the anti-Jewish movement in Germany. The first of these laws was called the “Reich Citizenship Law,” (Nuremberg Laws) this law stated that no Jews could be citizens of the Nazi German Reich, and it clarified the definition of the Aryan race. This law also stripped all Jews of their right to vote, so that they no longer had any political say in the Nazi government. The second law was also called the, “Law for Protection and German Blood and Honor.” This law stated that there could be no marriages between Jews and Germans, and that there could be no sexual contact between Jews and Aryans. This law also prohibited Jews from taking in German maids under the age of 45, and Jews could no longer fly the German flag. There was also some public distress about if Jewish German WWI veterans and Jewish politicians were supposed to be treated differently that the other Jews, or if they would get special treatment for their work to the German nation. There was a lot of unrest in the German people around this time about radical Nazis that wanted to put this to an end, and there were anti-Jewish Riots going on. Then Hitler stepped in and said that a Jew is a Jew, no matter what they do. All in all there were eight more Nuremberg Laws put into effect by the Nazi Germans to repress the Jews. (Nuremberg Laws) One of the few things that were extremely effective at making the German people despise the Jews was propaganda. The Nazi party had used propaganda from the start, and had gotten very good at using it effectively. They used it to try and convert people into their party, and it was largely thanks to propaganda that Hitler got his position of power. In his book Mein Kampf, Hitler describes his outlook on propaganda by saying, “propaganda is not meant to be used on scientifically trained intellectuals because, as propaganda is not logical, rational, or scientific, the Intellectuals will not be swayed by it. Propaganda is meant for the masses who cannot comprehend logic and intellect, but can be convinced of anything if their emotions are manipulated.” (Propaganda, Nazi) In the beginning, the Nazis used propaganda to reinforce Hitler’s totalitarian hold over Germany, and then started to attack the Jews with their onslaught of anti-Semitic propaganda. Hitler started all this by making the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, and then put Joseph Goebbels as the head of the department. It states in the article “Holocaust History” that, “The Ministry’s aim was to ensure that the Nazi message was successfully communicated through art, music, theater, films, books, radio, educational materials, and the press.” (Holocaust History) The Nazi party used all of these different forms of media to spread around all of its idea of racism and hatred towards Jews. The propaganda in pictures would should these beautiful “Aryan” women, with these grotesque and ugly Jewish people looking at her. Another form of propaganda against the Jews that the Nazis used was by taking video and pictures of a few wealthy Jews, and blowing it way out of proportion by saying that all Jews live this way, and that all Jews are hoarding all the money to themselves. The Nazis make the Jews out to be greedy heathens that are a plague to the world. Some of the most moving pieces of media for the German civilians were the movies that the Nazi propagandists were making to reinforce the idea of evil Jews to the public. One of the most famous of the works is called “The Eternal Jew”, which depicts Jews at rats. The Nazis used extremely effective propaganda to practically brain wash the German citizens into despising the Jewish people of the world. The propaganda was even essential for the Nazi soldiers that worked in Jewish concentration camps. If propaganda had not influenced the soldiers that the Jews were pure evil, then the soldiers would have thought twice before systemically murdering hundreds of thousands of human beings. (Holocaust History) Kristallnacht “The Night of Broken Glass” as it is also called, was the first major move against the Jews of Europe. Kristallnacht happened on the night and morning of November ninth through the tenth of 1938. It all started after a young 17-year-old Jewish man had shot and killed a German Embassy Official in Paris because his parents had been deported. So when the Nazis next met, Hitler told Goebbels to make it known that the party will not organize any move against the Jews for the crime they committed against the Germans, but as long as there are spontaneous and random acts of violence against the Jews, then no action will be taken to help the Jews. So, on the night of November 9th all across Germany, Germans “randomly” attacked and broke the windows of many Jewish businesses. (Re-Examining the Tipping Point) The next morning, Police took many Jewish men into custody, and tortured them or humiliated them in front of crowds of angry Germans. In the article “Re-Examining the Tipping Point” it states that, “By the end of the pogrom some 1,000 synagogues had been burned, Jewish property had been damaged, Jewish ritual objects and cemeteries desecrated, 30,000 Jewish men had been arrested and sent to concentration camps, and 91 Jews were dead.” (Re-Examining the Tipping Point) When Germany took over Poland in 1939, the Germans decided that they did not want to live next to the Jews anymore, so Reinhard Heydrich, the leader of the Reich Security Main office, declare that any Jews living in the country or small towns would be deported to the larger cities where they would be confined and controlled in a secure location inside the cities. Then there would be Jewish councils organized whose main function was to carry out any Nazi orders. (The Ghettos) There were Ghettos in many major cities all around Nazi controlled territories, and when the Nazis started their invasion of Russia, they continued to set up more and more ghettos along the way. The largest of these ghettos was setup in 1940 at Warsaw, Poland, where nearly half a million Jews were imprisoned. All in all there were nearly 1,000 ghettos set up all across the German controlled Europe. In the article “The Ghettos” it is explained that, “The German authorities attained several goals by establishing the ghettos: they gathered large numbers of Jews together under conditions of severe congestion and close supervision, deprived them of their property, exploited their labor, isolated them from the rest of the world.” (The Ghettos) This was when the Nazi higher command planned a meeting at Wannsee, Berlin to try and come up with a solution to the problem with all the European Jews that the Nazis had rounded up in concentration camps or ghettos. The same man that came up with the system of ghettos, Reinhard Heydrich, set up this conference. The other members of the conference included some German politicians, and several SS officers. All of the guests agreed with Heydrich when he told the guests that there next course of action was to completely annihilate the Jews in Europe. The only thing that they really had to discuss about was how they were going to systemically murder all the Jews that they had rounded up. They came up with several different ideas, and they expanded the plans on producing extermination camps (Wannsee Conference). The Nazis built these special camps specifically to exterminate as many Jews possible, in the quickest time possible. There were three different extermination camps erected during the war, unlike common thinking, that hundreds of camps were put into effect. There were dozens of concentration camps all over German controlled territory, but none of those camps had the killing ability that the extermination camps had. These camps had permanent gas chambers built into them. Chelmno was the first of the camps to be built, and after nearly 300,000 Jews were killed there, there are only 3 people documented that survived in the camp. (The Death Camps) These camps were built specifically to import Jews to them, and then to kill them. There was no selection process here, so Jews got directly off the trains that brought them to the camps, walked to the gas chambers, stripped of their clothes, and were immediately poison, and dead in minutes. Nearly 1.7 million Jews and other people were murdered at these camps. (The Death Camps) The gas that the Germans used to kill many of the Jews in gas chambers was Zyclon B gas. It had first been tested on Russian prisoners of war, and was found to be extremely effective at killing off large groups of people quickly. Once the Jews had been poisoned, the dead bodies were usually sent to the crematoriums, were the Jews that were not immediately killed had to work. The Jews that worked at the crematoriums had to put the bodies into the furnaces, and shovel out the ash when it built up too high. After the workers at the crematoriums either got weak from exhaustion, or went crazy from seeing so much dead, they were also sent to the gas chamber to be killed. (Auschwitz-Birkenau) Some other ways to kill the Jews or prisoners of war was by death vans. People would be stuck into the back of the enclosed vans, and the exhaust from the vans was pumped into the back of the van, so that people would die quickly. This method was also effective because the only costs that you had were buying gas to fuel the vans. But as the war waged on, resources were scarce, and the soldiers needed as much supplies as they could get, so buying Zyclon B at a cheap price was more cost efficient (The Death Camps). After Germany had been fighting the allied forces for several years, the allied forces finally started to push the Germans back, which in turn got the allied troops closer and closer to the Jewish concentration camps. The first camp to be liberated was Majdanek in July of 1944 by the Soviet Union troops. The Soviet troops then continued to look for other concentration camps, and freed many more Jews, until the American and British troops made their way towards concentration camps in the spring of 1945. (Liberation of Nazi Camps) Unfortunately before the allied troops could make it to some of the concentration camps, the Nazis would round up surviving Jews, and take them on death marches until they either froze to death, or just fell over from exhaustion and malnourishment. “These marches occurred towards the end of the war as the Allies advanced on the German army and the Nazis tried to move prisoners further west into Germany.” (Liberation of Nazi Camps) This article goes on to state that nearly 250,000 people died on death marches. The war was finally over when the allies took Berlin, and the liberation of all the Jews was nearly complete, even though the Jews were now free from their tyrannical captors, the Jews could not just go back to the way they were. According to “Liberation of Nazi Camps”, nearly 90% of the Jews in Poland alone had been wiped out, and the Jewish communities in many other countries had been significantly reduced. After the war was over, and the death toll had been add up over the years, 11 million people died at the hands of the fascist Nazis, and approximately 6 million of those people were Jews. This article states, “While the rest of the world was counting the dead, the Jews were counting the living.” (Liberation of Nazi Camps) It is a little terrifying that such a huge and disastrous event could start from one man that wanted to destroy the Jewish race. Hitler came very close to completing his objective too. There is no telling how many people would have died if Hitler had not been stopped. We can make a difference today; we can look at the past events, and see what little signs there may be so we can stop something like this from ever what history is good for, and I possible that something like this since we know what happened, happening again. Many people ask know that without history, it is could happen over and over again, but we will not let it happen again.
"Auschwitz-Birkenau." Yad Vashem. www1.yadvashem.org. 20 November 2012. “The Death Camps.” Yad Vashem. www1.yadvashem.org. 20 November 2012 The Holocaust - Rise of the Nazis. Yad Vashem. www1.yadvashem.org. 20 November 2012.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Liberation of Nazi Camps.” Holocaust Encyclopedia. http://www.ushmm.org. 20 November 2012.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “The Holocaust.” Holocaust Encyclopedia. http://www.ushmm.org. 20 November 2012.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Nuremberg Laws.” Holocaust Encyclopedia. http://www.ushmm.org. 20 November 2012.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Propaganda.” Holocaust Encyclopedia. http://www.ushmm.org. 20 November 2012.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “The Ghettos.” Holocaust Encyclopedia. http://www.ushmm.org. 20 November 2012. "Wannsee Conference." Yad Vasham. www.ushmm.org. 20 November 2012. Weinstock, Yael G. “Re-Examining the Tipping Point.” www1.yadvashem.org. 20 November 2012