S: The Holocaust
BC: The formation of the United Nations in 1946 gave the world hope. This international organization helped to deal with the aftermath of the Holocaust and the resultant refugee problem and gave nations a means by which to discuss their conflicts. Sadly, although the world was made aware of the terrible events of the Holocaust, genocide has not been completely eliminated and the problems of ultranationalism, racism, discrimination and hatred have not been abolished.
FC: The Holocaust Europe 1935-1945 by R. MacLeod
1: The Holocaust During the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis attempted to build a new German Empire (the Third Reich), made up of people from the pure Aryan race. This resulted in the systematic killings of about six million Jews, and millions of others, which is known as the Holocaust. Although many groups were targeted - homosexuals, people with disabilities, members of religious minorities, political dissidents, Gypsies, Africans - the Jews were the primary victims of the slaughter. The persecution and genocide of the Jews were accomplished in stages. The first stage was legislation to remove the Jews from civil society. This was enacted in 1935, years before the outbreak of World War II, through a measure known as the Nuremberg Laws. | These laws excluded German Jews from Reich citizenship and prohibited them from marrying or having sexual relations with persons or "German or related blood." Additional regulations deprived Jews of most political rights. Eventually, Jews were required to register their property and hand over the ownership of their businesses to non-Jewish Germans who bought them at bargain prices fixed by the Nazi government. Jewish workers and managers were also dismissed. Jewish doctors were forbidden to treat non-Jews and Jewish lawyers were not permitted to practice law. Jews were required by law to wear the Star of David displayed on their clothing.
2: The second stage of the Holocaust was the isolation of the Jews from the general public. Ghettos were established by the Nazis to confine Jews into tightly packed areas of the cities of Eastern Europe, effectively turning them into concentration camps. The Nazis most often referred to the areas in documents and signage at their entrances as "Judischer Worhnberzirk" or "Wohngebiet der Juden" which both translate into Jewish Quarter. The situation in the ghettos was brutal. The Jews were not allowed out of the ghetto so they had to reply on food supplied by the Nazis, which often amounted to starvation rations. Their property had been confiscated, they lost their homes, families were often separated. With crowded living conditions, starvation diets, and little sanitation, hundreds of thousands of Jews died of disease and starvation in the ghettos. The last stage was the deportations to concentration camps and the mass killings and executions. Concentration camps were established for two purposes: there were camps in which inmates were used as slave labour until they died of exhaustion or disease, and there were extermination camps where, if they survived the journey, the majority of prisoners were killed in gas chambers.
3: The policy to eliminate Europe's Jews went into effect during the summer of 1941. At first, shooting was the preferred method of mass murder. Prisoners were forced to dig trenches and then were lined up along the trench and shot. Often the same trench was used for multiple shootings, with bodies piled up on top of each other in layers. This method proved to be too inefficient to meet the goals of the Nazi plan, however, and gas chambers were constructed at concentration camps in territory formerly belonging to Poland: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek, and Belzec. Carbon monoxide and Zyklon B were used to kill people in the gas chambers. The plan to annihilate all Jews in Europe was known as the Final Solution and it called for the murder of all European Jews by gassing, shooting and other means. Approximately six million Jewish men, women, and children were killed during the Holocaust. Pictures Top:Jewish children huddle in the Warsaw Ghetto Bottom left: The gates to Auschwitz - "Work will make you free" Bottom right: A map of the camps in Europe
4: The Concentration Camps Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany established about 20,000 camps to imprison its many millions of victims. These camps were used for a range of purposes including forced-labor camps, transit camps which served as temporary way stations, and extermination camps built primarily or exclusively for mass murder. From its rise to power in 1933, the Nazi regime built a series of detention facilities to imprison and eliminate so-called "enemies of the state." Most prisoners in the early concentration camps were German Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, Roma (Gypsies), Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and persons accused of "asocial" or socially deviant behavior. These facilities were called “concentration camps” because those imprisoned there were physically “concentrated” in one location. To facilitate the "Final Solution" (the genocide or mass destruction of the Jews), the Nazis established killing centers in Poland, the country with the largest Jewish population. The killing centers were designed for efficient mass murder. Chelmno, the first killing center, opened in December 1941. Jews and Roma were gassed in mobile gas vans there. In 1942, the Nazis opened the Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka killing centers to systematically murder the Jews of the Generalgouvernement (the territory in the interior of occupied Poland). The Nazis constructed gas chambers (rooms that filled with poison gas to kill those inside) to increase killing efficiency and to make the process more impersonal for the perpetrators. At the Auschwitz camp complex, the Birkenau killing center had four gas chambers. During the height of deportations to the camp, up to 6,000 Jews were gassed there each day. Jews in Nazi-occupied lands often were first deported to transit camps such as Westerbork in the Netherlands, or Drancy in France, en route to the killing centers in occupied Poland. The transit camps were usually the last stop before deportation to an extermination camp. Millions of people were imprisoned and abused in the various types of Nazi camps. Under SS management, the Germans and their collaborators murdered more than three million Jews in the killing centers alone. Only a small fraction of those imprisoned in Nazi camps survived. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005144
6: How could the Holocaust happen? After its defeat in World War I, Germany was humiliated by the Versailles Treaty, which reduced its prewar territory, drastically reduced its armed forces, demanded the recognition of its guilt for the war, and stipulated it pay reparations to the allied powers. With the German Empire destroyed, a new parliamentary government called the Weimar Republic was formed. The republic suffered from economic instability, which grew worse during the worldwide depression after the New York stock market crash in 1929. Massive inflation followed by very high unemployment heightened existing class and political differences and began to undermine the government. On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler, leader of the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party, was named chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg after the Nazi party won a significant percentage 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 incited clashes with the communists and conducted a vicious propaganda campaign against its political opponents - the weak Weimar government - and the Jews whom the Nazis blamed for Germany's ills. The Nazis controlled all forms of media. In addition to magazines, newspapers and radio, the Nazis took complete control of the country's education system. Children were targeted as the receptacles of this "new knowledge". Textbooks were rewritten to reflect the Nazi version of history (especially regarding the First World War) and Nazi ideology was incorporated into all subject areas. The science curriculum was rewritten to reflect Nazi eugenics and the belief that the Aryan race was superior.
7: Teachers were carefully scrutinized to ensure they shared the Nazi message with their students. Students were encouraged to denounce their teachers and parents if they expressed opposing opinions. This "brainwashing" from an early age ensured that the Nazis had a large group of staunch followers. They believed that it was easier to manipulate the minds of children to guarantee that the leaders of the future would follow their belief system. Children were also forced to join Nazi youth programs. For boys, there was the Hitler Youth where they learned basic survival skills and marksmanship in preparation for future military service. Girls joined the League of German Girls, the focus of which was to prepare them to be good wives and mothers. Both boys' and girls' programs emphasized good health and athleticism. Propaganda campaigns extended to the general population too. No negative messages about the government or about Adolf Hitler were permitted. Hitler was portrayed as a god and as the country's saviour. Hitler was also depicted as a kind and hard-working man, one of the ordinary folk who had suffered hardship and wanted the best for Germany.
8: The Nazis had other methods to ensure the compliance of the German people as they undertook their persecution of the Jews. They used terror and fear to threaten those who would oppose their policies. Non-conformity was punished by imprisonment, beatings, or death. It was extremely dangerous for the average German to show support to the Jews or to speak out against the persecution. Because of this, many Germans went along with the anti-Semitic policies and practices. Those who turned in their Jewish neighbours or turned in dissidents to the authorities were often rewarded for their loyalty to the Nazis. Polish civilians are executed for their opposition to the Nazis. | The Hitler Myth As mentioned earlier, a very effective propaganda campaign was waged by the Nazis. Under the leadership of Joseph Goebbels, the Minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, the Nazi regime was glorified. The most effective focus of this propaganda machine was Hitler himself. As a result of the political and economic upheaval that followed World War One, Hitler arose as the People's Kaiser and the man who would save Germany. He promised the people "Lebensraum" or living space, which meant that Germany would do what it needed to do to take over neighbouring countries to provide the best quality of life for its people. Because of this, Hitler was often compared to Napoleon, who had sought and won territory for France over a century earlier. The "Hitler Myth" was created by the Nazi party to portray Hitler as an undeniable leader and the only man who could restore Germany to its former greatness. This made certain that his leadership would not be challenged from within the party or from the outside. Symbols of this included the "Heil Hitler" salute, which became compulsory among party members.
9: A personality cult grew up around Hitler, who was reputed to be a charismatic man and a great speaker. Huge rallies were held which featured Hitler as the main speaker. These events had an almost religious atmosphere. The following excerpt from Hitler’s Niece by Ron Hansen, describes a political rally at which Hitler gives a speech: "Hitler’s gift was to make his hearers feel he was speaking to each on personally, heart to heart, and that he was proudly one of them, a Vlkischer – ill-educated, ill-favoured, from humble beginnings, a failure in all his undertakings, just another wounded, unknown soldier, and he had suffered precisely as they had. And yet he foresaw a glorious future for them if they would put their complete faith in him as their führer... Hitler captured his audience with a skilled actor’s talent for histrionics: his fists at his heart when he talked of his patriotism; his face ravaged, his shoulders shrugging beneath their heavy burden as he talked about Germany’s afflictions; his hand reaching upward, his face transfixed, as he talked about seizing the future his voice an orchestra of primal emotions as he shouted out his enmity for the Weimar parliamentarians, the Communists, the industrialist war profiteers, the intellectuals, and the Jews, promising that all the enemies of the people would one day be “beseitigt”, eliminated."
10: Aftermath: The Reaction of the World In the aftermath of the Holocaust, the civilized world was shocked to see photographs of unimaginable horror; skeletons of victims stacked in piles of hundreds and thousands, living skeletons describing unspeakable brutality and atrocity, and searching for the truth as to what would permit this to occur without intervention. Could an event of this magnitude have occurred without the knowledge of the Allies? If the Allied governments knew this was taking place, why was nothing done? Why was there such deathly silence?
11: The Allies (countries fighting Germany in World War Two) were heavily criticized for their lack of action during the Holocaust; however, there was limited information about concentration camps and the Final Solution available to governments during the war. There was also no international organization in place to step in and prevent the atrocities as the League of Nations had disbanded in 1939. | When information was published after the liberation of the camps, people around the world were horrified. The Nazis were condemned for their implementation of the Final Solution and trials were held at Nuremberg to try the Nazi leaders on charges of war crimes. Germany was divided and disarmed to ensure that the country could not build up enough power to ever cause another war.