Difference between revisions of "Holocaust"

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==Resistance==
 
==Resistance==
Jews stood virtually alone against the Nazi war machine and those who collaborated with them, receiving no aid or assistance from outside, as well as having no access to arms with which to defend themselves because the Nazis first disarmed their victims through use of [[gun control]] they were left defenseless.
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Jews stood virtually alone against the Nazi war machine and those who collaborated with them, receiving no aid or assistance from outside, as well as having no access to arms with which to defend themselves.  Further, the Nazis took great care to prevent their victims from knowing their true plans right up to the moment of their deaths; at Babi Yar many had believed they were being transported to a “family work camp” right up to the point of standing before their own mass grave.  There was also the fear of reprisals against large numbers of Jews within the ghettos, which also prevented resistance.  But word of the unbelievable atrocities of the death camps filtered into places like Warsaw, and as the trains were leaving packed with Jews many saw that resistance was preferable to the death that awaited them.
"Genocide would be impossible, or nearly impossible, against an armed group of millions of victims". [http://www.conservapedia.com/index.php?title=Talk:Gun_control&diff=357551&oldid=357545].  Further, the Nazis took great care to prevent their victims from knowing their true plans right up to the moment of their deaths; at Babi Yar many had believed they were being transported to a “family work camp” right up to the point of standing before their own mass grave.  There was also the fear of reprisals against large numbers of Jews within the ghettos, which also prevented resistance.  But word of the unbelievable atrocities of the death camps filtered into places like Warsaw, and as the trains were leaving packed with Jews many saw that resistance was preferable to the death that awaited them.
+
  
 
Nine months after the Warsaw deportations had commenced, and after confirmation that their destination was the Treblinka extermination camp, 24-year-old [[Mordecai Anielewicz]] and his Jewish Resistance began the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on April 19, 1943, which lasted just over a month.  Jews would fight alongside partisans elsewhere in France, the Balkans, and Soviet Russia during the last three years of the war.  Uprisings also occurred in two of the death camps, Treblinka and Sobibor; the latter was closed as a result and the site razed to hide the evidence.
 
Nine months after the Warsaw deportations had commenced, and after confirmation that their destination was the Treblinka extermination camp, 24-year-old [[Mordecai Anielewicz]] and his Jewish Resistance began the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on April 19, 1943, which lasted just over a month.  Jews would fight alongside partisans elsewhere in France, the Balkans, and Soviet Russia during the last three years of the war.  Uprisings also occurred in two of the death camps, Treblinka and Sobibor; the latter was closed as a result and the site razed to hide the evidence.

Revision as of 13:53, 24 December 2007

Jewish families are forced from the Warsaw Ghetto in the aftermath of its destruction by the S.S. in 1943. Their final destination was the killing center at Treblinka.

The Holocaust was the period during 1933-1945 in Nazi Germany when Jews were barred from social life and work, imprisoned en masse, and exterminated under the policy of die Endlösung (the Final Solution).

Origins

After years of struggling to push their ideology into the masses through browbeatings and violence, the Nazi Party in Germany came to power in 1933, with Adolf Hitler as Chancellor, his ideology firmly entrenched within the party, and in the pages of his Mein Kampf, a semi-biographical work containing his rambling political philosophy. In its pages Hitler expounded on the idea that the Aryan race, of which he was a part, was the so-called “master race”, and had a moral right and duty to subjugate the world; in the way stood the untermenschen (“sub-humans”), which, according to the Nazis, were meant to serve the master race as slaves. At the very bottom were the Jews, who were depicted as an evil race bent on world domination.

Hitler came to power on January 30, 1933 to lead a coalition government at the request of President Paul von Hindenburg, and almost immediately he made moves to consolidate power to himself and the Nazi Party, as well as restrict or eliminate political opposition. Jewish businesses began feeling the effects of a boycott as soon as it began on April 1, followed by the dismissal of Jewish civil service workers, judges, and university professors a week later. On May 10, some ten days after laws were enacted which prevented Jewish children from attending public schools except by quota, thousands of university students and professors stormed bookstores and libraries to remove books they deemed “un-Germanic” and opposed to Nazi teachings, throwing them into public bonfires. The Nürnberg Laws were enacted in 1935, which revoked German citizenship from Jews as well as declaring the marriage between a Jew and a German illegal. By 1938, the political and economic foundations of German Jewry were completely decimated.

Crystal Night

On November 7, 1938, Herschel Grynszpan, a German Jew living in Paris and upset over his family’s forced deportation to Poland, shot the third secretary (Ernst vom Rath) to the German ambassador in France, who died two days later. His assassination touched off a wave of riots on November 9, seemingly at the behest of the Nazi minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, but this was expanded and organized better with the issuing of orders by the head of the S.S., Reinhard Heydrich, later that evening, who specified that S.S. and S.A. units in various cities would march out with sledgehammers against Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues - but in civilian clothes only (to symbolize the “righteous” anger of the German people). Business could not be looted, as the property inside was deemed property of the state; Jewish property near German shops and homes could not be burned, but smashed; and many Jewish males, particularly the wealthy, were subject to arrest. Over 35,000 men were arrested that night, and according to figures released by Heydrich the total number of arrests exceeded 100,000; 815 Jewish businesses were destroyed, 191 Synagogues were destroyed or demolished, and over 2,000 were dead. By the end of the week local jails as well as the new Buchenwald and Dacau concentration camps were quickly filled. To further add insult to injury, the Jews were declared responsible for the damages done to their property and ordered to pay the staggering sum of one billion Reichmarks.

The sidewalks were littered with shards of the expensive storefront glass that was preferred for shops in Germany, which was called Kristallglas for its high-quality. The amount of glass left behind gave the incident its name: Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night”), or the Night of Broken Glass.

Non-Jewish victims

Jews were not the only victims of Nazi persecution. [1] Members of unions, members of the Social Democratic Party, and political dissidents were also sent to the camps; indeed they were among the first ones incarcerated immediately following Hitler’s appointment as chancellor. Some 20,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses also were rounded up and sent to the camps, primarily because of refusal to register for the draft, swear allegiance to the state, or give the “Heil Hitler” greeting. Homosexuals were arrested, where they were forced to wear a pink triangle on their prison garments. Gypsies as well were rounded up and imprisoned, and like the Jews, were deliberately marked for killing.

The mentally retarded, the disabled, and the insane were selected for the T-4 Program, which was created in 1939. Dubbed “useless eaters” by S.S. general Ernst Kaltenbrunner, these people were murdered as part of a “euthanasia” campaign, usually by placing them in a special room where a vehicle’s engine provided the carbon monoxide gas that flowed in through a hose in a wall.

Following the outbreak of World War II in Poland, the Nazis killed Polish intellegensia in territories under their control, politicians, priests, and anyone else deemed part of a Polish leadership; the remainder were deemed slaves to serve their new masters; many were forced to perform hard labor, while many of the children who happened to look Aryan were kidnapped and raised as Germans in German households.

World War II

Amon Goeth, commandant of the Plazow concentration camp near Krakow, Poland. A sadistic man, his recreation was to target and kill individual Jews in the camp with a hunting rifle from the balcony of his villa.

When World War II began in the fall of 1939, Jews in Germany were completely marginalized. They could not own property, go to a park, associate with Germans, enter a library or museum, work in any professional field or engage in business, nor could their children attend public schools. Public transportation would be forbidden by 1941, and the wearing of the yellow Star of David badge on their clothing was mandatory. They were also, prior to September 1, forced to migrate from countries and territories which had come under Hitler’s wing (the Rhineland, Austria, the Sudetenland), with many being deported to Poland. By September 21, Poland was now the “General Government” protectorate under former lawyer Hans Frank, and on that day Heydrich ordered the establishment of Judenrates (Jewish councils) which comprised 24 men - political leaders and rabbis – and whose personal responsibility was to carry out, to the letter, all German orders. This would include supplying people for work details, usually mundane things like digging ditches to amuse their Nazi overlords. Later, they were made to be responsible for supplying thousands of people a day for the “work” camps of Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, and new one under construction near the town of Oswiecim, which the Germans called Auschwitz.

Thousands, nearly thirty percent of the total population of Warsaw, were crammed into just over 2 percent of the city’s total land area, a density of 200,000 people per square mile. Naturally disease and malnutrition would take its toll, but for the German overlords this was a minor inconvenience. The ghetto was a temporary place to hold all of Europe’s Jews until a final solution was determined, and when the Nazis invaded their former ally, the Soviet Union, in June 1941, the killing began in earnest.

The Einsatzgruppen

1943 German photo of Soviet POWs forced to dig up the thousands of Jews killed at Babi Yar two years before; the Nazis destroyed the evidence by burning the bodies.

Alongside the German Army were special mobile units whose job it was to locate and kill Jews, Gypsies, Soviets commissars, and others deemed unfit in the areas controlled by the army. These Einsatzgruppen (“special units”) were also aided by local populations who felt the Germans had relieved them of Soviet occupation as well as sharing a hatred for Jews and other minorities. Making no difference between young or old, male or female, the Einsatzgruppen killed 70,000 Jews at Ponary, near Vilnius, Lithuania; 33,771 Jews were machine-gunned in a ravine known as Babi Yar near Kiev, Ukraine, between September 28-29, 1941 [2]; 9,000 Jews were killed at the Ninth Fort at Kaunas, Lithuania, on October 28, of which half of the dead were children. On November 30 in the Rumbula Forest outside of Riga, Latvia, between 25,000-28,000 were killed.

The killings were done in first and second waves, with the bodies buried in mass graves. When the Soviets threatened and carried out counter-offensives to reclaim lost territory, special units made up of concentration camp inmates (sonderkomandos) would return to the sites, dig up the bodies, and burn them in mass pyres, destroying the evidence of their crimes. The number of individual persons killed by the Einsatzgruppen has been estimated at a bare minimum of one million.

Endlösung

Obersturbanfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich, the man who convened the Wannsee Conference with the intention of determining a "final solution to the Jewish question".
To Gruppenführer Heydrich:
Supplementing the task assigned to you by the decree of January 24, 1939, to solve the Jewish problem by means of emigration and evacuation in the best possible way according to present conditions, I hereby charge you to carry out preparations as regards organizational, financial, and material matters for a total solution (Gesamtlösung) of the Jewish question in all the territories of Europe under German occupation.
Where the competency of other central organizations touches on this matter, these organizations are to collaborate.
I charge you further to submit to me as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired final solution (Endlösung) of the Jewish question. (Order from Hermann Göring to Reinhard Heydrich, July 31, 1941)

Wannsee Conference

On January 20, 1942 at a lakeside villa near Berlin named Wannsee a conference was convened by Heydrich to implement methods and ideas for a "final solution to the Jewish question" (die Endlösung der Judenfrage). At the conference were fifteen men, among them Heydrich’s head of Jewish affairs, Adolf Eichmann, who would be instrumental in providing the logistical plans for removing the Jews to the camps. The men present were highly educated, and represented government agencies, such as the Gestapo, the Race and Resettlement Office, the S.S., as well as a representative from the General Government in Poland. As Heydrich himself explained near the beginning of the conference, ideas were bartered about as to relocating Jews:

“Another possible solution of the [Jewish] problem has now taken the place of emigration—i.e., evacuation of the Jews to the east…Such activities are, however, to be considered as provisional actions, but practical experience is already being collected which is of greatest importance in relation to the future final solution of the Jewish problem.”

The minutes of the meeting were kept, but had been edited by Heydrich. The language it contains euphemisms in place of what was really said. Evacuation of Jews to the east and resettlement meant relocation to the concentration and extermination camps in Poland; special handling regarded the killing of Jews, either through slave labor in which the Jew was worked to death, or being killed immediately on arrival. The final solution was put into practice within a few months of the conference, as the bullets of the machine guns and the exhaust of carbon monoxide were replaced by the more efficient killing methods installed in the first gas chambers.

The killing centers

Selektion of Hungarian Jews at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in May/June 1944. To be sent to the right meant slave labor; to the left, the gas chambers.

In the early years of Nazi Germany concentration camps were built with the expressed purpose of housing political prisoners; this was quickly expanded to Jews and other people the Nazis considered undesirable. But by 1942 new camps were built in eastern Poland as killing centers; the victims, once targeted by the Einsatzgruppen coming to them, had been rounded up by units of the Army and Waffen S.S., and forced to travel to their own destruction. The victims were packed tightly into cattle cars - so tight in fact that many would die standing up – and transported by rail to the new extermination camps of Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor, Majdanek, and Belzec. The camps were essentially factories which specialized in death, making the process from arrival to counting to shower to disposal coldly efficient.

As they arrived the victims were divided in two: those fit for work, usually young to middle aged men, or possessed a special skill needed in the camp, and the remainder sent for delousing in the showers. Deceived to the end, the “showers” was actually a sealed room in which a chemical tablet known as “Zyklon B” was dropped through a hole in the ceiling. The cyanide-based vapors would kill the entire room within minutes; within thirty, the room was emptied by the sonderkomandos, cleaned, and ready for another group of victims.

Of the killing centers, the one at Osweicim, Poland - Auschwitz - was perhaps the most notorious. Auschwitz was three camps: a prisoner-of-war camp (Auschwitz I), a slave-labour camp (Auschwitz III–Buna-Monowitz) and the extermination camp (Auschwitz II–Birkenau). The arrivals would disembark the trains at Auschwitz II, where the old, handicapped, infirm, sick, and pregnant women would face a German doctor (among them the notorious Joseph Mengele) in the selektion, where a flick of a thumb could mean the difference between slave labor in the nearby factory run by I.G. Farben (which took advantage of the forced labor by investing some 700 million Reichsmarks in the project), or to their immediate deaths. Those selected for labor would be worked to death by a combination of hard labor and inadequate food and medical care; a second selektion of their numbers, if they had survived, would mean a trip to the gas chambers.

The number of Jews put to death were staggering. Beginning in the summer of 1942 a bare minimum of 960,000 were believed killed at Auschwitz during its three years in operation. At Treblinka, between 750,000-900,000 Jews were killed within 17 months, considering the staff and guards there numbered 120. 600,000 Jews died at Belzac within 10 months by a staff numbering 104. In the eighteen months of its operation, Sobibor killed 250,000.

Clandestine aid

In territory occupied by the Germans the situation was bleak for Jews. Their allies were few and resources were meager. Despite this, many put their lives on the line to provide aid and comfort, as well as putting them in hiding or through a network of underground units to get them to safety. In Poland it was punishable by death to aid Jews, yet a “council for the aid of Jews” known as the Zegota rescued about 5,000 men, women, and children, providing hiding places and forged identity papers. A similar number was hidden by French Huguenots in the little town of Le Chamblon-sur-Lignon. Although criticized by many for his silence about the Nazi persecution of the Jews, Pope Pius XII hid several hundred inside the Vatican, away from Mussolini and German occupiers.

Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenburg, in an attempt to save the last remaining Jews in Hungary, arrived in Budapest on July 9, 1944, and working with neutral diplomats and the Vatican, secured the release of several thousand; his efforts at the rescue of Jews would total well over 100,000 by war’s end. A Nazi businessman who took advantage of the slave labor conditions to make a personal profit, Oskar Schindler, would use that profit to bribe camp guards and Nazi officials at the Plazow camp to ensure that the workers he had grown to love and admire would survive the end of the war; among the individuals he played cat and mouse with for their lives was the camp's commandant, Amon Goeth, a sadistic man who shot Jews for target practice from his villa and tortured a captured escapee by shooting the prisoners around him. These men and women, who hid Jews out of a sense of common humanity, would not be forgotten: the state of Israel would recognize them with honorary citizenship several years later.

Resistance

Jews stood virtually alone against the Nazi war machine and those who collaborated with them, receiving no aid or assistance from outside, as well as having no access to arms with which to defend themselves. Further, the Nazis took great care to prevent their victims from knowing their true plans right up to the moment of their deaths; at Babi Yar many had believed they were being transported to a “family work camp” right up to the point of standing before their own mass grave. There was also the fear of reprisals against large numbers of Jews within the ghettos, which also prevented resistance. But word of the unbelievable atrocities of the death camps filtered into places like Warsaw, and as the trains were leaving packed with Jews many saw that resistance was preferable to the death that awaited them.

Nine months after the Warsaw deportations had commenced, and after confirmation that their destination was the Treblinka extermination camp, 24-year-old Mordecai Anielewicz and his Jewish Resistance began the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on April 19, 1943, which lasted just over a month. Jews would fight alongside partisans elsewhere in France, the Balkans, and Soviet Russia during the last three years of the war. Uprisings also occurred in two of the death camps, Treblinka and Sobibor; the latter was closed as a result and the site razed to hide the evidence.

But the killing continued unabated, even to the last week of the war. As territory was regained by Soviet forces, the death camps were evacuated of survivors and destroyed as much as possible in a futile attempt to hide the evidence. The survivors were moved west into Germany, usually in hellish death marches, and interned in concentration camps where death still awaited them; such killing by the S.S. took priority over military matters at times.

Aftermath

Jewish Death Statistics during the Holocaust
Country Prior Jewish Population Estimated Number Killed Percentage of Total Estimated Number of Survivors
Poland 3,300,000 3,000,000 91% 300,000
Germany 566,000 200,000 36% 366,000
USSR 3,020,000 1,100,000 36% 1,920,000
Hungary 800,000 596,000 74% 204,000
Lithuania 168,000 143,000 85% 25,000
Estonia 4,500 2,000 44% 2,500
Latvia 95,000 80,000 84% 15,000
France 350,000 77,320 22% 272,680
Austria 185,000 65,000 35% 120,000
Netherlands 140,000 100,000 71% 40,000
Belgium 65,700 28,900 45% 36,800
Romania 342,000 287,000 84% 55,000
Bohemia Moravia 118,310 71,150 60% 47,160
Greece 77,380 67,000 87% 10,380
Czechoslovakia 88,950 71,000 80% 17,950
Yugoslavia 78,000 63,300 81% 14,700
Italy 44,500 7,680 17% 36,820
Bulgaria 50,000 0 0% 50,000
Denmark 7,800 60 .8% 7,740
Finland 2,000 7 .03% 1,993
Norway 1,700 762 45% 938
TOTAL 9,508,340 5,962,129 63% 3,546,211
General Dwight D. Eisenhower saw for himself the carnage wrought by the Nazis when he toured the Ordruf concentration camp on April 12, 1945. These prisoners were executed prior to the camp's liberation.

More than nine million people were discovered by the Allies to have been displaced throughout the European Theater of the war; of these, six million were returned to their native lands. One million refused, citing either a fear of communist persecution or a fear of being discovered to have collaborated with the enemy. The remainder, more than three and a half million Jews, had nothing. For these survivors, life after the war meant searching for loved ones, as well as recovering from the severe effects of malnutrition and disease at the hands of the Nazis.

As to the future of finding homes for the surviving Jews, that was solved in part by both covert and well-publicized efforts to pressure Great Britain into relinquishing control of Palestine for the purpose of a Jewish homeland, as well as the relaxing of American immigration laws in 1948 which allowed a large influx of Jewish refugees. So shocking was the Holocaust to the Jewish mindset that it caused a determination of survivors to speed the creation of the State of Israel in May, 1948, vowing that a repeat of the Holocaust, as well as previous pogroms against the Jews in the past, would not happen again. Since 1948, Israel has fought in four major wars against their neighbors bent on eradicating it, and each time Israel has emerged victorious.

The Allies were just as shocked over the conditions which prevailed at the Nazi death camps, and set up military tribunals as a result. The most famous was the Nürnberg Trials, taking place 1945-1946 near the site of the Nazi mass rallies. For the first time in history, an international tribunal would try the 22 major living Nazis for crimes against humanity; all but one would be found guilty, and more than half would suffer death by hanging.

Many Nazis would flee justice, seeking solace in many counties which sympathized with them. Adolf Eichmann, a chief architect of the Holocaust, was captured while hiding in Argentina under an assumed name, brought to Israel, and put on trial in 1961. He was found guilty, and suffered the first and only death penalty carried out Israel’s history. Other Nazis would eventually be brought to trial: Klaus Barbie, the “Butcher of Lyon”, was tried in France in 1987, as well as Maurice Papon a decade later for collaborating with the Nazis. These trials brought to new generations an awareness of the Holocaust.


Etymology

The word Holocaust comes from the Greek word holokaustos (holos: complete, and kaustos: a sacrificial or burnt offering to a god); the Hebrew word hurban (destruction) was also used, and and survivors have used both to refer to what seemed to be the complete and utter destruction of the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis, specifically in the crematoria of the extermination camps built for that purpose. In Hebrew, the Holocaust is known by the word "Shoah."

Books and film

See also

References

  • Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Simon and Schuster, New York (1960).
  • Yahil, Leni. The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry, Schocken Publishing House, Ltd, Tel Aviv, Israel (1987). English edition by Oxford University Press, New York (1990).
  • Babi Yar, poem by Yevgeni Yevtushenko

Notes

  1. It is estimated that around 6 million Jews were killed during the Final Solution, along with as many as another 6 million non-Jews. [1]

External Links

Holocaust Encyclopedia
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Houston Holocaust Museum
Florida Holocaust Museum
Virginia Holocaust Museum
Holocaust Awareness Museum & Educational Center of Philadelphia; America's First Holocaust Museum
Searchable list of 2300 victims from Nuremberg
Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre in Newark, England
Montreal Holocaust Memorial Center Museum
German Government's Memorial To Jews Murdered During Holocaust
AMCHA: Israeli Association of Holocaust Survivors