"We must NEVER forget The Holocaust"
Millions of prisoners died in the concentration camps through mistreatment, disease, starvation, and overwork, or were executed as unfit for labour. More than three million Jews died in them, usually in gas chambers, although many were killed in mass shootings and by other means.
Prisoners were often transported in inhumane conditions by rail freight cars, in which many died before reaching their destination.
The prisoners were confined to the rail cars, often for days or weeks, without food or water. Many died of dehydration in the intense heat of summer or froze to death in winter.
Concentration camps also existed in Germany itself, and while they were not specifically designed for systematic extermination, many of their prisoners perished because of harsh conditions or were executed.
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We spell the Holocaust with a capital "H" because it represents the single most devastating example of genocide in history. It was not "a' holocaust, but "THE" Holocaust, because millions of innocent people were exterminated for their belief in God. At the command of the German government, millions of Jews were systematically annihilated. That's in addition to the murder of millions of additional "undesirables" (gypsies, homosexuals, political prisoners, Russian prisoners, criminals, etc.).
The German government used these innocent people as scapegoats in order to distract the citizens of Europe from the military conquest that was already under way. Consider only the plight of European Jews during the period called the "Shoah" (the Holocaust), from 1933 until the end of World War II in 1945). The vast majority of these Jews were not given a quick death. They were not hung or shot to death. They were not given an injection to speed their way into a painless death.
They were exterminated, like annoying insects. They were gassed to death, because that was the most efficient way to dispose of six million men, women and children - who happened to be Jewish. Because of the way they praised God; six million innocent people were murdered. Women, the elderly, the sick, the frail and children were often the first into the gas chambers. Men and hardy women were kept barely alive for their value as forced labour. Those able to work were employed as slaves for the benefit of the military and German industrialists. Some of those German companies exist today, albeit with different names.
Some still have the same name. When there was no more work, they too were murdered. My mother experienced brutal anti-Semitism as a child in Russia. I heard many stories about the brutal Cossacks, who persecuted Jews in the towns and villages of the Ukraine. My mother and her sisters barely survived, and then flourished in America. However, most of her remaining family perished in the Holocaust. So, genocide is close to my heart. I hold it for eternity, as a cumbersome stone attached to my soul. It is a burden of remarkable proportions. My ancestors cry out for justice.
They want you to know what happened to them and their children. But, I cannot tell this story without revealing the Holocaust in every possible way. It is a terrible and beautiful story, filled with heroes and villains. Why would anyone want to think about the Holocaust today, particularly when they could listen to their iPod or tune out the poignant world with movies, laptops and television? Yet, the death of six million innocent people MUST be told. If not, there would be nothing to prevent more genocide, and then more after that! Everyone must hear this tragedy. Otherwise, our progeny might embrace the worst of human nature.
The Holocaust 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 of Greek origin meaning "sacrifice by fire." The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that the Jews, deemed "inferior," were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community.
During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted other groups because of their perceived "racial inferiority": Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, and some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others). Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioural grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and homosexuals.
This does not demean the importance of other Holocausts. Those innocent people who were murdered in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur were just as blameless. When will society stop fearing those who are dissimilar? When will we learn to value the differences among us, rather than fear them? When will we stop ostracising people because of their religion, race or ethnic heritage? When will governments and individuals stop using minorities as scapegoats?
After all, this is the 21st century! We're better than that. We must be better than that. I appreciate books that offer a frank, emotional examination of morality. Humans are not good or bad, but good and bad. We surround ourselves with romance and comedy, playing to the healthier parts of our emotional identity. Yet, repugnance, despair and obscurity exist within human nature. We learn nothing about ourselves if we do not examine the dark side of our psyche.
I explored how humans behaved during the most brutal and horrendous genocide in history. For three years, I researched the Holocaust on a daily basis. If any benefit can come from the Shoah (Holocaust), it is that we can examine and learn from the farthest extent of human depravity. We can measure its immorality, degeneracy and wickedness. Yet, humans are complex beings. There is a great deal more to our nature than the ubiquitous battleground of virtue versus malevolence. We are not one or the other, but a combination of both. We are beautiful and ugly, soothing and terrifying, brutal and caring, kind and iniquitous; we love and we despise.
Deep within the fear and panic of the Holocaust were immensely critical decisions about ethical behavior and our concept of morality. Unlike animals, humans are governed by principles, ethical beliefs and the power of veracity. We are not clouded by delusions of integrity, but governed by them. Holocaust victims and survivors provide us with the human response to terror. Innocent people, just like you and me, were reduced to distasteful objects, used for slave labour and then annihilated. The German government used propaganda to teach all of Europe that Jews were "vermin."
An entire generation of Germans was taught that Jews were dangerous and should be exterminated. Unfortunately, many Europeans were all too eager to agree with this propaganda. They happily participated in rounding up the Jewish families (Einsatzgruppen) and turning them over to the SS, who placed them in concentration camps. Almost none of the Jews survived, including women and children. At the same time, despite their enslavement in ghettos and concentration camps, the Jews of Europe experienced the alluring beauty of passionate young love and the driving power of religious devotion.
After all, they were still human beings. Being incarcerated in a concentration camp did not prevent Jewish victims from experiencing the world of normal emotions. Instead, it added a nightmarish dosage of terror, horror and fear. Our lives are complex - even within the garish trap of the Holocaust. Not all imprisoned Jews were innocent victims. Not all Germans were rabid anti-Semites, bent upon the destruction of the Jewish "race." Life was and is far more complex.
In reality, the world is seldom seen in black and white, or even shades of gray - especially during the Holocaust. In the midst of terrible, indescribable anguish, beauty existed. Within beauty, despair existed. And, while many Jews in the abyss of the Holocaust worshipped God, some condemned God. While it might be easy to claim that God works in mysterious ways, how is one to focus such conviction when the veneer of all that is good in life has been stripped away? How does one continue to love a God who allows the murder of every innocent loved one, a deity who allows blameless people and children to be starved, beaten, tortured, denigrated, disfigured and emotionally destroyed?
Could the Shoah have been the ultimate test of faith? Holocaust survivors lost everything, but perhaps somehow gained something as well. Certainly an honest examination of the Holocaust must reveal torturous brutality and death. Most Holocaust survivors lost all of their loved ones. The façade of life's beauty was stripped away, revealing an incomprehensible abyss of revulsion. Yet here, in the bowels of horror, the Jews of the Holocaust hit a wall and continued to run. Despite the onslaught of evil, in the face of certain death, these Jews fabricated a make-believe world for their children.
Deep within the ghastly concentration camps of Nazi Germany, the Jews of Europe continued to practice their religion, to teach their children and to love one another. Here, among the gas chambers and crematoria, one can feel hope for the survival of the human spirit. Those singular individuals who maintained their Jewish identity in the Holocaust rise like a fabulous phoenix, from the ashes of annihilation. Those poor souls trapped within the terror of the Holocaust were faced with the most perfidious forces.
Deceit, brutality, cruelty, sickness, starvation and the death of loved-ones were the daily companions of victims of the Shoah. Yet, in the midst of utter despair, there was life, love, passion, desire, religious fervour and the excitement known only to children. Even in such hopeless desolation, there was love of God, infatuation, romance, passion and longing for all of the things that humans crave. Jews fabricated their ethnicity within the drumbeat of the slow, steady march to the gas chambers. They refused to allow the fabric of Jewish society be torn by relocation and the threat of demise.
They created schools, orchestras, athletic events, synagogue and prayer, weddings and funerals, dances and theatre, study groups and debates; to every hell-hole the Jews were sent; they took their Jewish lifestyle and values with them. Rather than give in to the Nazis, Jews trapped within ghettos and concentration camps courageously maintained their culture. Religious holidays were observed as though it was just another ordinary year. Even when it was forbidden to observe the rituals of Judaism, Holocaust victims found a way to pray and to perform the duties of a Jew. Some of the most ardent examples of constructive human nature can be found in these terrifying Holocaust moments.
Hidden from the SS, ghetto and concentration camp Jews observed all of the required covenants and rituals, including prayer services on the Sabbath and during the major holidays, marriage ceremonies, burials and circumcisions. Along the sinister, terrifying, relentless path to the gas chambers of Nazi-occupied Europe, Jews lived, loved, learned and died, behaving as though their lives would continue unabated. In their darkest moments, the Jews of the Shoah fabricated a "normal" life for their progeny. Despite their impending mortality, they created an ordinary world on the inside to protect their children from the raging genocide on the outside. Such was the nature of their love, faith and devotion. Indeed, this worship transcended parental affection. Into the gas chambers and crematoria of Nazi-controlled Europe, the Jews of the Holocaust emptied their faith and love, while they continued to worship the God of their ancestors.
The human spirit strives for autonomy and freedom. Yet, to appreciate human nature, one must descend into the depths of depravity and terror. We cannot understand humanity without comprehending its wicked flaws. Deep within the darkest recesses of brutal genocide, we discover a faint flicker of light representing love, passion, desire, hope, worship and reverence. Here is the essence of humanity - a flicker of light representing morality, faith, love and righteousness, in the midst of the dark whirlwind of malevolence. But it's not enough that we understand the Holocaust. Our progeny must also comprehend it.
Otherwise, it could happen again. This is why we must always tell the stories of the Holocaust. Such stories represent the very worst of human vilification and the unsurpassed limits of our compassion. Holocaust stories teach us how to recognize the worst examples of humanity, but also the benefits of viable morality. The terror of genocide is not necessarily an inevitable human outcome. We must learn from the mistakes of our past, rather than repeat them. As long as we teach our children about the Holocaust, there is hope that it will never happen again.
Charles S. Weinblatt
In 1933, the Jewish population of Europe stood at over nine million. Most European Jews lived in countries that Nazi Germany would occupy or influence during World War II. By 1945, the Germans and their collaborators killed nearly two out of every three European Jews as part of the "Final Solution," the Nazi policy to murder the Jews of Europe.
Although Jews, whom the Nazis deemed a priority danger to Germany, were the primary victims of Nazi racism, other victims included some 200,000 Roma (Gypsies). At least 200,000 mentally or physically disabled patients, mainly Germans, living in institutional settings, were murdered in the so-called Euthanasia Program.
As Nazi tyranny spread across Europe, the Germans and their collaborators persecuted and murdered millions of other people. Between two and three million Soviet prisoners of war were murdered or died of starvation, disease, neglect, or maltreatment.
The Germans targeted the non-Jewish Polish intelligentsia for killing, and deported millions of Polish and Soviet civilians for forced labour in Germany or in occupied Poland, where these individuals worked and often died under deplorable conditions.
From the earliest years of the Nazi regime, German authorities persecuted homosexuals and others whose behaviour did not match prescribed social norms. German police officials targeted thousands of political opponents (including Communists, Socialists, and trade unionists) and religious dissidents (such as Jehovah's Witnesses). Many of these individuals died as a result of incarceration and maltreatment.
Why should we remember the Holocaust, an event in World History that took place over 60 years ago before and during World War II is an important question. The answer lies in reflecting on what the Holocaust has to teach us not only in this generation but in future generations to come. It is a sad fact but we must recognise that the crimes committed against humanity during the Holocaust have been repeated elsewhere in the world since such as Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur; the repetition of these human tragedies reminds us that we must be vigilant and continue to learn and remember the lessons of the Holocaust.
Starting in December 1939, the Nazis introduced new methods of mass murder by using gas. First experimental vans, equipped with gas cylinders and a sealed trunk compartment, were used to kill mental care clients of sanatoria in Pomerania, East Prussia, and occupied Poland since 1939, as part of an operation termed Aktion T4.
In the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, larger vans holding up to 100 people were used in a similar way since November 1941, yet the gas did not come from a cylinder but directly from the engine's exhaust. These vans were introduced to the Chelmno concentration camp in December 1941, and another 15 of them were used by the death squads in the occupied Soviet Union.
These gas vans were developed and run under supervision of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt(Reich Main Security Bureau), and were used to kill about 500,000 people, primarily Jews, but also Romani and others. The vans were carefully monitored and month later a report stated that 'ninety seven thousand have been processed using three vans, without any defects showing up in the machines.
The next major event that led towards the widescale destruction of the Jews was the Meeting in July of 1938 where representatives of 32 countries met in the French town of Evian to discuss the refugee problems created by the Nazis - but since no conclusive action was taken, Hitler took that as defacto notice that no one would act against him while he worked to purge the Jews from his territories.
Germany started World War II with the invasion of Poland in September of 1939 and in 1940 established Jewish ghettos in Poland where they could be isolated from the rest of society and kept an eye on.
Conditions in the ghettos were deplorable - not enough food, water, space, sanitation facilities, etc., and many died from the horrid conditions. In June 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union and began the implementation of the Final Solution - the beginnings of the systemized destruction of the undesirables. At first they were just gathered up, shot and thrown into mass open graves. It is estimated that over 1 million people died in this manner.
But it wasn't efficient enough so more and more death camps sprang up. From this point, the Germans worked on more and more efficient ways to liquidate the undesirables by bringing them to death camps to systematically kill them and recycle any valuables for the war effort.
And in this instance, a valuable was a healthy person - so the Germans would work the prisoners until they had no more energy to produce and then kill them. In effect, that had millions of slaves being forced to work to death to help the Germans in their war efforts.
This atrocity continued to the end of the war - with liberation not happening until July 1944 and later. In July 1944, the Soviet Union liberatated Maidanek concentration camp and then in January 1945 - Auschwitz concentration camp and so on until Nazi Germany was totally defeated and all peoples were freed. All told, there were only about 200,000 Jewish survivors by the end of the liberation and the death counts from the holocaust were estimated to be around 6 million Jews and millions of other people who did not fit the Aryan mold.
Two thousand Soviet POWs were used to build the original camp, under the orders of SS and Police Leader for Lublin Odilo Globocnik and the camp's first commandant, Karl Otto Koch (husband of the infamous Ilse Koch), who was transferred there from Buchenwald because of his wife's indiscretions in September 1941. Koch's tenure at Majdanek was short (he left in July 1942, before the camp's extermination facilities were operational, probably because of continued criminal activity while at Majdanek, for which he was executed by the SS in April 1945), and he was replaced by Max Kögel, whose tenure (until October 1942 and then transferred to Flossenburg) was even shorter.
Kögel's replacement, Hermann Florstedt, was transferred there from Sachsenhausen, but, like his predecessor Koch, ran afoul of the SS, and Majdanek was run by interim commandants Markus Melzer and Martin Weiss until May 1944, when the camp's final commandant, Arthur Liebehenschel, who had been Rudolf Höss's replacement at Auschwitz, oversaw Majdanek until its liquidation.
With the beginning of Aktion Reinhard in 1942, Majdanek was transformed into KZ Lublin and its mission extended to include exterminations. Ironically, though Lublin lay in the territory of the eneralgouvernment, no camp had been established in the area previously, and most of the Jews from the nearby Lublin Ghetto were deported to the death camp at Belzec, since Majdanek was still a POW camp in early 1942. Jews began arriving at the camp in March 1942, however. Some 25,000 Jews were among the first deportees to Majdanek -- 10,000 deported from Slovakia and 14,000 from the Reichsprotektorat of Bohemia and Moravia via the "old age camp" at Terezin.
The Jewish deportees to Majdanek would eventually consist of citizens of the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Greece, and the remaining Jews in Lublin and the Bialystok district. A key incident in the history of Majdanek is the daring escape attempt by around 200 Soviet POWs on July 14, 1942. About half of the escapees were never captured and went back to their units to fight as partisans until the end of the war.
This event parallels similar acts of resistance in the death camps: there were successful prisoner breaks from both Treblinka and Sobibor, and the Sonderkommando uprising at Auschwitz successfully destroyed a Krema building. Union. (It is the only one of the death camps in which some American soldiers were also held as POWs.)
It was given the name Kriegsgefangenenlager der Waffen SS in Lublin (Waffen-SS POW Camp in Lublin). The local Polish population dubbed the camp Majdanek, basing the name on Majdan Tatarski, the suburb of Lublin in which the camp was situated. (Unlike other death camps in Poland, Majdanek was in plain view of the Lublin citizens, probably because it was originally founded as a POW camp and not a death camp.)
Gas chambers were used in the Third Reich as part of the "public euthanasia program" aimed at eliminating physically and intellectually disabled people and political undesirables in the 1930s and 1940s. At that time, the preferred gas was carbon monoxide, often provided by the exhaust gas of cars, trucks or army tanks Gas chamber at the Stutthof concentration camp. During the Holocaust, gas chambers were designed to accept large groups as part of the Nazi policy of genocide against the Jews.
Nazis also targeted the Romani people, homosexuals, physically and mentally disabled, and intellectuals. In early 1940, the use of hydrogen cyanide produced as Zyklon B was tested on 250 Roma children from Brno at the Buchenwald concentration camp.
According to Nizkor Project, on September 3, 1941, 600 Soviet POWs were gassed with Zyklon B at Auschwitz camp I; this was the first experiment with the gas at Auschwitz.One of the destroyed crematoria at Auschwitz concentration camp According to a website running by Jürgen Langowski, an anti-Nazi German activist, Carbon monoxide was also used in large purpose-built gas chambers.
The gas was in exhaust gas from internal combustion engines. Gas chambers in vans, concentration camps, and extermination camps were used to kill several million people between 1941 and 1945. Some stationary gas chambers could kill 2,000 people at once. The use of gas chambers during the Holocaust was attested to by several sources including the Vrba-Wetzler report and testimony from Rudolf Höss, Commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, and other German soldiers.
Rudolf Höss received a promotion to SS-Hauptsturmführer (a paramilitary rank equivalent to captain) and was made adjutant to Hermann Baranowski in the Sachsenhausen camp. He joined the Waffen-SS in 1939. Auschwitz command On May 1, 1940, Höss was appointed commandant of a prison camp in western Poland, a territory that had been annexed outright by Germany and incorporated into the province of Upper Silesia.
The camp was built around an old Austro-Hungarian, later Polish army barracks near the town of Oswiecim, its German name Auschwitz. Höss would command the camp for three and a half years, during which time he expanded the original facility into a sprawling complex, the place now known as the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
At its peak size, Auschwitz was actually three separate facilities (Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II/Birkenau, and Auschwitz III/Monowitz), and was constructed on 8,100 ha (20,000 acres) which had been cleared of all inhabitants. Its earliest inmates were Polish prisoners, including peasants, intellectuals and Soviet prisoners-of-war.
Auschwitz I was the administrative center for the complex; Birkenau was the extermination camp, where most of the killing took place. In June 1941, according to Höss' later trial testimony, he was summoned to Berlin for a meeting with Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler "to receive personal orders." Himmler told Höss that Hitler had given the order for the physical extermination of Europe's Jews. Himmler had selected Auschwitz for this purpose, he said, "on account of its easy access by rail and also because the extensive site offered space for measures ensuring isolation.
" Himmler told Höss that he would be receiving all operational orders from Adolf Eichmann. Himmler described the project as a "secret Reich matter", meaning that "no one was allowed to speak about these matters with any person and that everyone promised upon his life to keep the utmost secrecy." Höss said he kept that secret until the end of 1942, when he told one person about the camp's purpose: his wife.
After visiting Treblinka extermination camp to study its methods of human extermination, Höss tested and perfected the techniques of mass killing which would make Auschwitz the most efficiently murderous instrument of the Final Solution and the most potent symbol of the Holocaust. According to Höss, during standard camp operations, two to three trains carrying 2,000 prisoners each would arrive daily for periods of four to six weeks.
The prisoners were unloaded in the Birkenau camp; those fit for labor were marched to barracks in either Birkenau or to one of the Auschwitz camps; those unsuitable for work were driven into the gas chambers. At first, small gassing bunkers were located "deep in the woods", to avoid detection.
Later, four large gas chambers and crematoria were constructed in Birkenau to make the killing more efficient and to handle the increasing rate of exterminations. Höss improved on the methods at Treblinka by building his gas chambers ten times larger, so that they could kill 2,000 people at once rather than 200.
On June 6, 1944 (known as D-Day), the western Allies launched the single largest amphibious invasion force in world history, landing almost 150,000 soldiers under the command of U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower on the beaches of Normandy, France.
By the end of the month, more than 850,000 American, British, and Canadian troops had come ashore to embark upon what Eisenhower called the “Great Crusade,” the “destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.” On June 22, 1944, Soviet forces opened a major offensive that crushed the German forces defending the centre of the eastern front in western Belorussia, sweeping the line of the front into central Poland by early August.
As Allied and Soviet troops moved across Europe in a series of offensives against Nazi Germany, they encountered concentration camps, mass graves, and numerous other sites of Nazi crimes.
Soviet forces were the first to overrun a major Nazi concentration camp, Lublin/Majdanek, near Lublin, Poland, in July 1944. On January 27, 1945, Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp complex, where they discovered some 7,000 prisoners, including young children, who had not been evacuated by the SS. American soldiers, too, witnessed evidence of the Holocaust and Nazi atrocities as they marched into the interior of Germany, liberating the major concentration camps such as Buchenwald, Dachau, and Mauthausen as well as hundreds of subcamps, including Ohrdruf (a subcamp of Buchenwald).
Though the liberation of Nazi camps was not a primary objective of the Allied military campaign, U.S, British, Canadian, and Soviet troops freed prisoners from their SS guards, provided them with food and badly needed medical support, and collected evidence for war crimes trials.
On May 8, 1945, less than one year after D-Day, Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender became official, and the world could celebrate the liberation of Europe from Nazi rule. In 2004, with the 60th anniversary of D-Day, the nation honored veterans of World War II with a memorial on the national mall. 2005 marked the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of World War II. Explore the links on this page to learn about the liberators' experiences as Allied troops moved across Europe during the war.
Annelies Marie "Anne" Frank (About this sound pronunciation (help·info); 12 June 1929 in Frankfurt am Main – early March 1945 in Bergen Belsen) is one of the most renowned and most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Acknowledged for the quality of her writing, her diary has become one of the world's most widely read books, and has been the basis for several plays and films. Born in the city of Frankfurt am Main in Weimar Germany, she lived most of her life in or near Amsterdam, in the Netherlands.
By nationality, she was officially considered a German until 1941, when she lost her nationality owing to the anti-Semitic policies of Nazi Germany. She gained international fame posthumously following the publication of her diary which documents her experiences hiding during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. Anne and her family moved from Germany to Amsterdam in 1933, the same year as the Nazis gained power in Germany.
By the beginning of 1940 they were trapped in Amsterdam due to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. As persecutions of the Jewish population increased in July 1942, the family went into hiding in the hidden rooms of her father Otto Frank's office building. After two years, the group was betrayed and transported to concentration camps. Seven months after her arrest, Anne Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, within days of the death of her sister, Margot Frank.
Fortunately, when it comes to teaching the Holocaust, there are a number of significant resources that enable effective teachers to motivate students to feel. For one, both the British and American armies took video upon liberating the camps. It's really hard not to feel something when you see piles and piles of bodies. The PBS network has actually developed a British video into an incredible documentary.
In addition to these published videos, students can also access raw video of life in the Warsaw Ghetto. They can see children playing in the ghetto in one clip and adults walking past dead bodies as other adults move the bodies off the street into a van, in another clip. But, when teaching the Holocaust, the objective isn't simply to show students videos.
Instead, it's to prompt students to ask and grapple with the ultimate question: How can one people be so evil towards another people? Along the way, students could also consider why people would deny that such a tragedy ever occurred.
Effective teachers recognize that students must learn in their particular modalities. At the beginning of the Twenty First Century, one dominant modality incorporates Twenty First Century Technology. Consider challenging students to use modern technology, such as blogs, podcasts and mapping tools as they learn about the Holocaust. Consider challenging students to use these technologies as they develop the necessary knowledge to grapple with the most significant questions about the Holocaust.
Another task was to dispose of the 20,000 diseased bodies, in order to contain the spread of typhus. The British forces made the surrendered German and Hungarian SS camp guards carry the corpses into mass graves that had been dug by British bulldozer teams.
As punishment for their crimes, the camp guards were prevented from using protective gloves, and consequently some of them contracted typhus and died. This method of burial soon proved too slow, and subsequently the bulldozers simply shovelled the corpses into the graves.
This apparent lack of the respect for the dead led to criticism, but it was a necessary expedient. In addition, Isaac Levy, a Senior British Army Jewish Chaplain, held a burial service as each mass grave was filled in.
Holocaust is that period in human history that marks the persecution and extermination of European Jews by Nazi Germany. Although the prejudice against the Jews has been prevalent for a long time in Europe, persecution and expulsion of the Jews in Germany began when Hitler emerged into power in 1933. The term Holocaust finds its roots in the Greek word holokauston which means sacrifice by fire. This period was rightly termed this way because of the Nazi’s planned slaughter of the Jewish people.
Apart from Jews they also aimed at eradicating populations consisting of gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah witnesses and the disabled people. All those who raised their voices against these cruel Nazi’s racism acts was sent to forced labor or murdered.
The Jews were disenfranchised and terrorized in anti-Jewish riots were abandoned off their properties, were forced to live in the ghettos and eventually sent into concentration camps. Post World War II, Hitler gave rise to death camps to secretly implement the prosecution of Jews a process what he called ‘The Final Solution of the Jewish Question”. Estimates of 11 million people were killed during the holocaust amongst which 6 million were Jews.
The Nazis killed about two-thirds of all Jews living in Europe. About 1.1 million children were massacred in the name of elimination of the Jews and other minorities. All of this initiated on April 1st 1933, when the first anti-Semitism came into action where the Germans announced a boycott of all Jewish-run businesses. Then the Germans formed measures like The Nuremberg Laws which was issued on September 15th 1935. Under this law the Nazis started excluding Jews from social and public life.
The law made sure that the Jews living in Germany were stripped off their citizenship and marriages and extramarital sex between Jews and Germans were strictly prohibited. Moreover, there were additional laws issued that were anti-Jewish in nature eventually over a period of time. These laws would prohibit Jews from visiting places like parks and they were fired from the civil service jobs. Jews were made to register their property and Jewish doctors were not allowed to practice medicine on any other citizen of the country except on their fellow Jews.
By the end of 1941, Himmler was becoming increasingly impatient with the progress of the Final Solution. His main opponent was Göring, who had succeeded in exempting Jewish industrial workers from the orders to deport all Jews to the General Government and who had allied himself with the Army commanders who were opposing the extermination of the Jews out of a mixture of economic calculation, distaste for the SS and humanitarian sentiment.
Although Göring's power had declined since the defeat of his Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain, he still had privileged access to Hitler. The Nazis methodically tracked the progress of the Holocaust in thousands of reports and documents.
Pictured is the Höfle Telegram sent to Adolf Eichmann in January, 1943, that reported that 1,274,166 Jews had been killed in the four Aktion Reinhard camps during 1942. Heydrich therefore convened the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942 at a villa, Am Großen Wannsee No. 56-58, in the suburbs of Berlin to finalize a plan for the extermination of the Jews. The plan became known (after Heydrich) as Aktion Reinhard (Operation Reinhard).
Present were Heydrich, Eichmann, Heinrich Müller (head of the Gestapo), and representatives of the Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories, the Ministry for the Interior, the Four Year Plan Office, the Ministry of Justice, the General Government in Poland (where over two million Jews still lived), the Foreign Office, the Race and Resettlement Office, and the Nazi Party, and the office responsible for distributing Jewish property.
Also present was SS-Sturmbannführer Rudolf Lange, the SD commander in Riga, who, with Friedrich Jeckeln had recently carried out the liquidation of 24,000 Latvian Jews from the Riga ghetto in the Rumbula massacre. Michael Berenbaum writes that the 15 men seated at the table were considered the best and the brightest; more than half of them held doctorates from German universities.
A plan was presented for killing all the Jews in Europe, including 330,000 Jews in England and 4,000 in Ireland. although the minutes taken by Eichmann refer to this only through euphemisms, such as " … emigration has now been replaced by evacuation to the East. This operation should be regarded only as a provisional option, though in view of the coming final solution of the Jewish question it is already supplying practical experience of vital importance."
The world thought that after world war I, there would be lasting peace after countries learned about the brutalities of war, the casualties and the families that mourned the loss of their loved ones. Yet, little did people of time know that peace would not even last a decade and that world war ii would start.
Many people from around the world felt that Germany should be punished for the events that transpired during world war I and because of imminent fear that this European country would get back on its feet and declare war on the world once again starting with it neighbours, the rest of the international community sought to permanently weaken Germany.
The Germans were plagued with hardships, inflation was so bad that workers threw bags of money out the windows of the factories they worked at so that their wives could run to the market and buy what they can before everything became too expensive. The hardships that were inflicted on Germany cause its inhabitants to be bitter, and Adolph Hitler saw this as opportunity to rise to power. This was the first sign of trouble and the first answer to why did the holocaust happen.
The rise of Adolph Hitler Hitler needed a scapegoat to blame for all the difficulties that the Germans had to undergo and it wasn't very hard to influence people who were bitter and angry. It started with speeches that he gave at a local pub and his patrons grew in numbers. Hitler was a charismatic leader and he was able to sway people's opinions that the cause of the hardship was the jews. To answer the question of why did the holocaust happen we have to understand what the Germans thought and felt at that time.
Adolf Hitler surrounded himself with a small clique of fanatical, ruthless henchmen - a violent group of outsiders who rose to power in the Third Reich and established political and economic institutions of legitimized terror. These masterminds of death were found to be quite psychologically normal.
They were men of fine standing, husbands who morning and night kissed their wives, fathers who tucked their children into bed. But murders, brutalities, cruelties, tortures, atrocities, and other inhuman acts were an everyday occurrence ... Adolf Hitler's SS men wore black uniforms with a skeleton's head on their hats, the motto Unsere Ehre heisst Treue on their belts and their symbol was the double S-rune.
They had sworn eternal faith to Hitler and they were his most ruthless henchmen, men often seen as the very personifications of evil. After the defeat of the Nazi Empire, the apprehended henchmen and collaborators were brought to trial in Nuremberg.
Voluminous evidence was presented to prove the plotting of aggressive warfare, the extermination of civilian populations, especially the Jews, the widespread use of slave labour, the looting of occupied countries, and the maltreatment and murder of prisoners of war. The trial lasted 11 months. Of the 21 defendants in custody, a total of 11 were sentenced to death, three were acquitted and the rest received prison terms.
Ten Nazi leaders were hanged in November 1946 - Hermann Goering, the one-time Number Two man in the Nazi hierarchy, cheated the gallows of Allied justice by committing suicide in his prison cell shortly before the ten other condemned Nazis were hanged. He swallowed cyanide he had concealed in a copper cartridge shell, while lying on a cot in his cell.
Near the end of the war, when Germany's military force was collapsing, the Allied armies closed in on the Nazi concentration camps. The Soviets approached from the east, and the British, French, and Americans from the west. The Germans began frantically to move the prisoners out of the camps near the front and take them to be used as forced laborers in camps inside Germany. Prisoners were first taken by train and then by foot on "death marches," as they became known.
Prisoners were forced to march long distances in bitter cold, with little or no food, water, or rest. Those who could not keep up were shot. The largest death marches took place in the winter of 1944-1945, when the Soviet army began its liberation of Poland.
Nine days before the Soviets arrived at Auschwitz, the Germans marched 60,000 prisoners out of the camp toward Wodzislaw, a town thirty-five miles away, where they were put on freight trains to other camps. About one in four died on the way.
Nazi Germany maintained concentration camps throughout the territories it controlled. The first Nazi concentration camps were greatly expanded in Germany after the Reichstag fire in 1933, and were intended to hold political prisoners and opponents of the regime. They grew rapidly through the 1930s as political opponents and many other groups of people were incarcerated without trial or judicial process. The term was borrowed from the British concentration camps of the Second Anglo-Boer War.
Holocaust scholars draw a distinction between concentration camps (described in this article) and extermination camps, which were camps established for the sole purpose of carrying out the extermination of the Jews of Europe—the Final Solution, Poles – the Lebensraum, Gypsies and other nations. Extermination camps included Belzec, Majdanek, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The six largest groups containing prisoners in the camps, both numbering in the millions, were Jews and the Soviet prisoners of war (POWs). Large numbers of Roma (or Gypsies), Poles, left of center political prisoners, homosexuals, people with disabilities, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholic clergy, Eastern European intellectuals, and others—including common criminals.
In addition, a small number of Western Allied POWs were sent to concentration camps for various reasons. Western Allied POWs who were Jews, or whom the Nazis believed to be Jewish, were usually sent to ordinary POW camps; however, a small number were sent to concentration camps under antisemitic policies.
Sometimes the concentration camps were used to hold important prisoners, such as the generals involved in the attempted assassination of Hitler; U-boat Captain-turned-Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller; and Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, who was interned at Flossenbürg on February 7, 1945, until he was hanged on April 9, shortly before the war’s end.
In most camps, prisoners were forced to wear identifying overalls with colored badges according to their categorization: red triangles for Communists and other political prisoners, green triangles for common criminals, pink for homosexual men, purple for Jehovah's Witnesses, black for Gypsies and asocials, and yellow for Jews.
Established in March 1933, the Dachau concentration camp was the first regular concentration camp established by the National Socialist (Nazi) government. Heinrich Himmler, in his capacity as police president of Munich, officially described the camp as "the first concentration camp for political prisoners." It was located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory near the northeastern part of the town of Dachau, about 10 miles Northwest of Munich in southern Germany.
During the first year, the camp held about 4,800 prisoners. Initially the internees consisted primarily of German Communists, Social Democrats, trade unionists, and other political opponents of the Nazi regime. Over time, other groups were also interned at Dachau, such as Jehovah Witnesses, Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, as well as "asocials" and repeat criminal offenders.
During the early years relatively few Jews were interned in Dachau and then usually because they belonged to one of the above groups or had completed prison sentences after being convicted for violating the Nuremberg Laws of 1935. In early 1937, the SS, using prisoner labor, initiated construction of a large complex of buildings on the grounds of the original camp.
Prisoners were forced to do this work, starting with the destruction of the old munitions factory, under terrible conditions. The construction was officially completed in mid-August 1938 and the camp remained essentially unchanged until 1945. Dachau thus remained in operation for the entire period of the Third Reich.
The number of Jewish prisoners at Dachau rose with the increased persecution of Jews and on November 10-11, 1938, in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, more than 10,000 Jewish men were interned there. (Most of men in this group were released after incarceration of a few weeks to a few months, many after proving they had made arrangements to emigrate from Germany.)
When the British and Canadians advanced on Bergen-Belsen in 1945, the German army negotiated a truce and exclusion zone around the camp to prevent the spread of typhus. Under the agreement, Hungarian and regular German troops guarding the camp returned to German lines when Allied troops liberated the camp on April 15, 1945. Although many SS guards had fled the camp, a small number remained, wearing white armbands as a sign of surrender.
The retreating Germans sabotaged the water supply to the barracks, making it difficult for the Allied troops to treat the ill prisoners. When British and Canadian troops finally entered they found thousands of bodies unburied and approximately 55,000 inmates, most acutely sick and starving. Over the next days the surviving prisoners were deloused and moved to a nearby German Panzer army camp, which became the Bergen-Belsen DP camp.
The remaining SS personnel were then forced by armed Allied troops to bury the bodies in pits. Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was then burned to the ground by flamethrowers mounted on Bren carriers because of the typhus epidemic and louse infestation. The name Belsen after this time refer to events at the Bergen-Belsen DP camp.
In spite of massive efforts to help the survivors, about another 9,000 died in April, and by the end of June 1945 another 4,000 had died (after liberation a total of 13,994 people died). On the 13th day after liberation, the Luftwaffe bombed one of the hospitals in the DP camp, injuring and killing several patient and Red Cross workers.
The total number of deaths at Bergen-Belsen from 1943 to June 1945 was about 50,000. The British troops and medical staff tried these diets to feed the prisoners, in this order: * Bully beef from Army rations. Most of the prisoners' digestive systems were in too weak a state from long-term starvation to handle such food. * Skimmed milk.
The result was a bit better, but still far from acceptable. * Bengal Famine Mixture. This is a rice-and-sugar-based mixture which had achieved good results after the Bengal famine of 1943, but it proved less suitable to Europeans than to Bengalis because of the differences in the food to which they were accustomed. Adding the common ingredient paprika to the mixture made it more palatable to these Europeans and recovery started.
April 11, 1945 - North of Ohrdruf, near the town of Nordhausen, the American Timberwolf Division came upon 3,000 corpses and more than seven hundred barely surviving inmates. Both living and dead lay in two double-decker barracks, piled three to a bunk.
The rooms reeked of death and excrement. Victims of starvation and tuberculosis, the prisoners had also suffered from American bombing of the V-2 factories just one week before. Fred Bohm, an Austrian-born American soldier who helped liberate Nordhausen described that his fellow American G.I.'s "had no particular feeling for fighting the Germans.
They also thought that any stories they had read in the paper, or that I had told them out of first- hand experience, were either not true or at least exaggerated. And it did not sink in, what this was all about, until we got into Nordhausen." The disbelief of Americans in general, and American soldiers specifically, exemplifies the "double vision" of the human psyche, when one man is forced to face the evidence of torture inflicted on another, only to realize his own helplessness, consequently he represses all emotion, all senses, he becomes numb.
American Combat Team 9 of the 9th Armored Infantry Battalion, Sixth Armored Division, captured the town of Hottelstedt. 50 Russian prisoners emerged from the woods and said they were from Buchenwald just to the southeast.
Buchenwald had 30,000 prisoners in a pyramid of power, with German Communists at the top and living in the main barracks, and Jews and Gypsies at the bottom, living on the outskirts, in Little Camp, as assortment of barns.
Buchenwald barrack prisoners were reasonably healthy-looking and ready to assist in administering food. Little Camp was a nightmare with 1,000 to 1,200 prisoners in a space meant for 450. In Germany in Defeat, Percy Knauth described Little Camp's prisoners as, "emaciated beyond all imagination or description. Their legs and arms were sticks with huge bulging joints, and their loins were fouled by their own excrement.
Their eyes were sunk so deep that they looked blind. If they moved at all, it was with a crawling slowness that made them look like huge, lethargic spiders. Many just lay in their bunks as if dead." The smell of Little Camp, the smell emanating from discarded, decaying flesh, burning bodies, and an open concrete ditch that serviced as the latrine, was indescribable.
Even after liberation, twenty prisoners in each Little Camp block died a day. They were gnomes, sticklike figures with sunken eyes who would hobble forward to cry and yell at the sight of their liberators.
The Holocaust is a special term used to mention the genocide of about six million Jews in Europe during the World War II. Holocaust was basically a systematic effort of Nazi Germany backed by the state to exterminate some particular communities, for the most part the Jews. However, there is another academic opinion that shows some broader aspect of the term Holocaust.
According to this opinion, the Holocaust also refers to the execution of millions of people other than Jews, such as Romani, Soviet prisoners of war, Soviet civilians, and people with disabilities, ethnic Poles, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and other religious and political opponents.
If we combine all these victims, the number will raise to eleven to seventeen million people. Strategies of Execution The Holocaust execution was not carried out in a single phase. So many different phases were carried out for execution. In order to purge the civil society of the Jews before Word War II, the Nazi government had passed legislation.
In many areas, the concentration camps were created where the detainees were undergone unbearable toils and inhuman biological experiments. There were some specialized units assigned this task to kill the Jews and political adversaries by shooting groups in newly conquered Eastern Europe. Generally, the Romani and Jews were kept in an overcrowded isolation before taking them to the concentration camps.
He who survived the journey was put into the gas chambers for extermination. Seizure of territory and resources are other vital features of the genocide. Toward explaining the very WHY of Holocaust It is believed that the prominent motivation behind the execution of Holocaust was entirely ideological that is, an imaginary world imagined by the Nazis, where Jews are supposed to have finished an international conspiracy to command over the world resources in utter conflict with an Aryan (Nazi) mission.
Each member of the Nazi Germany was a sole participant for the logistics of the mass killing. A scholar very aptly titles the atrocities carried out in Holocaust by the Nazis Germany as "a genocidal state." Saul Friedlander explained that not a single religious community, social group, scholarly institution, or professional association in Germany extending through Europe showed any sign of sympathy with the Jews. He further explains that there were few Christian Churches who can advocate to some extent the members of the Jews converted to Christianity.
According to Friedlander, the event of Holocaust in itself was of idiosyncratic nature, as opposed to the norms prevailing in the modern society, the unconcerned anti-Semitic practices underwent for the first time in history without any solid resistance such as, industry, churches, entrepreneurial concerns, or any other anthropological groups.
It was never seen before that the few leaders deciding the fate of a particular human community along with its old members, children and women. The Holocaust in itself was a unique event where a particular group or community was executed from the surface of the earth merely on the plea: "Kill them; they are salt of the earth!"
The following article is a historical analysis calling for an unbiased, objective study into the causes of one of the most famous incidents in world history. It is NOT a Holocaust denial, nor a justification of Hitler's regime nor its actions, nor does it blame the Jews for the Holocaust.
The Holocaust is easily one of the foremost malevolent and tragic events in world history. Everyone has been witness to the horrific imagery of incinerated and decrepit corpses being heaved into mass pits. But what were the actual catalysts of the mass genocide of over 6,000,000 individuals, most of whom Jews? Antisemitism and even outright attempts at extermination had been nothing new to the Germanic world, or the remainder of Europe. As early as 1096, German crusaders had begun pogrom-like attacks all throughout the Holy Roman (German) Empire against Jews, rather than Muslim Tatars or Saracens.
Recently-united Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries ordered the expulsion of all Jews and non-Catholics from Iberia, even sanctioning their murder. Muslim nations included them as infidels in the duty of their Jihad. In the 16th century, German Protestant founder Martin Luther called for their complete expulsion from Germany in his novel On the Jews and their Lies:
"If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews' blasphemy...we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country...Then they need no longer wail and lie before God against us that we are holding them captive...This is the most natural and the best course of action, which will safe guard the interest of both parties."
But what were the underlying causes of such a sudden, unparalleled, and draconian explosion in national extermination programs of the Jewish populations in Axis-dominated Europe as initiated by Germany, Hungary, Romania, and their allies? The individual is well-versed in the standard curricular and ideological explanations for such an abhorrent tragedy: that the German people were brainwashed by a fanatical, evil despot, and that radical figures in the new National Socialist movement needed a scapegoat to explain the rampant post-war hyperinflation, shameful loss of a worldwide war, the seizure of Germany's eastern and western marches by the victors, and the Versailles punishments the German empire faced.
Without restraint or bias, and especially being careful not in any way to imply that the mass slaughter of the Jews was justified or acceptable, historians must engage in active analysis of the contributions of both parties to the Holocaust, and why the historical anti-Semitism reached such a sudden peak after World War I.
Historians must first work to question the concept that the Holocaust can solely be attributed to the fanaticism of Chancellor Adolf Hitler, as is often implied. Coming to power in 1933 after an election victory and the selection by President Hindenburg, Hitler made clear public notice of his outlined suppression of the Jewish population. On multiple occasions, he openly exclaimed that the Jewish ethnoreligious community would be removed from Germany by force, especially in a famous 1942 national speech before the Sportspalast in Berlin.
"...the war will not end as the Jews imagine it will, namely with the uprooting of the Aryans, but the result of this war will be the complete annihilation of the Jews."
Such harsh and violent rhetoric occurred at the same time as historians imply that the German population was completely unaware of the coming horrors the Jews and other minorities would and were already facing in Axis lands. Therefore, the "canonical" standard that Hitler committed such ruthless crimes as the Holocaust behind the eyes of the German people or had hidden his true intentions is inaccurate.
The extent to which the "Jewish question" was "answered" could obviously not have been imagined by German citizens, but the intentions of the elected regime were clear and rife with popular support.
As the German nation was clearly informed of such ruthless extents of anti-Semitism as annihilation, we can deduce that there was a blatant opposition to "Jewry" pervasively common throughout society. Further, no historic piece of evidence exists linking Adolf Hitler to the "Final Solution", that is, the national plan of [majority] Jewish extermination stipulated at the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942.
The program was initiated by Luftwaffe commander Hermann GÃ¶ring and ReichsfÃ¼hrer-SS Heinrich Himmler. It is obvious that such an all-seeing and powerful dictator, having encouraged the program openly to the public, was highly aware of the coming genocide. The policy was widely accepted among the ruling regime, the public, and Germany's allies in Romania and Hungary.
The slaughter also occurred in the Soviet Union that Germany considered a "Jewish empire". This should encourage historians to question the idea that the genocide was merely the work of the madman Adolf Hitler sentenced millions to their deaths in cold blood as nothing more than scapegoats.
Even before the Wannsee Conference the Wehrmacht (army) as a whole in the Third Reich was enthused with the apparently inevitable removal of Jews from the Axis territories, as seen by this speech to the Wehrmacht in Poland by Governor General Hans Frank on 16 December, 1941:
"One way or another, I will tell you quite openly, we must finish off the Jews. The FÃ¼hrer put it into words: should united Jewry again succeed in setting off a world war, then the blood sacrifice shall not be made only by the peoples driven into war, but the Jew of Europe will have met his end...We must destroy the Jews wherever we find them, and wherever it is at all possible, in order to maintain the whole structure of the Reich..."
In delineation of the "canonical" idea of a universal Jewish scapegoat, that is that the Jews were slain en masse solely as a justification for Hitler's election and consolidation at the same time as supposedly no one knew it would occur, historians must analyze the accepted Jewish characteristics in the Third Reich. Was there more criticism of Jews in Europe than simpleton stereotypes like frugality, big noses, curly hair, and theft?
Or did they play some role in the reactive mass Antisemitism experienced all over Europe and the Middle East? National Socialists, right-wing radicals, Freikorps, monarchies, and nationalists throughout Europe characterized the Jews as an ultra-liberal, often anarchistic, subversive, "parasitic" people and, most important perhaps, the founders of the growing threats of socialism and Communism, the archnemeses of international Fascism and European heritage.
They were often blamed for ending World War I early in the tumult of 1917-18, and also for forcing the liberalism, democracy, freedoms, and all-accepting tolerant governments that the Allies and United States demanded of the losers of the war. Without any attempt to justify the extermination of the Jews following World War I, historians must analyze the validity and source of such claims so prevalent in Europe, even among non-Axis nations.
A great deal of critical leaders in the international, liberal Communist movement were of Jewish heritage or were recent converts or apostates there from, including Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Leon Trotsky. So too, Joseph Stalin, the key bulwark of Communist power, was of Judeo-Georgian origin, having attended a yeshiva (Jewish studies) school in his youth.
The Great War had ended early for Germany due to widespread reformist and liberal revolts, eventually overthrowing the anti-Semitic dictator Kaiser Wilhelm II, resulting in an armistice with France at Compiegne, and the installation of a revolutionary government under the unstable banner of Weimar liberalism inspired by France and especially the United States.
Long rooted in German heritage and conservative culture, Bavaria and now-French Alsace (ElsaÃŸ) had been ripped from the German empire in criminal coups by Communists seeking change from the anti-Semitic monarchical system of the Wittelsbachs to a liberal republic, creating the Alsatian and Bavarian Soviet Republics.
The key leaders in the destruction of the 700-year-old Wittelsbach leadership in Bavaria were also Jewish, including Karl Kautsky, Eduard Bernstein, Rudolf Hilferding, and the leader Kurt Eisner. Later sweeping liberal revolts calling for democratic equality by the Spartakist League were also almost exclusively Jewish-run, including Rosa Luksemburg, Paul Levi, and Karl Liebknecht. This growing Spartakist movement actively handed out pamphlets calling for a complete overthrow of the German government, as seen in this November 1918 article from their official newspaper, Die rote Fahne:
"The revolution in Germany has come! The masses of the soldiers who for years were driven to slaughter for the sake of capitalistic profits; the masses of workers, who for four years were exploited, crushed, and starved, have revolted...From the first day of this war we endeavoured to do our international duty by fighting that criminal government with all our power and branding it as the one really guilty of the war...
The masses agree with us enthusiastically, constantly widening circles of the proletariat share the conviction that the hour has struck for a settlement with capitalistic class rule...But this great task cannot be accomplished by the German proletariat alone; it can only fight and triumph by appealing to the solidarity of the proletarians of the whole world. Proletarians of all countries! This must be the last war! We owe that to the twelve million murdered victims, we owe that to our children, we owe that to humanity."
Such widespread blows against the already-collapsed German empire (now the Weimar Republic) obviously played a great role in the popular image of Jews as having a role in Communism, the greatest rival of the Axis state doctrine. Communism was deemed polar to German values in its efforts to promote "the weak" (i.e. the poor and especially minorities) as opposed to the "strong" (Germans, Hungarians, Romanians, or to some thinkers "Aryans"). The post-war liberal government installed by revolutionaries and the United States via the League of Nations and Versailles were deemed illegitimate of foreign, partisan, and especially Jewish invention.
Hitler reflected upon such events in the statement in his Mein Kampf, "I must remove the Jews. They are an element of revolt." Later, other Jews likely contributed to this blanket labelling of the entire Jewish population as an enemy of the Germans.
Herschel Grynszpan assassinated German diplomat Ernst vom Rath. David Frankfurter killed the famous Swiss National Socialist Wilhelm Gustloff, attempting to, as the Reich believed, prevent the Germans from reaching German-majority Switzerland. Dutch-national Communist Marinus Lubbe had burned the Reichstag building, contributing to the socially-accepted Enabling Act (Gleichschaltung) of Adolf Hitler. His Jewish ancestry is sometimes disputed as an act of scapegoating. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, American communists executed for espionage, were also Jewish, as were, some say, the famous communists Sacco and Vanzetti.
From such presented evidence, we can see that a much greater inspection of historical cause and effect relations is required to study the Holocaust and the causes of one of history's most horrific events. Of course, six million Jews were not all trying to overthrow the government or rob German civilians, but the popular Anti-Semitism in Europe that occurred long before Hitler had even been elected has a blatant causality that goes beyond ignorance and scape goating.
Some historians have openly questioned the standard outline of the Holocaust tragedy, but are often reviled as anti-Semites themselves. The ignorant say the Holocaust never occurred, despite being arguably history's most documented event.
A great deal of the Arab, Iranian, and Indian world deny the Holocaust either as not having occurred at all or having been exaggerated or falsified, including Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Others say the Holocaust was used for political purposes that led to the creation of Israel at the behest of American influence from the former British colony of Palestine.
Those who question the Holocaust are often thrown in jail in Europe for the crime of Anti-Semitism or promoting hate speech. In controversial and dubious English historian David Irving's novel Hitler's War, Irving questioned the role of Hitler as the catalyst of such mass murder:
"Hitler grasped quite early on that anti-Semitism would be a powerful vote catching force in Germany; [he] had no compunction against riding that evil steed right up to the portals of the chancellery in 1933; but that once inside and in power, he dismounted and paid only lip service to that part of his Party creed...Himmler is known to have visited Auschwitz in 1941 and 1942. Hitler never did...Many people, particularly in Germany and Austria, had an interest in propagating the version that the order of one madman originated the entire tragedy.
Precisely when this order was given was, admittedly, left vague...In the newly discovered Goebbels diaries we learned that Hitler lectured the Gauleiter [governors] in September 1935 that 'above all' there were to be no excesses against the Jews and no persecution of non-Aryans...Every other historian has shut his eyes and hoped that this horrid, inconvenient document would somehow go away."
Liberal and far-right motives play a great role in our portrayal of history, rendering a great deal of our knowledge of the causes inconclusive and potentially inaccurate, reinforcing historians' need to study into these causes greatly without bias.
Without an unbiased investigation of the contributions of both parties (Jews and Germans) to the Holocaust without "presentism" (current ideas that influence our scope of the past), our knowledge and depictions of the Holocaust will instead continue to be largely inaccurate and short-sighted, polluted with bias and ulterior just as equally so as the blind and ignorant at the far-right.
To claim something on an enormous scale like the holocaust, didn't exist is illogical and ignorant. Millions were murdered by shooting, gassing, starving, etc. Given the multitude of forensic evidence, ie; corpses, ash/bone fragment field deposits, Zyklon-B agent evidence, witness testimony and testimony by several key German perpetrators (recorded)-- only the contrary can be true. Many believe that the holocaust was only about the extermination of the Jews as part of Hitler's "Final Solution." This is inaccurate. Also a small minority believe that the Holocaust was a hoax and some sort of cash machine for the Jewish state of Israel. This, of course is not true.
Persons still alive in Poland alone can attest to their families (non-Jews) being taken into Auschwitz, witnessing the selections, executions and cremations. If there were no collaboration from the German officials, forensic evidence, and witnesses (non-Jews) then it would possible to shed only some doubt on the thousands of testimony given by Jews. However, such is not the case. I only offer the following for educational purposes:
To clarify the issue, although gassing was one method used by the Germans and their collaborators to kill millions of human beings during World War II, the Nazi leadership never developed a gas chamber program as such. Killing by poison gas was one of many tools employed to implement a program to physically annihilate Jews residing on German-occupied territory as well as non-Jews whom the Germans perceived to be a danger to permanent German rule.
Gassing was implemented for two main reasons; 1. Himmler believed the shooting of women and children to be too emotionally destabilizing for the SS and troops. 2. It was a more efficient (larger scale), less witnessed, and far more cost effective then the previous methods.
German authorities killed approximately 2.5 million Jews and hundreds of thousands of other victims in shooting operations in German-occupied Eastern Europe particularly in the Soviet Union, Serbia, and parts of German-occupied Poland. The SS killed Jews and other victims by poison gas in five killing centers and, on a smaller scale, in several concentration camps.
At the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center, which was part of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp complex and at other concentration camps that were part of the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps, the SS staff used Zyclon-B gas as the killing agent. At the four other killing centers--Chelmno, Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor, the SS and police staff used carbon monoxide gas generated by truck diesel engines to murder Jews and other victims.
Though the German authorities took pains to destroy most of the paper trail relating to their murderous population policies, much evidence concerning murder by gas survived, including multiple statements of the perpetrators as well as the physical remnants of gas chambers in Auschwitz and other camps.
While imprisoned after his trial and conviction, SS Lieutenant Colonel Rudolf Hoess described the process of murder by gas on several occasions as a witness at the Nuremberg Trial, as a witness in his own trial in Krakow, and in his memoir, written in prison as he awaited his execution. Hoess memoirs, Kommandant in Auschwitz, were published in German in 1963 and are available in a recent English translation by Steven Paskuly: Death Dealer:
The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz (New York: Da Capo, 1996). In addition to Hoess' own statements, excerpts from the memoirs of Pery Broad and the diary of Johann Paul Kremer, two other Auschwitz officials, appear in Auschwitz in den Augen der SS: Hoess, Broad, Kremer, Jadwiga Bezwinska and Danuta Czech, eds. (Katowice: Krajowa Agencja Wydawnicza, 1981).
Both killing center commandants and several members of their staffs testified after the war either as defendants or material witnesses in criminal proceedings in West Germany. Among these are the proceedings against:
Josef Kaspar Oberhauser (Belzec)
State Court in Munich, I 110 Ks 3/64, Record Group B 162
Verdict JuNS-V, Lfd. Nr. 585 (BA-L, B 162/14187);B 162/3172 (Indictment);
Bundesarchiv Ludwigsburg, Germany
Proceedings against Kurt Bolender, Werner Dubois et al. (Sobibor)
State Court in Hagen, 11 Ks 1/64 Record Group B 162
Verdict JuNS-V, Lfd. Nr. 642
(against Dubois [Bolander committed suicide before indictment] B 162/14239)
Bundesarchiv-Ludwigsburg, Germany B 162/4434
BA-L, B 162/4500-45-2 (Indictment)
Proceedings against Kurt Hubert Franz (Treblinka)
State Court in Dusseldorf, 8 IKs 2/64, Record Group 162
Verdict JuNS-V, Lfd. Nr. 596 (B 162/14330-14332)
Proceedings against Franz Stangl (Treblinka)
State Court, Dusseldorf, 8 Ks 1/69, Record Group B-162
Bundesarchiv, Ludwigsburg, Germany
Proceedings against Hans Bothmann et al., (Chelmno)
State Court in Bonn, 8 Ks 3/62, Record Group, B-162
Proceedings against Robert Mulka et al., (Auschwitz)
State Court in Frankfurt, 4 Ks 2/63, Record Group B-162
Bundesarchiv, Ludwigsburg, Germany.
Excerpts from the testimony in the Mulka Trial can be found in Hermann Langbein, Der Auschwitz- Prozess: Ein Dokumentation, 2 volumes (Frankfurt: Verlag Neue Kritik, 1995).
A forensic study of the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing facilities integrating photographic, chemical and physical perspectives appeared in Holocaust and Genocide Studies (vol. 18, Spring 2004). The authors were Daniel Keren, Jamie McCarthy, and Harry Mazal. I have attached this article for your convenience.
Selected documents relating to the transport of German, Austrian, Czech, and French Jews to Auschwitz and other camps appear in the volumes: Raul Hilberg, Sonderzuge nach Auschwitz (Mainz: Dumjahn, 1981) and Serge Klarsfeld, Vichy‚¬€Auschwitz: Die Zusammenarbeit der deutschen und franzosischen Behorden bei der Endlosung der Judenfrage in Frankreich (Nordlingen: Wagner, 1989).
The sources provided here are not exhaustive, but representative of the body of evidence surrounding gas chambers and the gassing of victims perpetrated by the German authorities and their collaborators.
To get access to the criminal trial records in Germany, I would suggest that you contact the Ludwigsburg branch of the German Federal Archives, also known as the Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Violent Crimes. I have provided a link to their website for your convenience: http//:www.zentralestelle.de.
Research above was conducted by Division of the Senior Historian Intern Katherine Kitterman of USHMM.
It is written that only 10% of the Jewish children in Europe survived the Holocaust. Latvia and Lithuania, two small Baltic countries north of Poland, suffered even higher casualties. Only 1 - 2 % of their Jewish children survived, and nearly all of them were sent away and in hiding. One little boy, Arturs Lejnieks, was 3 years old when Germany invaded Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
A Jewish orphan, he was forced to flee into the woods and roam the land in the care of strangers for nearly 4 years until Germany surrendered. About half of that time, he was in Nazi captivity. By the grace of God, he survived. Possibly the youngest survivor of the Holocaust in Latvia, he was the only child to survive his prison camp. German Teutonic Knights conquered Latvia in the late thirteenth century.
For the next five hundred years, she existed under foreign domination by Poland and Sweden. In 1795 Peter the Great of Russia subjugated Latvia and much of what became the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Only after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 did the three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia regain their freedom and joyously declare their first independence in more than six hundred years.
On August 23, 1939, the Soviet Union entered into a non-aggression pact with Germany in an effort to avoid mutual war, but it was in secret codicils to the controversial Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that Stalin and Hitler mapped their division of Poland and the world. Stalin selected the Baltics. One week later, Germany invaded Poland; by agreement, Russia looked the other way. France and Great Britain allied with Poland and declared war on Germany the next day. Latvia immediately claimed a position of neutrality.
She had enjoyed independence since 1920 and was loath to risk losing it in a political gamble. In June 1940, after accusing Latvia of joining Estonia in a secret, anti-Soviet military alliance, the USSR invaded Lithuania and Latvia. Soviet occupying forces established headquarters for their new Communist regime in Riga, Latvia. Immediately, they rounded up almost twenty thousand prominent citizens and sent them to Siberia. Soviet brutality focused on the Jewish community, and soon the local citizens joined in the daily brutality. Germany double-crossed Soviet Russia on June 22, 1941, when Hitler's army advanced from Poland into Lithuania.
The Baltic people placed desperate and nave hopes for rescue from Russian oppression on the arrival of German forces, but instead of bringing liberation, the Germans' initial act of aggression was the execution of Jewish children in Lithuanian orphanages and summer camps. Arturs Lejnieks was a three-year-old Jewish orphan when Hitler's army advanced into Latvia.
How does a three-year-old boy distinguish between a war of the masses and one that is meant for him? "Why do they want to shoot me? I don't even know them." As German tanks approach, Arturs Lejnieks and his "Auntie" fled into the woods of Latvia, where they endured four terrifying years of hunger, illness and betrayal. Eighteen months in a secluded children's prison led them to Nazi death pits.
A true miracle saved them. Sent to America at eleven, he was faced with the struggle to overcome the emotional backlash of those traumatic years. Fifty years later, Arturs Lejnieks, now Vincent Benson, the author's husband, has published his story of surviving the Holocaust and his healing. Initially a story of desperation, To No Man's Glory is ultimately an inspiring message of hope and faith.
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