“The Holocaust was a massive genocide of Jews that took place from 1933 to 1945, but had everlasting effects on people everywhere. The experiences that these Jews endured were horrific and inhumane. There were many things that led up to this devastating time, many unbelievable stories of oppression, and many people who worked tirelessly to put a stop to it.
While so many people played a part in making this genocide happen, it all began with a man named Adolf Hitler. Hitler was living in Vienna pursuing his passion for art when he happened upon politics; this is where he began developing anti-Semitic ideologies. He later moved to Munich, right before World War I began. He served in the war and was injured and taken to Pasewalk to recover. When he found that the Germans had surrendered, he was enraged and believed it to be the fault of the betrayers in Germany that were not patriotic enough. This was a popular belief in Germany and his like-mindedness with the German people would help him rise to power. Hitler joined a group called the German Workers’ Party that shared many of his anti-Semitic and nationalist beliefs; this group would later be called the Nazi Party. These were his first supporters when he began trying to gain power.
Hitler tried to rise to power and put his beliefs into effect more than once, and ended up in jail for treason after trying to take over with force. In jail, he wrote Mein Kampf, which was a book outlining the way he believed the country should be ran. This book, which gave Hitler the exposure he needed to rise in popularity with the German people, touched on “”military expansion, elimination of ‘impure’ races and dictatorial authoritarianism”” (“”Adolf Hitler: Man and Monster””). While many agreed with Hitler’s beliefs, some still wonder how he managed to gain power being the twisted person that he was. Hitler used many tactics of manipulation to win the people of Germany over. He was very charming and had a way with words, which he used to his advantage when he publicly spoke. He used propaganda techniques and played on the fears of the Germans as their economy was on a downward spiral and there were few jobs. As his popularity consistently rose, the president fearfully named Hitler the German Chancellor in 1933. He strengthened his power through the Enabling Act and became a dictator. Once he had the support of the military, he knew that he had finally gained total control.
Once Hitler realized that he had finally gotten enough power to put his plan into place, he began taking action towards taking Jews’ rights away. At first, Hitler slowly took their rights to test the waters; he began by boycotting Jewish businesses, burning their books, excluding them from the military, making it so that the police could not help them, and so much more (“”Anti-Jewish Decrees””). One of many oppressive actions Hitler took towards the Jews was passing the Nuremberg Race Laws in September of 1935. The Nuremberg Race Laws “”institutionalized many of the racial theories underpinning Nazi ideology and provided the legal framework for the systematic persecution of Jews in Germany””; it defined Jews legally as anyone with three to four Jewish grandparents which ended up including many Germans (“”Nuremberg Race Laws””, USHMM). From 1935 to 1936, Jews’ right to vote was taken away as well as their citizenship in Germany, some Jewish students were kicked out of schools so that they could not continue with their education, and Jews were even banned from many public places in Germany.
Still, Hitler wanted to single out the Jews even more and separate them from the Germans as much as possible. In 1938, he made it so that Jews that did not have Jewish first names had to add “”Israel”” or “”Sara”” to their names so that they were more easily identifiable as Jews. Later in 1938, all of the Jews’ passports were stamped with a “”J”” so that they were even more easily identifiable (“”German Jews’ Passports Declared Invalid””, USHMM). Year after year, more and more of their civil rights were stripped from them. On the night of November ninth, 1938, Nazis went on a rampage destroying Jewish homes, businesses, schools, synagogues, and even killing around a hundred Jews; this was called Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass. In 1939, Hitler forced all Jews to wear the Star of David, including Jews in any of the territories he had taken over since coming to power. This, again, made the Jews even more easily identifiable in order to target them and make them feel inferior. Eventually Jews were separated even further from the rest of the population as they were secluded in ghettos. All of these things were tactics used to make the non-Jews feel as if the Jews were not human and less than them to work with Hitler’s plan of mass extermination of Jews.
Concentration camps were the most memorable and vile way that the Nazis mistreated the Jews. Jews were sent to these camps starting in 1933 and going into full effect in 1942. These camps were where Jews were taken to do hard labor and be exterminated. They were mistreated by the Nazis running the camps and were very malnourished. They were separated from their families in kept in horrid living conditions. Many were killed in gas chambers after being worked to near death. Some managed to make it out alive thanks to a few memorable people who risked their lives for the greater good and some live on today to recount the gory details.
One man named Oskar Schindler saved over a thousand Jews from death at a concentration camp. He was a German businessman who gained the trust of German officials over time as he was always a very likeable man. Because of this, the German officials allowed Jews in decent health to work in Schindler’s factory; Jews provided cheap labor that he needed at his new business. Schindler gave the Jews safe working conditions and bribed officials to let the Jews continue working for him time and time again when the Jews were to be taken to concentration or labor camps. He eventually convinced officials to make his business a labor camp and kept over a thousand Jews there. He kept them safe from the impending death that undoubtedly awaited them at concentration camps until the end of the war in 1945.
Nicholas Winton was another heroic and brave man who saved hundreds of Jewish children during the Holocaust. He was a stock-broker from London who saved hundreds of Jewish children from Prague and Slovakia. He convinced the governments of Britain and Sweden to take in these refugee children, but the governments had a cost. They asked for fifty pounds per child and they asked that he find the children foster homes. He also had to find the money to pay for the transportation of children whose parents could not afford to pay for it. He worked by day and spent the night time raising money to save the children and finding families that were willing to take in these refugees. He hung posters of the children to try to elicit an emotional response from the people of his country whether that be to help out financially or to offer their home to one of the children. Once enough money had been raised, Winton had children transported by plane and train to remove them from harm’s way and ultimately save over six hundred children’s lives.
While the Holocaust seems like a historical memory from the past, many Holocaust survivors are still alive today to share their stories. One resilient woman named Ibi Ginsburg shared the chilling story of her experience at an Auschwitz concentration camp. Ibi grew up in a very accepting community, and had trouble understanding why the Nazis were so very discriminatory towards herself and the other Hungarian Jews she was surrounded by. After being secluded in a ghetto for weeks in March of 1944, Ibi and her family along with many of the other Jews in the ghetto they lived in were told they would be brought to Germany to be put to work; this was a lie told by the Nazis to keep order in the ghetto. Ibi was brought to Auschwitz Birkenau where she was then separated from all of her family but her older sister. She and many other Jews that were sent to concentration camps remained fearful throughout their time there not only for themselves but for their families as they had no idea where they were sent or even if they were alive. As for Ibi and her sister, they had their heads shaved, their clothes were taken from them, and they were assigned a number as their new identity. They had small wooden rooms with concrete floors and wooden bunks to call home. They were eventually sent to a labor camp only to be over-worked and under-fed. Finally, in May of 1945, she and her sister were liberated by the Americans and they found that their father had survived as well, but their family was not quite as lucky. Ibi’s mother and younger sisters were taken to a gas chamber and killed immediately after being separated from their family at the concentration camp. Sadly, this was a common fate for many Jews during this time. Ibi, like many other Jews after the Holocaust, never returned to her home country as she knew many of her friends and family suffered a tragic fate and held too many unsettling feelings and memories towards what used to be her home. (“”Surviving Auschwitz””, HSFA)
While the Holocaust was a terrible tragedy that most wish had never happened, it is still a part of history and must not be forgotten, as history stands as a means to teach lessons. One must look back on this horrible event as a mass act of discrimination and note how these acts affected millions of people and still affect people to this day. The Jews went through being treated as if they were not human; they were starved, over-worked, stripped of their basic human rights, and killed. History must not repeat itself and that is the lesson to be learned.
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