Germany’s most known and devastating historical event happened between the years 1941-1945, the period of time where the Holocaust occurred. The main perpetrator was Adolf Hitler, but the people of Germany allowed escalation beforehand. The Holocaust was a terrifying experience for anyone who wasn’t a part of Hitler’s “Aryan” race, but was mainly directed towards Jewish people.
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Hitler and his followers attempted to sentence all Jewish people and other non-Aryans to death, killing them on a mass scale (genocide). The mentioning of the Holocaust sends chills to thousands of people in Germany, of Jewish descent, and especially Holocaust survivors. These horrific occurrences caused other countries to realize the potential dangers power can cause. Preventing power from falling into the wrong hands is made a priority so these types of experiences won’t be able to happen again. Germany had multiple steps that led up to genocide. This process is called the Pyramid of Hate. It begins with the prejudice attitudes and acts of prejudice stages which were characterized by scapegoating and stereotypes, which led to the discrimination and violence stages which involved oppression and laws that deprived Jews of certain rights, which finally resulted in the genocide stage whose principal attributes were camps that led to killing a large population of Jews.
Prejudice attitudes and acts of prejudice begins with anti-semitic behaviors. Germany was involved in World War I and citizens were promised victory by their government. Although Adolf Hitler was born and raised in Austria, he was accidentally given the opportunity to serve his time in the German army. When Germany faced defeat, the government and Hitler himself, “blamed the country’s downfall, though some 100,000 German Jews fought for their country during the war,” (Holocaust-Overview). Since the government is the only news source for Germany, German citizens easily believed the credibility for this accusation. There was a vast amount of Jewish people in the army, but the Germans brought what was called the “stab in the back” theory. The Germans were convinced that they somehow betrayed their own country while serving time in the military. Multiple forms of propaganda was released afterwards, all of them framing the Jewish population as traitors that brought their country to defeat in World War I. A really popular piece of propaganda was Hitler’s book titled “Mein Kampf”, which translates to “My Struggle”. The title is self explanatory, Hitler wanted to speak about his supposed hardships living in a country filled with Jewish people. He introduces his idea of a “pure” race, and calls it the Aryan race. Ideally, people who fit within this racial category would have pale skin, blue eyes, and blond hair. Jewish people did not fit within any of those standards, and Hitler began to stereotype them in his book. He describes that, “the black-haired Jewish youth lurks in wait for the unsuspecting girl whom he defiles with his blood, thus stealing her from her people.” In other words, he claimed that Jewish people are purposefully got involved with pure-blooded Germans specifically to disconnect them from their race. Throughout his writing, he portrayed Jewish people as the enemies in every situation. He had the intent of gathering as much people on his side so he could gain power, and he succeeded. Mein Kampf became a bestseller and managed to influence many people into believing anti-semitic beliefs. Hitler was able to gather a really big amount of followers that are later referred to as Nazis.
Discrimination and violence is where Jews begin to experience more oppressive treatment. By what was called the Nuremberg Laws, Jewish people were deprived of receiving certain education, had limited housing options, and weren’t able to get employed outside of Jewish businesses. Then, they were forced into ghettos. Ghettos were areas that isolated the Jewish community from the non-Jewish people. Living conditions were miserable and they were crowded. There, “The Germans ordered Jews in the ghettos to wear identifying badges or armbands,” (Ghettos-Discrimination). The badges and armband contained the Star of David, a significant symbol in the Jewish religion. Using this as a way to separate Jews shows how much the Germans objectified them. The Germans looked down on the Jewish people and their religion, and felt superior in every way. Jews were all labeled as if they were property and were put into ghettos to create the feeling that they didn’t belong. Germans who were aware that this was morally wrong allowed this to occur due to a psychological circumstance called bystander apathy. It’s been proven that the, “presence of others creates a diffusion of responsibility,” (Intro to Bystander Apathy). Bystanders in the Holocaust are those who didn’t participate in giving the Jews unjust treatment, but they let it happen without speaking out or offering to assist the victims. There’s a really strong possibility that the witnesses didn’t know how to aid those in need or feared for their own safety. Bystanders don’t feel responsible because they aren’t the ones who’s committing the oppression directly. The Nazis used this to their advantage and it made their goal easier to reach. They relied on bystanders so they would be able to gain more control. In the ghettos, they were constantly living under fear. Jewish leaders and policemen within ghettos had no choice but to work with German authorities. It’s also described that, “The Germans did not hesitate to kill those Jewish policemen who were perceived to have failed to carry out orders.” Along with living in what wasn’t exactly the most comfortable environment, their lives were constantly on the line. The Germans were willing to kill over simply failing to follow instructions, and terror overwhelmed those who were trapped in this secluded area. The Jews had to carefully think about every move they make so they wouldn’t upset the Germans in any way. It was a hard life to live, but what came next was unbearable.
Genocide, also known as the holocaust, resulted in the death of six million people. After the ghettos, Jewish people were imprisoned in concentration camps. Jewish Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel describes his experience in concentration camps in his book “Night”. When they first arrived, they were sorted out into two groups. In fear, he questioned, “which road led to prison and which to the crematoria.” The ones who were in good health and relatively young were enslaved doing nothing but hard labor. They spent their time in concentration camps starved, beaten, tortured, and always expected death. Those who became a survivor made it out barely alive. Those who weren’t in the best health and were considered old had to wait in line for a painful death. This already killed a big amount of Jews, and of course, inspections were done once a while to see whose health was failing and who was growing older. They were sentenced to death without hesitation. Later on, death camps were created. They had gas chambers that “killed tens of thousands of Jews, primarily forced laborers too weak to work,” (Final Solution- Overview). All these events are the “Final Solution”. Hitler first wanted to use them for labor work, but his primary goal at the end was to exterminate the entire Jewish population.
The Pyramid of Hate was the escalation of events that happened prior to the Holocaust. Adolf Hitler and his followers directly brought the enormous amount of oppression to the Jewish people of Germany. Yet, witnesses who were well aware this was morally wrong let Hitler gain enough power to the point where it was too late to stop him. The prejudice attitudes and acts of prejudice stages seemed harmless. They both involved scapegoating and stereotypes, something that seemed like would pass overtime. Then came the discrimination and violence stages. They were both filled with more serious oppressive treatment. Laws were created, and Jews were held against their will to live in ghettos. Still, everyone thought that this would be the worst form of oppression their government could give them. The citizens let it slide, allowing themselves to rely on some other being to help the Jewish people out. No one called for action. When the last stage of genocide came, it finally became clear what Hitler’s true intentions were. Indifference led to genocide, and Nazis relied on it in order to gain control. The traumatic events that happened in Germany taught other countries to not let power fall into the wrong hands. Anti-semitism still exists today, and allowing escalation is made a prime concern not to let happen again.
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