What is Genocide?

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Genocide is defined by the Holocaust Encyclopedia as a very specific term, referring to violent crimes committed against groups with the intent to destroy the existence of the group. (Holocaust Encyclopedia). The Holocaust was one of the most horrific events that took place in world history.

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The Holocaust started in 1933 during World War II, when Hitler took power and ended in 1945 when Hitler was defeated. There was no record that showed how many people were actually killed in the Holocaust, but it is estimated that the number of people killed was 6 million Jews, around 3 million Soviet prisoners of war, up to 250,000 people with mental or physical disabilities that were living in institutions, 196,000 to 220,000 Gypsies, and hundreds to possibly thousands of homosexuals, and many more people. The Holocaust was a result of hatred by Adolf Hitler which led to countless deaths of people.

Adolf Hitler was born April 20, 1889, in Braunau am Inn, Austria to Alois Hitler and Klara Hitler, and was the fourth of six children. He died in Berlin, Germany on April 30, 1945, by committing suicide in his underground bunker. He was baptized a Roman Catholic and grew up singing in the boys’ choir. When he was younger, Hitler wanted to become a priest and would even practice long sermons. Growing up, Hitler was an outgoing young boy; however, when his younger brother died at the age of six with measles, he became very distant. While Hitler attended school he found it to be easy which resulted in good grades. After he finished grade school, he had to pick a secondary school which was between a technical and a classical school. Because Hitler had always wanted to be an artist, he wanted to attend classical school, but given that his father wanted him to follow in his footsteps, he made him attend technical school. Since Hitler’s family had moved from the county the other kids in his school looked down on him, and because of this, it made him a lonely and unhappy young boy while attending school. In 1903, at the age of 13, his father suddenly died, and two years later his mother allowed him to drop out of school. Since he wanted to be an artist, after his mother’s death in 1907, he moved to Vienna where he applied to the Academy of Fine Arts but was rejected two times. After being rejected and living homeless, Hitler volunteered to join the German army near the beginning of World War I. It was during this time that Hitler came to love war.

Hitler’s rise to power came after World War I when he entered politics. After Germany had lost the war, the Germans were upset with the Treaty of Versailles which put the blame on Germany for the war and also took land from Germany. During this time, Germany was in an economic depression and many of the people were poor; therefore, the time was right for Hitler to rise to power. He gave powerful speeches and the people believed what he was saying. After Hitler joined the Nazi party, he pledged that he would restore Germany back to greatness if he became their leader; therefore, he was elected Chancellor of Germany. After becoming Chancellor, he soon became the dictator of Germany.

Who were the victims during the Holocaust? The Nazis targeted many groups on account of their race, beliefs, or what they did. The Jews were the primary victims during this time; however, many other groups were affected. One of the groups that Hitler felt threatened by were Jehovah’s Witnesses because they stood firm in their beliefs, and when they were asked to sign documents of loyalty to the Nazi belief they refused to do so. After their refusal, they were forced to wear purple armbands and thousands were put into jail because they were regarded as being a traitor. Another group that was targeted was Gypsies. They were an inferior group and thought to be worthless. Homosexuals were arrested and sent to prison or concentration camps where they were forced to wear pink triangles to signify being gay. There were many other countless people that were targeted in the Holocaust and forced into concentration camps or killed.

From the start of World War II, the Nazis moved hundreds of thousands of Jews and other victims into very small, overcrowded areas of cities called ghettoes. People had to wear badges or armbands which identified them as being a Jew, a Gypsy, gay, etc. Life was horrendous in the ghettos. There was overcrowding, plumbing did not work, and human waste and garbage were thrown into the streets. Because of the overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, diseases spread quickly through the people. A large number of people died in the ghettos due to starvation or sickness, while some killed themselves. In 1941, the Germans started to move people from the ghettos to concentration camps. They started with the people who were not useful “ the old, sick, and very young. The people in concentration camps were required to do forced labor or they were kept there for execution. There were five concentration camps during the Holocaust “ Belzec, Chelmno, Sobibor, Treblinka, and the largest one Auschwitz. According to the Holocaust Encyclopedia, on September 3, 1941 the first gassings of prisoners occur in Auschwitz I. The SS tests Zyklon B gas by killing 600 Soviet prisoners of war and 250 other ill or weak prisoners. (Holocaust Encyclopedia). It was at Auschwitz that the lives of more than 1.1 million were taken by gas chambers, crematoriums, starvation, and disease.

In conclusion, the Holocaust was one of the most horrific events that took place in world history and affected many lives. The horror began when Adolf Hitler took control of Germany in 1933 and ordered the death of countless numbers of people for different reasons.

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