Anti-Semitism and Kristallnacht
By Ramy Bultaif
What is Anti-semitism ?
What is Kristallnacht ?
What were Concentration Camps ?
Dachau , one of the first Nazi concentration camps, opened in March 1933, and at first interned only known political opponents of the Nazis: Communists, Social Democrats, and others who had been condemned in a court of law. Gradually, a more diverse group was imprisoned, including Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, Gypsies , dissenting clergy, homosexuals, as well as others who were denounced for making critical remarks about the Nazis.
Six death or extermination camps were constructed in Poland. These so-called death factories were Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblink, Belzec , Sobibór, Lublin (also called Majdanek ), and Chelmno . The primary purpose of these camps was the methodical killing of millions of innocent people. The first, Chelmno, began operating in late 1941. The others began their operations in 1942.
In the beginning of the systematic mass murder of Jews, Nazis used mobile killing squads called Einsatzgruppen. The Einsatzgruppen consisted of four units of between 500 and 900 men each which followed the invading German troops into the Soviet Union. By the time Himmler ordered a halt to the shooting in the fall of 1942, they had murdered approximately 1,500,000 Jews. The death camps proved to be a better, faster, less personal method for killing Jews, one that would spare the shooters, not the victims, emotional anguish.
Who were the Sonderkommando ?
In April 1942, shortly after the mass extermination of Jews began in Birkenau, the first Sonderkommando was created there. It was made up exclusively of Jewish prisoners. Some of them worked in barracks where they performed the sorting of clothing and other property of the murdered and preparing it for transport to the Kanada warehouses. Others were employed in directly operating the gas chamber, dragging corpses out, extracting gold teeth, cutting off hair, washing away traces of blood and excrement from the floors. Another group of prisoners dug pits, the mass graves into which corpses were thrown at first. By mid‑1942, there were already two Sonderkommandos working at the Little Red and Little White Houses. Soon after, some of them were sent to dig up the mass graves, disinter the bodies, and burn them on pyres. When this task was completed in early December 1942, these prisoners were murdered in the gas chamber. The chronology of events is not completely clear; it is known that at least two groups of Sonderkommando prisoners attempted to escape around this time. As a result, the SS murdered all the prisoners from the gas chamber crews. Prisoners from transports arriving to Auschwitz were formed into a new Sonderkommando.
In February 1944, when fewer transports were arriving, half of its 400 members were murdered. As soon as the Sonderaktion “Ungarn” began, the Kommando was expanded to about 900 prisoners. In September 1944, the size of the Sonderkommando was again reduced by 200 prisoners. Anticipating further gambits of this sort, the members of the Sonderkommando put up resistance in October 1944. As a result of the mutiny and executions performed on that day by the SS men, about 450 from 660 prisoners of this Kommando were killed. Reduced in size to about 200, and later to 100 prisoners, the Sonderkommando remained in the camp until evacuation in January 1945.
Whats were the Ghettos ?
During World War II, ghettos were city districts (often enclosed) in which the Germans concentrated the municipal and sometimes regional Jewish population and forced them to live under miserable conditions. Ghettos isolated Jews by separating Jewish communities from the non-Jewish population and from other Jewish communities. The Germans established at least 1,000 ghettos in German-occupied and annexed Poland and the Soviet Union alone. German occupation authorities established the first ghetto in Poland in Piotrków Trybunalski in October 1939.
The Germans regarded the establishment of ghettos as a provisional measure to control and segregate Jews while the Nazi leadership in Berlin deliberated upon options to realize the goal of removing the Jewish population. In many places ghettoization lasted a relatively short time. Some ghettos existed for only a few days, others for months or years. With the implementation of the "Final Solution" (the plan to murder all European Jews) beginning in late 1941, the Germans systematically destroyed the ghettos. The Germans and their auxiliaries either shot ghetto residents in mass graves located nearby or deported them, usually by train, to killing centers where they were murdered. German SS and police authorities deported a small minority of Jews from ghettos to forced-labor camps and concentration camps.
What was the Aftermath of The Holocaust ?
Two large and on-going international needs emerged as World War II was ending: 1) retribution for perpetrators, and 2) the re-settlement of people uprooted by the war. These complex issues have occupied the hearts and minds of thousands around the world for decades. Even today, unresolved issues about the Holocaust remain.
International and national trials conducted in the Soviet Union, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, and other European countries indicted hundreds of war criminals. Defendants ranged from Hitler's deputy minister, to the editor-in-chief of a malicious antisemitic newspaper, Der Stürmer, to concentration camp guards and members of Einsatzgruppen.
Seven to nine million people were displaced by the end of the war. At the end of 1945, 1.5 to 2 million displaced persons (DPs) did not want to return to their homes, fearing economic and social repercussions, or even annihilation. About ten percent of these people were Jewish. The Allies set up DP camps in Germany, which American, British, and French military controlled, and the United Nations took care of. One question that faced the Western world was, "who will offer a home to these displaced people?"
Beginning in the summer of 1945, a series of high-level visitors examined the DP camps. Visitors included Earl G. Harrison, President Truman's envoy; David Ben-Gurion, future Prime Minister of Israel; and the Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry. Harrison wrote, "We appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them, except that we don't exterminate them."
Reports by these influential visitors resulted in improved living conditions in the DP camps. Jewish DPs were recognized as a special ethnic group, with their own needs, and were moved to separate camps enjoying a wide degree of autonomy. Agencies of the United Nations and of Jews from Palestine, the United States, and Britain became involved with the camps. They provided vocational and agricultural education, and financial, legal, and psychological assistance. Several newspapers were published in the camps, keeping communication open between the DPs and the rest of the world.
Organizations, many with a Zionist focus, formed within the camps. Some Jews envisioned a Jewish homeland, considered by many to be Palestine. The British White Paper of 1939, however, still restricted immigration to Palestine by Jews.
While some of the international community were focusing on the survivors of the Holocaust, others were dealing with punishing to the perpetrators. The Allied troops were so outraged at what they found at concentration camps that they demanded German civilians directly confront the atrocities. U.S. troops led compulsory tours of concentration camps to the neighboring population. Some German citizens were forced to partake in the burial of countless corpses found in the camps.
Other more formal punishment was being discussed in the courtroom. Of the many post-war trials, those held at Nuremberg are the most well known. During the last years of the war, responding to reports of death and labor camps, the Allied countries created a War Crimes Commission and began the process of listing war criminals with the intent to prosecute. After the war, the International Military Tribunal was chartered. It composed of the four Allied nations: the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and was charged with the task of prosecuting major Nazi war criminals
Restum, Erica. "Kristallnacht Curriculum." Kristallnacht Curriculum. ￼Jewish Museum-Milwaukee, Nov. 2008. Web. 17 Jan. 2013. <￼￼http://www.holocaustcentermilwaukee.org/docs/Kristallnacht_Curriculum.pdf>.
I used this site because it is used as a curriculum for teaching about the Holocaust, so it would be a reliable source.
"The Holocaust: A Learning Site for Students." The "Night of Broken Glass" N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2013. I used this site because it is from the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum, so I know that is a very good source.
"Jewish Ghetto's During The Holocaust Www.HolocaustResearchProject.org." Jewish Ghetto's During The Holocaust Www.HolocaustResearchProject.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2013. <http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/ghettos/index.html>. I needed some quick information about the ghetto’s during the Holocausts, and this looked like a good website.
"Holocaust Timeline." The History Place - Holocaust Timeline. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Feb. 2013. <http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/holocaust/timeline.html>. This was a very helpful website because it had all of the information from the Holocaust in a timeline form, so I was able to pinpoint certain events, and use those dates in my research.
"Kristallnacht-Who Was Involved?" Kristallnacht. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2013. <http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/online/kristallnacht/issues/k-night2.htm>. This was another website from The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and it talked about how Kristallnacht started.
"Holocaust History." Translation: Nuremberg Race Laws. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2013. <http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007903>.
"Kristallnacht: The November 1938 Pogroms." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. This was a site that was about the Nuremberg Race Laws and I thought it was a good website because, it is also from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
"Jspace.com." Night of Broken Glass: Remembering Kristallnacht, 74 Years Later (VIDEO) / Jspace News. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Mar. 2013. This was also a picture of a burning synagogue during the event of Kristallnacht.
"History of Holocaust | First Anti-Jewish Riots of Kristallnacht | Event View." History of Holocaust | First Anti-Jewish Riots of Kristallnacht | Event View. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2013. This was a website for a picture of a synagogue that was burned down during Kristallnacht.