What was the Holocaust?
The Holocaust was a bizarre event in 20th century history. It evolved gradually between 1933 and 1945. It began with discrimination; then the Jews were separated from their communities and persecuted; and finally they were treated as less than human beings and murdered.
Numerous races of people were discriminated against during the Holocaust. Adolf Hitler had a perfect image of what his followers should look like: pure German Highland with blond hair and blue eyes. He called this race of people "Aryan." Hitler began separating those who were not part of his "superior race." The majority of this was the Jews. But there was other people discriminated against as well--African Americans, Homosexuals, Gypsies, the disabled, Slavic people, and mixed-races.
The first biased act against the Jews was forcing the Jewish people to sew a yellow Star of David on any part of clothing. Next was the passing of the "Nuremberg Laws" by the Germans right before the start of World War II. These rules banned marriages between Jews and Germans, excluded Jews from voting or holding office, made Jews with German-sounding names to adopt Jewish names, stopped the Jews to work as: civil servants, journalist, farmers, teachers, actors, and criticized the Jews' right to operate a business. They were also banned from living in certain neighborhoods and forced to live in poor, crowded, and cramped neighborhoods called Ghettos.
Following World War I, Germany was in extreme debt. To pay back their debts, the German government caused hyper-inflation in Germany. Inflation increased so much that people's savings became useless, and they began taking wheel barrows full of money to buy simple products such as bread and butter. Needing a victim, the German government blamed the Jews, who had previously been victims of discrimination. Since the discrimination of Jews was not a different idea, it was easy for the Nazi Party to persuade German citizens that the Jews were at fault for super-inflation, and finally the depression they were in. The public believed that there was only one way for the nation to go back to the way it was before the war: exterminate the Jewish race completely.
During the Second World War the Nazis wanted to murder the entire Jewish population of Europe and to destroy its culture. In 1941 there were about 11 million Jews living in Europe; by May 1945 the Nazis had murdered six million of them. One and a half million of these were children.
Whilst the Jews of Europe were the Nazis’ main target, many millions of other people were also imprisoned, enslaved and executed. These people included gypsy, those with mental or physical disabilities, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, trade unionists and political opponents.
The Nazis did not act alone. They were supported and backed by people from within the countries that occupied across Europe. Most countries stood by while the Nazis and their supporters carried out the mass murder of the Jewish people.
Who was involved in the Holocaust?
There were millions of individuals affected by the Holocaust. Those that were really in the Holocaust straightforwardly incorporate the Jews and different inferiors that were persecuted or imprisoned under German rule as well as the Nazis and their supporters that did all of the discriminating, and eventually murdering, of more than 11 million people in total. There are basically two sides to this event: the Jews and the Nazis. Other countries didn't get involved until it was much too late and while their support won the war and stopped the killing, many also let the Nazis get away with their totalitarian takeovers in the beginning
The focus of people in the Holocaust usually lays on the Jews, as well as the African Americans, Homosexuals, Gypsies, the disabled, Slavic people, mixed-races. They were persecuted and eventually murdered just for being what they were. In the Nazi ideology, there was a desire for a master race, and for Aryan authority. Hitler used propaganda to turn this ideology into the concept that Jews were ruining Germany for the Germans, which helped him win the office and the general public so that he could carry on with his plans.
The Nazis are another major part regarding the Holocaust. Hitler took office from 1933 until 1945. Concentration camps were built by Hitler's top men, who helped create the Four Year Plan and win support for the Final Solution. In order to gain support, Hitler and his men had posed the "Jewish question" to the Germans, which involved explaining why they were the problem and how they were going to get rid of the problem so that Germany could prosper.
There were so many people in the Holocaust for the 12 years that it lasted, from famous leaders and political people to families, children, and those who had no idea what they were about to experience. With more than 11 million people dead and only a small number of survivors who are able to tell the tale, history has been lucky to get so much information about this event and how it emerged.
Where did the Holocaust occur?
The Holocaust originated in Nazi Germany during the late-1930's and quickly spread throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Germany was the core of the event. On 12 March 1938 the Nazis occupied Austria. Later that year they trooped into the Sudetenland, a part of Czechoslovakia and on 15 March 1939 the German army invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia. This brought over half a million Jews under German control.
The German invasion of Western Poland on 1 September 1939 led to the start of the Second World War. Between 1939 and June 1941 the German army invaded and occupied many countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Denmark, Yugoslavia, Greece, Norway and Western Poland. By this time many millions of Jews were living in territories under German control.
The experience of Jews in countries that were invaded and occupied by the Nazis was often quite similar to that of the Jews within Germany. However, what was different was the pace at which the Nazis endorsed anti-Jewish measures.
Holocaust-related activities were located throughout those occupied grounds, and included areas from Russian hegemony, like the Baltic and Ukraine. The Holocaust was largely contained of a vast system of concentration camps that were built by the Germans in their own country as well as in Poland. Therefore, major Holocaust-related activities took place in areas where there was not concentration camps established. In such cases, most obviously, the September 1941 massacre at Babi Yar, a site near the Ukrainian capital Kiev, where an approximated 100,000 Jews were rounded up and executed by gunshot, the German killing machine preceded the founding of the link of camps that were a product of the more organised and industrialised plan to more efficiently rid Europe of its Jewish population.
Some countries, like France, that persisted German occupation, were not entirely innocent in their treatment of their Jewish populations. Actually, the fascist political movement known as Vichy France collaborated with the Germans in rounding up and deporting to German, tens of thousands of French Jews and Jews who had fled to France from Germany. An estimated 75,000 such Jews were deported to concentration camps. Other countries were similarly complicit in collaborating with the Nazis, including Romania and Bulgaria.
How and why did the Holocaust occur?
The word 'Holocaust' comes from the Greek word Holocauston. The first part of the word 'Holo' means whole, and the second part of the word 'causton' means burnt, so the word 'Holocaust' means 'totally burnt'.
The Holocaust was a shocking practice of genocide. Genocide is the deliberate attempt to physically kill every single member of the targeted ethnic, national or 'racial' group.
In 1933 and approximate of nine million Jews lived in the 21 countries of Europe that would be occupied by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. By 1945 two out of every three European Jews had been killed.
The Nazis believed that exterminating the Jews was right because the Jews were not only a 'low' and 'evil' race, but were affecting the lives of the Germans negatively. Hitler and the Nazis blamed them for all the social and economic problems in Germany. As the 'pure Aryan race', it was therefore their right and obligation to get rid of the Jews. Anti-Semitism was a large part of the Nazis ideas. Hitler wanted to exterminate all Jews.
Many people in Germany supported the Nazis and their racist ideas.
Jews became desperate to leave Germany. But, it was very difficult for them to get into other countries. Governments all over the world came up with all sorts of excuses why their countries could not take more immigrants.
In 1938 the Nazis organised violent attacks on Jewish citizens. There was so much broken glass in the streets, that this became known as the Night of Broken Glass. By 1938, the lives of Jews living in Germany had already become unbearable. Things got worse after the Second World War broke out in 1939, and the Nazi's began adopting their policy of Genocide.
In the late 1930's the Nazis killed thousands of handicapped Germans by lethal injection and poisonous gas. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, mobile killing units (group of policemen called Einsatzgruppen) and the German Army began shooting massive numbers of Jews and Gypsies in open fields.
Victims were ordered to undress and were forced into gas chambers that were disguised as shower rooms. They were locked inside, and poisonous gas was released into the room. They died within fifteen minutes. After gassing, everything valuable was taken from the bodies of the victims. The bodies were pushed into giant ovens or burning pits.