The Holocaust

The 'Final Solution'

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What was the Holocaust?

The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazi regime. The killings took place in Europe between 1933 and 1945. Adolf Hitler was the leader of the German Nazi party. The Nazis believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that the Jews were "inferior" as a threat to the so-called German racial community. Groups that included Communists, Socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses and homosexuals, were persecuted. German authorities also targeted other groups like the Gypsies, the disabled and some of the Slavic people because of their perceived "racial inferiority."

What was the 'Final Solution?'

The 'Final Solution' was the mass extermination of 6 million Jews. Existing concentration and labour camps were already being converted into death camps. All Jews in Nazi-occupied areas would be sent to Eastern Europe. Jewish people who were fit, would provide hard labour until the work killed them, while others died in mass gassings. The 'Final Solution' was split into stages. After the Nazi rise to power, racism resulted in anti-Jewish legislation, boycotts and the 'Night of Broken Glass', aimed to remove the Jews from the German society.

What events lead up to the Holocaust?

In January 1933, the Nazi party took power in Germany and Hitler became chancellor. He managed to maintain a posture of legality throughout the Nazification process. During the next six years, Adolf Hitler completely changed Germany into a police state. The Nazis "temporarily restricted" civil liberties for all citizens. The Reighstag building wents up in flames. The Nazis declared that this was the beginning of the Communist revolution. Within months of Hitler appointed as Chancellor, the Dachau concentration camp was created. Communists, Socialists and labour leaders were arrested by the Nazis.

In 1939, Germany invaded Poland and world war II began. The Nazis ordered Polish Jews into restricted ghettos and forced them into slave labour.

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How were Jews easily placed into Gas Chambers?

A gas chamber is an airtight room that can be filled with poisonous gas to kill people or animals. The Jews were easily placed into gas chambers by the Sonderkommandos. Their job was to make sure the Jews were calm as they walk into the gas chambers. Then they would dispose their bodies by dumping them in mass burial pits or cremating them in ovens.

The way Nazis placed Jews into gas chambers was very manipulative. Jews were told that they were going in to have a shower so they would strip all their clothes off and go inside in big groups. When they were put into the gas chambers, the poisonous gas, called Zyklon B, would fill up the room and kill them.

The Ghettos

The ghettos was an isolated or segregated area. Life in the ghettos was terrifying. Many ghettos had walls around them, both to separate the people inside and to prevent the spread of epidemics, such as typhus. Apartments usually has several families living inside which didn’t allow any privacy for individuals. Plumbing was broken and human waste was thrown into the streets along with garbage. Diseases were spread around to many people and that was one of the ways people died. If someone was weak, then they would be killed because they were unfit and unwell to work or move around. People were weak because they didn't get enough food. The food they mainly were served were beetroot soup or cabbage soup. Beetroot soup consisted of just water with bits of beetroot inside whereas in cabbage soup consisted of rotted cabbage. There wasn't much access to water. Germans tried to starve residents by allowing them to purchase small amounts of bread, potato and fat. Some individuals ended their lives to escape from this torture.