The Victims of the Holocaust

Besides Jews, who else was targeted and why?

The Homosexuals

Racial and religious groups are the most recognized victims of the Holocaust, but people forget to mention the fact that people with different sexual orientations were discriminated against. The specific reason that the Nazis discriminated against gay men was because they were thought of as weak and only “partial men” in a society where there was no room for weakness. It was commonplace for German soldiers and Nazi officials to publicly humiliate homosexual prisoners. They would plaster signs on their chests or backs and force them to walk around. Sometimes they would just beat them to near death in public before transferring them to camps. However, these men had no idea what was waiting for them there. Treatment towards gay men in all types of camps was especially harsh because the Nazis believed that they needed their strength to be tested if they were to eventually be fixed and put into Nazi society. They would be given beyond strenuous jobs that would result in death or severe and painful injuries. If they were in fact sent to an infirmary, once the doctor or nurse were informed that the individual was a homosexual, they were ordered to euthanize them immediately. When it came to the punishment of homosexuals in camps, it seems apart from the capable thought process. Some of these punishments included being drenched in ice water and left to freeze to death in subzero temperatures. It also was not uncommon for guards to strip prisoners and whip them more than twenty times, then pour salt water over their wounds, leaving them to suffer as other prisoners watched. Homosexuals were also extremely isolated in their struggles in camps. They were separated from all other groups in camps because the Nazis thought of homosexuality like a disease To help prevent the spread of this "disease" homosexuals, if given the chance for survival, were sterilized. Though the exact figure of homosexuals killed during the Holocaust is unknown, historians have been able to estimate tens upon tens of thousands of homosexuals were killed within a ten to twelve year period. However, if one were to ask someone on the street if they could name homosexuals as a victim during the Holocaust, more than half would be unable to.


A few sources:


http://www.stop-homophobia.com/thegayholocaust.htm

http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005261

People of African Descent

As one of the racial groups less acknowledged as true victims of the Holocaust, people from African descent all over the eastern span of the world were greatly affected by that specific time period. This was all because the Nazis “justified” this with their ideology of a Superior Aryan Race, a race that had no room for people of color. The Nazis believed that the interaction between mixed races, especially people of African descent, would cause the loss of racial pride. They assumed that once Germans began to interact with people of different races, they would become less focused on perfecting their own. Therefore, the Nazis were determined to rid their society of them. To prevent the spread of “alien blood”, as they would call it, they would kill all adults that stood in their way and forcibly sterilize children, kidnapping them and in some cases leaving them without their families. As a part of the terrible Nazi propaganda campaigns, ads were plastered all over cities, depicting people of color of being horrid, disgusting people who lived to commit vulgar crimes and hurt people. Like other victims of the Holocaust, people of African ethnicity were sometimes sent to so-called “research centers” where they would undergo unthinkable experiments, that should be more appropriately labeled as tortures. Prisoners were regularly exposed to radiation, dangerous viruses and bacteria, and amputation. Nazis would rarely come up with any real discoveries and used this as another excuse for killing off thousands of people. After experiments were conducted, if a prisoner was lucky, they would die from the trauma imposed upon them. On the other hand, if one wasn’t so lucky, they would have to live with their commonly severe hindrances for the rest of their lives. Like the homosexuals, no distinct or reliable death toll has been uncovered, so the number of African Europeans killed during the Holocaust, though predicted to be fairly high, is unknown. What historians do know to gauge what immense impact the Nazis had on this race, is that in just one native African civilization, upwards of four hundred children were sterilized against their will. African Europeans were treated in such a way throughout history that they seemed to be forgotten over time as Holocaust victims. They were simply thought of as a minority, but in reality they were no different from the victims still mourned over today.


A few sources:


http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005479

http://www.fasebj.org/content/22/2/332.full

The Jews

As the poster child of victims during the Holocaust, Jews were the most severely targeted group. Of course, the Nazi law made excuses and rules that made it easy for Jews to become sitting ducks in a sense. The reason for Hitler’s hate of Jews has been bounced around for decades, but the more common explanation is that he thought of them to blame for many of the problems that Germany was going through. This included the horrible economic collapse and the loss of WWII. This was then paired with his personal experiences with the Jews. Humiliation of Jewish citizens happened on a daily basis, and what they did or who they were did not determine whether or not it would happen. They could even be married or closely related with an "Aryan", but that would not sway the Nazis to spare them from embarrassment. Jewish people were commonly the first to be killed upon entry to the concentration camps. However, in cases where the Jews were not killed upon admittance, they were transferred either to work or labor camps, or leased to companies for work. These jobs, however, were not any normal labor jobs assigned to prisoners in camps, they were jobs that usually resulted in severe injury or death. Since Hitler’s well-known charisma sparked the Nazi uprising in Germany, his hatred was spread throughout the Nazi community. This caused specific and especially horrid occurrences in camps. More specifically, the Jewish prisoners were not allowed within a certain vicinity of the fences. A recurring game between officers and prisoners would be the officers taking prisoners caps and throwing them past the boundary line that the prisoners were permitted. They would then order the prisoners to go retrieve their caps. Either way the prisoners were bound to be shot by the officers because if they did not retrieve their caps, they would not be following order, but if they did retrieve their cap, they would be violating camp rules and would be shot on the spot. The officers would then avoid punishment by blaming the deaths on absurd reasons such as suicide or assault. There was an upward of six million Jews killed during the Holocaust, which is the second highest death toll within a group during the Holocaust. Anyone can most likely name the Jews as a victim group of the Holocaust, but very few can name why they were actually discriminated against, and what the Nazis actually did to them.


A few sources:


http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005202

http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/holocaust/about/01/persecution.asp

The Mentally and Physically Disabled

Though the discrimination and the hunting of groups was terrible in itself, at least some of the groups could effectively go into hiding or try to hide their identity to protect themselves. However, for the mentally and physically disabled, like the African Europeans, it was harder to hide, or hide who they were, because they could not do anything about their disability and that made it easier for the Nazis to be so hostile to them. The disabled were thought of as people who could not function as citizens in society. Any mental or physical disability was considered unwanted in the Aryan society. Even someone with a weak knee or mild anxiety could be targeted. People with disabilities were not commonly sent to concentration camps. These people were more commonly sent to medical facilities where the Euthanasia Program had been implemented. The Euthanasia Program was a program also known as “mercy killing.” It was used throughout the holocaust and killed hundreds upon thousands, if not millions, of people. Since the Nazis thought of the disabled to be more parasite than human, they were usually shown no chance of survival in an Aryan society. In the rare case that they were given a chance to live, the people remaining were sterilized to prevent the spread of mental or physical illness to the next generation. The estimate of the amount of people sterilized alone reaches upwards of five thousand in total and the number of disabled persons killed during the Holocaust adds up to around 250 thousand people in total.


A few sources:


http://www.ushmm.org/outreach/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007683

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/fact/the_holocaust_and_disabled_people_faq_frequently_asked_questions.shtml