The Holocaust or Shoah usually refers to the Nazi German Holocaust though other cases of genocide are also referred to as holocausts. The Nazi Holocaust was the brutal massacre of millions of people, Jewish, amongst others of many walks of life, by the fascist German government led by Adolf Hitler. Perhaps as many as 17 million people were killed, and about 6.5 million of them were Jews. The victims of the Holocaust also included 3.3 million Soviet POWs, Romani, Communists, Socialists, Pacifists, Gay people, children, women, the elderly, and people who were physically and/or mentally handicapped. 50 to 60 million people in total were killed during World War II but the Holocaust was particularly repellent as it involved killing helpless prisoners (mostly civilian), even children who were not a threat to any side in the war.
- 1 Background
- 2 Austria and Germany
- 3 Hungary
- 4 Minecraft
- 5 Poland
- 6 United States
- 7 Madagascar Plan
- 8 SS St. Louis
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Though many people date the beginning of the Holocaust to 1941 when the first concentration camp was established, it actually began much earlier (1933). Minorities were already being systematically targeted by Adolf Hitler, the Nazis, and those in power.
Austria and Germany
For starters, on 1 April 1933, Germans were encouraged not to buy from Jewish-owned shops and businesses. Additionally, Stars of David were painted on windows and signs that read "Deutsche! Wehrt Euch! Kauft nicht bei Juden!" (English: Germans! Defend yourselves! Do not buy from Jews!) were hung on walls. This was known as the Judenboykott, or the Jewish Boycott.
Music & Film
Starting in 1933, the Nazis forbade American swing music and jazz, and just about anything that sounded "un-German." Hans Scholl, one of the founding members of the Weiß Rose (English: White Rose), even found himself in trouble when he played a Russian folksong on his guitar. Speaking of which, a peaceful resistance group known as the Swingjugend (English: Swing Youth) started taking hold in the Hitler Youth. Despite being entirely peaceful, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS wrote confidential memorandum, warning the police about "young people who ignored German culture and preferred jazz music and swing dance." According to Himmler, the teenagers said "Swing Heil" instead of "Sieg Heil." Himmler ordered the Gestapo to arrest the Swing Youth ringleaders and anyone who supported them, and then send them to concentration camps. "They must first of all be thrashed and then exercised and compelled to do hard labour." Himmler further instructed the Gestapo to arrest parents who allowed their children to join the Swing Youth and who harboured liberal beliefs, having them sent to concentration camps and their property confiscated.
(((Max Reinhardt))), an Austrian-American theatre and film director made a film version of A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1935, although it was immediately banned due to his and (((Felix Mendelssohn)))'s (a German musician who's music was featured in the film) Jewish ancestry.
Military & Prohibition
On 7 April 1933, the German parliament passed the Law for the Restoration of Professional Civil Service, which prohibited Jews and anyone who didn't "give their fullest support to the national State" from serving in the Armed Forces. Shortly after, another law known as the Law on the Admission of the Legal Profession was passed which disbarred Jews. A number of people might point out that Hitler was anti-drinking and that was why the law was passed, but this was still an act of anti-Semitism as the law only extended to Jews. In contrast, the Americans would end prohibition in December of the same year.
First Concentration Camp
In Spring 1933, the first concentration camps were set up. This would include Dachau, possibly the second-most infamous (and longest-operating) concentration camp. Oddly, instead of it holding mainly Jews at the time, it was intended to hold Communists and Social Democrats.
Anti-Semitism began infiltrating education in Germany as early as 1933. On 16 June 1933, the Nazis passed the Law Against Overcrowding in Schools in Universities, which limited the percentage of Jews enrolled in a public school to no more than 5% of the total student population. "They [the Jews] have no business being among us true Germans," a teacher said to his students. In truth, Jews numbered no more than 500,000 of the total German population in 1933, which was 67 million, so this was a clear act of anti-Semitism. Additionally, anti-Semitism was being taught in books and racial science lessons.
For instance, Der Giftpilz, or The Poisonous Mushroom, a 58-page anti-Semitic children's book, was being issued to public schools. Unfortunately, the book was taught as fact instead of fiction during science, with students being forced to swallow the information in it with an uncritical mind.
Aside from introducing books that contained ant-Semitic material into public schools, the Nazis also banned books that were written by Jewish authors. On one occasion, on 10 May 1933, in many German cities, university students and Sturmabteilungen tossed books written by Jews onto a pile before setting it on fire. Among the books was the work of Heinrich Heine, a German poet born to a Jewish family that later converted to Lutheranism. One hundred years earlier, Heine warned "Where one burns books, one will, in the end, burn people." It took only eight more years for the Nazis to fulfill Heine's prophecy.
Although the Nazi doctrine already had spread to public schools, twelve official, state-owned and state-sponsored schools known as the Adolf Hitler Schools were established. There, not only did they focus on anti-Semitism through literacy but also through physical training. Additionally, a number of special BDM leadership schools were created for girls, although fewer in number.
Catholics were also targeted. According to Elizabeth Vetter (a German girl who attended a Catholic school in Rötz, Germany), "Nazi soldiers took down crucifixes from the classroom walls of her Catholic school. In their place, the soldiers hung portraits of Adolf Hitler [...] After that, Elisabeth and her classmates learned a new way to pray. They extended their arms in the Nazi salute, saying 'Adolf Hitler, guide us into the new Reich." Mind you, this was not a Catholic Socialist who said this but rather a girl who supported the Nazis and was a member of the Bund Deutscher Mädel (German Girls' League) that reported her parents to Hitler Youth leaders after they had scolded her for supporting Hitler.
In 1935-1936, Jews in Germany held most professions in education, public health, science, et cetera. Hitler "created" millions of jobs by firing many Jewish teachers, regardless of their education, teaching ability, or accomplishments; and replaced them with more "Aryan" ones. As a result, German schools lost some of their best minds. Some such as (((Einstein))) even fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and started a new life in the United States out of fear of being prosecuted.
Night of the Long Knives
The Night of the Long Knives was a political purge against the Sturmabteilungen between 30 June to 2 July 1934 that resulted in at least 85 deaths, although estimate bring that total to 1,000. Heinrich Himmler, Rudolf Hess, Josef Goebbels, and Hermann Göring wanted to secure more political power by offing the Head of the SA, Ernst Röhm. One major reasons they targeted Röhm was due to his homosexuality, which, of course, they were bigoted against. Knowing that Hitler wouldn't be convinced by this alone however, Himmler and Göring, with their Gestapo, managed to fabricate evidence suggesting that Röhm had been paid 12 million Reichsmarks by France to overthrow Hitler. Hitler was convicted and approved of the plan, which was codenamed 'Operation Hummingbird.'
On 30 June 1934, sometime between 06:00 and 07:00, the German leadership arrived at a hotel in Bad Wiessee, where Röhm was located. Still in bed, the SA were immediately overwhelmed. Hitler personally stormed the hotel and confronted Röhm with a Walther P38 in hand, yelling "Get up," "you are under arrest." Himmler remained outside the building.
Röhm was incarcerated and held in Cell 70 at Stadelheim Prison, Münich (one of the largest prisons in Germany). At first, Hitler was unsure of whether or not to kill him but he was eventually persuaded by Göring and Himmler. There, on 1 July 1934, he was provided with a Browning pistol and a single cartridge by SS-Brigadeführer Theodor Eicke and SS-Obersturmbannführer Michael Lippert and told that he had 10 minutes to commit suicide or they would kill him. Röhm waited and was eventually shot.
After the purge, Röhm was replaced by SA-Obergruppenführer Viktor Lutze who was probably straight.
Herschel Grynszpan, a Polish Jew, fled Nazi Germany and headed to France. After being made aware that his family was deported by German authorities from Hanover, Germany (where they had lived for 24 years) to Poland in 1938, he sought out vengeance. On 7 November 1938, at the age of 17, Grynszpan purchased a gun and made his way to the German Embassy in Paris. There, he shot Ernst vom Rath (the Third Secretary of the German Embassy to Paris), who would die two days later as a result of the gunshot wounds. He made no attempts to escape from the French authorities and, when questioned, made a statement about the inhumane treatments of Jews, stating "Being a Jew is not a crime. I am not a dog. I have a right to live and the Jewish people have a right to exist on earth. Wherever I have been I have been chased like an animal."
Grynszpan's plan would backfire, however, as between 9-10 November 1938, Hitler was informed about vom Rath's death and Kristallnacht would occur in Germany and Austria; an anti-Jewish pogrom in which Jewish-owned homes, businesses, and synagogues were burnt, looted and destroyed. By the end of the event, more than 900 synagogues had been set on fire, and 30,000 Austrian Jews had been deported to concentration camps. Nearly 100 Jews had been killed in the streets during the pogrom, being burnt alive or beaten to death with clubs and axes. The perpetrators included the SA, the SS (who were ordered by Himmler to dress as ordinary civilians), Nazi officials, and even regular German civilians. A week after the event, the Nazis made it illegal for Jews to reopen businesses unless they were managed by non-Jews. Shortly afterwards, on 15 November, the Nazis barred Jewish children from attending public school. Additionally, the German parliament passed the Decree on Eliminating the Jews from German Economic Life, which prohibited Jews from selling goods or services anywhere, from engaging in crafts work, from serving as the managers of any firms, and from being members of cooperatives. Josef Goebbels, who was the primary perpetrator of the event, was charged by other high-profile Nazi officials, with them demanding that he find a way to pay for the irreparable damages, to which, in response, he passed The Decree on the Penalty Payment by Jews Who Are German Subjects, which imposed a fine of one-billion Reichsmarks on the Jewish community as the punishment for the crime the Nazis perpetrated.
The Jewish Austrian population declined after Kristallnacht, with Austrian Jews fleeing Nazi-Occupied Europe and heading for other countries.
As for Grynszpan himself, he would be handed over to the Gestapo in June 1940 after the Fall of Paris, and was sent from prison to prison to be interrogated. During his interrogations, in an attempt to thwart the Nazis' plans, he fabricated a gay relationship with vom Rath which prevented the case from ever going to trial. All traces of him would disappear after 1942, however, which suggests that he was killed during the Holocaust.
On 15 September 1935, the Nüremburg Laws were passed. The first law, the Reichsbürgergesetz, deprived Jews of citizenship and designating them "subjects of the state". In simpler terms, Jews no longer could vote and basic human rights didn't apply to them. The second was the Blutschutzgesetz, which forbade marriage or sexual relations between Jews and non-Jewish Germans. These laws extended to anyone who was a Jew, had Jewish parents, or at least three Jewish grandparents.
In 5 October 1938, the Reich Ministry of the Interior, headed by Hermann Göring, invalidated all Jewish passports, requiring that Jews surrender their old passports, which only would become valid once the letter 'J' (standing for 'Jude') was stamped on them. Additionally, earlier in August a law was signed which mandated that Jewish men and women bearing first names of “non-Jewish” origin had to add “Israel” and “Sara" to them, which sounds pretty stupid but actually happened.
After the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in early 1939, the Kingdom of Hungary decided to take advantage of the situation and followed suite by immediately annexed the remainder of Carpathian Ruthenia (part of Slovakia) on 14 March. On 27 September 1940 the Hungarian Prime Minister, Döme Sztójay, possibly out of fear of being invaded by Nazi Germany, signed the Tripartite Pact, establishing Hungary as one of the Axis Powers. In April 1944, Hungary began deporting Jews to Nazi-Occupied Poland via train. Conditions on the trains were poor, with Holocaust survivor Irene Fogel Weiss describing it to students in 2016 at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, Virginia, United States as:
"We all [her family] managed to get into the same boxcar. For the sake of modesty, men moved to one side and women moved to the other side of the boxcar. A guard slammed the door shut and bolted it on the outside. Now it was dark in the train. A small slit in the top corner allowed some light to come in. Hours later, the train began to move. The only source of air was that small slit in the corner. There was a bucket for the toilet in the middle of the car. Hours passed; a night and a day. The bucket filled up. Peering out the slit, my father confirmed everyone's worst fear—the train was crossing into Poland."
A total of 11 major Ghettos had been established, most notably one in Budapest. Between 1941 and 1945, 564,000 Hungarian Jews would be killed, 434,000 of which died between May and July of 1944.
On Anomaly's Minecraft Twitch Livestream in 2017, he was momentarily AFK. Upon returning, he noticed that a strange structure floating atop the ocean stood in the distance. He flew to the structure, landing at the entrance. Instead of being greeted with the ironically-chosen phrase of "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Makes You Free), he was greeted by a sign that read "Amusement Park - Six Millions", next to which flags of the German Empire were flown. Anomaly entered the camp, wanting to investigate. He first found the barracks, although the signs above them indicated that they were "Sleeping Halls", with one being reserved for girls and the other being reserved for boys. Next, he noticed the incinerators. After that, he soon discovered the gas chambers, with the sign above reading "ACHTUNG - ZUTRITT VERBOTEN" (English: ATTENTION - ACCESS DENIED). Immediately, Anomaly said, "You built Auschwitz on my Minecraft serv--YOU BUILT AUSCHWITZ ON MY MINECRAFT SERVER?!?" before stating "I was gonna build--like--a f*cking farm here--AND YOU BUILT AUSCHWITZ?!?" His brother tried to calm down the situation by saying "We don't name names; it's an amusement park. Relax." The base was soon torn down and that farm was eventually established, thankfully at the cost of no human life. Full clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-XW72XN2dk
On the 1 September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. 16 days later, on 17 September 1939, the Soviets did as well, per agreement of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The Soviets annexed Eastern Poland (present-day Belarus and Ukraine), but advanced no further. The Nazis occupied the rest of Poland and established the General Government, an administrative office led by devoted Nazi, Hans Frank. By doing so, one-and-a-half million Jews were now subject to Nazi persecution. In an attempt to make Poland as German as possible, they began deporting Jews and, in their place, came German families. The evicted Polish families were permitted to take only a cartful of belongings. One day, a certain Melita Maschmann asked an SS officer where the evicted families went. He told her that the Poles were sent to farms or resettled in south-eastern Poland, but, in actuality, they weren't. Far from it. Many "resettled" Poles—especially priests, teachers, and other leaders—were being lined in the woods and shot. Other evicted Polish families were forced into labour camps. Death squads known as the Einsatzgruppen were established, which may have killed 100,000 Jews in 1940 alone. Jewish Poles (which happened to have the lowest survival rate of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Europe) were crammed into city ghettos in Warsaw and Łódź. The conditions were overcrowded as, despite Jews making up 30% of Warsaw's population, they were forced into ghettos that made up only about 5% of the total land area. Food outside of the ghettos was strictly rationed, which led to mass starvation. Many foods, including veal, pork, onions, and berry products were forbidden to be sold to Poles. Initially, upon the occupation, Polish above the age of 18 were eligible for forced labour, but as the war went on, the age was lowered to 14 for regular citizens and 12 for Jews.
In 1942, convinced that their current killing methods were not efficient enough, the Nazis established three extermination camps in Poland, those being: Auschwitz, Chełmno, and Treblinka.
Auschwitz was one of the most notorious death camps. Constructed in 1940, it initially served as a detention centre for political prisoners but became an extermination camp fit with gas chambers in 1942. Auschwitz averaged a total murder count of 6,000 Jews a day, most of them within half an hour of getting off the train. Upon arriving, people would be sorted into one of two lines; one line of able-bodied men and women who could work, and the other which consisted of pregnant women, infants and children, physically and mentally disabled men, elderly, and the ill, who were immediately sent to the gas chambers. The fit line would be shaved, disinfected, and provided with a prison uniform. Soon after, they would be moved to the barracks. The next day, prisoners would wake up at 05:00 and be counted once more, with guards searching for anyone who was incapable of working. Soon after, women would be sent to complete activities such as sorting through clothes and men were subjected to physical labour, either for the benefit of the Reich (Albert Speer, a Nazi archeologist benefited from slave labour in his attempt to construct a world capital of Germania, although that only began when Speer became Minister of Armaments and Munitions) or for the devitilizement and destruction of the soul.
Conditions in Auschwitz were terrible. The prisoners' barracks lacked or had no furniture for the first few months, the rooms were overcrowded, food rations were limited to three meals a day which averaged a total of 1,300 calories, and there was little clean water which led to malnutrition, there were few opportunities for bathing, lice was an issue, the clothing prisoners had did not protect them from the weather, roofs often leaked, diarrhea was an issue, disease was an issue, and executions were common.
Those selected to be sent to the gas chambers would be marched to there by the SS. In an attempt to not cause any panic, the SS took measures to ensure that the victims wouldn't be aware of their eventual fate. The SS told them that they were being sent to a camp, but they had to be disinfected and bathed first. After they undressed, they were taken inside the gas chambers. Upon entering, the gas inlet pipes were disguised as shower heads so victims would not know what was coming. Once inside, the victims would be locked in and killed with Zyklon B gas.
This would only end when the camp was liberated on 27 January 1945 by the Soviet Union and the Red Army.
Famous people who were at Auschwitz include Adolf Burger, Adolf Eichmann, Anne Frank, Elie Wiesel, Irène Némirovsky, Josef Mengele (nicknamed 'The Angel of Death'), and Maximilian Kolbe.
Admission of Refugees
Although there were no extermination camps in the United States and the U.S. was not directly involved (or even aware) of the Holocaust, policy decisions of the United States made would have major consequences and Nazi Germany was able to exert its anti-Semitic influence into the United States between the years of 1933-1945. Although the U.S. admitted more Jewish immigrants than any other country both prior to and during the war (with a total of somewhere between 180,000 and 250,000 refugees admitted), it failed to grant citizenship and immigration visas to thousands of other refugees that would later die in the Holocaust. This was either due to anti-Semitism or the current economic situation. Additionally, public opinion in America was against the admission of Jewish refugees, with a reported 83% of Americans being against Jewish immigration.
With that being said, many Austrians and Germans fled Nazi-Occupied Europe prior to and during the war. Examples included Max Reinhardt, Thomas Mann (fled to Switzerland, moved to Czechoslovakia upon receiving citizenship in 1936, emigrated to the United States in 1939), Fritz Korner, Richard Tauber, Ernst Lubitsch, and Albert Einstein (emigrated to the U.S. in February 1933); the ladder of which would take part in the Manhattan Project which ended the war. There were also many Austrians and Germans who directly served in the Armed Forces. One such person was Hans Werner, who fled to the United States and changed his name to Jack Werner, eventually enlisting in the U.S. Armed Forces in 1940. Another example was William Hitler, Hitler's half-nephew who immigrated to the United States and, after making a special request to President Roosevelt, served in the U.S. Navy between 1944 and 1947. After being discharged, he changed his name to William Stuart-Houston, as he is now known as today.
Although they weren't extermination camps fit with gas chambers, on 19 February 1942, three months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, FDR issued Executive Order 9066, which authorised the Secretary of War to declare certain areas as "military zones" and arrest and incarcerate Japanese, Italian, and German-Americans, which they then sent to internment camps located in the United States. Only in December 1944, nearly three years later after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled during the Ex parte Mitsuye Endo case, (323 U.S. 283) "the U.S. government cannot continue to detain citizens who were 'concededly loyal' to the United States" were they finally released. Even after they were released however, they still faced many issues, with them losing their personal liberties, homes, businesses, and savings; and anti-Italian, anti-Japanese, and anti-German sentiment being prominent for the next few decades and even today among some groups. It wouldn't be until 1952 during the Immigration and Nationality Act that they would regain those personal liberties.
Fun Fact: Order 66 or Clone Protocol 66 from Star Wars is a reference to Executive Order 9066.
Many mainstream historians have mentioned the Madagascar Plan. The Madagascar Plan was a proffer originally proposed by Franz Rademacher shortly after the success of the French Campaign in 1940. The basic idea was that, instead of exterminating all the Jews in Europe, they could just deport them to Madagascar (then a French colony). The plan was never carried out due to the failure of the North African Campaign which pushed the Axis out of Africa, the sheer distance, and Allied air superiority. Additionally, Himmler is believed to have said on 25 May 1940, "One rejects as un-German and impossible the Bolshevist method of physical extermination of a nation." Many Nazi apologists have taken this to mean that the Nazis didn't intend, at first, to kill the Jews, but this is untrue for the following two reasons:
- In 1922, over a decade before Hitler's ascension to power, he said during a speech "Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews. As soon as I have the power to do so, I will have gallows built in rows - at the Marienplatz in Munich, for example - as many as traffic allows. Then the Jews will be hanged indiscriminately, and they will remain hanging until they stink; they will hang there as long as the principles of hygiene permit. As soon as they have been untied, the next batch will be strung up, and so on down the line, until the last Jew in Munich has been exterminated. Other cities will follow suit, precisely in this fashion, until all Germany has been completely cleansed of Jews."
- In 1939, Hitler declared during a speech to the Reichstag, "Today I will be once more a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevisation of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"
Himmler might have initially not planned to kill the Jews (huge emphasis on 'might,' considering he was the Architect of the Final Solution), but Hitler, like most Nazis, did.
SS St. Louis
On 27 March 1939, 937 German Jews fled from Germany by sea on the SS St. Louis, headed for Central America. Cuba accepted 28 of the refugees but denied entry to the rest. The ship then moved towards the coast of Florida, United States. After President Roosevelt refused to provide asylum to the remaining refugees, the captain of the ship, Gustav Schröder considered moving along the shallow parts of the coast to allow the refugees to escape, but the United States Coast Guard promptly responded, preventing this. Next, Schröder tried for the Dominion Canada, noting that he could reach Nova Scotia in just two days, but the director of Canada's Immigration Branch, Frederick Blair (a staunch anti-Semite) convinced the Prime Minister, Mackenzie King otherwise. Some of the passengers, knowing they would be forced to return to Europe, committed suicide by jumping off the boat.
Some prisoners were worked to death and starved in concentration camps. Belsen specialised in that for example. Other prisoners were shot or gassed. Auschwitz and Treblinka specialized in that. In both camps the gas inlet pipes were disguised as shower heads so victims would not know what was coming.
Some people, even in Germany blame Poland for the Shoah, on the basis that that death camps are now located in Poland's territory, despite Poland had no influence over it, because it was Nazi-occupied, and Holocaust was conducted by Nazi Germany. Blaming Poland causes severe diplomatic tensions.
Israel was established as a Zionist project that began four decades before the Nazis took power in Germany. The Zionist project was later justified as providing a refuge for Jews should there ever be any future Holocaust.
- The Treatment of Soviet POWs: Starvation, Disease, and Shootings, June 1941–January 1942
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: "Law Limits Jews in Public Schools." https://www.ushmm.org/learn/timeline-of-events/1933-1938/law-limits-jews-in-public-schools
- Bartoletti, Susan Campbell.: Hitler Youth. Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow. 2005. Scholastic. 557 Broadway, New York, NY, United States. Chapter 3: "Where One Burns Books" Page 40. https://books.google.com/books/about/Hitler_Youth.html?id=xD_hAAAAMAAJ
- Hitler's Circle of Evil (2018) S1 E3 "The Fall of Röhm"
- The Extermination Procedure in the Gas Chambers / Auschwitz and Shoah: http://auschwitz.org/en/history/auschwitz-and-shoah/the-extermination-procedure-in-the-gas-chambers
- Fleming, Gerald.: Hitler and the Final Solution. 1982. https://books.google.com/books/about/Hitler_and_the_Final_Solution.html?id=6CxTVhnl95kC
- Mommsen, Hans.: Passing Into History: Nazism and the Holocaust Beyond Memory: In Honour of Saul Friedländer on His Sixty-Fifth Birthday. 1997. Bloomington, Indiana, United States. p. 147 https://books.google.com/books/about/?id=hW6cswEACAAJ
- Griffith, Alan.: Greatest Events of World War II In Colour. 2019. United Kingdom. S1 E9, Liberation of Buchenwald.
- The Forgotten People Disturbing video about the Holocaust
- Mordechai Gebirtig was a talented Jewish songwriter who lived through the early holocaust before the Nazis killed him. Gebirtig's music is typical of the first half of the 20th Century but powerful. This page has links to Gebirtig's music on YouTube.
- Jewish perspectives on the holocaust