Introduction to the Holocaustand Anne Frank Literature 8 – Mrs. Munnier
Answer: “Holocaust” means total destruction, usually by fire. When we refer to the Holocaust, we mean the mass murder of millions of Jewish people and others under Nazi rule under Adolf Hitler.
Answer: Adolf Hitler was the creator of the Nazi Party, ruler of Germany from 1933 – 1945. He was directly responsible for the massacre of millions of men, women, and children.
Answer: Anne Frank went to school. She had friends and had crushes on boys. She fought constantly with her mother, did not understand her father, argued with her sister. She got in trouble in school for talking. She was a kid – just like you.
Answer: It is part of everyone’s history, not just people in Europe, not just Jewish people, not just people a long time ago. It is so, so important that we learn from the events of the Holocaust so that we don’t make those mistakes on a global level, or even on a local level.
Why is it important to study the Holocaust in Literature 8? After all, this is not a social studies class…
Answer: Some of the words we use today were derived during this period in time. Some of the words we speak were made more globally common during this period in time.
Also Anne Frank, her diary, and the play based on Anne Frank’s life and her diary are very frequently alluded to in other literature.
Indiana Standards relating to vocabulary; importance of setting to mood, tone, and meaning; analysis of author attitudes; analysis of setting relevance; understand the influence of historical events on vocabulary; compare/contrast motivations of characters from different historical eras…
The Hitler Youth was formed in 1926. It gave young people of Germany hope, power, and the chance to make their voices heard.
Adolf Hitler admired the natural energy and ambition that young people have. He understood that young people could be a powerful political force that could help shape Germany’s future. It was Hitler’s goal to harness the enthusiasm, loyalty, and potential power of the young people of Germany.
The people of Germany were humiliated after losing World War I. The Treaty of Versailles forced the German people to accept full responsibility for starting World War I. Germany had to give up its territories. The German people had to pay an enormous sum of money – about 32 billion dollars – for war damages (called reparations.)
The German people craved a strong leader who promised them jobs, a better life, and national pride, even if he did have extreme ideas. Tired of poor living and working conditions, they wanted a simple but drastic solution.
As Hitler rose to power, the German people felt grateful for his leadership. He promised to rebuild Germany’s military, unite all Germans into a “Greater Germany” and vowed to end the reparation payments.
Germany was suffering from a weak, unstable government, high unemployment, and widespread poverty. Hitler’s Nazi party promised young Germans a wonderful future in a new strong and powerful Germany – if they joined the Hitler Youth. By the end of 1933, Hitler Youth membership increased to nearly 2.3 million young people.
Young adults sometimes display their misunderstanding or insensitivity of the horror of the Holocaust. How do they do this?
Answer: Drawing swastikas, making anti-Semitic (disrespectful of Jewish people) jokes and comments, pretending that Adolf Hitler was a hero, making statements to the effect that the Holocaust did not happen, etc. NOTE: Occasionally, uninformed adults do these things also. SUCH BEHAVIORS ARE WRONG.
German boys and girls were inducted to the Hitler Youth in a ceremony that always took place on April 20th, as a birthday present to Hitler.
The Nazis defined the Aryan race as Caucasian people with no mixture of Jewish ancestry. The Nazis considered the Aryan race to be the “Master Race.” They claimed that blonde hair and blue eyes distinguished the “purest” Aryans. Hitler Youth members were taught that the Aryan race was superior to all other races.
The boys and girls also had to prove that they were healthy and had no hereditary diseases. Some German children with physical disabilities were allowed to join a separate section – the Disabled and Infirm Hitler Youth – as long as they could prove that their disabilities were not inherited.
Mentally handicapped children could not join the Hitler Youth, no matter how loyal their parents were to the Nazi party.
Jews were not allowed to join the Hitler Youth, not even a child who had one non-Jewish parent, no matter how Aryan the child looked. Even Jews who had converted to Christianity or did not otherwise practice the Jewish faith could not join.
Some children were rejected if their parents were not good enough Nazis or if they had “objectionable political attitudes.” These parents included those who were not members of the Nazi party or who had friends who were Jews or practiced the Jehovah’s Witness faith.
At Hitler Youth meetings, young people sang patriotic songs, played games, learned slogans, listened to readings, and read propaganda leaflets – all intended to teach them how to be good Nazis. The children also listened to special Hitler Youth broadcasts on official Nazi radios, called the People’s Radio.
The Nazis knew what appealed to kids – uniforms, flags, bands, parades, badges, weapons, and stories about heroes – and they offered plenty.
The Hitler Youth did not tolerate originality or individuality. They learned, through stringent military-type exercise and propaganda, to think and act as one. Most importantly, they learned to obey their leaders, no matter what.
Hitler Youth boys received training that prepared them for military life. Girls were trained to be good wives and mothers. Physical fitness was stressed for both groups. Hiking, camping, and certain competitive activities toughened up kids, building their endurance and determination.
Every athletic event became an exercise in patriotism. Said one former Hitler Youth member, “We ran for Germany. We did the long jump and the high jump for Germany.”
At fourteen, the boys received military instruction – military formations, how to shoot, throw hand grenades, how to storm trenches. The boys earned prestigious Hitler Youth merit badges for outstanding performances.
From the ages of 14 through 21, girls worked on efficiency badges in sports, Nazi ideology, nursing, household training, social work, and later, air-raid training.
In addition, girls could join the Faith and Beauty group, which promoted physical grace through dancing, hygiene, and charm. The Faith and Beauty group was intended to make young German women strong, beautiful, proud, and self-reliant.
One of Hitler’s mottoes was that “the German woman does not smoke, does not drink alcohol, and does not paint herself with make-up.”
Hitler Youth members learned to embrace the ideas of patriotism and self-sacrifice for a better Germany. As Hitler rose to power in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Hitler Youth campaigned to get Nazis elected to positions of power in Germany.
At first the outside world was impressed with Hitler and the Hitler Youth because they saw that Germany’s young people were motivated and disciplined. An American of that era remarked, “They [Hitler Youth] have no time for cigarettes, dancing, alcohol, lipsticks, automobiles, or movies.”
Many German parents admired what they saw in their children – the physical fitness, discipline, diligence, pursuit of excellence, pride in national heritage, and a sense of purpose.
Other parents saw the Hitler Youth as too militaristic – they didn’t want their children drilled in hand-grenade throwing, rifle shooting, and other warlike activities. For some families the required Hitler Youth uniform and the monthly dues were a financial hardship, and objected to the mandatory meetings that often interfered with chores and church services.
Some German teens and pre-teens joined the Hitler Youth because they wanted to. Others joined because it was dangerous not to. Hitler eventually eliminated all other youth groups in Germany.
Hitler’s regulations conflicted with the beliefs of the Catholic Church as well. Hitler’s secret police, the Gestapo, instructed priests and nuns what to say in their sermons and in their classrooms. Catholics who criticized the Nazi party were sent to prison or concentration camps or were murdered outright.
Eventually it became dangerous for Germans – children or adult -- to have friends who were Jewish or who belonged to the Jehovah’s Witness faith. Those who dared to give up such friendships were fined or jailed. Calling them unfit parents, the Nazis threatened to take away their children.
Eventually, parents who prevented their children from joining the Hitler Youth were threatened with heavy prison sentences. By 1939, nearly 8 million German children were Hitler Youth members. (New York City has about 8 million people.)