The Holocaust In words and pictures taken from The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Web Site: www.ushmm.org
The Holocaust • the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.
Prewar photograph of three Jewish children with their babysitter. Two of the children perished in 1942. Warsaw, Poland, 1925-1926.
Two German Jewish families at a gathering before the war. Only two people in this group survived the Holocaust. Germany, 1928.
A Jewish family in the Piotrkow Trybunalski ghetto. All those pictured died in the Holocaust. Poland, 1940.
Two young cousins shortly before they were smuggled out of the Kovno ghetto. A Lithuanian family hid the children and both girls survived the war. Kovno, Lithuania, August 1943.
Portrait of members of a Hungarian Jewish family. They were deported to and killed in Auschwitz soon after this photo was taken. Kapuvar, Hungary, June 8, 1944.
Word Play • "Holocaust" is a word of Greek origin meaning "sacrifice by fire.“ • The Nazis frequently used euphemistic language to disguise the true nature of their crimes. They used the term “Final Solution” to refer to their plan to annihilate the Jewish people.
Genocide • Genocide is a term created during the Holocaust and declared an international crime in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The Convention defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:a. Killing members of the group;b. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;c. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;e. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. The specific "intent to destroy" particular groups is unique to genocide. A closely related category of international law, crimes against humanity, is defined as widespread or systematic attacks against civilians.
Why? • The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that the Jews, deemed "inferior," were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community.
“Asocials”- outside the norm • During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted other groups because of their perceived "racial inferiority": Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, and some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others). Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and homosexuals.
THIRD REICH: OVERVIEW • The Nazi rise to power brought an end to the Weimar Republic, a parliamentary democracy established in Germany after World War I. Following the appointment of Adolf Hitler as chancellor on January 30, 1933, the Nazi state (also referred to as the Third Reich) quickly became a regime in which Germans enjoyed no guaranteed basic rights.
Germans cheer Adolf Hitler as he leaves the Hotel Kaiserhof just after being sworn in as chancellor. Berlin, Germany, January 30, 1933.
After a suspicious fire in the Reichstag (the German Parliament), on February 28, 1933, the government issued a decree which suspended constitutional civil rights and created a state of emergency in which official decrees could be enacted without parliamentary confirmation.
In the first months of Hitler's chancellorship, the Nazis instituted a policy of "coordination"--the alignment of individuals and institutions with Nazi goals. Culture, the economy, education, and law all came under Nazi control. The Nazi regime also attempted to "coordinate" the German churches and, although not entirely successful, won support from a majority of Catholic and Protestant clergymen.
POWER • Extensive propaganda was used to spread the regime's goals and ideals. Upon the death of German president Paul von Hindenburg in August 1934, Hitler assumed the powers of the presidency. The army swore an oath of personal loyalty to him. Hitler's dictatorship rested on his position as Reich President (head of state), Reich Chancellor (head of government), and Fuehrer (head of the Nazi party). According to the "Fuehrer principle," Hitler stood outside the legal state and determined matters of policy himself.
How did Hitler get everyone on his side? • the use of propaganda to spread the ideals of National Socialism -- among them racism and antisemitism. • the Nazi message was successfully communicated through art, music, theater, films, books, radio, educational materials, and the press.
German children read an anti-Jewish propaganda book titled DER GIFTPILZ ( "The Poisonous Mushroom"). The girl on the left holds a companion volume, the translated title of which is "Trust No Fox." Germany, ca. 1938.
Nazi propaganda photo depicts friendship between an "Aryan" and a black woman. The caption states: "The result! A loss of racial pride." Germany, prewar.
This image originates from a film produced by the Reich Propaganda Ministry. It is captioned: "A moral and religious conception of life demands the prevention of hereditarily ill offspring." Nazi propaganda aimed to create public support for the compulsory sterilization effort.
A Nazi propaganda poster encourages healthy Germans to raise a large family. The caption, in German, reads: "Healthy Parents have Healthy Children." Germany, date uncertain.
Nazi propaganda poster warning Germans about the dangers of east European "subhumans." Germany, date uncertain.
"Propaganda tries to force a doctrine on the whole people... Propaganda works on the general public from the standpoint of an idea and makes them ripe for the victory of this idea." -Adolf Hitler
The Stages • Under the rule of Adolf Hitler, the persecution and segregation of the Jews was implemented in stages.
Early Stages of Persecution • During the first six years of Hitler's dictatorship, from 1933 until the outbreak of war in 1939, Jews felt the effects of more than 400 decrees and regulations that restricted all aspects of their public and private lives. Many of those laws were national ones that had been issued by the German administration and affected all Jews.
The first wave of legislation, from 1933 to 1934, focused largely on limiting the participation of Jews in German public life.
1935-Nuremberg laws • Excluded German Jews from Reich citizenship and prohibited them from marrying or having sexual relations with persons of "German or German-related blood." • deprived of most political rights. Jews were disenfranchised (that is, they had no formal expectation to the right to vote) and could not hold public office.
The Nuremberg Laws did not identify a "Jew" as someone with particular religious beliefs. Instead, the first amendment to the Nuremberg Laws defined anyone who had three or four Jewish grandparents as a Jew, regardless of whether that individual recognized himself or herself as a Jew or belonged to the Jewish religious community.
"Aryanization” • Government agencies at all levels aimed to exclude Jews from the economic sphere of Germany by preventing them from earning a living. • Jews were required to register their domestic and foreign property and assets, a prelude to the gradual expropriation of their material wealth by the state. • Likewise, the German authorities intended to "Aryanize" all Jewish businesses, a process involving the dismissal of Jewish workers and managers, as well as the transfer of companies and enterprises to non-Jewish Germans, who bought them at prices officially fixed well below market value.
1937-1938 • In 1937 and 1938, the government forbade Jewish doctors to treat non-Jews, and revoked the licenses of Jewish lawyers to practice law. • Jews were barred from all public schools and universities, as well as from cinemas, theaters, and sports facilities. In many cities, Jews were forbidden to enter designated "Aryan" zones. • The government required Jews to identify themselves in ways that would permanently separate them from the rest of the population. In August 1938, German authorities decreed that by January 1, 1939, Jewish men and women bearing first names of "non-Jewish" origin had to add "Israel" and "Sara," respectively, to their given names. All Jews were obliged to carry identity cards that indicated their Jewish heritage, and, in the autumn of 1938, all Jewish passports were stamped with an identifying letter "J".
The Ghettos • ghettos were city districts (often enclosed) in which the Germans concentrated the municipal and sometimes regional Jewish population and forced them to live under miserable conditions. • The Germans established at least 1,000 ghettos in German-occupied and annexed Poland and the Soviet Union alone.
What happened to the ghettos? • With the implementation of the "Final Solution" (the plan to murder all European Jews) beginning in late 1941, the Germans systematically destroyed the ghettos. • The Germans and their auxiliaries either shot ghetto residents in mass graves located nearby or deported them, usually by train, to killing centers where they were murdered. German SS and police authorities deported a small minority of Jews from ghettos to forced-labor camps and concentration camps.
Jews captured during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising are led by German soldiers to the assembly point for deportation. Photo credit: National Archives, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives
Mobile Killing Units • Einsatzgruppen: squads composed primarily of German SS and police personnel. • By autumn 1941, the SS and police introduced mobile gas vans. These paneled trucks with the exhaust pipe reconfigured to pump poisonous carbon monoxide gas into sealed spaces, killing those locked within, were to complement ongoing shooting operations.
Members of an Einsatzkommando (mobile killing squad) before shooting a Jewish youth. The boy's murdered family lies in front of him; the men to the left are ethnic Germans aiding the squad. Slarow, Soviet Union, July 4, 1941.
“Sardine Packing” • Often with the help of local informants and interpreters, Jews in a given locality were identified and taken to collection points. Thereafter they were marched or transported by truck to the execution site, where trenches had been prepared. In some cases the captive victims had to dig their own graves. After the victims had handed over their valuables and undressed, men, women, and children were shot, either “military style,” standing before the open trench, or lying face down in the prepared pit, in a manner that came to be known irreverently as “sardine packing.”
CONCENTRATION CAMPS, 1933-1939 • The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy.
The first concentration camps in Germany were established soon after Hitler's appointment as chancellor in January 1933. In the weeks after the Nazis came to power, The SA (Sturmabteilungen; commonly known as Storm Troopers), the SS (Schutzstaffel; Protection Squadrons -- the elite guard of the Nazi party), the police, and local civilian authorities organized numerous detention camps to incarcerate real and perceived political opponents of Nazi policy.
Arrival of political prisoners at the Oranienburg concentration camp. Oranienburg, Germany, 1933.
Roll call for newly arrived prisoners, mostly Jews arrested during Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass"), at the Buchenwald concentration camp. Buchenwald, Germany, 1938.
EXPANSION OF THE CAMP SYSTEM 1939 • As Nazi Germany expanded by bloodless conquest between 1938 and 1939, the numbers of those labeled as political opponents and social deviants increased, requiring the establishment of new concentration camps.
The concentration camps increasingly became sites where the SS authorities could kill targeted groups of real or perceived enemies of Nazi Germany. They also came to serve as holding centers for a rapidly expanding pool of forced laborers deployed on SS construction projects, SS-commissioned extractive industrial sites, and, by 1942, in the production of armaments, weapons, and related goods for the German war effort.
The Final Solution… • Between 1941 and 1944, Nazi German authorities deported millions of Jews from Germany, from occupied territories, and from the countries of many of its Axis allies to ghettos and to killing centers, often called extermination camps, where they were murdered in specially developed gassing facilities.
Killing centers • also referred to as "extermination camps" or "death camps“ were almost exclusively "death factories." • German SS and police murdered nearly 2,700,000 Jews in the killing centers either by asphyxiation with poison gas or by shooting.
Hairbrushes of victims, found soon after the liberation of Auschwitz. Poland, after January 27, 1945.
Almost all of the deportees who arrived at the camps were sent immediately to death in the gas chambers (with the exception of very small numbers chosen for special work teams known as Sonderkommandos). The largest killing center was Auschwitz-Birkenau, which by spring 1943 had four gas chambers (using Zyklon B poison gas) in operation. At the height of the deportations, up to 6,000 Jews were gassed each day at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. Over a million Jews and tens of thousands of Roma, Poles, and Soviet prisoners of war were killed there by November 1944.
Death Marches • In the final months of the war, SS guards moved camp inmates by train or on forced marches, often called “death marches,” in an attempt to prevent the Allied liberation of large numbers of prisoners.
A view of the death march from Dachau passing through villages in the direction of Wolfratshausen. German civilians secretly photographed several death marches from the Dachau concentration camp as the prisoners moved slowly through the Bavarian towns of Gruenwald, Wolfratshausen, and Herbertshausen. Few civilians gave aid to the prisoners on the death marches. Germany, April 1945.