The Holocaust 1933-1945
What is the Holocaust? • The Holocaust was the -systematic (there was a plan that was followed) -bureaucratic (various jobs that became routine) -state-sponsored (government enacted and enforced) persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews and other various targeted groups by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. • The Holocaust is an example of a genocide, but a genocide does not begin overnight.
Steps to the Holocaust • You cannot live among us as Jews. • You cannot live among us. • You cannot live. Burning of Jewish books, 1934
1. You cannot live among us as Jews Prejudiced Attitudes & Stereotyping Discrimination & Harassment Systemic Racism
Prejudiced Attitudes & Stereotyping • The Eternal Jew art exhibit in Munich (November 1937) featured photos pointing out “Jewish” traits
Prejudiced Attitudes & Stereotyping • Childrens’ books like Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom) were used in schools to teach kids about the dangers of Jews • Stories included:-How to Recognizea Jew-How Jewish TradersCheat-How Jews TormentAnimals-What Christ said about the Jews
Discrimination & Harassment • Boycott of Jewish businesses • Laws passed made daily life difficult- couldn’t attend school, public spaces, etc. • Kristallnacht “Jews are not wanted here” “The Jews are our misfortune”
Systematic Racism • Nuremberg Laws- Jews were no longer German citizens, could not marry German citizens
2. You cannot live among us • Jews were removed from German society and forced to live in Ghettos and concentration camps
Ghettos • The ghettos were used to control, confine, and weaken the Jews in Europe • Became transition areas used as collection points for deportation to concentration and death camps • Conditions were unbearable- overcrowded and unsanitary, disease and malnutrition were common.
Warsaw Ghetto • Largest ghetto- over 400,000 Jews lived in the 1.3 sq. mile space. Polish civilians walk by a section of the wall that separated the Warsaw ghetto from the rest of the city. Warsaw, Poland, 1940–1941 An emaciated woman sells the compulsory Star of David armbands for Jews. In the background are concert posters; almost all are destroyed. Warsaw ghetto, Poland, September 19, 1941 Jewish children smuggling some food through a hole in the Ghetto wall A Warsaw ghetto resident gives money to two children on a Warsaw ghetto street. Warsaw, Poland, between October 1940 and April 1943. A German policeman interrogates a Jewish man accused of trying to smuggle a loaf of bread into the Warsaw ghetto. Warsaw, Poland, 1942-1943
Lodz Ghetto • The Lodz Ghetto was a major production center for Nazi Germany because of its location in an industrialized city A German postcard showing the entrance to the Lodz ghetto. The sign reads "Jewish residential area—entry forbidden." Lodz, Poland, 1940-1941. Poverty in the ghetto: residents wait for soup at a public kitchen. Lodz ghetto, Poland, between 1940 and 1944. Jewish children forced to haul a wagon. Lodz ghetto, Poland, wartime. Jews deported to the Lodz ghetto. Poland, 1941 or 1942.
Concentration Camps • Concentration camps were first established shortly after Hitler came to power in 1933 to incarcerate real and perceived threats to the Nazi regime • Prisoners were forced to labor for the Nazi regime, and although the SS realized the need for laborers, prisoners were deliberately starved and mistreated • After the start of the war, new camps were constructed to hold the increasing numbers of political prisoners, resisters, and those who were “racially inferior” • As Germany expanded control across Europe, camps were constructed throughout newly acquired territory
Concentration Camps • Prisoners in Concentration Camps were made to wear badges specifying their “offense”
Girls are assembled for roll call at the Jugend- schutzlager Litzmannstadt, a concentration camp for Polish juveniles. Behind them stands the camp commandant Eugenie Pohl. Uniformed prisoners with triangular badges are assembled under Nazi guard at the Sachenhausen concentration camp. Sachsenhausen, Germany, 1938 A Romani (Gypsy) victim of Nazi medical experiments to make seawater safe to drink. Dachau concentration camp, Germany, 1944. A transport of Jews from Hungary arrives at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Poland, May 1944. Survivors at Buchenwald Concentration Camp remain in their barracks after liberation by Allies on April 16, 1945. Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Prize winning author of Night, is on the second bunk from the bottom, seventh from the left. Camp guards beat a prisoner at the Cieszanow labor camp.
3. You cannot live • “The Final Solution to the Jewish Question” was the euphemism used to describe the Nazi program of mass murder of the Jews of Europe. It was intentionally vague so that it could be discussed with a degree of obscurity, and so that perpetrators would not have to continually face the true nature of what they were planning to do. • Although thousands of Jews were killed by the Nazis prior to 1942, mass murder was not the goal until the Final Solution. For the Final Solution, the Nazis built six camps to be used for the primary purpose of killing massive numbers of Jews and opponents. They also established the Einsatzgruppen, or mobile killing units, that consisted of SS and police that were tasked with murdering perceived enemies in German-occupied Soviet territory.
Einsatzgruppen • The Einsatzgruppen followed the German army into Soviet territory and carried out mass murder operations, often drawing on local civilians and police for assistance to carry out the shooting of large groups • At first only men were killed, but by the summer of 1941 the killing was indiscriminate • Around the same time, Heinrich Himmler (leader of the SS) requested a more convenient mode of killing be developed, as the mass shootings were causing a psychological burden on his men • This led to the development of a mobile gas chamber mounted on the back of a cargo truck
Death Camps What do you notice about the location of the death camps?
Death Camps • The death camps were constructed in semi-rural areas that were also close to railroads • SS commanders had experimented with various methods of mass murder and found that gas chambers were the most effective • Most of the prisoners taken to these camps were killed within hours of their arrival. A small number of prisoners considered healthy were temporarily forced to work until they were unable, at which point they were killed.
Methods of Killing • The Nazis decided the most effective way to commit mass murder was by using poisonous gas • Initially camps used carbon monoxide fumes, but they eventually moved to using Zyklon-B, a form of cyanide gas. • Victims were told they were going to shower or be de-loused and they would then return to camp • They were forced to undress and then locked in a room, at which point Zyklon-B pellets were dropped through designated holes in the roof.
Disposal WARNING: Disturbing images follow. Viewer discretion is advised. • The first method of disposing of bodies was to simply bury them in mass graves. However, the graves could not be dug deep enough for the rate of killing. • It was decided that bodies would be burned. Though Auschwitz had crematoriums, other death camps used large outdoor fire pits. Completing the roof of Crematorium II, winter 1942-43 The remnants of Crematorium II at Auschwitz
Sonderkommando Photos • Four blurred photographs were taken in August 1944 inside the Auschwitz Concentration Camp by a prisoner. The pictures were taken within 15-30 minutes of each other by a prisoner known only as Alex, a Jewish prisoner from Greece.
Photographs • Most of the photographs we have of the Holocaust are of the liberation period or were taken for Nazi propaganda purposes. • Liberators of various camps found piles and piles of personal belongings and valuables, hinting to the number of victims. A warehouse full of shoes and clothing confiscated from the prisoners and deportees gassed upon their arrival at Auschwitz Bales of the hair of female prisoners found in the warehouses of Auschwitz at the liberation.
Death Marches • As American and Soviet troops closed in on Nazi forces, it was ordered that all concentration camp prisoners be evacuated to the interior of the Reich. • The SS did not want prisoners to be able to tell their stories to their liberators, and they wanted to hide evidence of mass murder, so along with evacuating prisoners, they demolished the camps they left behind. A column of prisoners on a forced march from Dachau concentration camp passing through Bavarian villages in the direction of Wolfratshausen, late April 1945. Picture taken by a German civilian.
Liberation • Liberating troops were forced to confront the atrocities committed by the Nazis head on. • The victims they encountered were weak, diseased, and malnourished. Thousands continued to die in the months after liberation, too sick to recover. • General Eisenhower insisted that the horrors of the concentration camps be documented, and forced villagers who lived in the areas of death camps to come and see what had happened in their backyards. Prisoners at the time of liberation of the Ebensee camp, a subcamp of the Mauthausen concentration camp. This photograph was taken by Signal Corps photographer Arnold E. Samuelson. Austria, May 7, 1945
Perpetrators • Everyone knows Adolf Hitler as the face of Nazism and the Holocaust, but the Nazi regime was a bureaucracy- there were different men in charge of various aspects of the Reich, including the Final Solution.
Heinrich Himmler • Leader of the SS- built it from only 280 men in charge of Hitler’s personal security to an elite corps of 52,000 who oversaw the racial purity of the Reich • Established and controlled the concentration camp system • Attempted to go into hiding, but was captured and turned over to the British. Committed suicide prior to interrogation. Himmler visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp in 1936 Himmler during a visit to the Auschwitz camp, July 18, 1942
Joseph Goebbels • Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany • Centralized control of film, radio, and the press in his office, and only promoted those that furthered the Nazi agenda- depicting Hitler as a heroic leader and the Jews as evil and dangerous • “He played probably the most important role in creating an atmosphere in Germany that made it possible for the Nazis to commit terrible atrocities against Jews, homosexuals and other minorities” Goebbels giving a speech in Berlin, 1934 Goebbels family with Hitler, 1938
Hermann Goering • Highest ranking Nazi official tried at Nuremberg- Hitler’s second in command • Established the Gestapo, was commander of the Luftwaffe, and was the highest-ranking military official in the Reich • Fell out of favor with Hitler when the Luftwaffe was unsuccessful in Britain and Stalingrad • Surrendered and was sentenced to death at Nuremberg, but committed suicide the night before his execution. Goering with Hitler and Albert Speer, August 1943
Adolf Eichmann • Responsible for organizing and coordinating the deportation of European Jews to ghettos, concentration camps, and extermination camps • Escaped Germany at the end of the war to Argentina, where he lived until 1960 when Mossad agents abducted him and brought him to trial in Israel for his role in the Holocaust
Dr. Josef Mengele • SS physician at Auschwitz famous for his medical experiments on prisoners, especially twins • Wanted to prove that heredity was more important than environment to justify Nazi racial supremacy theories • Committed atrocious experiments on twins, and when one died, would kill the other to conduct concurrent autopsies • Escaped to South America after the war, where he died in 1979 of natural causes.
Bystanders First they came for the communists, and I did not speak outbecause I was not a communist.Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak outbecause I was not a socialist.Then they came for the labor leaders, and I did not speak outbecause I was not a labor leader.Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak outbecause I was not a Jew.Then they came for me, and there was no oneleft to speak out for me.-The Reverend Martin Niemöller, a German pastor who was arrested and sent to Dachau in 1937
Bystanders • From USHMM: “Bystanders” is a catch-all term that has often been applied to people who were passive and indifferent to the escalating persecution that culminated in the Holocaust. • Bystanders were typically citizens who lived in the societies directly impacted by the Holocaust but who did not speak out against what they witnessed • People were bystanders for a variety of reasons: fear for their own safety, sense of powerlessness, social pressures, focus on surviving. • The existing antisemitic prejudices in Europe made people uninclined to step in on the behalf of the Jews, who were seen by most as “alien”
Nazis and local residents look on as Jews are forced to get on their hands and knees to scrub the pavement. Vienna, German-incorporated Austria, March–April 1938
People gathered along the street watch as Jews are rounded up and marched through Lvov. Lvov, Poland, June-July 1941.
Concentration Camps today Majdanek Auschwitz-Birkenau Dachau