Holocaust Frequently asked questions
What was the holocaust? • It was the systematic and bureaucratic annihilation of 6 million Jews and millions of others that took place between 1933 and 1945. • Other groups that were affected by it were Gypsies, mentally or physically disabled persons, Soviet prisoners of war. Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and Communists also suffered hate and aggression.
Who were the Nazis? • Nazi is short for the National Socialist German Workers Party (NationalsozialistisheDeutcheAlbeiterpartei). • This was a right-wing party that consisted largely of World War I (WWI) veterans. • Their ideology or belief was primarily based on nationalism and racism. • They believed not only that Germany was a superior nation (despite its terrible track record with WWI) but also that the Aryan (German) people were racially superior to all others.
What was the situation in Germany before the Nazi rise to power? • Germany had just lost WWI. Since they were blamed for inciting or starting it, they had to pay for the damages. • Additionally, they also lost land due to the Treaty of Versailles. Given the patriotic nature of most Germans at the time, they did not take this well. • WWI also paved the way for a worldwide economic depression. • Their currency was worth less than the paper it was printed on.
How did the situation in Germany change once the Nazis came to power? • Democracy ended • Many civil rights became severely restricted • The Nazi Party more or less became the government • The SS (Schultzstaffel) took over the police • The Gestapo (secret police) spied on citizens
What is a jew? • Diverse religious and cultural group whose origins are described in the Bible
Whom did the Nazis define as Jews? • A person with 3 Jewish grandparents • A person with 2 Jewish grandparents and lived in a Jewish community • A person who married a Jew and had a Jewish parent • Mischlinge is a German term used to describe those of mixed blood • A person with 2 Jewish grandparents was considered to be Mischlinge of the 1st degree
How was the Holocaust carried out? • Euthanasia program was carried out in the late 1930’s • Mobile killing units followed the Germans into the Soviet Union in 1941 and shot Jews openly • They decided to organize it and make it more efficient in the later years. • Six extermination camps were establish in Poland. • There they died from gas chambers, being shot, starvation, exposure, disease, execution, and forced labor.
What did the German people know about it? • The initial stages of Jewish persecution were common knowledge. • In general terms, the people knew about the concentration camps and the treatment of the inmates. • The Final Solution, the program implemented to eliminate the Jews, was known during the 1941. • It was then that they decided to make it secret. • The Germans knew the Jews were disappearing but did not know what happened.
Did the Jews know what was happening to them? • The Final Solution was the Nazi term for the extermination of the Jews. • They did not publicize this. • Additionally, every attempt was made to fool the victims. • They were often led to believe that they were being “resettled” and would have better conditions of life than they had in the ghetto.
How did the world react to it? • The US and Britain received numerous reports regarding it. • By 1942, reports of the Final Solution had reached them. • No action was taken to slow the genocide or stop it because there was a fear of a large influx of refugees.
Was there any resistance to the Nazis? • Various groups did provide some sort of resistance. • An effective resistance occurred in 1941 led by clergy and other Germans. • It brought an end to the “euthanasia program” of the physically and mentally disabled. • The most famous one was occurred when a bomb exploded in Hitler’s headquarters in the summer of 1944. • It did not injure the Fuhrer. • There was never a unified movement in Germany.
Was there any resistance to the Nazis? Cont’d • Jews did show some resistance. There were three types. • Ghetto revolts, partisan warfare and resistance in concentration camps anddeath camps. • The most notable instances were: • a five week ghetto revolt in Warsaw • 1944 Auschwitz bombing of a crematorium