Background Information on The


When Hitler became Chancellor in Germany January 30, 1933, few people believed he would follow through with the genocidal plan he outlined in his book 1924 Mein Kampf. In this hard-to-read, rambling piece of racist propaganda, Hitler outlines his anti-semitic beliefs. He held the German people as the example of what a human being should look like, and he called this "master race" the Aryan. He believed that only people with blonde hair and blue eyes of German heritage were the "perfect race." Hitler also discussed his plans for exterminating the entire Jewish population from Europe, and eventually the world. The German people did not take him seriously in those early days. But when he promised them relief from economic depression and the restoration of German greatness after the defeat of World War I, he used the Jews as a scapegoat in order to achieve popular approval and success. he slowly brought the German people in to two of the greatest tragedies in History: the Holocaust and World War II.

The Holocaust did not start with mass murders everywhere. After Hitler came to power in 1933, he ordered arrests of those who opposed the nazi party, especially Communists. Within two years, the German was under his complete control. it had passed a series if laws known as the Nuremberg laws, for the city in which they were developed.These laws were rules of conduct for Jews and for the German people.  Jewish people had to be home at 8 p.m. everyday, they had to wear the Star of David on their clothes to identify them as Jews. Jewish children had to turn in their bicycles. Jews could not hold public service jobs, conduct business, or move around freely in public. German society became completely segregated, and Jews became second and third-class citizens. To the German Jews, many of whom has fought bravely for Germany in the First World War, these laws were not fair, and they wondered if it could get any worse. It did. It really did. Many German Jews fled to other nations of Europe. Some came to America.

Hitler turned his political party, the National Socialists, into an army. The party was called Nazis for short. Within the party, there were a number of violent organizations that were supported by their Government. These men were feared by many. Under Hitler's orders, street thugs called Sturm Abtielung (Storm Troopers), or SA, would go into the street and terrorize, even kill innocent Jewish people. They would go into the homes and drag the Jews out into the street and kill them. When people thought things couldn't get any worse, it did.

Jews were being taken out of their homes and sent to concentration camps. The first concentration camp was established March 20, 1933 at Dachau outside Munich. There they were separated from their families.There they were stripped of their belongings. There they were either worked to death or executed.

In 1938, government sponsored terrorism against Jews reached new heights. In November, hundreds of Jewish businesses and places of worship (called synagogues) throughout Germany were destroyed by roving Nazi gangs. This event was known as Kristallnacht, or "the Night of Broken Glass." Hitler was sending a message to the Jews of Germany that they should get out or be killed. Many left Germany and went to other nations in Europe and America. others stayed in hopes that one day Hitler and the Nazis would be removed from power.

In 1938, Hitler moved Germany's army against Czechoslovakia and Austria. Thousands of Jews fell under German control. Arrests and deportations increased. he was able to capture those nations without firing a shot since Britain and France handed them over to Hitler with the Munich Agreement of 1938. The next year, Hitler sent his troops into Poland. World War II had begun. Hitler has started the war, not only to gain land for Germany, but also to carry out his threat against the Jews of Europe.

Under the cover of war, Hitler used the German army to capture, arrest, deport and exterminate the Jewish population of Europe. First, mobile killing squads called Einzatzgruppen followed the regular German army after it conquered places such as Russia and western Europe. They rounded up innocent civilians, shot them, and buried them in mass graves. Eventually, it became impossible to hide the bodies of so many people. So the Nazis developed a systematic methods for exterminating people. They would be brought by train to places like Auschwitz, where 2 million people where murdered. then they were stripped of their belongings, told they were going to get a shower, and gassed. The Germans first used carbon monoxide, but then they moved on to Prussic Acid or Zyklon B gas. the bodies were removed and burned in ovens, up to a 1000 per day. This is where the term Holocaust gets its meaning: a massive destruction by fire.

Eventually, Europe was liberated from Nazi rule and those who survived in the camps were freed. Many historians feel America and the Allies did not do enough to help the Jews of Germany, and later of Europe, while the Holocaust was taking place. many people did not believe that such a terrible thing could be carried out by human beings. When the camps were liberated, unspeakable horrors were uncovered, such as cruel medical experiments, and torture of innocent people. The Nazis who were in charge were arrested and sentenced to death at the Nuremberg trials in 1945. Eleven million people died as a result of the Nazi Holocaust: 6 million Jews and 5 million non-Jews.

What has the world learned from the Holocaust? The motto of those who survived is "never again." Has the world ever experienced the same kind of cruelty elsewhere? Have the people who died in the Holocaust died in vain, or has mankind learned from its mistakes?


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