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Transcript of The Holocaust
Once Hitler gained power (politically in the 1920's and then with military force in the 1930's) and became the chancellor and Fuhrer (leader) of Germany, it was only a matter of steps to annihilate the Jewish race from Europe:
In 1941, Hitler came up with
"The Final Solution"
to "the problem of the Jewish race"--and ordered the building of extermination camps.
Germany After World War I
World War I was an emotionally disturbing war. It might not have been the bloodiest war in history, but the invention of weapons like mustard gas, trench warfare, tanks, airplanes and fire bombs, grenades, and machine guns changed warfare to an impersonal process that devastated on a much larger scale. The people, the moral values, and the cities of Europe were reduced to rubble.
Germany After World War I
Winners of WWI:
England, France, and USA
. (England and France were able to hold on in the war long enough until USA joined in. This also launched the USA from being a minor country to a
Losers of WWI:
Germany, Austria, and Hungary
The worst part of the loss of WWI for Germany was, in addition to the country being blown apart by war, during the
Treaty of Versailles in 1919
(where all the countries involved in WWI declared a formal end to the war and signed a peace treaty), Germany was forced to
accept all the blame
for World War I
they had to
to all the countries damaged in WWI.
Germany After World War I
So not only did Germany lose the war, they were broke, they were politically humiliated by the winners of WWI, and they felt betrayed by Austria, Hungary, and eastern Europe (Poland/Romania).
One of these German citizens who felt bitter about the war was a young soldier who fought for the Bavarian army (Bavaria is the beautiful southern region of Germany that borders Austria), who was extremely loyal to the nation of Germany instead of the Austrian empire, and who felt stabbed in the back by his Austrian neighbors. His name was
Adolf Hitler believed that Germany was the greatest nation in the world, home to the superior
: people of Nordic ancestry with blonde hair, blue eyes, and strong build.
He thought that the world was
by people of inferior races: people with dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin, etc. He hated the Jews most of all, but he also hated gypsies/Romanians, people of color, homosexuals--anyone who didn't fit into his ideal.
Adolf Hitler wanted revenge for Germany, and then he wanted his "perfect" Aryan race to rule the world. First, he wanted to start with Austria/Hungary--he wanted to repay them for betraying Germany. Then, he wanted to take back the lands that Germany was forced to give up in the Treaty of Versailles (
). Then, he wanted to "purify" the land of anyone "imperfect."
Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party
Adolf Hitler's gift was his power of speech. He would use
(pathos) to get people to believe ideas that defied logic. Hitler started out by saying things that every German was feeling, and then he would fill the crowds with nationalistic pride, and then work them into a frenzy, and then he could get them to agree with his plans for global domination.
Alfons Heck, a former
(Hitler's Boy/Girl Scouts program that encouraged kids to spy on their parents and report if they were saying anything anti-Nazi) said this of Hitler's oratory powers of persuasion: "We erupted into a frenzy of nationalistic pride that bordered on hysteria. For minutes on end, we shouted at the top of our lungs, with tears streaming down our faces: Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil! From that moment on, I belonged to Adolf Hitler body and soul."
Hitler and Judaism
First, Hitler passed the
Nuremberg Laws in 1935.
These laws prohibited Jews from society, taking away many of their basic rights.
Second, in 1938, a Jewish minor assassinated a member of the Nazi Party, provoking
the destruction of over 1,200 synagogues and 7,000 Jewish shops. 91 Jews were killed.
Third, as Germany invaded and took over Austria, Hungary, Poland, Belgium, France, Romania, and the Netherlands,
were established to round up and isolate Jews in poor living conditions.
Finally, once Hitler gained power over Europe:
The Nazis would pack train cars full of thousands of Jews, non-Nazis, gypsies, homosexuals, mentally challenged or handicapped people, or anyone caught helping Jews, and transport them to the extermination camp. The prisoners were ordered to a shower building and told they were going to be deloused. The prisoners stripped naked, and then, instead of water, the showers would leak
, killing everyone. The corpses would then be removed from the building and burned in a crematorium.
In most camps, prisoners were forced to wear colored badges according to their categorization: red triangles for Communists and other political prisoners, green triangles for common criminals, pink for homosexuals, purple for Jehovah's Witnesses, black for Gypsies, and
yellow for Jews
Many of the prisoners died in the concentration camps through deliberate maltreatment, disease, starvation, and overwork, or were executed as unfit for labor. Female prisoners were routinely raped.
Prisoners were transported in inhumane conditions by rail freight cars, in which many died before reaching their destination. The prisoners were confined to the boxcars for days or even weeks, with little or no food or water. Many died of dehydration in the intense heat of summer or froze to death in winter.
Prisoners were also tortured for "scientific experiments." The most notable Nazi scientist was
, known as "The Angel of Death," who would experiment without anesthesia on prisoners, especially twins.
Experiments performed by Mengele on twins included unnecessary amputation of limbs, intentionally infecting one twin with diseases, then transfusing the blood of one twin into the other. Many of the victims died while undergoing these procedures. After an experiment was over, the twins were sometimes killed and their bodies dissected.
"Arbeit Macht Frei" work makes you free
This lampshade was made from the skin of a Jewish prisoner at Buchenwald
When Germans learned the
were invading, they abandoned or destroyed the camps and marched the remaining victims through the snow, where most of the survivors froze to death.
In the end, the death toll for Jewish people murdered in the Holocaust was
Why would anyone do this, in what was supposed to be the modern age of humane democracy?
And why would an entire nation agree to and enact such sadistic torturing and murder?
The Holocaust is difficult for anyone to emotionally understand. The death toll is staggering, but the important of the Holocaust is so much more than dates, names, and numbers. It is our responsibility as humane, democratic, global citizens to remember the Holocaust.
As you read
, keep these things in mind:
(the systematic murder of an entire ethnic group) has existed all throughout history, all over the world. Why is the Holocaust, in our culture, the most horrible and disturbing?
Why is Adolf Hitler, in our culture, the epitome of evil? (As opposed to other rulers who committed genocide.)
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Is it possible to repeat the Holocaust? (Not necessarily with the Jews, but with another ethnic group.)