After thousands of years of living in the Israel/Palestine region the Jewish people were expelled from that area of the world by the Roman Empire after they tried to overthrow their Roman rulers. The Jews became refugees spread far and wide across Europe. Many of them settled in France, Germany, England, Poland and Russia which were primarily Christian lands. In the 1700’s and 1800’s many of them moved to the United States. They existed in pockets within those nations and were clearly not a part of the majority of the population. They were constantly seen as too different and people often fear what they find different. They were subjected to incredible amounts of hatred for hundreds of years.
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Eventually many nations started accepting Jewish people as citizens with voting rights and land ownership opportunities. Many Jewish people thrived on the banking and finance industries making lots of money which made many people resent them even more. People started making up stories that claimed Jewish people were secretly trying to control the world. It was nonsense but simple, and people like simple ideas that allow them to hate.
The Blame for WWI
At the end of WWI Germany was directly blamed for causing the great conflict. Many Germans could not accept this blame. They believed that it was a part of a great conspiracy to make the German people weak. Some like Hitler believed that it was designed by the Jewish people. The Germans did not want to take responsibility for themselves and could not believe that they were actually defeated so they blamed the people they already hated. The hate felt good because it removed their own guilt. The Nazi’s in Germany gained power by intimidating Communists. They saw the high levels of Jewish population in the Soviet Union as a direct link to Communism. Communists and Jews were almost hated equally by the Nazi’s.
Darwin was a scientist in the 1800’s who came up with the theory of evolution and survival of the fittest. He believed that all creatures are changing and improving over time. Only the strongest and the most fit for the environment are able to survive and grow. The rest are doomed to extinction. Hitler used these ideas and twisted them into horrific theories about racial structure and hierarchy. He believed that some races were more fit for survival and success than others. Hitler’s list of races placed the German people on the top with his idea of the best examples being represented by blond hair blue eyed people he deemed Arians. Other white Europeans were seen as acceptable second class citizens. The Jews were seen as the lowest followed closely by Slavic peoples (Russia), the Roma (gypsies) and non-white races. Anyone with mixed heritage was seen as impure. Any persons with a genetic disease were seen as defective and should be killed. Homosexuality was seen as a genetic defection as well.
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Definition & Legal Exclusion
After gaining power the Nazi’s were constantly intimidating Jewish people and Jewish businesses. They did everything they could to encourage Jews to leave Germany. Many did escaping to Poland, France and Britain.In 1935 Hitler passed a series of laws that legally excluded Jews from many elements of society. They called the laws the Nuremberg laws.
- All marriages between Germans and Jews are illegal
- All acts of breeding between Germans and Jews are illegal
- Jews may not employ German women under 45 in their business
- Jews may not show German flags or symbols, but they may show Jewish ones
- Breaking these laws may cause fines, imprisonment and hard labour.
The laws also legitimized a boycott of Jewish businesses and forced Jews to identify themselves, many by wearing a gold star of David on their arm. Even with these laws in place hundreds of thousands of Jews remained in Germany.
Night of Broken Glass
In 1938 mass violence swept through Germany against Jewish people and businesses. The Nazi’s orchestrated it to represent a mass rising up of the people.
As more and more Jews were leaving ships had to carry them out of the country. In May of 1939 a ship from Germany filled with Jews set out for North America, they were denied entry at Cuba and the United States before also being turned away from Canada. They returned to Europe and were taken on by nations that would later be taken over by the Germans. Most of the people on the ship would end up killed in Nazi death camps.
Prime Minister Mackenzie King was very anti-semetic and was not interested in having more Jews enter Canada. No country wanted to take on more people in general because many were still feeling the crunch from the Great Depression.
As war was breaking out in 1939 a Ghetto and Camp system was expanded by the Germans to remove Jews and undesirable people from the rest of society. Ghetto’s are walled areas to contain large amounts of people and keep them separate from the rest of society. They were completely dependant on the security forces to bring them supplies. Conditions within most Ghetto’s became very bad very quickly. The Ghetto in Warsaw Poland was the most famous because the Jewish people there rebelled and were brutally crushed.
The Camp system started in 1933 to remove political prisoners from society, primarily Communists. It was expanded in 1941 as Germany moved into the rest of Poland and large parts of the USSR. Poland had the highest population of Jewish people in Europe.
The Nazi’s rounded up the Jews and placed them in a series of Camps throughout Poland and Germany though some existed in Italy and France. Some were work Camps others were Death Camps.
Eventually the Nazi’s needed to decide what to do with all of their Jewish prisoners. A meeting was held and a plan developed by SS chief Himmler, General Heydrich and Hitler. They called it the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem.
Initially SS soldiers had been killing Jews in execution style with bullets. This was not only highly inefficient but extremely taxing on the mental character of many soldiers. Most soldiers were not psychopathic killers that could murder men, women, children and the elderly every day. A more efficient system of death had to be created. The ideal form of death would kill the most amount of people as quickly as possible. Zyclon B gas seemed like the best way to kill the Jews. It was quick and efficient.
The Death Camps had gas chambers set up where people would be shipped in by train, stripped of their belongings, sorted into groups of men, women and elderly. Stripped of their clothing, placed in the gas chambers, gassed to death and immediately cremated.
It was industrial killing just like an assembly line and the only example in history of such efficiency. The most famous Death Camp was Auschwitz. The man in charge of organizing the extermination was Adolf Eichmann.
While they were waiting for death, many Jews were experimented on for scientific research. Limbs were amputated, drugs were given, everything you can imagine to the depths of torture.
Some scientists were instructed to find clear evidence of German superiority by dissecting Jews.
The allies slowly began to hear the horror stories leaking out of Poland in 1943 from the few people that had managed to escape. There were constant requests by the Jewish community in Britain and the U.S to bomb the Camps in order to stop the industrial killing.
Britain and the U.S decided that their bombs would be better placed on military targets in order to stop the war faster.
Only when the Soviet forces invaded Poland in 1945 did the true nature of the atrocity come forward. The Soviet forces slowly began to liberate the camps and discovered the Germans crimes. Over 6 million Jews had been exterminated. Most of the survivors were literally skin and bones having been malnourished for months. Millions of other Political prisoners and people deemed genetically inferior were also put to death.
Many of the survivors died when they were fed food because they had not eaten in so long that their stomachs had shrunk and they exploded with the food.
When the surviving Nazi’s were put on trial in 1945 at Nuremburg it was the images of the holocaust that truly made them guilty of crimes against humanity. The question remains how guilty was the average German citizen for the crimes of the holocaust?
In response to this mass death and hundreds of years of historic discrimination Britain and the U.S decided that there needed to be a safe place in the world for the Jewish people. They decided to set up a state for them in their historic homeland of Palestine, regardless of the fact that there were already people living in Palestine. Jews from anywhere in the world were automatically citizens of the new state of Israel. The state was protected by the U.S and thrived for many years despite a few wars.
One of the first things that Israel did was to create a secret intelligence service called the Mossad. One of their jobs was to track down Nazi’s and SS soldiers who were guilty of helping the holocaust. In 1960 Israel tracked Adolf Eichmann to Argentina. He had escaped their under a false name after the war. The Mossad kidnapped Eichmann and placed him on trial for the holocaust in Israel. Eichmann claimed he was a simple soldier following orders. This argument did not hold with the judges. Eichmann was found guilty and executed in 1962.
There have been a number of examples of Nazi’s being found since Eichmann and placed on trial or murdered for their actions in the holocaust.
Denying that the Holocaust happened is a serious academic crime in most of the western world. By reducing the number of dead, claiming that it did not happen, or even agreeing with Hitler you could find yourself stripped of academic degrees, fired and even jailed.