Holocaust means “completely burnt” The term refers to the killing of about six million Jews in Europe. These Jews, also referred to as European Jews lived in Europe during the Second World War and during the reign of terror against them by the Nazi and their leader Adolf Hitler. Born in 1889, in a village in Bavarian frontier of Austria, Adolf Hitler came from a peasant family. At his tender age his father an Austrian civil servant died, later his mother also died when Hitler was 14 years old. Hitler, without both parents lived in abject poverty; in 1913 he went to Vienna and spent most time painting postcards. When war began in 1914 he joined the German army where after serving for four years he went to Munich. Hitler later joined the Nazi and rose to become the party leader. He was later to turn to a dictator eliminating all those he thought would oppose him.
After world war one the Jews were blamed by the Germans for their defeat. They claimed that the Jews had betrayed them. Many failed attempts in batter were conducted by the Jews; the Germans regarded the Jews as dangerous group like Bolsheviks who had attempted a revolution in Bavaria, a German state. In 1933 when the Nazi took power, their main aim was to evict the Jews. In April 1933 Germans boycotted Jewish dominated business premises and conducted campaigns and riots against business owned by Jews. Later the Nazi Germans passed a law denying Jews their rights. as time passed by the German cruelty against the Jews increased tremendously, by 1933 about half a million Jews lived in Germany, as the harsh and oppressive laws by the Germans increased many Jews started living for other areas, however other Jews remained (Grillo 176).
Adolf Hitler, the Nazi leader used his anti Semitic views to criticize the role the Jews played in uplifting the German society. Hitler’s book “my struggle” claims that the Jewish community internationally conspired to have Germany defeated in the First World War. He also claimed that the Jewish archived economic power through control of the mass media to their advantage. Later the Nazi government decided to introduce a full legal framework of anti-Semitic laws and policies. The first law defined who a Jew was, those with three to four Jewish grandparents were Jews, those with two grandparents were half Jews, those with one grandparent were half-breeds or mischlinge and pure Germans were called Aryans. These categorizations helped in implementing of dictatorial and discriminatory laws (McFee).
In 1935 a law on protection of German blood was passed. This law distinguished the Jews and the Germans forbidding marriages betweens the two groups. Sexual relations were also banned. By the year 1938, Jewish students were restricted from legal and medical profession. The Jews were to sell their property at a fraction of their value to the Germans. The Nazi brought many changes to the Jewish community living in Germany, the oppressive laws impacted negatively on the Jewish social, economic and communal lives, by the end of six years of the Nazi rule. The Jewish people had lost their businesses and jobs, they had also lost their German citizen ship, and only a small group was working in 1939.
As the oppression continued, the rules and laws became harsher and crueler to the Jews. This led to “the night of the broken glass” also called kristallnatch where more than 100 Jews were killed. The Nazi mob beat up hundreds of Jews, looted and set fire Jewish businesses, destroyed Jewish synagogues; in addition more than 30000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. This took place in November 1938; a fine was imposed on the Jews totaling to about 1 billion RM. the Nazi later instituted laws that limited Jews economic means of survival. After the outbreak of the Second World War, new and tougher restrictions were introduced by the Nazi. These dictatorial rules prohibited Jews from entering certain areas of German cities. The rules further prohibited the Jews the time they would buy food, when rationing began, the Jews got less portion as compared to the Germans. The Jews were also forced to give up their property such as electrical equipments, radios, bikes cameras to the German officials.
Fleming (243) claims that the Germans also banned the Jews from using public transport vehicles, this rule was introduced in 1941,jews above six years were supposed to wear on their outer garment a yellow star that represented Morgan David. Jews were also not supposed to live together with Germans; in addition they were also subjected to force Labour. The attitude of the pope and German bishop also encouraged the oppression to move on. They depended on Hitler to protect Europe Christians civilization from a doctrine based on Karl Marx theories called bolshevism. This communist doctrine was being perpetrated by Russia. Being a catholic Hitler was neither excommunicated nor criticized by the pope. The pope argued that he had to be neutral on international affairs.
After the world war two broke, the Nazi sought for a final solution to the Jewish eviction problem. They would either be deported to France or they would be taken to Madagascar then occupied by Germans. the two solutions were not adapted because Britain dint surrender and the Nazi attacked the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)The plans adopted by the Nazi were for putting Jews in concentration camps. Polish Jews were forced to live in ghettos. The Germans also banned the Jews from using public transport vehicles, this rule was introduced in 1941, Jews above six years were supposed to wear on their outer garment a yellow star that represented Morgan David. Jews were also not supposed to live together with Germans; in addition they were also subjected to force Labour.
The Jewish communities were forced to live in deplorable living conditions, these rooms were overcrowded, lacked proper health and sanitation facilities. This resulted in the high deaths among those living in these ghettos. When Hitler attacked USSR, the extermination of Jews began, police units were given permission to shoot Jews standing along mass graves they had dug themselves, about 3000 German police were involved in shooting the Jews. The head of Germany’s security service (SS) (sicherheitsdienst), Reinhard Heydrich who was the key organizer of the Jewish extermination issued a decree that all Jews in soviet administration were to be killed. This was misinterpreted by commanders to mean the killing of all male Jews. This resulted to the killing of very many Jews. The killings were later expanded to cover women and children, the law later issued by Heinrich Himmler, the then head of the SS unit, ordered all males to be shot and the female Jews and children to be driven into the swamp. This resulted to the killing of large number of the Jewish community. An example is September 29 where 33000 Jews were murdered in Ukraine, Kiev. Later the killings of the Jews extended to cover all the Jews living in Poland, Serbia and soviet, gas was used to kill the Jews. Gas vans filled with fumes of exhaust gas were filled in compartment where Jews lived. This gas exposed the Jews to carbon monoxide that killed them.
According to Eisen (342) the Jews serving in Germany as slaves also became subject to the killing, around 1 million Jews were shot between 1941 and 1942 in front of mass graves. The Germans started deporting the Jews to Eastern Europe for final extermination. The gas vans and people dealing with euthanasia program were also moved to prepare for extermination. The aim of the Nazi was to kill all the Jews in Nazi occupied area in Europe. Gassing experiment was carried in 1941, in Auschwitz killing 600 war prisoners of soviet origin. The killing was conducted by administering of cyanide gas. The gas was made from a pesticide manufactured from hydrocyanic acid. The Jews that were unable to work were also being killed. Church groups were unable to help the Jewish communities as the Germans put in place legislation allowing physical attack on Jews. They also introduced racial legislation. Reich Association of the Jews in Germany tried to solve the problem by emigration of the Jews from Germany. The group further supported Jewish schools and other self help groups organization, the group helped Jews cope with increasing discriminatory rules against them by the Nazi.
In other countries occupied by the Germans, the Jews were killed despite of the attitude of the local people. In France and Belgium, church groups protested when Jews were arrested for massacre. Italians refused to hand over most Jews even though it was allied with the Nazi, Jews in northern Italy, which was occupied by the Nazi were however killed. The resistance of the Norwegian army helped most Jews escape to Sweden. Jews in Denmark were protected by the government, when Nazi tried to arrest them the Danish helped them escape to Sweden.
Eisen, George. Children and Play in the Holocaust: Games among the Shadows.
Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press. 1988.
Fleming, Gerald, Hitler and the final decision. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Grillo, D., Pluralism and the Politics of Difference: State, Culture, and Ethnicity in
Comparative Perspective. South Carolina: Clarendon Press.1998.
McFee, Gordon. Are Jews central to the holocaust? .2009, Viewed on 1, April 2009
< http://www.holocaust-history.org/hitler-final-solution >