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The Holocaust was one of the most traumatic events in history. The Holocaust started on January 30th, 1933 when Adolf Hitler was appointed the leader of Germany. The Holocaust was sparked by Hitler’s Anti-Semantic ideas and by his desire to create a dominant race. Hitler convinced the Germans that they were a superior race and that any race that was a threat to them should be eliminated. The Jews were Hitler’s main focus, however, he also killed many gypsies, African Americans, homosexuals, socialist, communist, political enemies, and the mentally disabled. Hitler’s Anti-Semantic views and his ability to convince others of his ideas proved to be deadly as there were an estimated six million Jews killed in the Holocaust.
Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria, April 20, 1889. Hitler’s father was apart of the state customs service and after he retired Hitler spent most of his time as a child in Linz, the capital of upper Austria. Linz was Hitler’s favorite place as a child and he wished to be buried there. Hitler’s father died in 1903 but left a pension large enough to support his wife and kids. Hitler despised his father but loved his mother greatly who died from great suffering in 1907. Hitler had dreams of becoming an artist, he had tried to get into the academy of fine arts twice but got rejected. He then started painting postcards and advertisements. He was lonely and secretive which led to some characteristics he had in his later life. (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Adolf-Hitler)
Hitler moved to Munich in 1913 where he screened for the Austria military service. He got classified as a unit because he was not adequate of physical vigor. When WWI broke out Hitler petitioned Bavarian King Louis III so he would be allowed to serve. After submitting that request he had been permitted to join the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment. After eight weeks of training, Hitler was deployed to Belgium in October of 1914 during the battle of Ypres. He was wounded in the October of 1916 and got gassed two years later in Ypres. Hitler was hospitalized after the war. He was continuously on the front lines during the war as a headquarters runner. He got rewarded for his bravery in December 1914 with the iron cross, second class and the iron cross, first class in August 1918. He found that discipline and comradeship satisfying and confirmed his belief in heroic virtues of war. (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Adolf-Hitler)
Hitler began his political career when he joined the German Workers’ Party (DAP) in Munich. The DAP was a small group of German nationalists and anti-semites whos goals were to win over German workers from the Social Democratic Party. They did this so they could prove that the Jews were primarily responsible for Germany’s plight. July 1921, Hitler took over the party and renamed it the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP). It had become the largest party in Germany 12 years later and Hitler became the chancellor of Germany. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/hitler_01.shtml)
Hitler saw himself to be a political evangelist trying to convert German people to his “world view” other than a political leader. Hitler lacked qualifications to become a leader but he was next on the list to take over after General Ludendorff. Ludendorff declined the offer and Hitler rose to power. Hitler first rejected being the leader but was later forced to become the chancellor because leaders were threatening his position. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/hitler_01.shtml)
Hitler had a racist worldview and felt there was a hierarchy of races. He felt Germans were the superior race. He viewed Jews as an inferior race and wanted to eliminate Jews before they weakened other races. Hitler also wanted to eliminate other groups including homosexuals, handicapped, and artists as he felt these people weakened his idea of a superior race. Hitler felt he could build a strong, healthy, superior race.
Hitler officially rose to power on January 30, 1933. He was head of a coalition government where his first objective was to consolidate power and eliminate political opposition. He also had goals to expand German territory and achieve racial supremacy. (www.britannica.com/event/Holocaust) He began his first steps towards his “Final Solution” on April 1st when he placed a boycott on Jewish businesses. A week later he dismissed the Jews from their civil service and placed a quota that restricted Jews from attending German schools. On May 10th thousands of Nazi students stormed into German universities and bookstores, took tens of thousands of books that had been written by non-Aryans, and burned them all in an attempt to cleanse German culture. A German Poet of Jewish descent, Heinrich Heine, said: “Where one burns books, one will, in the end, burn people.” He wrote this about a century before the actions of the Nazis. The time between burning books and burning Jews was about eight years in Nazi Germany. (https://www.britannica.com/event/Holocaust)
One way Hitler began his path to the “final solution” was when he passed The Nuremberg laws. The Nuremberg laws were passed on September 15, 1935, at the annual Nazi party rally in Nuremberg, Germany and were personally signed by Hitler. These laws put Hitler’s racial ideology into law. This was the first major strike by Hitler to move forward with his plan to eliminate Jews from German society. The Nuremberg laws were specifically written to ostracize and discriminate against Jews. The laws initially made it illegal for Germans to marry or have sex with Jews, deprived Jews of their German citizenship and took away many of their civil rights. (https://www.factretriever.com/holocaust-facts fact #22) In addition, the laws provided a wide definition of what constituted a Jew. The definition was based solely on race. Anyone who had three to four Jewish grandparents was considered Jewish. These laws built a foundation of further discrimination of Jews and eventually paved the way to the Holocaust.
As Hitler’s racial views became law and his Anti-Semitism towards Jews spread throughout Germany tensions rose between the Nazis and Jews. Initially, the Nazis desired to run the Jews out of Germany. They orchestrated riots and burned or damaged more than 1,000 synagogues and they ransacked and broke windows of more than 7,500 Jewish businesses. Nazi officials further punished Jews by making them clean up after the riots and prevented them from collecting insurance. They further ostracised the Jews by preventing them from entering theaters, forcing them to travel in separate compartments on trains, and excluded them from German schools. While Germany was trying to rid the Jews they also kept gaining more territory which introduced more Jews into Germany. They captured Austria in early 1938 and Sudetenland in late 1938. Germany also captured the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in early 1939. Germany invaded Poland and ended up splitting the land with the soviet union acquiring two million Jews. Germany had plans to ship some of the Jews to Madagascar but later realized they didn’t have the resources and that the ocean had become a war zone. Once they realized this they began setting up Ghettos in these newly captured territories so they could keep track of all the Jews and keep them contained in a single area. (https://www.britannica.com/event/Holocaust#ref215487)
September 21, 1939, Reinhard Heydrich composed Jewish councils, they were responsible for carrying out Nazi orders. The Nazi’s created the Warsaw Ghetto in fall of 1940. The Jews composed of 30 percent of Warsaw’s population were all shoved in 2.4 percent of the city’s area. These Ghettos had a population of 200,000 Jews per square mile. Soon disease and other factors started to come into play causing several deaths before the first bullet was even fired. (https://www.britannica.com/event/Holocaust#ref215487)
Jews were the primary victims for Nazism but it evolved to a more central racial ideology. Political dissidents, trade unionists, and Social Democrats were some of the first to be arrested and put into concentration camps. Century-old prohibitions on homosexuality had been forgotten about and Stormtroopers raided gay bars in 1933. They would arrest the gays and put them in concentration camps where they would have to wear a yellow armband or later pink triangles. The Nazi’s imprisoned almost all 20,000 Jehovah’s witnesses because they went against Hitler’s beliefs and refused to say “Heil Hitler.” They could be released from the camps if they signed an agreement to never proselytize again. Germans of African descent were often called “Rhineland Bastards” by the Nazi’s. They were offspring of German women and French colonial African troops who had been in Rhineland after WWI. The Nazi’s were afraid that they might further populate and therefore diminish the German race. The Gypsies were also a threat to the Nazi’s and were gassed alongside the Jews. (https://www.britannica.com/event/Holocaust#ref215487)
Hitler established over 1,000 concentration camps during the Holocaust. “The first concentration camp was Dachau. The first arrivals to Dachau were political opponents of Hitler who were placed there in protective custody, including communists, socialists, and political Catholics. Later, it was used as an extermination camp for Jews.” (91 Important Holocaust Facts #30) Hitler would use some of these concentration camps to take large amounts of people and mass kill them all at once. These people were transported to labor and death camps. They traveled to these camps in cattle wagons that didn’t contain any food, water, or bathrooms. Most people died on their way to these camps from the horrible conditions inside of the carts. The biggest incident happened when people were transported for 18 days and all arrived dead. (91 Important Holocaust Facts #19)
Auschwitz was the most organized and largest concentration camp in history. Auschwitz originally existed to house 10,000 Polish Political Prisoners. These prisoners were tortured and used as servants. The living conditions were horrible, food was scarce, and prisoners murdered each other just to survive. Later, Auschwitz was built to be one of the deadliest concentration camps in history. It consisted of three camps where the prisoners were sent to. Over 1.25 million people had been killed there by 1945 and 100,000 worked as slave laborers. (91 Important Holocaust Facts #43) The initial purpose of the camp was to keep as many prisoners inside for as long as they lived. However, it evolved into a killing factory. Some methods of extermination included being gassed, burning, experimentation, and many other types of inhumane killing. Over six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust and this doesn’t account for any of the many children that were to be born.
Auschwitz was the most notorious and lethal of all the concentration camps. It was three different camps in one: a prison camp, death camp, and slave labor camp. When the Jews arrived a doctor would select pregnant women, young children, the elderly, handicapped, sick, and infirm for immediate death in the gas chambers. Jews that were stronger and healthy were sent to work until they died in factories. They were worked to death. They didn’t get any shelter, little food and water, and no medical treatment at all. After working for a period of time they would be sent back to the doctor and would be examined again and if they were unable to work any longer then they would be sent to the gas chambers. (https://www.britannica.com/event/Holocaust)
Early in the year 1942, the Nazis created three major killing centers in Poland: Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec. The death camps played an important role in Hitler’s plan “The Final Solution”. Victims were transferred to these death camps by cattle cars and were immediately killed once they arrived. The Germans could kill tens of thousands of Jews at a time by gassing. The gas they used was called Zyklon B and was first used for killing insects such as lice. The chambers looked like showers so the victims wouldn’t revolt. They would then pump the chambers full of gas and when inhaled will kill almost immediately. They had portable gassing vans and permanent gas chambers. The Germans would stuff as many people as they could into the gas chambers as they could after taking their clothes and jewelry. They would also have people inspect the Jews’ teeth to see if the had any gold teeth and would mark them so the could take them out after they had been gassed. Once everyone had died they would drag the bodies out and put them into purpose-built ovens to burn their corpses to keep that the camps were actually a killing machine a secret. The Soviets liberated Birkenau on January 27, 1945, and the Germans abandoned Auschwitz I, II, III, and 40 other satellite camps on January 18, 1945. The gassing at Auschwitz I and Birkenau stopped in October 1944. (https://www.britannica.com/event/Holocaust#ref215490)
The Euthanasia Program was a goal created by the Nazi’s to kill people with mental and physical disabilities. The Nazi’s believed that this would cleanse the “Ayran” race of people that were considered to be genetically defective and a financial burden to society. Euthanasia means “good death” which refers to as having a painless death for a chronically or terminally ill person who would otherwise suffer. The Nazi’s used the term euthanasia for a clandestine murder program. Euthanasia was Nazi Germany’s first action towards mass murder. It happened two years before they started mass killing the Jews. The program aimed to eliminate what eugenicists considered “life unworthy of life”. (https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/euthanasia-program)
The Einsatzgruppen were a group of SS and police officers that would carry out mass murder and kill Soviet Jews, Roma, and political opponents. The Einsatzgruppen had killed more than 1 million Jews by the spring of 1943. From 1941 to 1944 the Einsatzgruppen had killed a total of over two million Jews in the Soviet Union. The German had deployed four different groups of Einsatzgruppen in the Soviet Union that would kill Jews on the spot. 40% of the Jews killed in the Holocaust was from these mass shootings. The Einsatzgruppen also used portable gas chambers to kill their victims. Jews were piled into these cargo trucks 90 at a time and these trucks killed an estimated 1.2 million Jews. These Gas chambers consisted of a cargo truck with a gas chamber on the back that the exhaust ran into and would kill the Jews from carbon monoxide poisoning. (https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/einsatzgruppen)
The Nazi’s believed that the German’s were a superior race and they were afraid that other races would kill off their original beliefs. During the war years, the Nazi’s set up organized killings and the prosecution of Jews began in the 1930s. The Jews in central and eastern Europe were forced into Ghettos. The Ghettos made it easier for the Nazi’s to keep the Jews rounded up in a single area and transport them in big groups rather than having to go find them and bring them in one by one. Hitler used the war as a cover up to his plans for his final solution. Poland lost three million Jews and Ukraine lost one million Jews before the war ended. Almost 70 percent of Europe’s Jewish population was gone by the end of the war. (https://www.livescience.com/45154-holocaust-facts.html)

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