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The Holocaust

Constance Leavitt College English Mr. Larry Neuburger March 17, 2009

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Many people ask how could a thing like the Holocaust happen to the world and what kind of person could do this to so many innocent people. The word Holocaust means “sacrifice by fire.” (historyplace.com) Upon the death of German president Paul von Hindenburg in August 2, 1934, Hitler assumed the powers of the presidency. The army swore an oath of personal loyalty to him. Hitler's dictatorship rested on his position as Reich President (head of state), Reich Chancellor (head of government), and Fuehrer (head of the Nazi party). According to the "Fuehrer principle," Hitler stood outside the legal state and determined matters of policy himself. (page 1-3) Germany power in during this time thought they were racially superior and Jewish people threatened their community. (ushmm.org) Jews at this time is viewed as parasitic vermin only good enough for eradication. After the appointment of Adolf Hitler as chancellor on January 30, 1933, the Nazi state (also referred to as the Third Reich) quickly became a regime in which Germans enjoyed no guaranteed basic rights. (page 2-4) The Nazi seized control over the culture, economy, education, and law. (ushmm.org) They wanted to gain power over religious beliefs and the Catholic and Protestant churches gave them their support. Extensive propaganda is used to spread the regime's goals and ideals. (page 4-5) With Hitler having total power to do anything he wanted he began a mass killing spree known as the Holocaust. (ushmm.org) He started it by first killing disabled people. The term "euthanasia" meaning "good death" usually refers to the inducement of a painless death for a chronically or terminally ill individual. Robert Wagemann a German native was born with a bad hip from delivery. He recalls going to a “clinic” for a

Leavitt 3 physical. While at the clinic his mother overheard the doctors talking about putting Robert to “sleep”. The doctors went to lunch and during this time Robert’s mother grabbed him, fleeing from fear that her son was about to be killed. Many people thought that they were to undergo a physical and then a disinfecting shower. Little did they know that poisonous gas was released in the showers to kill them. These clinics killed around 5,000 disabled infants, toddlers, and adults.(page 6-10) Many people think that the Holocaust was just Jews being murdered. (ushmm.org)But other groups of races were attacked too. Roma Gypsies, homosexuals, African Americans, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Slavic people were also considered inferior to the Aryan race. These groups of people had to wear certain symbols identifying what they were. Jews had to wear yellow Star of David on the sleeves of their clothes. These groups of people were sent to live in ghettos which were enclosed areas where they lived in miserable conditions. They were simply separated from the non-Jewish community. There were at least 1,000 ghettos in Eastern Europe at this time. Nazis used the ghettos as a way to realize their goals to control the Jewish population. (page 7-11) Some non-Jewish families tried to hide Jewish families from being caught by the Nazis. ( history1900s.about.com) The most famous story about this is the story of the Frank family. It was a typical family with a father, a mother, and two daughters. They were Jewish so they hid from the Nazis in Amsterdam. Anne, their youngest daughter, kept a diary during her two years of hiding out. It gave us a real insight on how someone would feel during this time. It had all her daily experiences. They were caught after two years of hiding and sent to camps where they would all die except for the father, Otto. Their story is remembered through Anne’s diary. (page 4-6)

Leavitt 4 With the decision at the Wannsee in 1942 to implement “The Final Solution” the Nazis started to destroy the ghettos and send the Jews to “work camps”, also known as killing camps. (ushmm.org) When they got to the camp they got a number which was tattooed on their forearm. The first killing center was Chelmno; it was located in Warthegau, Poland. In the beginning they were gassed in mobile vans. Nazis opened the Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka killing centers. They are also known as Operation Reinhard. People were separated into two groups. One where they immediately got killed and the other where they got to live. Almost all of the deportees who arrived at the camps got sent immediately to death in the gas chambers. Only a few exceptions of very small numbers of people chosen for special work teams known as Sonderkommandos. The largest killing center, Auschwitz, had four gas chambers. In one day Nazi troops could kill up to 12,000 Jews a day. They used Zyklon B poison gas to kill them. (page 11-15) As World War Two ended, Death Marches also helped Nazis kill Jews; the Nazis evacuated the camps for a reason. (ushmm.org) There are three major reasons why they evacuated; SS authorities did not want prisoners to fall into enemy hands alive to tell their stories to Allied and Soviet liberators, the SS thought they needed prisoners to maintain production of armaments wherever possible, and some SS leaders believed irrationally that they could use Jewish concentration camp prisoners as hostages to bargain for a separate peace in the west that would guarantee the survival of the Nazi regime. Gestapo’s had strict orders which said if one could not walk anymore they had to be shot. The Death March term is considered to be coined by the people who walked it. (page 11-16)

Leavitt 5 In the end six million Jews died and five million of the other groups died. (ushmm.org) All together there were eleven million innocent people murdered by the Nazis. (page 20-22) This could have occurred because people in those countries believed every word Hitler said and they were afraid for their own life. The people killed during the Holocaust will always be remembered through their stories.

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Works Cited

Gavin, Philip. "The Rise of Adolf Hitler." The History Place. 16 Feb. 1996. Sept. & Oct. 2008 <http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/runs.htm>.

Gilbert, Martin. "The Holocaust." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 11 Mar. 2009. Sept. & Oct.2008 <http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10005143>.