SHOAH The Destruction of the Jewish Population in Europe, 1933-1945 Through the Middle Ages, Jews were banned from many kingdoms or consigned to special ghettos where they were from time to time with pogroms or Christian church leaders accused Jews or stealing children, committing ritual murders, and (as in the illustration from a church handbill) desecrating the host used in
communion. Background Beyond the Pale Some kingdoms (like the Islamic states of Iberia) welcomed Jews. Maimonides, the Sephardic philosopher, lived in Cordoba and studied in Morocco and Egypt. Enclaves within Islam In the 1500s, Martin Luthers anti-Semitic views influenced proto-Protestant German
thought by his view that Jews should be persecuted burn their synagogues and let whatever escapes be covered with sand and mud. Let them be forced to work, and if this avails nothing, we will be compelled to expel them like dogs . . . Luther and German antiSemitism Both the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Code of Napoleon granted equal rights to non-Christians. This allowed
Jews greater freedom and influenced several changes in Europe: Orthodox Judaism was diluted in western Europe Some Jewish intellectuals joined Christian thinkers in studying the socialists ideas that grew out of the French revolution (eg. Karl Marx) Jews entered into the mainstream of business in France, Britain, Germany and elsewhere mostly in small businesses or trade Anti-Semitism now added unfair trade to its list of complaints. The French Revolution
Arthur de Gobineau, a French aristocrat,argued in the 1850s that racial differences determined the progress of peoples and that history showed that "all civilizations derive from the White race." He believed that the purest members of his white race were those of Aryan blood (most western Europeans). Gobineau was not especially prejudiced against Jews, but his widely distributed essay on racial inequality, with its core belief in the superiority of "Aryan blood," would influence
many others Aryanism In 1871, Germany became a unified nation. A new nationalist fever, coupled with additional strains as the young nation struggled to balance rapid industrial growth, social change and traditional ways, led to an increase in social stress and class divisions. Historian Heinrich Treitschke wrote a long essay in 1879 in which he claimed that the fundamental differences
between German Jews and Christians could not be reconciled, and that the Jews had "usurped too large a place in our life." National Birth Historians have tried for decades to explain Adolf Hitler's murderous antiSemitism. No complete answer has ever been discovered, but as a young man in Vienna, Hitler read numerous antiSemitic pamphlets and books. After Germany lost the Great
War of 1914-18, he eagerly joined others in blaming German Jews for the defeat. Hitler in Vienna, August 1914, joins cheering crowd and Austria goes to war against Serbia. Versailles Treaty The German Jewish population was about 520,000 in 1930 less than 1% of the total population
Civil rights, secured to all Jews by the Weimar government, made Germany an attractive country. But anti-Semitic groups flourished after 1919, including the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi). Walther Rathenau, Weimar Foreign Minister, assassinated in 1922 by right-wing nationalists. German Jewish population
German Jews were not united in religious doctrine. Many in the eastern parts of Germany were Orthodox Jews who followed strict dietary practices. Many Orthodox Jews had fled Poland or Russia. Others were more westernized -Conservative Jews who were fully
assimilated in German life. East and west Hitler incorporated his Aryan, anti-Jewish ideas into Mein Kampf. He rebuilt it around the three themes-- antiSemitism, anti-Communism, Germanys racial superiority. He told a journalist that once in power he would build gallows and order hangings
until Germany was cleansed of Jews. The Nazi Ideology Houston Stewart Chamberlain, an Englishman married to Richard Wagners daughter, believed Germany could dominate Europe, but warned that greedy and immoral Jews could block German expansion. He warned the "pure" Germans that they not could become "lords of the world" unless they
first stopped the Jews. He reiterated his views with more force during World War I. Adolf Hitler is known to have read his work, and made Wagner the semiofficial musician of Nazism. Influences on Nazi anti-Semitism Nazi persecutions increased with the burning of books written by Jewish writers; schools expelled Jewish students; Jewish doctors were forbidden to treat non-Jewish
patients, lawyers to accept non-Jewish clients. Until 1938, Hitler left most Jewish veterans of the Great War alone. Banning Jewish-ness Hitler assembled race experts to educate the German people on the ideas of Aryan supremacy and Jewish perfidy. The race experts
A major force for denigrating the Jews was Der Sturmer, the newspaper edited by Jew-baiter no. 1 Julius Streicher. Der Sturmer Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service civil servants who were not of Aryan descent are to be retired Law for the Prevention of Progeny of Hereditary Disease permitted a genetic health court made up of physicians and racial hygiene experts to determine who could be sterilized. (Evolves into the T4 program killing defectives with lethal injections).
Racial hygiene classes a required in schools Dachau opens for political criminals Anti-Jewish Legislation, 1933 Under the Nazi government, the Ministry of Education and Culture now undertook the program of gleichgeschaltet (coordinating state and society). All press and news were controlled by the national government, neighborhoods were organized by reliable Party coordinators and education was reorganized every student was to be taught rassenkunde racial science which emphasized Nazi ideas of Aryan supremacy and the inferiority of non-Aryans. Families undertook intense genealogical research to prove they
were Aryan. Once the Nuremberg Laws (1935) strictly prohibited Jewish-nonJewish relationships, Himmlers SS the core of Aryan thought now debated the question of Mischling children those born to one Jewish and one non-Jewish parent. Some Mischehen were projected by Hermann Goering and other prominent Nazis throughout the era. Gleichgeschaltet & Rassenkunde In April 1933 the Nazi Party mounted a major boycott of Jewish-owned businesses. Hundreds of small stores went broke and sold their property at reduced prices to primarily Nazi Party members.
Boycotts About 150,000-200,000 Jews left Germany between 1933-38. Those who let were mostly the young, with the US taking more immigrants than any other country. Under German exit laws, emigrants yielded over two-thirds of their property to the state (essentially ransoming their freedom). Jewish emigration Jews remaining in Germany were forbidden to enter theaters, stadiums, public parks or pools. Prominent Jewish thinkers and
educators were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Any Jew who wished to flee Germany had to accept a passport marked with a J. Only a few countries in the world were willing to accept Jewish immigrants. Proposals to permit large groups to go to Palestine or Africa foundered. At the 1938 Evian Conference, only the Dominican Republic offered a haven. Jews Not Wanted Since 1924, the U.S. had carefully restricted immigration through a quota system. Even if a person could find a
place on the quota list he or she could be rejected if the American consul feared he/she would be a public charge someone who would not earn enough and become a welfare recipient. Americans who would file an affidavit promising to support an immigrant could help a person overcome this public charge obstacle. U.S. Restrictions Employees of the State Department
generally came from an upper middle class background, their consulate personnel often educated at ivy league schools who were members of a fairly elite set. Hugh Teller, assistant consul at Stuttgart, had a similar background. Teller admitted after the war that he investigated both applicants for visas and employees at the consulate for any communist associations. (Teller personnel file obtained via Freedom of Information Act, with assistance from Senator Paul Wellstone).
State Department Personnel Herman Stern of North Dakota sponsored his first relative in 1933, his niece Klara, the daughter of his brother Gustav. With the help of North Dakota Senator Gerald Nye, Stern was able to clear the way for her to come to the United States, live in Valley City and attend Valley City State College.
Klara was the first of over one hundred people helped by Stern. Friends in high places 150,000 emigrants did not forward Hitlers goal of making Germany Judenrein (clean of Jewish influence). The Jewish population grew when Hitler annexed Austria (200,000
Jewish population) and part of Czechoslovakia. Hitler now eyed Poland, and threatened that a new world war would end in the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe. German Expansion Heydrich In November 1938 a Polish
refugee named Herschel Grynszpan killed a German diplomat to protest the deportation of his Jewish parents. This triggered a wave of anti-Jewish riots that were planned and carried out by Nazi Party members and police units. Jewish immigration efforts now accelerated. But war was looming in Europe.
Kristallnacht Polands population included 3.5 million Jews (mostly Orthodox). From the first the plan to attack Poland made Nazi intentions clear. Himmler ordered Sonderkommando units to carry out a hard, tough task which demands the commitment of the whole person without regard to any difficulties that may arise. You will be given details by Sturmbannfuehrer Eichmann of the RSHA who will come to see you in the near future. The department taking part will be informed at the appropriate time. You have to maintain the strictest silence about this order, even to your superiors. The Jews are the eternal enemies of the German people and must be exterminated. All Jews we can
reach now, during the war, are to be exterminated without exception. Poland was invaded September 1, 1939. War Jews, intellectuals and gypsies were shot by Einsatzgruppen (special duty units) in large numbers. The Nazi occupation government under Hans Frank gathered surviving Polish Jews in ghettos (Lodz entry pictured above) and soon began deporting German and Austrian Jews to join them. Polish and Ukrainian civilians were offered rewards by German authorities to find those in hiding with a Judenjagd (a Jew hunt). This system gathered the victims and identified those who would help kill them.
Gathering the victims Poland lost about 1/5th of its population in the war 3 million Jews and 3 million Catholic Poles and Ukranians. Several thousand Romani (gypsies) were also murdered. Einsatzgruppen killed thusands in mass shootings, the death camp was developed, gas was used extensively for the first time at Chelmno. An escapee
from Auschwitz would reveal the extent of this in 1942 (but British code breakers had known of it for over a year. Polands Holocaust January 1942, Reindard Heydrich (Himmlers most reliable aide) convenes a conference in Wannsee suburb (of Berlin) SS, RSHA, Gestapo, security police, Interior Ministry and other representatives discuss the methods required to transport approximately 11 million Jews [who] will be involved in the final solution of the European Jewish
question. Adolf Eichmann (right), Heydrichs assistant, is selected to handle all details concerned with transport, camp organization, and actual processing of the Jews sent to the camps. Wannsee From 1942-44, Germany pressured the Vichy French,
Italian, Romanian and Hungarian governments to deport their Jewish populations to Poland. All these nations eventually cooperated. Drancy (left) is where French Jews awaited trains to Auschwitz. Willing collaborators
Yosef Laufer was 17 when his village (part of the Soviet Union section of Poland) was seized by Germany in 1941. Confined to a village ghetto, Laufers family survived by gleaning fields for grain and selling firewood they cut in the woods. After being forced onto a train for camp, Laufer and his father escaped the rail car (abandoning his mother and sister) and lived in woods, fields and a riverside cave for 2 years before the Russians entered the region.
Laufers father survived the war but was killed by Polish thugs six months later. Surviving the Dangers Not only did the IG Farben help build the gas chambers and ovens at Birkenau (the extermination section of Auschwitz), it also mass-produced the poison (Zyklon B) and operated a plant at the camp using slave labor. The Death Factory Josef Mengele was one of
dozens of physicians and scientists who used camp inmates in involuntary experiments to test human reactions to malaria and other diseases. And the effects of high air pressure, water pressure, oxygen deprivation and extreme heat and cold on the human body. Hundreds died in these experiments.
Guinea Pigs Werner von Braun was the German authority on rocket development, creating the V2 missile within a slave-built underground factory that use thousands of slaves as labor. Hundreds died of malnutrition at the factory. The US knew of this when they hired von Braun to create the US missile program (he always denied any knowledge that the workers he
supervised were forced labor). Rocket Science Documents in the National Archives reveal that the US government knew by August 1941 that German special action forces were systematically killing Polish and Russian Jews, but feared saying so would ruin their code-breaking secrets. The evidence of the the Nazi slaughter of Jews did not
become public knowledge until late 1942. Army Air Force aerial photograph of Auschwitz, 1944 (National Archives) Debates over what the U.S., Britain, and other nations could have done to stop the Holocaust has become a major part of Holocaust literature. Bomb Auschwitz? Between 1939 and 1945, some six million European Jews were
murdered by the Nazis, most in special extermination camps. Even after the war ended, survivors were still at risk in eastern Europe, especially in Poland where the Communist government made little effort to protect or aid Jewish refugees. Holocaust The plight of Jews in Europe was hotly debated during World War II. In 1944, yielding to pressure from several groups, FDR created the War Refugee Board (with Cordell Hull, Henry Morgenthau, and Henry Stimson as directors of efforts to bring war refugees to the US
War Refugee Board The totality of evil Few defendants admitted to any wrong-doing at the war crimes trials, but even many Europeans who hated the Nazis openly wondered why so much was much over the killing of Jews. Nuremberg Evil can spread like a fungus over the surface of the earth and lay waste the entire world. Evil comes from a failure to think. It defies thought for as soon as thought tries to engage itself with
evil and examine the premises and principles from which it originates, it is frustrated because it finds nothing there. That is the banality of evil. -- Amos Elons introduction comment to Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem. A Crime of Acceptance
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