23 March 2015
The Holocaust: Genocides
According to the United Nations, a genocide is categorized when one group intends to destroy in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group (United Nations 1). One genocide that everyone knows, and one that should never be lost to time, is the Holocaust. The parties involved in the Holocaust were the Allies and Axis powers, but the mass killings were implemented by the Nazis against the Jewish people. History Channel states, the Holocaust could have begun because every government needs a scape goat to blame problems of the country on. Hitler found his scapegoat in the smallest minority his country had to offer, the Jewish people (History 2). Hitler’s motives can be summed up as follows:
To the anti-Semitic Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, Jews were an inferior race, an alien threat to German racial purity and community. After years of Nazi rule in Germany, during which Jews were consistently persecuted, Hitler’s “final solution”–now known as the Holocaust–came to fruition under the cover of world war, with mass killing centers constructed in the concentration camps of occupied Poland (History 2).
From approximately 1933-the mid 1940s, the Holocaust took the lives of nearly 6 million Jews. Anti-semitism did not start with Hitler, but his “Final Solution” caused unimaginable harm and suffering for generations of people. What is important to understand is the fact that 6 million people do not just day in one day. Genocides take years to implement and they usually consist of 7 steps.
The Holocaust began when clear lines were drawn between two groups of people, the Nazis and the Jews. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Muesum (USHMM), Hitler began to create a divide between the two groups in order to spread anti-Semitism and promote the superiority of the Aryan Race (USHMM). The History Channel claims that “non-Aryans were dismissed from civil service, Jewish owned businesses were boycotted and liquidated, and anyone with four Jewish grandparents was labeled a Jew (History 3). The stigmatization and persecution of the Jews reached a high point on one infamous night. The History Channel notes the following:
This culminated in Kristallnacht, or the “night of broken glass” in November 1938, when German synagogues were burned and windows in Jewish shops were smashed; some 100 Jews were killed and thousands more arrested.
The Jewish people only made up 1% of the German population, but they were an easy target. Anti-Semitism had been around for a few hundred years, which gave the Nazi party the upper hand to clearly label and target a small minority of the population. Whenever a minority is classified and targeted, they will have difficulty defending themselves against a much larger and more powerful enemy.
-What types of symbols and names were given to classify groups?
-Was there any resistance to this happening?
-Why were the groups classified?
-How were the victims oppressed or put down? Why?
-How did a message of hate/intolerance spread?
-What were some examples of hate speech?
-Who were the key parties involved in the extermination (military, government, citizens, etc.)?
-Were these individuals following orders or were they true believers in what they were doing?
-What were some extreme laws that were put in place to keep everyone separated?
-Were there any laws forbidding moving, offspring, marriages, etc.?
-How/When did the mass killings take place?
-What was the public/word reaction to these murders?
-Discuss the death tolls and atrocities that were committed.
-Did the governments try to cover up the murders?
-Were laws put in to place to keep reports or individuals from discovering the truth?
-Was anyone held responsible for the genocide?
Whenever a genocide takes place, people often say, “How could this happen in this day and age?”. The answer is not simple, but one can argue that humanity does not always learn from our past; oftentimes, we act when it is too late. Every person should study the Holocaust and every other genocide, not only to pay tribute to those who have suffered, but also to ensure that these types of atrocities never happen again. Creating monuments, teaching lessons in schools, remembering significant dates, and dedicating time to studying the Holocaust will allow us to see and understand just how far people will go for power and an agenda. It is us to us to be a voice for the voiceless. Pastor Martin Niemoller wrote a poem about how he never spoke up for any groups as they were persecuted, and when “They came for [him]—there was no one left to speak for [him]. People should never forget a genocide, and we should try to make this world a better place, so that we live in a world that never even reaches step one of a genocide.
History.com Staff. " The Holocaust"History Channel. A + E Networks, 2009. Web. 17 Apr. 2015. (http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/the-holocaust).
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Staff. " Holocaust Timeline"USHMM. USHMM Foundation, 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2015. (http://www.ushmm.org/research/ask-a-research-question/how-to-cite-materials).