About the Holocaust

The Holocaust began in early 1933 when Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. It ended when the Allied forces defeated the Nazis in 1945. The period between these two dates witnessed the most horrific and inhumane treatment from one human being towards another ever recorded.

The word "Holocaust," which means "sacrifice by fire," refers to the persecution and attempted annihilation of the Jewish people. In Israel it is referred to by "Shoah." They have a holocaust day called "Yom haShoah," meaning, "The Day of the Holocaust."

Of the 11 million people killed in the holocaust more than half were Jewish. There were approximately 9 million Jews living in Europe at the beginning of the Holocaust, when it was over there were less than 3 million remaining. Many of them survived because they saw the warning signs and fled Europe while they still had the chance. Some were in hiding because they were unable to escape in time and some survived the concentration and death camps.

Some that were in hiding were caught, such as Anne Franks, but thousands survived hidden for the duration of the war, thanks to the selfless acts of others that put their own lives and those of their families at risk to save people they didn't even know because they knew the evil that now existed in the Nazi party.

Along with the Jews the Nazis also targeted the Gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled and even the Jehovah Witnesses for extinction. The Nazis felt these groups were inferior and unworthy to live in their empire. In all, there were over 11 million people murdered from these combined groups. As mentioned above, the Jews made up the majority of the deaths. Of these 11 million murdered, about 1.1 million were children.

The first action taken against the Jews of Germany were boycotts of all the Jewish businesses. This was in spring 1933. A few years later the Nuremberg Laws were passed. These laws stripped the Jews of their citizenship, marriage between Jews and Germans were forbidden, even sexual relations between Jews and Germans were not allowed. These laws also excluded Jews from normal productive public lives.

Several more years later more laws were passed against the Jews. No longer could Jews work in the public sector, visit national or city parks and recreations and prevented Jews from conducting business with anyone other than other Jews. In preparations for the future confiscation of Jewish property they were required to now register any property they might own.

The Pogroms began in the winter of 1938. The "Night of Broken Glass," was the beginning of major violence against the Jewish people. On this night approximately 30,000 Jew were arrested and sent to concentration camps as well as having their Synagogues burned and their businesses pillaged and looted, and of course the breaking of windows in homes and businesses ot the Jewish people, hence the name, "Night of Broken Glass."

The year following the pogroms saw the official beginning of WWII. It was at this time that the famous yellow star came into being marking all Jews so they could be easily identified. It was also the beginning of the ghettos. Jews were rounded up and moved to a specific part of the towns. At first they were free to roam during the day but were required to be back in the ghetto by sundown, these were known as "open" ghettos. This was latter changed to complete confinement, i.e. "closed" ghettos. Jew could be shot if found outside the ghettos at any time.

The Jewish underground and fighters were fierce and courageous in their battles with the Nazis. The Nazis didn't take Jewish prisoners so they simply fought to the death as surrender wasn't an option. One such battle took place when the Nazis came to empty the Warsaw ghettos. The remaining Jews fought back and were able to hold the Nazis off for 28 days. Keep in mind these were not well armed soldiers but starving and weak families living in a ghetto. To put this in some perspective, many countries didn't last that long when faced with the might of the German army.

The Nazis built six death camps and many more concentration camps. Of these death camps Auschwitz and Majdanek, both of which were in Poland, served as concentration camps as well. These camps were known for their exceptional cruelty and brutality. Several of the camp commanders were sentenced to death for war crimes.

Medical experiments were part of the cruelty of the camps. Auschwitz was home to the infamous Josef Mengele, also known as the "Angel of Death." His experiments were so vile and cruel he was sentenced to death for them. The things he did to men, women and children are unspeakable.

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