Trevor Yu, Socials 11, Block 1B, Ms. Moore.
The Holocaust, coming from the Greek word “holos” (whole) and “kaustos” (burned), was the mass genocide of European Jews between 1933 and 1945, whom Nazi Germany deemed were inferior and threatened the racial ‘purity’ of Aryan German culture. Also known as the Hebrew word, “Shoʾah” (Catastrophe), and Yiddish and Hebrew, “Hurban” (Destruction), about six million Jews and five million others, including political opponents, LGBTQ, and prisoners of war were targeted and killed for racial, political, ideological and behavioural reasons.
The Holocaust took place around 1941 – 1945 in many parts around Germany and German-occupied Poland in Europe, where people (mainly Jewish) were taken to forced labour camps and worked to the bone. People who were children, women, pregnant, elderly, disabled, had mental or physical illnesses, LGBTQ, or not of able-bodied men who were able to work were killed because they weren’t useful. Learn more about the Holocaust here.
Pretend you are a time traveller from 1945. You can instantly place yourself whenever and wherever you want. Just after World War Two ended, the attempted extinction of Jewish people were revealed at the Nuremberg Trials. It was noted that Adolf Hitler was the cause of the Holocaust. Would you go back in time to erase Hitler from history to save millions of people from dying? If so, what will the world be like if the Holocaust never happened? If not, why not?
What impact did the Holocaust have on its victims?
National Socialist German Workers’ Party (or Nazi party)
Background and Origins: Before 1933
Before Hitler became the leader of the Nazi party, he already had large amounts of anti-Semitism in his mind against Jews. The reason for that was because Hitler opposed values the Jews have brought into the world. Social justice and compassionate assistance to the weak stood in the way of what he perceived as the natural order, in which the ones in charge show unrestrained power. In Hitler’s view, such restraint on power would inevitably lead to the weakening, or the defeat, of the master race.
When Hitler joined the National German Workers’ Party, which later became the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), he obsessed with the need for “Lebensraum,” or living space, for German people and culture to expand after Germany’s loss and denial of land of World War One. He took advantage of his political opponents’ weaknesses by building power and his party’s status. On January 30, 1933 he was legally elected as chancellor of Germany and a year later anointed himself as “Führer,” becoming supreme ruler of Germany.
During the Holocaust: 1939 and 1941 – 1945
With Germany’s major debt problem in 1918, Hitler saw capturing countries as a way of repaying that debt while also going with their plan of erasing the Jewish people. The main goal of the Holocaust by Nazi Germany was to decimate any of those who were Jewish or of Jewish descent. Although other groups of people were targeted, Jewish people and their eradication were only ones central to Hitler’s view of a ‘New Germany’.
On September 1, 1939, the German army invaded and occupied the western half of Poland. They sent tens of thousands of Polish Jews to ghettos, where they were held to be separated from non-Jewish people. Jewish ghettos in Poland acted like captive city-states, surrounded by high walls with barbed wire, governed by Jewish Councils. In addition to widespread unemployment, poverty and hunger, overpopulation made the ghettos attract disease such as typhus. The extermination and killing of European Jewry began when the German army invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. Throughout World War Two, Germany captured Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. Any person who was not ‘pure’ German were either captured or sentenced to death such as shootings or gassing. People in Jewish ghettos and throughout every German-occupied country were taken for mass transport to concentration (labour) camps and extermination (death) camps. At the end of World War Two, a total of 11 million people were killed as a result of mass genocide by Germany.
After the Holocaust: Impact and Aftermath
The Holocaust only had a few million Jewish survivors. Some of which couldn’t go home because their houses have been destroyed during the war, their families killed or gone missing, or there was still too much anti-Semitic communities around Central Europe. As a result, the late 1940s saw an unexpected number of refugees, POWs and other displaced populations moving around Europe. Many survivors found themselves living in displaced persons camps where they had to wait years before moving to new homes.
The Nuremberg Trials of 1945 – 1946 were held by the Allies to punish the Nazi officials and leaders who had a role in the Holocaust. In 1953, the German government made payments to individual Jews and to Jewish people as a way of acknowledging their responsibility for the crimes committed in their name.
Today the Holocaust is viewed as actions deemed worse than evil. The Holocaust shows the dangers of prejudice, discrimination, antisemitism and dehumanization among societies with extreme violence and abuse of power. The roles of fear, peer pressure, indifference, greed and resentment can have many different effects on how people act in society. After the Holocaust, institutions (such as the United Nations), memorials, and museums are built to document, record and teach the history of the Holocaust to future generations and inform the public of the effects of certain ideologies can have on the world.
All terms relating to the Holocaust can be found here.
“American Response to the Holocaust.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 29 Oct. 2009, http://www.history.com/.amp/topics/world-war-ii/american-response-to-the-holocaust.
“Antisemitism.” Anti-Defamation League, Anti-Defamation League, http://www.adl.org/anti-semitism.
Berenbaum, Michael. “Holocaust.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 22 Oct. 2020, http://www.britannica.com/event/Holocaust.
“Could Hitler Come to Power Today?” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, http://www.economist.com/prospero/2013/06/25/could-hitler-come-to-power-today.
Goldberg, Adara. “Canada and the Holocaust.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 6 May 2016, thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/index.php/en/article/holocaust.
Greene, Richard Allen, and Inez Torre. “Interactive Map: Nazi Death Camps.” CNN, Cable News Network, 15 Apr. 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/26/world/nazi-death-camps/index.html.
History.com Editors. “The Holocaust.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 14 Oct. 2009, http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/the-holocaust.
“The Aftermath of the Holocaust.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/the-aftermath-of-the-holocaust.
“The Importance of Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust.” UNESCO, 2 June 2020, en.unesco.org/news/importance-teaching-and-learning-about-holocaust.
The Role of the German Army during the Holocaust: A Brief Summary., YouTube, uploaded by United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 17 Jan. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBRuf8Sl1Oo&ab_channel=UnitedStatesHolocaustMemorialMuseum
Uyeno, Greg. “What Is the Grandfather Paradox?” Space.com, Space, 5 June 2019, http://www.space.com/grandfather-paradox.html.
“Vocabulary Terms Related to the Holocaust.” Holocaust Museum Houston, hmh.org/education/resources/vocabulary-terms-related-holocaust/.
What Happened at the Nuremberg Trials? | History, YouTube, uploaded by HISTORY, 24 Nov. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsA6AdCRI-k&ab_channel=HISTORY
“World War II And The Holocaust.” YouTube, uploaded by United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 7 May 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMnAztCHcNo&ab_channel=UnitedStatesHolocaustMemorialMuseum