From Hitler’s rain of terror came the Holocaust and the extermination of the Jews. It began with the first assault against the Jews to the beginning of ghettoization to Hitler’s plan to exterminate the Jews; and then the Nuremberg laws. The horror of the holocaust can never be justified. Hitler was to blame for this act against Humanity.
After the boycott of Jewish business came the laws and views that deprived the Jews of their personal benefits and livelihood. The reason of the boycott was that Jews weren’t from Aryan decent, as the German population seems to be. There were two laws passed: 1) the law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service and 2) the law against the Overcrowding of German Schools and the Institutions of Higher Learning. With these laws the Jews that served in the war where allowed exception. This law divided the Jews who served in the army and proved themselves to the German people and those Jews who didn’t serve in the war. The number of Jews was one hundred thousand, or one in six Jews of the population that served during the war. Of those who didn’t serve in the war; their children were not allowed to attend school. Those Jews who did serve intermarried; their children were allowed to attend school. When the Nuremberg laws were passed in 1935 everything changed. The fall of 1933 announced the expulsion of the Jews from the 3rd Reich. Jewish guilds were crushed.
The Orthodox Jews will not want it and will not listen to us. They will suffer and
go hungry rather than defile themselves by eating meat slaughtered by the method decreed by the wicked ones….. The Jews of Germany must stand up to the trail for
the sake of our holy law. We must show the entire world that we are ready to
sacrifice ourselves for the sanctity of Israel… (Witness to the Holocaust, 1997, p. 19)
The Jews stood up to their beliefs and were going to sacrifice themselves for it. With the two laws (Nuremberg laws), the law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor and the Reich Citizenship law, no Jew were to be citizens, but just state subjects. A marriage between Jews and German people of Aryan decent was prohibited. No Aryan woman under the age of forty-five was to be employed in a Jewish household. The Jews were not allowed to fly the Reich flag. “Though these laws may seem innocuous and merely the work of bureaucrats, categorization had deadly consequences. Definition was the first step toward destruction.” (Witness to the Holocaust, 1997, p. 24). The Jews that converted to be priests were stripped of that title or position and declared as Jews. No longer were Jews or half-Jews allowed to be a citizen; and this divided Germany. From the Evian Conference of the refugee crisis, Hitler said:
I can only hope that the other world which has such deep sympathy for these criminals (Jews) will at least be generous enough to convert this sympathy into practical aid. We on our part are ready to put all these criminals at the disposal of these countries, for all I care, even on luxury ships. (Witness to the Holocaust, 1997, p. 32)
In the end Germany gloated. If each nation had agreed to take in seventeen thousand Jews at once, every Jew in the Reich would have been saved but they failed, as no single nation would accept Jewish refugees. The November pogroms became the start of the destruction and killing of Jews in Germany. This started from the assassination of a German embassy official in Paris by a Jewish teenager. With the burning of 1,300 synagogues along with Torah scrolls, Bibles and prayer books, Aryan buildings were to be watched so that they would not go up in flames. 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps, and 7,000 businesses were destroyed; merchandise was stolen. Jewish cemeteries, schools, hospitals, and homes were destroyed also, and 236 Jews were murdered. All this happened in 48 hours.
The November pogroms were the last occasion for the street violence against Jews in Germany. While Jews could thereafter leave their homes without fear of attack, a lethal process of destruction that was more effective and more virulent was set in place. (Witness to the Holocaust, 1997, p.42)
The Beginning of Gettoization came after the November Pogroms. A council of Jewish elders was established on the soul purpose of being responsible for the evacuation of the Jews. The council of elders saw that orders are carried out and the Jews were to obey the Jewish council. For the policy on schooling, Himmler writes:
For the non-German population of the East there must be no higher school that the four-grade elementary school. The sole goal of this school is to be simple arithmetic- up to five hundred at the most; writing of one’s name; the doctrine that it is a divine law to obey the Germans and to be honest, industrious, and good. I don’t think that reading is necessary. (Witness to the Holocaust, 1997, p. 70-71)
From this no leadership class could emerge, and later on a difference would emerge. Jews are to be killed; all Jews, and Jewish labor is to be devalued. The behavior of Jews during the Holocaust is more controversial than that of the role of the Judenrat, or Jewish council, who were the leaders over the ghetto population. The Judenrat was subject to criticism from the ghettoized Jews. To the ghettoized Jews the Judenrat were the representatives and enforcers of the German orders the ones who did the dirty work. It is said that if the Jews had been unorganized and leaderless, then there would have been chaos, and the victims would not be between four and a half to six million people. The Judenrat leaders soon refused to let their Jews be sent to death or be brought to near-death or deportation. From this act, the leaders were shot. Others committed suicide rather than to participate in Jewish deportation or to turn over Jews to the Nazis. As a result there was a mass killing of Jews by the Nazis which caused the fall of the Judenrat council. Throughout Nazi rule, the Jews where the central target. Though Jews were not the only target of the Nazis, other groups targeted were: political opponents, socialists, liberals, trade unionists, dissident clergy, those who didn’t fit in with the racial theories, mentally retarded, physically handicapped, emotionally disturbed Germans, Gypsies, and also Jehovah Witnesses. When the German Army captured Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, a number of German buildings were destroyed by the Soviet Secret Police. The Germans sought retaliation and the Jews of Kiev were targeted. An outdoor office was set up at the ravine Babi Yar, where the Jews waited to be “registered”. The Jews were stripped of their clothes and valuables and were marched naked to the ravine. There they were shot. The killing continued for three days and three nights. Between the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement there were 33,771 Jews dead, lying in the Ravine of Babi Yar. In the months to come the site at Babi Yar remained a site where executions of Gypsies and Soviet prisoners of war took place. At the time when the Red army was advancing. The mass graves at Babi Yar were dug up and the bodies destroyed. For more than a month the men worked to dispose of the bodies, and the flames could be seen from Kiev. The Jews then took a call to arms. They fought against the Nazi troops that were taking them in for deportation purposes. Those in concentration camps fought back as well. The Jews fought against impossible odds. Though they were confined to the ghettos they were still vulnerable. The arms acquired by the Jews were difficult and dangerous to get, and no assistance was obtained by the allies or by the Polish underground resistance. The Jews attacked the Nazis when they learned of their intentions. The call to arms in Bialystok read:
Even if we are too weak to defend our lives, we are strong enough to defend Jewish honor and human dignity, and thus prove to the world that we are captive, but no defeated. Do not go freely to your death! Fight with your life until the last breath… Make your enemies pay with blood for blood and death for death. (Witness to the Holocaust, 1997, p. 150)
The Jews took to arms and fought back against Hitler’s plan to exterminate the Jewish population.
When did Hitler decide on the plan to exterminate the Jews? Was it when he wrote the Mein Kampf? His third speech excerpted to the Reichstag was his final will and testament just prior to his suicide, when he says to his people to continue the struggle against the Jews. The killing of Jews started when Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 1941. Conferences were held where the evacuation of the Jews to the east was to be made. Those at the conference knew what the evacuation to the east was in fact the Jews being sent to Concentration camps. Many methods had been tested, such as mobile gas trucks and the construction of gas chambers from farm barns. However by March of 1944, Germany was losing the world war. The Soviet Union was pushing from the west; the Allies were coming from the south and the Germans feared that Hungary would switch sides. With that Germany took Hungary. The Jews were subject to the Nuremberg laws. They were stripped of all rights and sent to the ghettos. Adolf Eichmann succeeded in sending more than four hundred thousand Jews in seven weeks to their deaths in Auschwitz. The Warsaw ghetto uprising was the most heroic act by the Jews. When the order came for the deportation of Jews from the ghetto, the residents sprung into action. They fought battles on the streets and open warfare began. The Nazi troops were vulnerable. The Germans were pushed back despite several efforts to push forward. The Germans now started burning buildings one by one and street by street. Even though they didn’t surrender, Jews were seen as freedom fighters to other Jews. The ghetto was supposed to be dealt with in three days. The Jews held out for more than a month. In the final days of the war, American soldiers came across the Nazi concentration camps. The concentration camps were not their targets, but the American soldiers stumbled upon their existence. The war ended and the Jews still could not return home because their homes were either destroyed or occupied by strangers. Most Jews immigrated to other countries or the US; but not all Jews were wanted. In the winter of 1943 Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin declared that they would bring the Nazi leaders to justice. An agreement was made to have joint trials. Three forms of crimes were specified on the indictment:
Crimes against the Peace—planing, preparation, initiation, or waging of a war of aggression;
War crimes—violations of laws and customs of war such as the murder, ill-treatment, or deportation of slave labor or for any purpose of civilian populations… killing of hostages, prisoners of war, plunder property, destruction of towns and cities;
Crimes Against Humanity—murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation… against any civilian population… persecution on political, racial, or religious grounds… whether or not in violation of domestic laws of the country where perpetrated. (Witness to the Holocaust, 1997, p. 328)
The first series of trials were Hitler’s trusted lieutenant Herman Goering, Nazi party officials, cabinet ministers, ministers of armaments and labor, ranking bureaucrats, military leaders, and German occupation officials. The second series of trials of 185 defendants were divided into twelve groups. These trials consisted of the doctors, mobile killing units officers, concentration camp leaders, judges, generals, corporate leaders of I.G. sale of Cyclon-B gas, and the slave labor leaders. No one claimed innocence, but they claimed not to know that they were following orders or that they were singled out. Though the trials were dismissed because of the cold war, others argued that little was accomplished.
The horrors and the acts against Humanity as a result of the Holocaust can’t be justified. Hitler is truly to blame. From the first assault against the Jews to the beginning of ghettoization, Hitler’s plan to exterminate the Jews and to the Nuremberg Trials prove that Hitler was the leading cause of the Holocaust.