What is the Holocaust?
Holocaust was the calculated, systematic killing of
six million Jews and hundreds of thousands of other
people (Gypsies, mentally or physically disabled people,
homosexuals, communists, socialists, and Jehovah's Witnesses)
by the Nazis. Two out of every three European Jews were
killed, reducing the pre-Holocaust European Jewish population
of 9 million to 3 million. The Holocaust was particularly
gruesome because it was a large scale, meticulously
organized plan of genocide that almost succeeded. Furthermore,
the implicit acceptance of it by much of the world's
population makes it one of the most catastrophic events
in human history.
Hitler and the Nazi party came into power in Germany
in 1933. In
same year, Jews were forced to quit any public positions
they may have held. In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were
passed, stripping German Jews of their citizenships.
These laws also defined Jews by their genes you
are Jewish if at least one grandparent is. The Nazis
turned the Jews into a race,
and by doing so, they were able to elevate the Aryan
race at the expense of what they deemed to be an impure,
inherently corrupt, and evil Jewish race. Between 1937
and 1939, Jews were forced out of economic life and
were segregated from the public at large. In November
1938, there was an orchestrated riot against the Jews,
known as Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass").
Synagogues were burned, Jews were attacked and jailed,
and stores were vandalized.
World War Two started in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland.
In 1941, the Nazis started sending Jews to concentration
camps. By the trainload, Jews from across Nazi-controlled
areas of Europe were sent to these camps, where they
would be systematically and methodically killed in gas
chambers. Those Jews who were forced into labor at these
camps often died of malnutrition, exhaustion, disease
The world was mostly indifferent to the plight of the
Jews. Boats carrying Jews who escaped Nazi Europe were
turned back to the killing fields where they came from.
A notable example: the boat, the St. Louis, was
prohibited from entering the U.S. Many of its passengers
ended up dying at a Nazi concentration camp. Other countries,
like France, which had set up a puppet government for
the Nazis in Vichy, had been ambivalent to the Jews
as well. This may have been the most disturbing aspect
of the Holocaust the tacit approval of it by
much of the world.
There were others, though they were
a minority, who helped the Jews and resisted the Nazis.
The Danish rescued the entire Jewish population of Denmark.
Oskar Schindler helped the Jews of Germany and Raoul
Wallenberg saved thousands of Hungarian Jews in 1944.
There were also numerous cases of Christians providing
hiding spots for Jews in their attics and homes.
Yet, despite the efforts of these
righteous people, the Holocaust was too great to stop.
At war's end, 6 million Jews had been killed.
Where can I learn more about the
States Holocaust Museum
the informative website of the Washington D.C. Holocaust
museum. It contains special sections for students, families,
teachers, children and adults. The website also features
extensive areas on education, research, history and
website of the Israeli museum dedicated to the Holocaust.
It has many Holocaust resources, including a detailed
question and answer page, a chronology of the events
of the Holocaust, historical documents pertaining to
the Holocaust and more.
A Cybrary of the Holocaust
a well-done educational online library devoted to remembering
the Holocaust. It includes sections on children of survivors,
witnesses to the Holocaust, personal stories and more.
The Nizkor Holocaust Educational Resource
very detailed and effective website rejecting the claims
of revisionist historians, anti-Semites, and neo-Nazis
who try to minimize or categorically deny that the Holocaust
was so destructive or that it even happened.
Holocaust Resources for School Teachers helpful resources for teachers needing to create lesson plans on the Holocaust. It includes suggested lesson plans and ideas for how to incorporate the themes of the Holocaust into the classroom.