29 April 2012
The Horrors of the Holocaust
Although it is well-known that Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany, despised the Jewish people, what is not as well known was that his hatred for the Jewish people began cultivating very early in life. According to the History Learning Site, Adolf Hitler was an introverted individual interested in the arts and not much else. It is said that he was not very talented, and when a Jewish professor had rejected his artwork, Hitler's hatred for the Jews was born. According to the site, Hitler spent many winters clearing snow for large, beautiful homes that were owned (he was convinced) by the Jews. When his mother died, Hitler was sure that a Jewish doctor had been responsible (The History Learning Site). Hitler became obsessed with the Aryan Myth that, according to K. Kris Hurst, was made famous through the theories of Gustaf Kossinna. Kossina believed that Aryans, the master race of Indo-Europeans, were the direct ancestors to the Germans (Hurst). It was through the twisting and manipulation of these theories that Hitler's feelings for the Jews transitioned from hatred to the justification of his obsession of Jewish eradication.
Once Hitler assumed power in Germany, his main focus became the purification of the German culture. According to the Unites States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Jewish population of Europe was greater than 9 million in the year 1933, but by the year 1945, two out of every three Jewish individuals were killed as a result of Hitler's "Final Solution" policy (The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). Although millions of other individuals were persecuted as well, no group was more vulnerable to Hitler's hatred than the Jewish community. Adolf Hitler's newfound political power only paved an easy path to carry out his hatred in unspeakable way, and according to Wikipedia, this hatred was shown without mercy. Anyone with a Jewish majority of their four grandparents was to be "exterminated without exception" (Wikipedia). The site explains that although in past examples of genocide many people were able to escape death by conversion, this was not so during Hitler's Final Solution. "…unless their grandparents had converted before January 18, 1871… All persons of recent Jewish ancestry were to be exterminated in lands controlled by Germany" (Wikipedia). This was an astonishing example of Hitler's anti-Semitism and his inability to show mercy towards the Jewish people. Over the course of the war, millions of innocent people (men, women and children) would become casualties of the biggest and most brutal racist movement in history.
Although the persecution of the Jews would become known as genocide, originally this was not the case. In the beginning, Hitler announced the relocation of all the Jewish people in German territory and founded concentration camps to house the relocated masses. According to Wikipedia, these camps were not originally designed for housing and not for killing, although statistically half of the population died during their incarceration. These prisoners were transported brutally, packed "like sardines" into freight cars with little room to move and little air to breathe. Many of those that were transported were dead from starvation and heat exhaustion before they even reached the camps. Those that survived to be incarcerated received a tattoo on their arm that permanently marked them as property, and helped to recognize escaped prisoners in case of recapture.
As time went on, the camps became much more centered around "extermination through labor" and prisoners were worked, starved, beaten and tortured until they died. Wikipedia states that by the year 1942, six large camps were created solely for the purpose of mass murder with specially designed "gassing" facilities (Wikipedia). It seems as though the Nazi's had developed a taste for Jewish blood, and the horrors committed at these death camps were beyond belief.
Ben Stem, a former prisoner at the famous camp in Auschwitz stated, "In front of us was a crematorium and gas chambers. We smelled the flesh of human bodies burning. We couldn't mistake that smell for anything else" (Quest).
Other horrors carried out in these "killing camps" were the extensive medical experiments performed on the prisoners before they died. According to Wikipedia, the most well-known perpetrator of these experiments was Dr. Josef Mengele. Of the horrible experiments that he performed, only a few are known. These experiments included drug testing, placing live subjects in pressure chambers, injecting chemicals into children's eyes to manipulate eye color, and even freezing conscious individuals. He also managed to carry out many amputations and other Frankenstein-esque surgeries (Wikipedia). Vera Alexander was an inmate at Auschwitz camp during Mengele's experiments and recalls a horrifying memory:
"I remember one set of twins in particular…aged about four. One day, [the scientist]…took them away. When they returned…they had been sewn together, back to back, like Siamese twins. Their wounds were infected and…They screamed day and night. Then their parents…managed to get some morphine and they killed [them]…to end their suffering" (Wikipedia).
It is terrifying to imagine what horrors the victims of these camps went through, and even after the end of the war and the end of the Nazi regime, the effects of such horrors are bound to become part of Jewish culture. I doubt any victim of such a camp would be able to glance at the permanent tattoo on their arm and not relive such terrifying memories. Adolf Hitler's rule over Germany produced unspeakable crimes that changed the course of world.
During the Second World War, Nazi Germany had earned itself a spot as the most ruthless regime in existence. Adolf Hitler's overwhelming need to "purify" the world and revert back to an Aryan-ruled, supremely German culture, combined with his unique position of power made him the most feared man in the world-and rightfully so. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Holocaust, a term meaning "sacrifice by fire", was the persecution and genocide of around six million Jews led by Hitler's Germany. The Nazis believed that the Jews, along with other racial groups such as the Gypsies, the Slavic peoples, the disabled, and also those with conflicting political beliefs and ideologies such as Communists, Socialists, and even homosexuals were a threat to the "superior" German community (The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). Hitler was convinced that, with his position of power, it was his responsibility to restore Germany to its rightful position as the master race. What followed from this obsession became the biggest genocide ever committed in the history of the world, and the human suffering that emanated from this event still echoes today, more than 60 years after the end of the Nazi reign. To think that an entire country went along with Adolf Hitler during his "Final Solution" terrifies me and it creates the realization that too much power in the wrong hands, especially in the hands on one single man, has catastrophic consequences. Hitler's ideology is terrifying, and one would hope that the world learned a valuable lesson about humanity.
Hurst, K. Kris. Who Were The Aryans: The Aryan Invasion Myth. 28 April 2012 <http://archaeology.about.com/od/indusrivercivilizations/a/aryans.htm>.
Quest, Think. What the camps were like, told through the eyes of people who suffered through them. 28 April 2012 <http://library.thinkquest.org/12663/>.
The History Learning Site. Adolf Hitler. 28 April 2012 <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/adolf_hitler.htm>.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Introduction To The Holocaust. 28 April 2012 <http://library.thinkquest.org/12663/>.
Wikipedia. The Holocaust. 28 April 2012 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Holocaust>.