We will describe how some individuals, organizations, symbols, and events, including some major international events, contributed to the development of identity, citizenship, and/or heritage in Canada between 1929 and 1945.
You will explain the significance of the Holocaust for Canada and Canadians.
The Genocide that Changed the way we look at Humanity
The Holocaust was one of the worst genocides in modern history. Although it can be debated if it was the worst genocide in human history, the scope and calculation of this genocide was unprecedented. No other time in human history did a government have more conviction to eliminate a race from the world. An important question to consider before we continue is: Why was this allowed to happen?
When Hitler took control in Germany in 1933, one of his mandates was to discriminate, and harshly oppress the Jewish population in Germany. He believed that Germany lost World War One because Germany was ‘stabbed in the back’ by the rich Jewish population in Germany at the time. Jewish people were not the only ‘undesirables’ that Hitler believed needed to be removed. Communists, gypsies, the disabled (physically or mentally), homosexuals and intellectuals were also on Hitler’s list of undesirable people.
January 30, 1933 – Hitler comes to power in Germany- be becomes Chancellor of Germany-the Nazi party becomes the ruling party February, 1933 - The weekly publication Der Stürmer, becomes the official document of the Nazi party and is distributed throughout Germany. The motto of the paper is “The Jews are our misfortune.”
February 28, 1933 - After a fire in the Reichstag (parliament building) Hitler passes the Reichstag Fire Decree. The decree suspended the civil rights of Nazi opponents in the German constitution. These rights included freedom of speech, assembly, press, and formed the basis for the prohibition of Nazi opponents to have judicial proceedings. March 22, 1933 - Hitler’s SS (his elite guard), establishes a concentration camp, outside the town of Dachau for political opponents of the regime. This was first concentration camp to house opponents and undesirables.
March 23, 1933 - The Enabling Act is issued by the Nazi government, giving Hitler dictatorial powers. Hitler is now free to make whichever oppressive laws he sees fit. April - October, 1933 - The following new laws demonstrate how quickly Hitler destroyed human rights for many people: - Boycotts against Jewish physicians, lawyers and merchants, Jew's forbidden to attend schools or universities.
April - October, 1933 (…continued) - Jews cannot practice law or any civil service job. Jews already working in these fields are forced to retire. - Nazi run schools are established to indoctrinate the new generation. - The dissolution of German trade unions. - All political opposition against the Nazi government is punishable by law.
April - October, 1933 (……continued) - Laws enacted allowing sterilization for 'unfit' parents, as well as euthanasia for 'defective' Germans. - Jews banned from journalism, literature, music, broadcasting, art, theater and farming - Nazis pass law placing the homeless, beggars, the unemployed and alcoholics in concentration camps.
September 15, 1935 - The Nuremberg Laws are enacted. Jews are no longer allowed to be German citizens. Jews cannot marry non-Jews. Jews cannot have sexual relations with non-Jews. November 9, 1938 – Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass ) In one night of violence 100-1,000 Jews are murdered and 20,000 German and Austrian Jews are arrested and sent to camps. Hundreds of synagogues and Jewish shops burned. Jews forced to pay one billion Marks for damages.
All of these oppressive laws (implemented soon after Hitler gained power), demonstrates that the Holocaust was planned years ahead. It was not an outburst of racial hatred, but a carefully planned and coordinated destruction of a people. Hitler’s grand plan was to eradicate the Jewish population from the earth. He even planned to use Madagascar as an island which would serve as a massive concentration camp for the world’s Jews.
Hitler began the eradication of the Jewish population as he fought through the Soviet Union after Operation Barbarossa. A special unit called the einsatzgruppen was deployed in recently conquered territories. Their main objective was to find, round up, and kill all Jewish people within that territory. They usually resorted to shooting the undesirables into mass graves. However, this was seen as time consuming and a waste of war materials (bullets). 33,000 Jews are murdered this way in two days at Babi Yar near Kiev, Ukraine in July 1941.
As time went on, the Nazis were trying new ways to solve their ‘Jewish problem’. A new and effective way was to turn vans into small gas chambers, by funneling the exhaust from the car, back into the sealed van. In 1941 General Reinhard Heydric used this same idea for his Final Solution to the Jewish problem. He designed massive concentration camps, with the sole purpose of killing as many undesirables as efficiently as possible. He designed massive gas chambers to achieve this goal. Reinhard Heydric
From 1941 until the end of the war, 6 death camps killed millions of undesirables. Some of the largest death camps were Auschwitz, Belzec and Treblinka, all of which were located in Poland. The Final Solution began in early 1942 when the first mass-gassings occurred. It didn’t stop until the Soviet Union began to oust the Nazis from Poland in October 1944. The Nazis typically abandoned the Death Camp, destroying as much evidence as possible, or took their prisoners on death marches away from the invading Soviets.
When the Allied Nations began to liberate these camps, they discovered the true evil behind the Nazi Regime. They found mass graves, massive crematoriums, and very sick prisoners. Many had been worked to death or died of starvation, but most victims of the Holocaust had been burned in the crematoriums. This makes it impossible to know how many men, women and children died. However, many documents were discovered which can give us a good estimate of the numbers.
Link to a breakdown of Jewish victims by Country Total Deaths from Nazi Genocidal Policies GroupDeaths European Jews5,600,000 to 6,250,000 Soviet prisoners of war3,000,000 Polish Catholics3,000,000 Serbians700,000 (Croat Ustasa persecution) Roma, Sinti, and Lalleri (Gypsies)222,000 to 250,000 Germans (political, religious, and Resistance) 80,000 Germans (handicapped)70,000 Homosexuals12,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses2500
World Jewish Population (estimates) Place Number 1939 Number 1989 Europe9,462,0002,558,400 Americas5,556,0006,727,700 Asia1,008,0003,750,700 Africa594,000149,000 Australia & New Zealand 28,00089,600 Map of the Jewish Holocaust death toll as a % of the total pre-war Jewish population by country/region
Now that one of the greatest crimes against humanity had been discovered, how would humanity deal with it? As you can imagine, the world was horrified when images of these events began to circulate around the globe. People demanded that the criminals behind these atrocities must pay for their actions. The Nuremberg Trials were held from November 20 th 1945 to October 1 st 1946. 23 of the Nazi’s most powerful leaders would have to face the world for what they participated in.
At the end of the Nuremburg Trials, 12 were sentenced to death, 3 sentenced to life in prison, 4 sentenced to 10-20 years and 3 were acquitted. Unfortunately, Hitler, Himmler and Goebbels (the 3 masterminds of the Holocaust) committed suicide before they could be tried. Although many of the architects of the Holocaust had seen justice, what should the world do to prevent this from happening again? Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Leader of the einsatzgruppen, sentenced to death Hermann Göring, Commander of the Luftwaffe (Air Force) sentenced to death
In response to the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, the international community sought to define the rights and freedoms necessary to secure the dignity and worth of each individual. In 1948, the newly formed United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This would give basic human rights and freedoms to all people of the world. Many believe it is one of the most important documents signed in recent human history.
Another major question that needed to be answered was - where will the millions of displaced Jews go? After WWI the British had promised a Jewish homeland in the British Mandate Palestine. With an obvious sympathy towards the Jewish people, the United Nations created a section of Palestine as a new Jewish homeland called Israel. This has been one of the most significant decisions related to WWII, because it has generated so much conflict.