Answer: Anne Frank went to school. She had friends and had crushes on boys. She fought constantly with her mother, did not understand her father, argued with her sister. She got in trouble in school for talking. She was a kid – just like you.
Answer: It is part of everyone’s history, not just people in Europe, not just Jewish people, not just people a long time ago. It is so, so important that we learn from the events of the Holocaust so that we don’t make those mistakes on a global level, or even on a local level.
Why is it important to study the Holocaust in Literature 8? After all, this is not a social studies class…
Answer: Some of the words we use today were derived during this period in time. Some of the words we speak were made more globally common during this period in time.
Also Anne Frank, her diary, and the play based on Anne Frank’s life and her diary are very frequently alluded to in other literature.
Indiana Standards relating to vocabulary; importance of setting to mood, tone, and meaning; analysis of author attitudes; analysis of setting relevance; understand the influence of historical events on vocabulary; compare/contrast motivations of characters from different historical eras…
The Hitler Youth was formed in 1926. It gave young people of Germany hope, power, and the chance to make their voices heard.
Adolf Hitler admired the natural energy and ambition that young people have. He understood that young people could be a powerful political force that could help shape Germany’s future. It was Hitler’s goal to harness the enthusiasm, loyalty, and potential power of the young people of Germany.
The people of Germany were humiliated after losing World War I. The Treaty of Versailles forced the German people to accept full responsibility for starting World War I. Germany had to give up its territories. The German people had to pay an enormous sum of money – about 32 billion dollars – for war damages (called reparations.)
The German people craved a strong leader who promised them jobs, a better life, and national pride, even if he did have extreme ideas. Tired of poor living and working conditions, they wanted a simple but drastic solution.
As Hitler rose to power, the German people felt grateful for his leadership. He promised to rebuild Germany’s military, unite all Germans into a “Greater Germany” and vowed to end the reparation payments.
Germany was suffering from a weak, unstable government, high unemployment, and widespread poverty. Hitler’s Nazi party promised young Germans a wonderful future in a new strong and powerful Germany – if they joined the Hitler Youth. By the end of 1933, Hitler Youth membership increased to nearly 2.3 million young people.
Young adults sometimes display their misunderstanding or insensitivity of the horror of the Holocaust. How do they do this?
Answer: Drawing swastikas, making anti-Semitic (disrespectful of Jewish people) jokes and comments, pretending that Adolf Hitler was a hero, making statements to the effect that the Holocaust did not happen, etc. NOTE: Occasionally, uninformed adults do these things also. SUCH BEHAVIORS ARE WRONG.
German boys and girls were inducted to the Hitler Youth in a ceremony that always took place on April 20 th, as a birthday present to Hitler.
The Nazis defined the Aryan race as Caucasian people with no mixture of Jewish ancestry. The Nazis considered the Aryan race to be the “Master Race.” They claimed that blonde hair and blue eyes distinguished the “purest” Aryans. Hitler Youth members were taught that the Aryan race was superior to all other races.
The boys and girls also had to prove that they were healthy and had no hereditary diseases. Some German children with physical disabilities were allowed to join a separate section – the Disabled and Infirm Hitler Youth – as long as they could prove that their disabilities were not inherited.
Mentally handicapped children could not join the Hitler Youth, no matter how loyal their parents were to the Nazi party.
Jews were not allowed to join the Hitler Youth, not even a child who had one non- Jewish parent, no matter how Aryan the child looked. Even Jews who had converted to Christianity or did not otherwise practice the Jewish faith could not join.
Some children were rejected if their parents were not good enough Nazis or if they had “objectionable political attitudes.” These parents included those who were not members of the Nazi party or who had friends who were Jews or practiced the Jehovah’s Witness faith.
At Hitler Youth meetings, young people sang patriotic songs, played games, learned slogans, listened to readings, and read propaganda leaflets – all intended to teach them how to be good Nazis. The children also listened to special Hitler Youth broadcasts on official Nazi radios, called the People’s Radio.
The Nazis knew what appealed to kids – uniforms, flags, bands, parades, badges, weapons, and stories about heroes – and they offered plenty.
The Hitler Youth did not tolerate originality or individuality. They learned, through stringent military-type exercise and propaganda, to think and act as one. Most importantly, they learned to obey their leaders, no matter what.
Hitler Youth boys received training that prepared them for military life. Girls were trained to be good wives and mothers. Physical fitness was stressed for both groups. Hiking, camping, and certain competitive activities toughened up kids, building their endurance and determination.
Every athletic event became an exercise in patriotism. Said one former Hitler Youth member, “We ran for Germany. We did the long jump and the high jump for Germany.”
At fourteen, the boys received military instruction – military formations, how to shoot, throw hand grenades, how to storm trenches. The boys earned prestigious Hitler Youth merit badges for outstanding performances.
From the ages of 14 through 21, girls worked on efficiency badges in sports, Nazi ideology, nursing, household training, social work, and later, air-raid training.
In addition, girls could join the Faith and Beauty group, which promoted physical grace through dancing, hygiene, and charm. The Faith and Beauty group was intended to make young German women strong, beautiful, proud, and self- reliant.
One of Hitler’s mottoes was that “the German woman does not smoke, does not drink alcohol, and does not paint herself with make-up.”
Hitler Youth members learned to embrace the ideas of patriotism and self-sacrifice for a better Germany. As Hitler rose to power in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Hitler Youth campaigned to get Nazis elected to positions of power in Germany.
At first the outside world was impressed with Hitler and the Hitler Youth because they saw that Germany’s young people were motivated and disciplined. An American of that era remarked, “They [Hitler Youth] have no time for cigarettes, dancing, alcohol, lipsticks, automobiles, or movies.”
Many German parents admired what they saw in their children – the physical fitness, discipline, diligence, pursuit of excellence, pride in national heritage, and a sense of purpose.
Other parents saw the Hitler Youth as too militaristic – they didn’t want their children drilled in hand-grenade throwing, rifle shooting, and other warlike activities. For some families the required Hitler Youth uniform and the monthly dues were a financial hardship, and objected to the mandatory meetings that often interfered with chores and church services.
Some German teens and pre-teens joined the Hitler Youth because they wanted to. Others joined because it was dangerous not to. Hitler eventually eliminated all other youth groups in Germany.
Hitler’s regulations conflicted with the beliefs of the Catholic Church as well. Hitler’s secret police, the Gestapo, instructed priests and nuns what to say in their sermons and in their classrooms. Catholics who criticized the Nazi party were sent to prison or concentration camps or were murdered outright.
A priest who told an anti-Nazi joke was arrested and executed.
Eventually it became dangerous for Germans – children or adult -- to have friends who were Jewish or who belonged to the Jehovah’s Witness faith. Those who dared to give up such friendships were fined or jailed. Calling them unfit parents, the Nazis threatened to take away their children.
Eventually, parents who prevented their children from joining the Hitler Youth were threatened with heavy prison sentences. By 1939, nearly 8 million German children were Hitler Youth members. (New York City has about 8 million people.)
The image of Adolf Hitler was everywhere in Nazi Germany. His picture hung in classrooms, offices, railroad stations, and street corners. Teachers were given a choice – either join the Nazi party and train students in National Socialism, or lose their jobs.
From the first day of school, children were taught to greet each other with, “Heil Hitler!,” swear allegiance to Hitler, and use his name in their prayers. Eventually Nazi law forbade Jewish children to attend German schools and then forbade them to attend any school at all.
Hitler stressed the importance of physical training. By 1938, all German school children were required to have five hours a day of physical fitness training.
Under the Nazis, normal life became impossible for all German young people and their families. The Nazis censored every newspaper, radio broadcast, movie, sermon, and classroom lesson.
The Nazis also censored conversation – anyone who dared to criticize Hitler or the Nazi Party faced imprisonment or execution. Telephone operators helped the Gestapo by listening in on conversations between people. Even personal letters were not private.
The Nazis forbade any kind of music that was not German --particularly American music. Books that were considered un- German were blacklisted and yanked from school and public libraries. The banned books included titles by Jewish authors.
Hitler and the Nazis blamed the Jews for Germany’s defeat in World War I and for the economic troubles that followed. They claimed that the Jews were plotting to take over Germany.
In reality, Jews numbered about 523,000 out of a population in 67 million people in Germany, less than 1% of the population. Jews were law-abiding citizens who had helped Germany to grow through their economic, educational, and cultural contributions. Jewish soldiers fought for Germany in World War I. Many were decorated for their bravery.
Foreign newspapers printed stories of “Jew hunts” where Hitler Youth and Storm Troopers raided nightclubs, theaters, and restaurants, dragging out every customer who “looked like a Jew” and beating them bloody on the sidewalk. Anti-Semitism (hatred of Jews) became Nazi government policy.
The Nazis passed a series of laws called the Nurrenberg Race Laws. These laws stripped German Jews of their citizenship, declaring them non- Germans.
According to these laws, Jews were not allowed to use public parks, swimming pools, concert halls, and transportation. The laws forbade them from employment in certain professions. The Jews’ identity cards and passports were marked with a “J” for Jude, the German word for Jew.
In November of 1938, the Hitler Youth, the Gestapo (the official secret police of Nazi Germany), and the German SS (another particularly brutal law enforcement group) coordinated an attack on Jewish people, their homes, and their businesses. The raid became known as Kristallnacht, or the Night of the Broken Glass.
Many Jews wanted to leave Germany, but they couldn’t afford to emigrate. It meant starting over from scratch. It meant giving up friends, family, home, shops, businesses, pensions, and life savings. Jews leaving Germany were only allowed to take a small sum of money – the rest of their money and valuables had to remain in Germany.
In 1941 the Nazis forbade Jews between the ages of 18 and 45 to emigrate. They intended to use the healthiest Jews as slave labor in their factories. The rest would be shipped to concentration camps, where they were murdered.
Also in 1941, the Nazis forced Jews to wear the yellow Star of David. The Star law made every Jewish man, woman, and child bait for attack. All of a sudden, everyone could tell what you were – they could spit on you, beat you to death – Jews wearing their Stars of David were totally unprotected.
Parents of Hitler Youth often could not speak openly in their own homes for fear that their children would report them to their youth leaders. Many parents got picked up by the Gestapo because their children turned them in.
The Nazis bombarded the general public with propaganda to persuade them that the money spent on the physically and mentally “unfit” could be put to better use. Nazi doctors filmed patients and produced documentaries to convince the public that the patients’ lives were not worth living. Theaters showed these documentaries before the main features.
The physically and mentally disabled interfered with the Nazis’ plan to create a “master race.” To prevent such birth defects, Nazi doctors forcibly sterilized men and women considered too mentally or physically unfit to produce “desirable children.”
These patients also included those who suffered from epilepsy, mental illness, blindness, deafness, learning disabilities of every kind, and physical deformities. In the eyes of the Nazis, these people were a burden to German taxpayers – it simply cost too much to care for them.
200,000 such patients were killed by the Nazis. Victims “disappeared” from hospitals and other institutions, never to be seen again. Other “enemies” of the Nazi party included Communists, homosexuals, and itinerant people, whom the Nazis called Gypsies. The Nazis killed over 500,000 such people.
By 1941, the practice of rounding up Jews and other “enemies” of Germany and packing them into cattle cars to be delivered to concentration camps became routine. The Gestapo often assured their victims that they wanted to help them – in this way, the Gestapo who were rounding up Jews and others were able to get them to go along quietly.
The Jews also knew they would be shot if they caused a scene or tried to run.
Jews were forced into boxcars, packed so tightly that it was difficult to breathe. The only light filtered through narrow ventilation slats. They were given no food, no water, and no toilets – just an overflowing bucket in the middle of the box car. Many people died, often from suffocation.
The surviving Jews had no idea what to expect when they arrived at the camps. Armed SS guards lined the people up, men on one side, women and children on the other. The camps were surrounded by chain-link fences topped with coils of barbed wire. Enormous chimneys belched black smoke and stench filled the air.
The prisoners were marched past an SS doctor who quickly assessed them. Babies, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, the disabled, weak, and sick were sent to the left in a line that ended at the gas chambers. The rest – somewhere between 20 and 40% -- went to the right, to the labor camps.
The concentration camp inmates who were not killed upon arrival were slowly worked to death. They slaved fourteen hours a day, from six o’clock in the morning until eight or nine o’clock at night, with starvation-level rations, little sleep, beatings and other forms of torture, and daily executions.
Towards the end of World War II, as Germany was facing almost certain defeat, Hitler created a homeland militia. Every available German male, aged sixteen to sixty, was drafted. In many cases, Hitler Youth were appointed as leaders, giving teenagers the responsibility of training men old enough to be their fathers and grandfathers.
Eventually, every available man and boy in Germany were rounded up to defend the country – SS officers and Hitler Youth even took sick and wounded men out of hospitals and forced them to serve the country in this way. Any man who refused was shot on the spot or hanged from a lamppost without question.
As Hitler realized that Germany’s defeat was absolutely inevitable, he shot himself. Over the radio, the German people were told that Hitler had been killed at the head of his troops. On May 7, 1945, one week after Hitler’s suicide, Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Americans.
After Germany’s surrender, American soldiers took a group of captured Hitler Youth to Dachau, one of the liberated concentration camps. They passed the electrical fences topped with coiled barbed wire, the guard towers, and the red brick building with huge chimneys.
Within minutes, concentration camp survivors surrounded the boys. “It was impossible to believe that these people could still speak, let alone walk,” said an unidentified Hitler Youth. I thought they [the concentration camp survivors] would tear us to pieces, but a word was never uttered, a hand was never raised.”
The boys were taken to a stretch of railroad tracks where fifty freight cars stood. They were ordered to open the doors. The first thing that fell out of one of the cars was the skeleton of a woman. The cars contained badly decomposed bodies packed so tightly that they were still standing, one body supporting the next.
Next the Hitler Youth boys were taken to the red brick building with the huge chimneys. A sickening smell filled the air. Inside they saw rows of crematorium ovens filled with the charred remains of burned bodies, including the bodies of several children.
It took years for many Hitler Youth to digest the truth – they had served as a mass murderer. In so doing, they had contributed to the deaths of millions of people. Estimates vary, but most sources state that six million Jews and six million non-Jews who were considered enemies of Germany died during Hitler’s rule.
More people were killed in World War II than in any war in history. The war left 53 million dead, mostly young men in their late teens and early twenties. Millions more were crippled physically. Others suffered emotionally from their combat experiences.
In October of 1932, when Adolf Hitler praised the Hitler Youth for their loyalty, bravery, and readiness to create a new Germany, he asked them, “What can happen to a people whose youth sacrifices everything in order to serve its great ideals?”
On that day, no one could have predicted the answer to that question. No one could have predicted the extent and degree to which a person such as Adolf Hitler could exploit the idealism of children and teenagers.
Many years have passed since the bloodiest war in history ended. Some people wonder: Could another man like Hitler rise to power on the shoulders of young people? Only young people of today can answer that question. What are YOU willing to do to prevent such a thing to happen again?
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