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Shoah/The Holocaust Kevin J. Benoy. Origins Anti-Semitism has existed in Europe since before the Christian era. In the ancient world, the rejection of.

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Presentation on theme: "Shoah/The Holocaust Kevin J. Benoy. Origins Anti-Semitism has existed in Europe since before the Christian era. In the ancient world, the rejection of."— Presentation transcript:

1 Shoah/The Holocaust Kevin J. Benoy

2 Origins Anti-Semitism has existed in Europe since before the Christian era. In the ancient world, the rejection of idol worship set the Jews apart. In the Christian era, Jews were blamed for the cruxificion of Christ.

3 Origins In Medieval Europe Jews often had to wear identifying badges and sometimes live in ghettos. They were often forbidden from owning land.

4 Origins In Tsarist Russia medieval anti- semitism continued in the 18 th & 19 th centuries with officially sponsored Pogroms. Jews were forced to live in an area called the Pale of Settlement.

5 Germany In 1935 Hitler passed the Nurmeberg Laws which allowed the state to act against Jews on racial grounds. –They could not marry non- Jews. –They could not use public facilities. –They were banned from state jobs. –They could be forcefully sterilized. Many were sent to the new concentration camp at Dachau

6 Germany On November 9-10, 1938 the Nazis unleashed the biggest Pogrom in recent history – an event that is now known as Kristallnacht – “the night of broken glass.” Jewish buildings were looted, synagogues burned and many Jews injured. Jews were arrested after this “for their own protection.”

7 The Final Solution However, it was not until WWII that plans were laid to exterminate the Jews. On January 30, 1939, Hitler said that in a new Europe the Jews would be destroyed - but did not state nothing further. After the conquest of Poland, Polish Jews were concentrated in ghettos in Lodz and Warsaw, while other European Jews were massed in Lublin. Thousands died of sickness and starvation, but there were not systematic massacres yet.

8 The Final Solution When Hitler ordered the invasion of Russia, he followed it with orders to Himmler and Heydrich to make preparations for the “final solution of the Jewish problem.”

9 The Final Solution No written order exists, but Himmler told senior SS leaders that for certain things, there must be no records.

10 The Final Solution In May, 1941 Einsatzgruppen were formed to begin exterminating Jews and communists captured during the invasion of the USSR. Killings began right away in batches of several thousand. In 4 months, some 600,000 were extirminated, but the pace of murder and techniques were considered inadequate.

11 The Final Solution On January 20, 1942 a meeting was convened at Wansee to plan a more industrial scaled and efficient mass murder. SS, industrial and transportation officials attended. Minutes were taken.

12 The Final Solution The first extermination camp was opened on Dec. 8, 1941 at Chelmno. Killing was done using carbon monozide in mobile vans.

13 The Final Solution At Belzec a new technique was pioneered --- poison gas in fixed air-tight chambers. Soon Sobibor and Treblinka opened – with the gas chamber in the latter taking 200 at a time.

14 The Final lSolution The largest camp, Auschwitz, along with Majdanek, were dual purpose camps – people were sent directly for extermination or used, for a time, as slave labour. The gas chambers at Auschwitz could take up to 2000 victims at a time.

15 The Final Solution Between 1 & 2 million were killed at Auschwitz. In addition, horrific medical experiments were conducted on human subjects. Bodies were burned in giant crematoria.

16 The Final Solution Adolf Eichmann reported to Hitler in the summer of 1944 that about 4 million Jews had been killed in the camps and another 2 million eliminated by Einsatzgruppen in Russia. As many as 6 million non-Jews were also killed.

17 Resistance Despite the hopelessness of resisting, many Jews fought back. Jewish partisans harassed Germans in the forests of Russia. Rebellions occurred at Auschwitz and Treblinka.

18 Resistance Most notable was the Warsaw uprising of After 400,000 Jews were deported to the death camps, 60,000 rebelled, fighting from buildings and sewers. It took a month to put down the revolt.

19 Resistance Most did not even consider rebellion. Few could believe that such a horrible fate would come to them. Though warnings were sometimes given, it was inconceivable that extermination was their fate. Weak and downtrodden, most accepted their fate and went on to meet their maker.

20 The Issue of Guilt Since the war, much has been said about the issue of guilt. Some argue it can only be assumed on an individual basis – only those directly involved can be held responsible – or even that only those giving the orders were guilty. Others insist on collective guilt. What of the German people who did nothing to stop the slaughter, despite widespread knowledge of what was happening.

21 The Issue of Guilt Those tried at Nuremberg claimed they were just taking orders as loyal soldiers of the Reich. This defense was not allowed. Henceforth soldiers could be held responsible for breaking international law.

22 The Issue of Guilt Many Germans claimed complete ignorance of the holocaust. Hans Frank pointed out at Nuremberg that one should not believe them. It is impossible to murder millions without huge numbers of participants and witnesses.

23 The Issue of Guilt Soldiers returning on leave from the Eastern front often witnessed Einsatzgruppen actions. Many talked about what they saw. Slave labourers from the camps worked alongside civilians in German factories. Did they work silently? Those who lived near the camps must have smelled the sickly sweet smell of burning flesh. Camps were on major rail lines. Passengers could see for themselves some of the activity. As a railway employee put it after the war, “the burning of corpses was more or less done in public.”

24 The Issue of Guilt Few knew the whole picture, but most knew something of the “terrible secret.” In Finland the transportation of Finnish Jews was halted because their fate became common knowledge. Would those even closer to the horror know less? On the other hand, did Germans want to know?

25 The Issue of Guilt In August, 1945 philosopher Karl Jaspers told his fellow Germans: –“We did not go into the streets when our Jewish friends were led away; we did not scream until we too were destroyed. We preferred to stay alive, on the feeble, if logical, ground that our death would not have helped anyone…We are guilty of being alive.

26 The Issue of Guilt What of the Allies? The US government, Britain and Stalin did not appear too interested in the fate of the Jews. They did not particularly publicize information they had about the horror – perhaps feeling that the public would not believe it anyway. More seriously, they did little to use the tools at their disposal to stop or limit the holocaust.

27 The Issue of Guilt Walter Laquer points out: –“No power could have saved the majority of the Jews of the Reich and of Eastern Europe in the summer of 1942…After the winter of 1942 the situation rapidly changed: the satellite leaders and even some of the German officials were no longer eager to be accessories to the mass murder. Some, at least, would have responded to Allied pressure, but such pressure was never exerted. Many Jews could certainly have been saved in 1944 by bombing the railway lines leading to the extermination centres, and of course, the centres themselves. This could have been done without deflecting any major resources from the general war effort.

28 In 1979 an American mini-series called The Holocaust was broadcast on West German television. From 32-41% of the entire West German population watched it, including 47% of all Berliners. Fully 20 million viewers saw all or part of it. Serious questions followed. 30,000 phoned their local stations to enquire or provide detailed information about what was shown. Troublesome questions were posed and Germans chose to face up to history and not preserve the “wall of silence” which followed the war.

29 The Issue of Guilt Renate Halprecht, a survivor of Auschwitz said: –“One cannot choose one’s people. In those days I wished many a time that I was not a Jew, but then I became one in a very conscious way. Young Germans must accept the fact that they are Germans – this is a fate that they cannot escape.”

30 Finis


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