The Holocaust : Night by Elie Wiesel. Ms. Kinner English 4. How it began….
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Few would have thought that the Nazi Party, starting as a gang of unemployed soldiers in 1919, would become the legal government of Germany by 1933. In fourteen years, a once obscure corporal, Adolf Hitler , would become the Chancellor of Germany.
World War I ended in 1918 with a grisly total of 37 million casualties, including 9 million dead combatants. German propaganda had not prepared the nation for defeat, resulting in a sense of injured German national pride.
When a new government, the Weimar Republic , tried to establish a democratic course, extreme political parties from both the right and the left struggled violently for control. The new regime could neither handle the depressed economy nor the rampant lawlessness and disorder.
The Nazis revived the medieval term ghetto to describe their device of concentration and control, the compulsory "Jewish Quarter." Ghettos were usually established in the poor sections of a city, where most of the Jews from the city and surrounding areas were subsequently forced to reside. Often surrounded by barbed wire or walls, the ghettos were sealed. Established mostly in eastern Europe (e.g., Lodz, Warsaw, Vilna, Riga, or Minsk), the ghettos were characterized by overcrowding, malnutrition, and heavy labor. All were eventually dissolved, and the Jews murdered
Starting in 1938, Hitler began his aggressive quest for Lebensraum ,or more living space. Britain, France, and Russia did not want to enter into war and their collective diplomatic stance was to appease the bully Germany. Without engaging in war, Germany was able to annex neighboring Austria and carve up Czechoslovakia. At last, a reluctant Britain and France threatened war if Germany targeted Poland and/or Romania.
In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Britain and France had no choice but to declare war on Germany. World War II had begun.
Nazi occupation authorities officially told the story that Jews were natural carriers of all types of diseases, especially typhus, and that it was necessary to isolate Jews from the Polish community. Jewish neighborhoods thus were transformed into prisons. The five major ghettos were located in Warsaw , Lódz, Kraków, Lublin, and Lvov.
On November 23, 1939 General Governor Hans Frank issued an ordinance that Jews ten years of age and older living in the General Government had to wear the Star of David on armbands or pinned to the chest or back. This made the identification of Jews easier when the Nazis began issuing orders establishing ghettos.
Camps were an essential part of the Nazis' systematic oppression and mass murder of Jews, political adversaries, and others considered socially and racially undesirable. There were concentration camps, forced labor camps, extermination or death camps, transit camps, and prisoner-of-war camps. The living conditions of all camps were brutal.
Dachau , one of the first Nazi concentration camps, opened in March 1933, and at first interned only known political opponents of the Nazis: Communists, Social Democrats, and others who had been condemned in a court of law. Gradually, a more diverse group was imprisoned, including Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, Gypsies , dissenting clergy, homosexuals, as well as others who were denounced for making critical remarks about the Nazis.
Six death or extermination camps were constructed in Poland. These so-called death factories were Auschwitz-Birkenau , Treblinka , Belzec , Sobibór, Lublin (also called Majdanek ), and Chelmno . The primary purpose of these camps was the methodical killing of millions of innocent people. The first, Chelmno, began operating in late 1941. The others began their operations in 1942.