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The Holocaust. Race-based Genocide, 1933 - 1945.

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The Holocaust

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The Holocaust

Race-based Genocide, 1933 - 1945

The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. "Holocaust" is a word of Greek origin meaning "sacrifice by fire." When we use the term “Holocaust” to describe the genocide which took place at the hands of Nazis in Germany during World War II, we are describing the systematic murder – and the burning of the bodies in ovens– of millions of the Jewish men and women in Europe between 1933 and 1945. The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that the Jews, deemed "inferior," were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community, or Aryan race.

During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted other groups because of their perceived "racial inferiority“: Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, and some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and Serbs, for example). Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals.


The Holocaust

The Rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism

“They are simply our old enemies, their plans have suffered shipwreck through us, and they rightly hate us, just as we hate them. We realize that this war can end only either in the Wiping out of the Germanic nations, or by the disappearance of Jewry from Europe. On September 3rd I spoke in the Reichstag--and I dislike premature prophecies--and I said that this war would not end the way the Jews imagine, that is, in the extinction of the European Aryan nations, but that the result of this war would be the destruction of Jewry. For the first time, it will not be the others who will bleed to death, but for the first time the genuine ancient Jewish law, "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," is being applied.”

Adolf Hitler rose to power based on an Anti-Semitic philosophy which blamed members of the Jewish faith – he called it a race – for all of the problems of Germany. In his writings, like Mein Kampf he postulated that Jewish conspiracies had resulted in the downfall of Germany during World War I and the economic struggles of Germany during the Depression. Many Germans began to follow him, looking for a strong leader in a difficult time. Meanwhile, violence directed at the Jewish population increased.

Adolf Hitler

A powerful orator, Hitler was able to command respect from crowds large and small. He was able to captivate large audiences with his hate-filled rhetoric, and to intimidate individuals with his threats. Ignoring the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, Hitler began to re-arm the nation militarily and to occupy land by force – first the Rhineland in Germany, then nations like Austria and Czechoslovakia. The international community adopted a policy of appeasement, backing down from Hitler’s aggressive demands.

Anti-Semitic Propaganda

Nazi-Germany produced a variety of posters, films, pamphlets and other literature which attempted to represent Jewish people as harmful to society. In this poster, a Jewish man is represented as physically disfigured. He carries a piece of the Soviet Union under one arm – he is responsible for communist ideologies. In his right hand, a pile of blood-stained coins. In his left hand, a whip to inflict injury.

Anti-Semitic Newspapers

This newspaper’s caption reads "Where one is ruled by the Jews, freedom is only an empty dream." The Nazis claimed that Jewish people were all a part of an international conspiracy to rule the planet. There was wide-spread suspicion that Franklin Roosevelt may have had Jewish ancestors.

By 1938, Nazi Germany began to target Jewish owned businesses and synagogues with massive government authorized pogroms – mob-riots targeting Jewish people throughout the nation. The most horrifying of these was Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass.”

Jewish citizens were arrested and their property was destroyed during Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass.”

A Synagogue victimized by arson during Kristallnacht, 1938.

A Jewish owned shop, the morning after Kristallnacht.

First, They Came For…

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist;

Then they came for the incurably sick, and I did not speak out - because I was not sick;

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Martin Niemoller

Euthanasia in Nazi Germany

This Nazi euthanasia propaganda poster reads: "60,000 Reichsmarks is what this person suffering from hereditary defects costs the People's community during his lifetime. Comrade, that is your money too. Read 'New People', the monthly magazine of the Bureau for Race Politics of the NSDAP.“ The Nazi solution to this problem: put all men, women, children, and babies with physical and mental defects to death. It is believed that as many as 275,000 born with birth defects or living as patients in asylums were murdered during World War II.

When World War II began, the Nazis rounded up Jewish populations and confined them to ghettoes, like Lodz, Poland.


Jewish citizens in Germany were arrested by the SS, forced to leave behind all of their property, and taken to central locations in major cities to the East, frequently in Poland. Jewish citizens were forced to live in cramped conditions without resources for basic needs and without medical care. Many were brutalized by Nazi guards and mistreated throughout this period – but things would get horribly worse.

The Jewish Ghetto at Lodz, Poland

The Jewish Ghetto at Lodz, Poland

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