The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Night by Elie Wiesel Background Information on World War II and the Holocaust
The Book Thief • Fiction • Setting: Nazi Germany, 1939 • Narrated by Death • Protagonist: Liesel Meminger • Told from perspective of German girl during Hitler’s rule
Night • Setting: Sighet, a village in the Carpathian Mountains in northern Transylvania, which was annexed by Hungary in 1940 • True account of a young Jewish boy’s, Elie Wiesel, struggle to live during the Holocaust. • Narrated by the author in first person, also the protagonist of the story
1918-WWI ended German propaganda had not prepared the nation for defeat, resulting in a sense of injured German pride 1919: The German Workers’ Party (forerunner of Nazi Party) formed – Hitler rose to leadership because of his emotional and captivating speeches. Nazi Party stands for National Socialist German Worker’s Party By 1920, Hitler was the official leader of the Nazi Party 1923 – Hitler attempted to overthrow authorities in Munich – but failed miserably and was sent to prison (a hero!) 1925 – Hitler published Mein Kampf (My Struggle) – written while in prison Adolf Hitler: the FührerRise to Power
In Mein Kampf, Hitler uses the main thesis of "the Jewish peril," which speaks of an alleged Jewish conspiracy to gain world leadership. The narrative describes the process by which he became increasingly anti-Semitic and militaristic, especially during his years in Vienna. Yet, the deeper origins of his anti-Semitism remain a mystery. He speaks of not having met a Jew until he arrived in Vienna, and that at first his attitude was liberal and tolerant. When he first encountered the anti-Semitic press, he says, he dismissed it as unworthy of serious consideration. A little later and quite suddenly, it seems, he accepted the same anti-Semitic views whole-heartedly, which became crucial in his program of national reconstruction. Becoming acquainted with Zionism, which he calls a "great movement," is what Hitler claims encouraged his view that one cannot be both a German and a Jew.
Mein Kampf has also been studied as a work on political theory. For example, Hitler announces his hatred of what he believed to be the world's twin evils: Communism and Judaism. The new territory that Germany needed to obtain would properly nurture the "historic destiny" of the German people; this goal explains why Hitler invaded Europe, both East and West, before he launched his attack against Russia. Blaming Germany’s chief woes on the Weimar Republic, he announces that he wants to completely destroy the parliamentary system.
Mein Kampf • Introduction • Volume I: A Reckoning • Chapter 1: In the House of My Parents • Chapter 2: Years of Study and Suffering in Vienna • Chapter 3: General Political Considerations Based on My Vienna Period • Chapter 4: Munich • Chapter 5: The World War • Chapter 6: War Propaganda • Chapter 7: The Revolution • Chapter 8: The Beginning of My Political Activity • Chapter 9: The 'German Workers' Party' • Chapter 10: Causes of the Collapse • Chapter 11: Nation and Race • Chapter 12: The First Period of Development of the German National Socialist Workers' Party
Between 1925 and 1929, the party grew to 108,000 members 1929: Great Depression had a large impact on Germany On January 30, 1933, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor Rise of Nazi Power
Within months of Hitler's appointment as Chancellor, the Dachau concentration camp was created. The Nazis began arresting Communists, Socialists, and labor leaders. Dachau became a training center for concentration camp guards and later commandants who were taught terror tactics to dehumanize their prisoners. As part of a policy of internal coordination, the Nazis created Special Courts to punish political dissent. In a parallel move from April to October, the regime passed civil laws that barred Jews from holding positions in the civil service, in legal and medical professions, and in teaching and university positions. The Nazis encouraged boycotts of Jewish-owned shops and businesses and began book burnings of writings by Jews and by others not approved by the Reich.
On August 2, 1934, President Hindenburg died. Hitler combined the offices of Reich Chancellor and President, declaring himself Führer . Hitler announced the Nuremberg Laws in 1935. These laws stripped Jews of their civil rights as German citizens and separated them from Germans legally, socially, and politically. Jews were also defined as a separate race under "The Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor." Being Jewish was now determined by ancestry; thus the Germans used race, not religious beliefs or practices, to define the Jewish people. This law forbade marriages or sexual relations between Jews and Germans. Hitler warned darkly that if this law did not resolve the problem, he would turn to the Nazi Party for a final solution. More than 120 laws, decrees, and ordinances were enacted after the Nuremburg Laws and before the outbreak of World War II, further eroding the rights of German Jews. Many thousands of Germans who had not previously considered themselves Jews found themselves defined as "non-Aryans."
1936 Olympics in Germany • Berlin hosted the Olympics. Hitler viewed this as a perfect opportunity to promote a favorable image of Nazism to the world. Monumental stadiums and other Olympic facilities were constructed as Nazi showpieces. • While two Germans with some Jewish ancestry were invited to be on the German Olympic team, the German Jewish athlete Gretel Bergmann, one of the world's most accomplished high jumpers, was not. • The great irony of these Olympics was that, in the land of "Aryan superiority," it was Jesse Owens, the African-American track star, who was the undisputed hero of the games.
Jesse Owens • Jesse Owens grew up in Moulton, Alabama • Received a scholarship to run at Ohio State • Won FOUR gold medals in Germany during the 1936 Olympics
In Germany, open anti-Semitism became increasingly accepted, climaxing in the "Night of Broken Glass" (Kristallnacht) on November 9, 1938. Basically, this was a free-for-all against the Jews, during which nearly 1,000 synagogues were set on fire and 76 were destroyed. More than 7,000 Jewish businesses and homes were looted, about one hundred Jews were killed and as many as 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps to be tormented, many for months. Within days, the Nazis forced the Jews to transfer their businesses to Aryan hands and expelled all Jewish pupils from public schools. With brazen arrogance, the Nazis further persecuted the Jews by forcing them to pay for the damages of Kristallnacht.
World War II Begins • On September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, officially starting World War II. Two days later, Britain and France, now obliged by treaty to help Poland, declared war on Germany. Hitler's armies used the tactic of Blitzkrieg, or lightning war, a combination of armored attack accompanied by air assault. Before British and French power could be brought to bear, in less than four weeks, Poland collapsed. Germany's military conquest put it in a position to establish the New Order, a plan to abuse and eliminate so-called undesirables, notably Jews and Slavs.
A Jew is forced to cut the beard of another Jew as a form of public humiliation.
The Nazis' ghettos differed, however, in that they were a preliminary step in the annihilation of the Jews, rather than a method to just isolate them from the rest of society. As the war against the Jews progressed, the ghettos became transition areas, used as collection points for deportation to death camps and concentration camps The Ghettos
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. Discrimination
Ghettos 1941 • Ghetto life was wretched. The ghettos were filthy, with poor sanitation. Extreme overcrowding forced many people to share a room. Disease was rampant. Staying warm was difficult during bitter cold winters without adequate warm clothes and heating fuel. Food was in such short supply that many slowly starved to death.
Jewish ration card – entitled the Jew to 300 calories per day!
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 • 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.
Death Camps • 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.
The Final Solution • In January 1942, SS official Reinhard Heydrich held a meeting of Nazi government officials to present the Final Solution. At this meeting, known as the Wannsee Conference , the Nazi officials agreed to SS plans for the transport and destruction of all 11 million Jews of Europe. The Nazis would use the latest in twentieth century technology, cost efficient engineering and mass production techniques for the sole purpose of killing off the following racial groups: Jews, Russian prisoners of war, and Gypsies. Their long-range plans, unrealized, included targeting some 30 million Slavs for death.
Starting early in 1942, the Jewish genocide (sometimes called the Judeocide) went into full operation. Auschwitz 2 (Birkenau), Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibór began operations as death camps. There was no selection process; Jews were destroyed upon arrival. Mass Murders
By the end of 1943 the Germans closed down the death camps built specifically to exterminate Jews. The death tolls for the camps are as follows: Treblinka, (750,000 Jews); Belzec, (550,000 Jews); Sobibór, (200,000 Jews); Chelmno, (150,000 Jews) and Lublin (also called Majdanek, 50,000 Jews). Auschwitz continued to operate through the summer of 1944; its final death total was about 1 million Jews and 1 million non-Jews. Allied encirclement of Germany was nearly complete in the fall of 1944. The Nazis began dismantling the camps, hoping to cover up their crimes. By the late winter/early spring of 1945, they sent prisoners walking to camps in central Germany. Thousands died in what became known as death marches.
Resistance • Resistance against the Nazis--planned and spontaneous, armed and unarmed--took many forms throughout WWII and the Holocaust. For many, the resistance was a struggle for physical existence. Some escaped through legal or illegal emigration. Others hid. Those who remained, struggled to obtain life's essentials by smuggling the food, clothing, and medicine necessary to survive.
On October 7, the sonderkommando (prisoners forced to handle the bodies of gas chamber victims) succeeded in blowing up one of the four crematoria at Auschwitz . All of the saboteurs were captured and killed. • Resistance continued until the end of the war.
Rescue and Liberation • Throughout the Holocaust, victims received help from rescuers. Courageous German citizens were able to hide and protect thousands of Jews and other victims of oppression until the defeat of Nazi Germany and the liberation of the death camps by the Allied forces.
Those who attempted to rescue Jews and others from the Nazi death sentence did so at great risk to their own safety. Anyone found harboring a Jew, for example, was shot or publicly hanged as a warning to others. Sharing scarce resources with those in hiding was an additional sacrifice on the part of the rescuer. Despite the risks, thousands followed the dictates of conscience.
Heroes • Better known rescuers include Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who led the effort that saved 100,000 Hungarian Jews in 1944. Another rescuer, Oscar Schindler, saved over 1,000 Polish Jews from their deaths. Huguenot Pastor André Trocme led the rescue effort in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France, which hid and protected 5,000 Jews. Over 13,000 men and women who risked their lives to rescue Jews have been honored as "Righteous Gentiles" at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. Thousands more remain unrecognized.
HEROES Oscar Schindler Raoul Wallenberg
1945: Horror and Shock • As Allied troops entered Nazi-occupied territories, the final rescue and liberation transpired. Allied troops who stumbled upon the concentration camps were shocked at what they found. Large ditches filled with bodies, rooms of baby shoes, and gas chambers with fingernail marks on the walls all testified to Nazi brutality. General Eisenhower insisted on photographing and documenting the horror so that future generations would not ignore history and repeat its mistakes. He also forced villagers neighboring the death and concentration camps to view what had occurred in their own backyards.