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The Holocaust 1933-1945
What was the Holocaust? • Systematic persecution and slaughter of the European Jews by the Nazis between 1933 & 1945. • Primary victims were the Jews – six million were killed during this time. • Germany’s plan – called “The Final Solution” – was to kill all the Jews of Europe. • Other targets – gypsies, the handicapped, Poles, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war, and political protesters.
Who were the Nazis? • Political party formed in 1919 mainly by unemployed German veterans of WWI. • Adolf Hitler became head of the party in 1921 and led the party to become a powerful political force. • In 1933, Hitler ended German democracy and established a dictatorship and restricted freedom of speech, press, and assembly.
Why kill innocent people? • Nazis believed that Germans were “racially superior”. • Other races were seen to be a biological threat to “purity of the German (Aryan) Race” and must be “exterminated”. • They blamed the Jews for the loss of WWI and the spread of communism through Europe.
Carrying out genocide • Genocide - the systematic killing of all the people from a national, ethnic, or religious group, or an attempt to do this. • In the late 1930’s thousands of handicapped Germans were killed by lethal injection & poisonous gas. • Jews were moved into ghettos and then “deported” to concentration camps where they died from forced labor, starvation, exposure, brutality, disease, or execution. • Most executed in the camps died by gas and their bodies disposed of by cremation.
World reaction to the Holocaust • The US & Great Britain had received reports of the persecution of the Jews in the 1930’s. • These reports were confirmed in 1942, but neither country modified their refugee policies or made attempts to stop the genocide. • Anti-Semitism (attitude of disliking Jews) was strong in Europe, which caused citizens of many German-occupied countries to work with the Nazis. • Some countries, such as Denmark, worked to save most of its Jews.
The Beginning of World War II • WWII officially began in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. • In 1940, Germany conquered Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. • In 1941, they invaded the Soviet Union and Italy, Romania, & Hungary joined with Germany. (Axis Powers)
Vocabulary • Synagogue – Jewish house of worship • Cabbala – a mystical system of scriptural interpretation that originated in Judaism • Talmud – ancient writings that form the backbone of Orthodox Judaism • Deportees – people who were sent out of their country • Gestapo – Nazi secret police
Vocabulary, continued • Rabbi – Jewish prayer leader • Exterminate – put to death • Fascist – a political system headed by a dictator in which the government controls businesses and labor and opposition is not permitted. • Kapos – prisoners within concentration camps who were selected by the Nazis to oversee other prisoners
Vocabulary, continued • Crematory – furnace for cremating or a building containing such a furnace • Barracks – building or group of buildings in which the prisoners of the camps lived • Oppressors – people who control or rule in a harsh or cruel way • Truncheons – a police officer’s club • Kaddish – a Jewish prayer for the dead
Vocabulary, continued • Concentration camp – a camp where persons (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, or refugees) are detained • Selection – a process of choosing which Jewish prisoners would be put to death