Intro to the Holocaust Night
The Holocaust • genocide: the deliberate, systematic extermination of an entire people • Mass murder of over 6 million European Jews (as well as members of some other persecuted groups, such as Gypsies and homosexuals) by the German Nazi regime during World War II
Gradual Domination • Adolf Hitler became dictator of Germany in 1933 • Goal of “cleansing” Germany, and eventually all of Europe, of all Jews • Anti-Semitism: hostility towards or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group. • Succeeded in “brainwashing” and convincing Germany through propaganda that Jews needed to be exterminated (blamed for losing WWI, etc) • Goal for Aryan race: “superior” • blonde hair and blue eyes
Gradual Domination • Actual Holocaust lasted from 1933-1945 • “Final Solution” was code for extermination • Systematic take-over in stages • Jews first identified in their hometowns • Made to wear yellow Jewish star, quit jobs, curfews, etc—All to separate them from the other Europeans • Jews rounded up into ghettos: concentrated local Jewish populations • Deportation: transport of Jews to camps (work camps, death camps, etc) by cattle cars
Transition to Camps • Steps to deportation • Jews packed in cattle cars for days at a time (no room to breathe, hardly any bread or water, no place to use the bathroom, etc) • All possessions taken from them • Upon arrival to camps, separated in linesby those who would stay and those to be killed • Those who stayed had heads shaven, gold teeth pulled out, bread crusts or little watery soup once a day, slave labor, and horrible living conditions
Concentration Camps • Concentration camps: places where victims were imprisoned. “Mass killing centers” • Victims tortured, starved, put through horrific conditions, worked to death, and killed • Prisoners had no control over their lives. Killed if you were too weak, too young, too old, or disobeyed Nazi orders. • Killing techniques: gas chambers (“showers”), crematoria (ovens for humans), firing squad, death marches (“runs”), malnutrition/starvation, exhaustion from labor, experimental surgeries, freezing, etc.
Night • A survivor’s memoir, a record of witness—written proof of the real life horror that existed during the Holocaust. • Author/main character: Ellie, born in Sighet, Romania in 1928 (15 during Holocaust). Lived in Hungary - one of the last countries taken over by the Nazis. • Over 300,000 Hungarian Jews still living in their home towns in 1944, only one year before the end of World War II. The Nazis decided to kill all of them as fast as they could during the spring, summer, and fall of 1944.
Night • To do this, they sent these Jews on trains to the largest killing center of all, Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. • Auschwitz was famous for its gas chambers, which were responsible for killing over a million innocent people. Elie was a teenager during this time, and this is his true story about what he suffered and who he lost during that time.
Night • Originally over 1,000 pages long, Night was edited down to about 100 pages by Elie before it was published in the early 1950s. • This story is probably the most well-read Holocaust survivor story in the world. Elie lives in the United States now and is a professor at a New York City University. • He travels around the world to help promote peace and understanding and has now written over 40 books. This is his first book and possibly his most important work, since he was among the first of the survivors to be bold enough to tell his story.
Night • We give Elie the respect he is due for surviving everything that he did by reading his story. It is the ultimate compliment that you can give him and honor this amazing survivor. He wants you to know what happened so that you will never doubt that the Holocaust did really happen and, if we aren’t careful and recognize the signs, it could happen again…and it has.
Night • Why study the Holocaust? • Night is a valuable piece for understanding our shared history and the importance of memory for human beings. • Analyze prejudice and discrimination, and the circumstances that give rise to genocide • Understand how people survive great atrocities • Understand the value of memory and honor victims • Knowing when to follow moral compass