What Was the Holocaust?
The Holocaust is the name given to the systematic killing of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and others by the Nazis before and during World War II. This is something that happened in Germany and German-occupied territory. The German Nazis were the ones who carried it out. It was their leader, Hitler’s, goal to eradicate all Jews from Germany and from Europe. It was a systematic killing of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and others. There were other targets, but it was primarily Jews that were targeted.
Anti-Semitism, which is the hatred of Jews, had existed in Europe for a millennium. It existed for thousands of years in Europe. Hating the Jews was not a new thing for Europeans, but the Nazis gave it renewed emphasis, because they felt that their race was superior and this inferior race needed to be destroyed.
After making numerous false claims about the Jews (if they said bad things about the Jews it would be easier to get people on board with getting rid of them), after they made many false claims about the Jews, they began persecuting them upon Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. You see that even if they didn’t start killing them right away, this system, the systematic killing, the system of persecution, and eventually killing them, began around the time that Hitler rose to power. They were being targeted because they were Jewish. That was it.
It wasn’t because they were actually doing anything wrong or provoking any kind of attacks. The Nazis started to round up the Jews and started to take away some of their rights of privileges and property, and then they eventually started to carry out the rest of this system and begin killing them. At the beginning, Jews were disenfranchised, which meant they lost the right to vote. They were forced into ghettos, where they lived. These would be areas that were small in size and didn’t have a ton of houses compared to the number of people that were forced to live there.
All these Jews were forced to live there together, so they could be kind of closed off from the outside populace. They weren’t supposed to live in the same area. They were all supposed to be- the Jews were all supposed to be living in one area, where the other German people lived in other areas outside of those ghettos. They had their property taken away. If they were living in one home, they may have been forced to leave that home, give up all their possessions in that home, and move into one of these ghettos.
They were finally sent to work and then be killed in concentration camps. These were basically like prisons where the people were kicked in forced to work until they either died or until they were killed in mass murders. Basically, they went about it different ways. Some were poisoned in gas chambers, others were killed in different ways, but in all, approximately 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. That is a huge number of people to be killed.
This was primarily in Europe and this was just over the course of maybe 10-15 years when Hitler came to power, and then through World War II. At the end of World War II, the Holocaust ended, because Germany was defeated. Over that period of time, 6 million Jews were killed simply because they were Jewish. There wasn’t a good reason for this, only that the German people felt that they were superior. This was Hitler’s goal, to eradicate the Jewish race.
As the situation for the Germans became more dire during World War II, whenever the Germans saw that they were losing ground, when they had all this territory but they were losing it, and the opposing forces were making them retreat further and further, and they saw that it was likely that they were going to lose the war, Hitler saw to implement what he called the Final Solution, in which hundreds of thousands were killed just before Germany fell.
That would be just before Nazi Germany fell to the allied troops. The Final Solution was what Hitler called the Final Solution to the Jewish problem. His solution was just to kill them all and get rid of the race. Since he’d already killed a lot, but they hadn’t just been killed, they had been sent to concentration camps where they were made to work and some had died, but they weren’t just killed all at once.
In the last little bit of World War II, when the Germans saw the end coming, they tried to hurry up and kill as many Jews as they could before they lost the war and finish carrying out the final solution. Obviously, they didn’t kill all the Jews, but they did kill hundreds of thousands more just before the end of the war and around 6 million Jews total throughout the Holocaust. This was still a huge impact and a huge dent in the Jewish population. This was Hitler’s goal, which he promoted and sold to the German people.
The German people believed what Hitler was saying about their race being superior and about the need to get rid of the Jewish problem. These people were simply killed for being Jewish. Now, there were, of course, consequences following the Holocaust. These consequences were for the Germans, the Jews, and for the rest of the world, because this was such a dramatic event. Many of the Nazi leaders were tried and convicted at the Nuremberg trials for their roles in the Holocaust.
Hitler committed suicide right before the Germans fell. He saw the end was near. He committed suicide. Some of the other higher-up German leaders either committed suicide themselves or they were killed before they were captured. There were still plenty of Nazi leaders that had participated in promoting the Holocaust, promoting the killing of Jews, and those leaders were tried and convicted at what were known as the Nuremberg trials for their roles in the Holocaust.
West Germany would later issue a federal compensation law, which gave billions of dollars to survivors. Surviving Jews, Jews who had made it out of Germany or out of Europe, who had hid away long enough for the war to end and for the Nazi leaders to be dealt with so that they could come out and be free, these survivors were paid, all together, billions of dollars through the federal compensation law in West Germany. During and after the Holocaust, Zionist Jews fled to Palestine.
They said, “Okay, we’ll get out of Europe. We’ll go to the Holy Land that we can all flock to together and make a Jewish majority there.” Public sympathy with their plight would be a main reason for the creation of Israel in 1948. The state of Israel was created for the Jewish people after World War II, after the Holocaust, because people felt so bad about what had been done to the Jews that they said, “Okay, we will set out the state of Israel for the Jewish people.”
That is the only place in the world where there is a Jewish majority. There still are Jews that travel there either to visit because it is their Holy Land or try to go and live there. There are still Zionist Jews who are trying to promote more people to move into Israel to give them an even bigger majority. After the Holocaust and during the Holocaust, there was a mass flood of Jews into Palestine as they were trying to leave and escape what was happening in Europe.
The ones who made it there, the survivors, eventually got to live in what was created for them as the state of Israel. The total destruction of the Jewish community in Europe caused many Jews to question their faith. When the Jews, who stayed in Europe and saw the total destruction, saw friends and family members killed or taken away never to return, this shook their faith. This made a lot of them question their faith. How could God let this happen to them?
Those that remained in Europe were and have been markedly more secular than their ancestors, which just means that they let more of an influence from the world come into their lives. They don’t practice Judaism as devoutly as their ancestors had. They may give in and take on more worldly customs, not practice all of the Jewish holidays the same that their ancestors would have, so Judaism may not be as prominent as a part of their life as it was for their ancestors, because they kind of lost some of their faith seeing what had happened during the Holocaust.
The shock of the Holocaust also caused many institutions, including the Roman Catholic Church, to consider their own underlying anti-Semitism. Remember, we talked about how anti-Semitism was not something new for Europe. It was something that had been going on for thousands of years. The Roman Catholic Church was another group that looked down on Jews and said that they weren’t practicing what they should be practicing because they weren’t practicing with the Roman Catholic church preached.
There was some anti-Semitism coming from there. Any groups, including the Roman Catholic Church, who had previously practiced anti-Semitism really took a step back and looked at what they’d been saying and what they’d been doing. Many tried to correct that, because they saw what a terrible devastation had occurred with the Jewish population due to the eccentric and extreme anti-Semitism that Hitler and the Nazis practiced. They didn’t want anything like that to happen again.
Many of the people who are groups, who had practiced anti-Semitism in the past, kind of withdrew from that and at least made some changes for a more positive future. Then, anti-genocide legislation was created in response to the Holocaust. Genocide is the extermination of a whole group based on their race, nationality, ethnicity, their historical background, what that group holds closely. It could be a race, it could be a nation, it could just be an ethnicity, but trying to exterminate a whole group based on that kind of consideration, that is what genocide is.
Anti-genocide legislation was created in response to the Holocaust, because, of course, the Holocaust was just genocide of the Jews. Unfortunately, it was not strict enough to rally international support against the Hutu Rwandans, who slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Tutsis in 1994. As recently as 1994, we had people in Rwanda. You had the Hutus and Tutsis.
Those were the two major groups within Rwanda. The Hutus had the majority and the Tutsis were in the minority. Simply because the Tutsis were Tutsis, the Hutus slaughtered hundreds of thousands of them. Even though we had these anti-genocide laws in place, they weren’t strict enough for international support to come to the Tutsis’ rescue. You didn’t have a lot of countries coming in and saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Stop this. We’re going to back up the Tutsis. You can’t just kill them because of their historical ties, because they are that one group.”
Even as recently as 1994, we had something similar occur. Then, the Bosnian Serbs and Croats also killed thousands of Muslims in the early 1990s. Again, pretty recently we had a group being persecuted simply for what they believe, because of their religious inclination. Even though we had the Holocaust to kind of teach us a lesson, there are still places in the world where there’s going to be genocide, where there are going to be people persecuted or killed simply because of their beliefs or their ethnicity or their nationality.
There are some laws in place to protect against that, but it doesn’t mean that every country is going to follow them and rush to these people’s defense. The Holocaust was something that occurred in Europe from around the time Hitler came into power in 1933 through the end of World War II. It was the systematic rounding up, persecution, and killing of the Jews throughout that period until approximately 6 million were killed. This was what Hitler referred to as a Final Solution.
He was trying to get rid of the Jewish problem, because he felt, and many of his supporters felt, that the Aryan race, the German people, were superior to other races. That meant that the Jews were inferior, and they wanted to get rid of them. There were consequences to this. Many of those Nazi leaders were tried and convicted for their crimes. There was some compensation for survivors, in that West Germany paid billions of dollars out to surviving Jews after World War II.
There were also some negative consequences. Many of the Jews who survived and still lived in Europe lost some of their faith and don’t practice Judaism as devoutly as their ancestors did, because their faith was shaken by this event. We did, of course, have one more positive outcome, in that all the Jews flocking to Palestine led to public sympathy supporting the creation of the state of Israel.
That was another good thing to come out of this, but the Holocaust was a terrible time and event during World War II and a little bit before, where the Jews were systematically rounded up and killed by the Nazi Germans.