Skinner Middle School
March 17, 2009
After WWI, Germany was so devastated by the loss of the war that it was hurting on many
fronts. They were hurting because they lost so many sons in the fighting of the war. They were hurting
because their pride was devastated by the loss. They were forced to make so many war reparations in
the Versailles Treaty that they were actually bankrupt. They were hurting because there was no real
leader to repair what WWI tore apart. Adolph Hitler and the National Socialists came to power and
provided Germany with an answer—but the wrong answer.
War brings out the heroes, but it also brings out the worst in humanity. Our heroes of WWII
have been called the Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw. They are the men who fought the Nazis in
Europe and the Japanese in the Pacific. They were the ones that caused the U.S.A. to assume the role as
the world’s leader. But as the forces in Europe defeated Hitler, they stumbled on the greatest war crime
of all, which we call the Holocaust.
The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of
approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. ( ) Nazi Germany was the first
country to officially declare “War” on a minority and seek to systematically wipe the Jews off the fact of
There was, however, a prevailing attitude against the Jews throughout Modern History. From
the Dispersia in 70 A.D. when the Romans kicked the Jews out of Israel for failure to pay taxes, through
the witch hunts of Europe in the 1700s and 1800s, the Jews were extremely vulnerable to the collective
hatred of the populations.
Anti-Semitism was institutionalized throughout Europe. The Christians in the Crusades fought
the Moslems in the Holy Land, and when they won, they also declared victory over the Jews. The Jews
were condemned because of their failure to support or defend Jesus in his final days. And they were
considered enemies, not allies, of the Western Religions.
During the 14th Century, England was against the Jews. In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey
Chaucer wrote of the Prioress’ Tale from the viewpoint of a cloistered nun telling of the love for a
mother for her son. But it turned out that the aristocratic, high-born nun was viciously against the Jews
who murdered an innocent boy and threw him in the latrine for singing the “Ave Maria” through the
ghetto. With some historical basis, the Prioress describes how the townsfolk drew and quartered a
number of London Jews for their mistake. (No mention of a trial.)
In Spain during the same period, Jews were tortured into conversion by means of the rack and
all sorts of mean-spirited devices intended for the person under inquisition to recant their religion and
become a Christian. Jews were targeted because of their “money-lending” tendencies to control banks
and lend money at an interest rate not commensurate apparently with Jesus’ teachings.
Shakespeare added to the problem with “The Merchant of Venice,” when he introduced Shylock
as the archetypal Jewish villain. Without a heart, Shylock demanded the heart of the merchant who
owed him money. And despite every effort, the townspeople failed to turn the hardened Jewish soul to
find sympathy for a fellow merchant in distress.
Frederick Nietzsche nailed the coffin when he published his works on the super race. He
thought that the Aryans were Supermen who were destined to rule all the earth and purify the strain of
humanity. Although mostly crazy, people grasped Nietzsche’s theories and came up with the idea of an
Aryan Master Race—which would include the extermination of the Jews.
All these “movements” combined with Richard Wagner and his symphonies invoking the “old
time religion” of Thor and the rest of the German pantheon gave the Nazis the spiritual basis to move
aggressively against the 9 million Jews that lived in Europe. In a spirit of ethnic cleansing, Hitler began
the first work camp, Dachau, in 1933. That camp quickly shifted into a full-time, 24 hour a day
extermination camp in a few short years. The spirit of anti-Semitism overtook Germany and they all
sipped the Kool-Aid.
The German Cause was the purification of the German Race. With this, the Germans would
produce superior people to rule the world. As Evolution wormed its way into social/political theory,
there were groups that advocated the survival of the fittest and mottos that described, “Only the Strong
Survive.” This misapplied theory was putty in the hands of the Nazi propaganda machine and it was only
a matter of a few years before they were promoting the “Master Race” in the Olympics and every
significant international sporting event.
At first, the disabled Germans were a threat to the Master Race. Then the Jews became enemy
number one. Then, upon the publication of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, while in jail in 1925, Germany had the
blueprint for success in exterminating the Jews. Mein Kampf (My struggle) became the ideological base
for the Nazi party’s racist beliefs and murderous practices. The book became the Bible for the Nazis and
very quickly Hitler’s New Order was established advocating elimination (death) for Jews and Slavs.
So why did Germany embrace the radical theories of Hitler? The Depression of the 1930s
probably had a lot to do with it. A world-wide economic turndown really affected the impoverished
German state. The Germans were looking for answers and they found the wrong one in embracing the
racist, Nazi party. After Premier Von Hindenberg appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor in the 1930s, the
systematic campaign against the Jews was officially started. The Holocaust officially was from 1933 to
1945 and the cost was in human lives. Over 6 million Jews were exterminated by the lawless Nazi Party.
The “Final Solution” was adopted after WWII began, and Germany was institutionally committed to the
complete annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.
What’s even more surprising is that they almost succeed. You may ask, “Why did the world not
step in Germany and cease this slaughter?” The truth is that there were many collaborators involved
that did not interfere with this abomination. When Premier Von Hindenberg appointed Adolph Hitler as
Chancellor of Germany, the Chancellor quickly moved to make Germany a police state. Almost
immediately the German Workers party was renamed the Nazi party. “Krystalnacht” hit Jewish
synagogues all over the country. And Dachau received its first prisoners.
The German people also knew what was going on with the Nazis and raised no objections. In
fact, at first, disabled and handicapped Germans were sent to the camp because of the expense of
keeping them hospitalized. He Roma (gypsies) quickly followed the first group into the camps.
Eventually, Poles and Slavs, Russians, Socialists, Trade Unionists, Communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses were
targeted for interment. Almost all the groups that the Nazi’s thought of as threats to their power were
The 1936 Olympics held in Berlin, Germany showcased the great Nazi propaganda machine,
which emphasized Aryan superiority. Hitler wanted to prove to the world, before he declared war about
the superiority of the Master Race. His racist displays at the opening ceremonies backfired when Jesse
Owens, the American speedster and African-American hero swept the sprints and defeated the heavily
favored German world-record holder. The same effect occurred when Max Schmeling was knocked out
by the underdog, Joe Louis, for the title of World’s Heavyweight Champion.
Voices which should have objected to the camps were silent. Pope Pius XII, the Catholic leader,
knew about the camps and did not voice a concern. Although there were anti-Nazi rallies in the United
States, there really was no official international condemnation of Hitler and his policies coming from the
And of course the leaders of the Holocaust were the officials running the German government.
Hitler, Himler, Eichman, all were complicit in the establishment of the policy against the Jews.
There was a system involved in establishment of the German campaign against the Jews. The
Germans, careful record keepers, did background checks and identified those citizens who had Jewish
blood. Then they tracked these Jewish people and made them wear stars on their clothing, they made
them live together in huge ghettos. They created Transit camps which held prisoners until space
opened up the Death Camp or the work camp. Dachau became a training ground for prison camp
guards and torturers.
There were three ways that the Nazis killed the Jews. The overwhelming Death Camps
established in Poland were by far he most destructive. Initially, the prisoners who could work for the
Third Reich were spared, but by 1942, all he prisoners who arrived in each Polish Concentration Camp
were in line for execution. At Auschwitz-Birkenau at least 1 M Jews and 1M non-jews were executed.
Although keeping good records in the establishment of the camp, at the end they just killed whomever
entered he door.
At Treblinka there were 750,000 causualties. A Belzek, there were 500,000. At Sobidor, here
were 200,000; at Lubin, 50,000; at Chelmno, 150,000. Often, the Nazis would charge a one-wayfar to
the Jews who wee coming in to the death camps on the train. Upon their arrival, the Jews would write
postcards to their friends, assuring their friends they would be home soon.
A second way to execute the Jews was the “instazguppen” (mobile killing units) who plagued
Russia during the WWII on the Eastern Front. Instead of rounding up the Jews and transporting them to
the camps, they shot them on the spot. This action stopped with the Nazis discovered that the
executions were messing up the German soldiers so much that they wanted to die. The executions were
so hard on the shooters that the shooters became ineffective soldiers.
The last way the Germans executed the Jews was to institute the Death March. They basically
made the Jewish prisoners march back to Germany from Russia with the retreating troops. Upwards of
1 M Russian Jews died on this trail.
The world reacted to the Holocaust in unprecedented fashion. One of the mantras that came
from the result of the Holocaust was, “Let us not forget what happened so it will never happen again.”
The Nuremberg Trials rounded up the leaders of the Nazi party and accused specific people of
war crimes during WWII. A lot of information, especially about perverted medical practices, came out
during the trials of some of doctor/leaders. These trial, resulting in conviction of almost all he parties
accused, caused many former Nazi leaders to assume false identities, go underground to avoid
prosecution. A whole system of intelligence and police developed with the intent of bringing these
“criminals” to trial.
Another result of the Holocaust was the restoration of the Holy Land to the Jewish people.
After being kicked out in 70 A.D. by the Romans, the Palestinians moved in. In trying to “make up for
the Holocaust, the state of Israel was establish at the Palestinian expense in 1948. By 1951, over
700,000 Jews immigrated to Israel for permanent residency.
Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace laureate and Holocaust survivor said this in his famous book, Night.
“…for the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and
the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory.
To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a
second time. The witness has forced himself to testify. For the youth of today, for the children that will
be born tomorrow. He does not want his past to become their future.”