Compiled by Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge
The Holocaust was the attempt to exterminate all the Jews in Europe. Racially based genocide plan killed more than 6 million Jews including two million children and 5 million others during 1941 to 1945. The Holocaust was not a randomly conducted atrocity which resulted on high emotions. It was systematically and meticulously planned for years. The Nazis built concentration camps for the purpose of forced labour and gassing victims.
Holocaust and the German People
Hitler came to power in 1933. He did not seize power. Hitler was elected by the votes of the German people. Many Germans at that era considered Hitler as the savior of the Germany. Hitler was obsessed with racial hygiene. His speeches became very popular and people responded positively to his theory of racial supremacy. Hitler’s Mein Kampf became one of the popular and admired books in Germany. Hitler believed that Aryan superiority was being threatened particularly by the Jewish race. Many of the German people grasped this idea without contesting. Hitler’s ability to arouse in his supporters emotions of anger and hate often resulted in their committing acts of violence. The Holocaust was the ultimate culmination of his violence, terror and brutality.
For 12 years Germany was ruled by the Nazi Party and opposition had no place to survive. No one was dare to challenge Hitler. A frightened society was forced to obey unimaginable orders. Hitler’s campaign of extermination of Jewish people was camouflaged from the German Public. The average Germans knew nothing about the horrors that took place in the Concentration camps. The NAZI Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels constantly reported that there were no mass extermination of Jews in Germany or in the occupied territories. Despite the governing Nazi iron fist German humanitarians like Oscar Schindler helped to save the lives of 12,000 Jews.
When Hitler came to power over 500,000 Jews lived in Germany. They were Germanized and had no major conflicts with the rest of the population. Anti Semitic propaganda of the new Nazi regime changed the racial harmony. On November 9, 1938 the Nazis unleashed a wave of attacks against the German Jews which was called Kristallnacht, (Christal Night) or the “the Night of Broken Glass.” The gangs of Nazi youth roamed through Jewish neighborhoods breaking windows of Jewish businesses and homes, burning synagogues and looting. Joseph Goebbels was the chief architect of the Kristallnacht, attack on the German Jews, which historians consider to be the commencement of the Nazi violence culminating in the Holocaust.
The Final Solution was Nazi Germany’s plan to exterminate Jews in Germany and in the occupied territories. Final Solution evolved between 1933 and 1941. Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Eichmann were the chief architects of the plan.
Adolf Eichmann who was responsible for Jewish affairs helped plan and implement the Holocaust. The Nazis decided to exterminate Europe’s Jewish population. Eichmann was appointed to coordinate the identification, assembly, and transportation of millions of Jews from occupied Europe to the Nazi death camps. Himmler the chief of SS was in charge of the mass destruction that killed 11 million people, including six million Jews.
Adolf Hitler publicly announced annihilation of the Jews in many occasions. When dealing with the Western powers Hitler threatened to use the Jews as hostages.
In Mein Kampf Hitler wrote “If at the beginning of, or during, the war 12,000 or 15,000 of these Jewish corrupters of the people had been plunged into an asphyxiating gas…the sacrifice of millions of soldiers would not have been in vain.”
Holocaust Action Plan
In the beginning of the systematic mass murder of Jews, Nazis used mobile killing squads. In September 1941, the Nazis began using gassing vans–trucks loaded with groups of people who were locked in and asphyxiated by carbon monoxide. These vans were used until the completion of the first death camp, Chelmno, which began operations in late 1941. Nazis established 15,000 camps in the occupied countries. In these extermination camps attempts were made to utilize the fat from the bodies of the victims in the commercial manufacture of soap.
Auschwitz was the biggest death camp. A large number of prisoners died as a result of starvation, executions, disease , torture, and criminal medical experiments. four million people were exterminated at Auschwitz.
In 1933, there were approximately 9 million Jews in Europe. By 1945, the Nazi’s had reduced that number to about 3 million. The conditions in the concentration camps were horrific. Colonel Gerald Draper, a British military officer recalled the state of the survivors at the time of liberation in the following account:
“Men and women clad in rags, and barely able to move from starvation and typhus lay in their straw bunks in every state of filth and degradation. The dead and dying could not be distinguished. Men and women collapsed as they walked and fell dead.”
Holocaust denial is an anti Semitic propaganda movements to develop to deny or minimize the established history of Nazi genocide against the Jews. The Jewish organizations blame Holocaust deniers to minimizing the human cost of Holocaust and deliberately manipulating historical evidence as part of an ideological and racist agenda. In several countries, including Israel, France, Germany and Austria, “Holocaust denial” is against the law. Once a Holocaust survivor expressed that a person who denies the Holocaust becomes part of the crime of the Holocaust itself.”
Psychological Impact of Holocaust
The Holocaust was both individual and collective to the Jewish people. The survivors faced catastrophic stress situations and had adjustment difficulties to integrate in to the society. They were overwhelmed by feelings of fear, avoidance, guilt, pity and anxiety. Many survivors showed apathy and hopelessness. Their second generation too were affected for some extent. The collective trauma associated with heightened sensitivity to anti-semitism and persecution.
Holocaust changed the face of the Jewish people and their political vision. The Holocaust of World War II united the Jewish Diaspora and focused international attention on the plight of persecuted Jews. There can be no doubt of the connection that exists between the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel.
The conflict between Israel and Palatine has the historical roots as well as the effects of Holocaust. Some view Israel atrocity against the Palatine people as a form of a Freudian defense mechanism which is called projection or attributing uncomfortable feelings to others. Today Gaza strip has become the Guernica of the Spanish Civil War.
Holocaust and its Significance
The significance of the Holocaust is that it was the greatest act of hate and atrocity committed against humanity in the last thousand years or more. Holocaust shows the savage part of human nature which proved what human beings are capable of. Holocaust represent a human enigma. It taught a humankind a lesson how a bunch of extremists could tern a civilized society in to a killing ground.