The Holocaust - Causes

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The Holocaust:

The Holocaust - Index

Causes of the Holocaust

Background to the Holocaust

Hitler's Rise to Power

Hitler's Propaganda

Nazi Racial Classification

The Next Steps

The Holocaust

Start of World War II

Further Changes in Germany

The German Jews

Wannsee Conference

End of World War II

After the Holocaust

The Nuremberg Trials

Genocide Awareness and the United Nations

World History Index

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The Holocaust was the result of political, economic and social factors facing Germany after World War I and during World War II. Read on to learn more about the causes of the Holocaust.

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Emperor Wilhelm II, Germany's leader during WWI
Emperor Wilhelm II, Germany's
leader during WWI, fled the
country during the war.
Germany's next government
was the Weimar Republic.

The definition of the Holocaust is the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews under the Nazi regime. This event occurred as the result of several unfortunate factors, including World War I, Hitler's rise to power, Nazi propaganda, Germany's military strength, and the cooperation of surrounding countries and the League of Nations. The first of these, World War I, lay the foundation for the rest. After the war, the Allies forced Germany to accept the Treaty of Versailles, a document which blamed Germany for the war, forced the country to pay a lot of money, and added several other punishments for the German people. This led to a general feeling of rage and bitterness among the Germans, not only toward the Allies for creating the treaty, but also toward their new government the Weimar Republic for signing.

Hitler's Rise to Power

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Nazi Poster and Propaganda
This poster advertises a radio
broadcast from the Nazis. Media
and propaganda helped Hitler
come to power.

Hitler was born on April 20, 1889, in Austria. As he grew up, anti-Semitism (hatred of Jews) surrounded him at school, at home, and with friends. Later, he moved to Germany to earn a living, and enlisted in the army during WWI. When Germany lost, Hitler blamed the Jews and the German government for his country's defeat. Though he tried to take over the government once in 1923 (called the Beer Hall Putsch), Hitler and the Nazi party only came to power in the mid 1930's. In 1933, Hitler entered himself as a candidate for the post of President of Germany. His party the NSDAP, also known as the Nazi party, promised the people revenge for the Treaty of Versailles and economic security, which they had lost since the Great Depression began in 1929. Despite this campaigning, Hitler lost the election. Still, luck was with him, for Hitler was soon appointed Chancellor by his presidential opponent Paul von Hindenburg. Then, when Hindenburg died (1934), Hitler became declared himself the sole dictator, the Fuhrer of Germany.

Hitler's Propaganda

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Hitler's Propaganda
Through propaganda and peer
pressure, most of Germany's
young population fell in
line with Nazi views.

Once Hitler became dictator, his first step was to build up Germany's army, an action strictly forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles. He also began his intense discrimination toward Jews in Germany. All through the years of his reign, Hitler used a political method called propaganda -- all radios, televisions, newspapers, etc. in Germany were forced to send out anti-Semetic messages to the rest of the citizens. And because he believed that the most important group to influence was the children, a group called Hitler Youth had been established. These boys and girls were basically the Nazi equivalent of Boy Scouts. They did good works around their neighborhoods and they had ranks and levels, but they were also immersed in Nazi propaganda that caused them to believe in Aryan Superiority. Gradually, many of the German Aryans began to believe in Hitler's racial hierarchy (shown on table).

Nazi Racial Classification

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The following table describes the various races as perceived by the Nazi party.

Nazi Race Classification
Race Description
  • Usually natives of western European countries such as Britain, Norway, Germany, Sweden, etc.
  • Most superior and advanced race/ethnic group
  • Need a lot of room to live ("lebensraum")
  • Workers/working class
  • Should not be allowed to spread out
  • Usually natives of eastern European countries such as Russia and Bulgaria
  • Slaves; servants
  • Should be deported to make room for Aryan lebensraum
Other Races
  • Considered rough copies of human beings, but morally and mentally lacking true human characteristics
  • Lower than Untermensch
  • "Copied" Christianity
  • "Christ-killers"
  • Should be exterminated

The Next Steps

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The Nazis targeted Jews
After Kristallnacht, the targeted
Jews had to clean up their shops,
though no Germans were allowed
to buy from Jewish stores.

Hitler started his reign of terror by creating the infamous Gestapo, his official secret police. He then went on to install a boycott of Jewish stores in April of 1933. Though this proved relatively unsuccessful, there was little response by the German public when Hitler ordered Jewish books banned and burned in May. In 1935, a couple years later, the Nuremberg Laws came into being, part of which mentioned that Jews were no longer considered German citizens and that marriage between a "rightful citizen" and a Jew was illegal. After this, there was a period of less action against Jews, but on the night of November 9, 1938, Nazi Youth members organized raids on Jewish neighborhoods, burning, breaking, and looting Jewish houses, shops, and synagogues. This event was labeled Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass. It heralded the true start of the Holocaust as it is known today.


Books on the Holocaust

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  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps by Andrea Warren
  • Behind the Bedroom Wall by Laura Williams
  • Smoke and Ashes: The Story of the Holocaust by Barbara Rogasky
  • Other Victims: First Person Stories of Non-Jews Persecuted by the Nazis by Ina Friedman


Links to other sites on the Holocaust

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