Events of the Holocaust

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Background to the Holocaust

Hitler's Rise to Power

Hitler's Propaganda

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The Next Steps

The Holocaust

Start of World War II

Further Changes in Germany

The German Jews

Wannsee Conference

End of World War II

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The Holocaust was the persecution and killing of Jews by Germany during World War II. Read on to learn more about the events of the Holocaust.

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Start of World War II

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Nazi gettos for Jews
Many Jews, such as the ones shown in
the picture above, were rounded up
and moved to ghetto-like settlements.

At the end of World War I (June 28, 1919), the Allies - including France, Britain, the U.S., and Italy - created a contract called the Treaty of Versailles that outlined the Central Powers' punishments for starting the war. The harshest penalties were for Germany (the most powerful country of the Central Powers), including paying 6,600 million British pounds, giving up some of its land for several years, agreeing to never merge with Austria, and limiting its military tremendously. The German people disliked these new rules, but as the losers of the war, they could not protest.

Further Changes in Germany

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Burial Pits
Jews murdered by the Eisengruppen did not
get individual tombstones, as the people in
this picture. Most had mass burial pits.

Hitler's next move, in the summer of 1941, was to invade the Soviet Union, this time to get land from the Slavs for lebensraum. Unfortunately, most of the Jews in the Soviet Union lived in the Pale, a strip of land on the western border of the country closest to Germany. Consequently, when Hitler's armies entered the USSR, they encountered the Jewish settlements first. A special division of Hitler's secret police, known as the Eisengruppen (Einsatzgruppen) in the USSR and the S.S. in Germany, traveled just behind the regular German army. The Eisengruppen were supposed to wipe out these Jewish settlements in any way possible. Ordered to find the most efficient way, these men experimented with different methods, which ranged from shooting to poison gas vans (an idea which later evolved into the famous gas showers).

German Jews

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Nazi Jude(Jew) Badge
Jews in Germany were forced
to wear yellow badges with
the word "Jude" (Jew) on them
to separate them from other
"pure" Germans.

Meanwhile, the majority of the Jews in Germany had only been transported so far, not killed, as in the case of the Soviet Jews. However, their situation was about to get much worse very quickly. After being forced to wear a Star of David badge from September 1941, the Jewish population was also banned from leaving Germany in October of the same year. Then, on December 7, 1941, Hitler announced the threatening Night and Fog Decree, which basically stated that evidence was not needed in order to inflict punishment upon someone and that any crime is punishable by death. This alarmed not only the Jewish population of Germany, but also the rest of the German public. For if any of them was even suspected of helping a Jew, he or she could be shot without any further inquiry.

Wannsee Conference

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Wannsee Conference
Reinhard Heydrich, shown above, was the Nazi
official in charge of the Wannsee Conference.

At the beginning of the new year, in on January 20, 1942, fifteen Nazi leaders met at Wannsee, Germany, to discuss the "Jewish Question." During the Wannsee Conference, as it was named, these members discussed the most efficient way to get rid of all the Jews that were "plaguing" the country. Though the topic was a serious one, the men finished their discussion in about an hour and a half. By the end of their meeting, they decided to transport the Jews in all the territories they had captured to various concentration camps. Once the flood of men, women, and children arrived, they would either be forced to work or sent to showers, where, instead of water, a gas called Zyklon-B would stream out of the showerheads and suffocate them. This decision was called the "Final Solution."

End of World War II

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Nazi Concentration Camps
Piles of clothes, like the one above, were all that
remained of Jewish prisoners once they had
been eliminated at the concentration camps.

From 1942 onwards, the tide of battle turned and the Allies had Germany on the run. But as Germany lost territory, Hitler's persecution of the Jews within his grasp gained intensity. Extermination camps such as Belzec, Auschwitz, and Treblinka received over 12,000 Jews every day, most of whom would be dead before the next arrivals. The Jews that arrived were told to take off their clothes and other valuables before they went into the showers. These items, along with their hair, which the guards cut off just after the victims had undressed, were kept for later use by the German government. After the gassing, which took up to twenty minutes, the guards would check for and remove any gold teeth or metal fillings the victims had. Finally, in April 1945, Hitler committed suicide, and the war was won. However, when Allied troops liberated these horrific extermination camps, they saw the toll the Holocaust had taken. By the end of the war, nearly 2/3 of the world's Jewish population had been wiped out. In some places, such as Poland, over 90% of the Jews living there had been killed by the Nazis. Most of the guards stationed at the extermination camps that created this death toll had not had time to dispose of their victims' bodies before they fled, and thousands of rotting corpses lay strewn around several of the camps. The soldiers, and later the public, were appalled.


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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