What Was the Holocaust?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
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Some people use the term “holocaust” to refer generally to mass loss of life, but most people use it specifically to refer to the extermination of millions of people in minority ethnic, religious, and social groups under the Nazi regime during the 1930s and 1940s. Most notably, an estimated six million European Jews died during the Holocaust, which also claimed the lives of Serbs, Slavs, Russians, gypsies, homosexuals, people with disabilities, political activists, prisoners of war, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Freemasons, among others. Many people view this time as an especially dark and shameful period in European history.

The groundwork for the Holocaust was laid in 1933, when Germans elected Adolf Hitler as their Chancellor. Many Germans welcomed Hitler's plans to revitalize the German economy, which was suffering after the First World War. Hitler had a more sinister plan for Germany, however; he wanted to develop a “master race” of Aryan people, getting rid of those he viewed as undesirable and eventually conquering all of Europe.

Hitler began enacting his scheme slowly, first using the law to force “undesirables,” such as Jews, out of German society. The gradual acceleration of his plans for Germany may have masked the reality of what he was doing to many people, including ranking members of the German military. In 1939, Germany invaded Poland, triggering World War II, and the Nazi regime also embarked on a “final solution” for the Jews, embarking on one of the most horrific examples of mass genocide in human history.

While many accounts focus specifically on the atrocities perpetrated against the European Jewish community, Hitler's “final solution” included the extermination of a number of other undesirable groups as well. He attempted to eliminate the Slavs and Serbs, whom he viewed as racially impure, and he was intolerant of other religions as well, including some branches of Christianity. Hitler also viewed his final solution as an opportunity to get rid of social undesirables, like homosexuals, political activists, and people who were disabled or mentally ill.

Many people were killed outright during the Holocaust, while others were sent to forced labor camps where they were used as slaves to produce a variety of goods, ranging from shoes to food. In 1942, Hitler became impatient with the progress of his scheme, and several extermination camps were established. These camps were specifically designed for the purpose of mass murder, and their inmates were first shot and buried and later gassed and burned en masse when burial proved inefficient. Residents of the camps ranged from prisoners of war to enemies of the state, and some of them endured medical experimentation and other abuses before they were murdered.

Evidence suggests that the Allied powers were well aware of what was happening in Germany before decisive action was taken, but they may not have been aware of the extent of the Holocaust. The first Allied troops to enter the camps were horrified by the things they found there, ranging from inmates who were so thin that they looked like walking skeletons to the evidence of mass graves. Many images of the camps can be seen in museums around the world, including in several museums established specifically to commemorate the events.

Looking back on the events of this period, some people have accused the German people of complacency, arguing that they must have known about the events occurring in forced labor and concentration camps in Germany. This does not give the German people enough credit, however, and many individuals spoke up for their Jewish neighbors and friends. Some risked their lives to help people escape from the Nazis. While some sectors of German society may have been complacent or even tolerant of the events that took place, others were disturbed by Hitler's regime, and modern Germans still deal with the legacy of this terrible event in European history. If anything, it is a grim illustration of what can happen when people become afraid of their government.

Many people hope that by publicizing the events of the Holocaust and keeping it in the minds of all citizens, a repeat of this event will never occur.

Discuss this Article

Post 13

I do not believe in the "Holocaust", since, on the basis of the information, I am agnostic, and I think that I have read almost every book on the subject.

I would recommend people study the debate on the subject online, and if people want revisionist books to read they can download them for free also online.

It is indeed the case that, in accordance with Nazi ideology, that there was an attempt to ethnically cleanse Europe of Jews, but what is emphasised in the notion of a "Holocaust", is that the Nazis systematically set out to murder all European Jews, but this is just not true, which I can easily explain if asked.

Rabbi Stephen Wise, the world Jewish

leader, for instance, during the War, said that fewer than 4 million Jews came under the control of the Nazis, and at the end of the world it was said by the nascent United Nations that about two and a half million European Jews were left.

I think that it is surely quite evident that if the Nazis wanted actually to physically exterminate about four million Jews that they could have easily accomplished that.

In my opinion, it has always been the Zionist Jews who have advocated the notion of a "Holocaust" in order to justify their ethnic cleansing in Palestine, and most people are too scared to dispute with the Jews, for fear they will becalled Nazis.

This, if anyone wants a civilized debate on the "Holocaust" I am prepared to treat them seriously, but please, no personal abuse, and just debate what are perceived as facts.

Post 7

Everyone who kills is guilty of a crime. So no one is innocent. jehovah's witnesses were in there because they refused to join the army even though their leader Charles taz russell signed paperwork for the Jews to get killed. so did the Mormons leader and Catholics. they are just trying to pass themselves off as light, but they hate the father and that is why they have their own belief.

Post 2

Many people are blind to the fact of what is happening over there in Palestine. There really needs to be something said about this. put it on the news! Broadcast it world wide.

Post 1

you say that a repeat of this event will never occur? Oh come on-- What are you talking about? What about Palestine now? Israel occupied Palestine and started killing innocent kids and raped women and children every single day till this day of 2010, so what are you talking about? i am outraged that the world that can't once admit that what Israel is doing is terrible to those Muslim Palestinians and won't even stop it. Let's see some of their horrible work and of what they've done so far from raping and abusing to torturing kids and families so far. I pray and cry to death when i see videos and photos of what they're still doing to them.

Please, let's for once in a lifetime live in a peaceful world with human rights. We are all human beings and love to live happily. Also, one day in this world will bring us all together in front of god (Allah) who made us and that day is the (judgment day). Please try to help in this.

i wish i could do something but i need someone to understand. Thank you so much for reading this.

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