The Holocaust

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The years 1933 through 1945 are most commonly referred to as the Holocaust, which was the destruction of some six million Jews by the Nazis and their followers in Europe. "The general meaning of Holocaust is the great or total destruction of life." Anther word for Holocaust is genocide, which is the systematic killing intended to destroy a whole national or ethnic group. "Final solution" was the name of the Nazi's plan of genocide. Adolf Hitler wanted to create the race of Aryans, which were persons of northern European racial background. Jews were put into detention centers known as concentration camps. These camps were designated to hold the enemies of the Nazis and even though not meaning to be, became killing centers.

All of this started in 1933 when Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. He took over the position of chancellor, which was the most powerful governmental position in Germany.

Many people in Germany were hungry and unemployed; Germany was in the midst of a depression. Hitler blamed all the problems of Germany on the Jews. Hitler gave emotional speeches where he stated that the Jews of Germany conspired to destroy the country so they could profit. Jews were not the only group hated by the Nazi's. Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, Homosexuals, communists, people with physical or mental disabilities and anyone who tried to help Jews were murdered in Hitler's Final Solution. "September 1939 Hitler signed an order stating that any people considered 'unfit to live' would be killed. This mainly included old people or people with physical limitations." Nazi's regarded Arabs, Africans, Slavs and Orientals in general as untermenschen or subhuman. They had special hatred for the Jews. "One Nazi wrote, 'The Jew's features resemble man but intellectually, spiritually, he is lower than an animal.'" 1942: millions of Jews were being rounded up and shipped to concentration camps. It didn't matter what nationality they were just that they were Jewish. The Einsatzgruppen or killing units were given the duty to massacre Jews in the cities and towns of the countries recently captured. The Jews were rounded up as soon as the Einsatzgruppen arrived and were marched into a wooded area where they were forced to undress and then were shot. Rivka Yosselvska is a survivor. After her child was shot and killed she was shot. "'She recounted: then I fell to the ground into the pit amongst the bodies…then I felt that I was choking; people falling all over me… I felt bodies pulling at me with their hands, biting at my legs, pulling me down, down.' Once the Germans left she crawled from the pit and recovered from her wounds."1 (View Picture one page 6.) "Some executioners were sadistic, they enjoyed killing their vicitims."1 Others didn't like killing women and children. So, simpler methods of mass killing were searched for. Jews were told that they were going to take showers. They were herded into large vans. The doors were closed and exhaust fumes from the engine were piped into the van. The idea for the gas vans originated by Arthur Nebe who was commander of Einsatzgruppe B.4 The group was faced with the mission of liquidating patients of the lunatic asylums in Minsk and Mogilev. Dr. Widmann of the Criminal Police was sent to Minsk. He brought with him 400kgs of explosive material and metal pipes. Experimental killing was carried out using explosives, but they proved to be substandard. Day's later poison gas was tested. A room with twenty to thirty insane was closed and two pipes were driven into the wall. A car was parked outside with the metal pipes connecting the exhaust of the car to the pipes in the wall. The engine was turned on and carbon monoxide seeped into the room. About 15-30 minutes later all the people