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Of all the examples of injustice against humanity in history, the

Jewish Holocaust has to be one of the most prominent. In the period

of 1933 to 1945, the Nazis waged a vicious war against Jews and other

"lesser races". This war came to a head with the "Final Solution" in

1938. One of the end results of the Final Solution was the horrible

concentration and death camps of Germany, Poland, and other parts of

Nazi-controlled Europe. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, people

around the world were shocked by final tallies of human losses, and

the people responsible were punished for their inhuman acts. The

Holocaust was a dark time in the history of the 20th century.

One can trace the beginnings of the Holocaust as far back as 1933,

when the Nazi party of Germany, lead by Adolf Hitler, came to power.

Hitler's anti-Jew campaign began soon afterward, with the "Nuremberg

Laws", which defined the meaning of being Jewish based on ancestry.

These laws also forced segregation between Jews and the rest of the

public. It was only a dim indication of what the future held for

European Jews.

Anti-Jewish aggression continued for years after the passing of the

Nuremberg Laws. One of these was the "Aryanization" of Jewish

property and business. Jews were progressively forced out of the

economy of Germany, their assets turned over to the government and the

German public. Other forms of degradation were pogroms, or organized

demonstrations against Jews. The first, and most infamous, of these

pogroms was Krystallnacht, or "The night of broken glass". This

pogrom was prompted by the assassination of Ernst von Rath, a German

diplomat, by Herschel Grymozpan in Paris on November 7th, 1938. Two

days later, an act of retaliation was organized by Joseph Gobbels to

attack Jews in Germany. On the nights of November 9th and 10th, over

7,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed, 175 synagogues demolished,

nearly 100 Jews had been killed, and thousands more had been injured,

all for the assassination of one official by a Jew ("Holocaust, the."

Microsoft Encarta 96). In many ways, this was the first major act of

violence to Jews made by the Nazis. Their intentions were now clear.

The Nazi's plans for the Jews of Europe were outlined in the "Final

Solution to the Jewish question" in 1938. In a meeting of some of

Hitler's top officials, the idea of the complete annihilation of Jews

in Europe was hatched. By the time the meeting was over, the Final

Solution had been created. The plans included in the Final Solution

included the deportation, exploitation, and eventual extermination of

European Jews.

In September 1939, Germany invaded western Poland. Most, if not all

Jews in German-occupied lands were rounded up and taken to ghettos or

concentration camps. The ghettos were located inside cities, and were

a sort of city/prison to segregate Jews from the rest of the public.

Conditions in the ghettos included overcrowding, lack of food, and

lack of sanitation, as well as brutality by Nazi guards. Quality of

life in a ghetto was probably not much above that in a concentration

camp. In June 1941, Germany continued it's invasion of Europe by

attacking and capturing some of the western U.S.S.R. By this time,

most of the Jews in Europe now lived in lands controlled by Nazi

Germany. The SS deployed 3000 death squads, or "Einstagruppen", to

dispatch Jews in large numbers ("Holocaust, the." Microsoft Encarta

1996). In September 1941, all Jews were forced to wear yellow Stars

of David on their arms or coats. A Jew could be killed with little

repercussions for not displaying the Star of David in public. Some of

the first Jewish resistance to the Final Solution came in 1943, when

the process of deportation to concentration and death camps was in

full swing. The Warsaw ghetto in Poland, once numbering over 365,000,

had been reduced to only 65,000 by the continuing removal of Jews to

camps in other lands ("Holocaust, the." Microsoft Encarta 1996). When

the Nazis came to round up the remaining inhabitants of the ghetto,

they were met with resistance from the small force of armed Jews. The

revolt lasted for almost three weeks before being subdued.

Between the years of 1941 to 1945, the main destination for Jews to be

transported was a concentration camp or death camp somewhere in Poland

or Germany. In these camps, innocent Jews, along with Gypsies, Slavs,

Jehova's Witnesses, Communists, and P.O.W.s, were brutally beaten and

abused, fed meager rations of poor food, worked to death, or simply

shot. The first of these camps were established in the mid 1930s and

were originally designed for prisoners. But, numbers of concentration

and death camps grew steadily for years until nearing the end of the

World War II. Quality of life in a concentration camp was substandard,

to say the absolute least. Jews and other deportees were transported

via railroad boxcars similar to those used for cattle. Some of these

cars were so crowded that people actually died standing up, there

being no place for them to fall. Once at the camps, the prisoners

were unloaded and stripped of everything of value. Clothing, jewelry,

eyeglasses, shoes, and even gold teeth were confiscated from the

arriving captives. After unloading, the people were separated into

two groups. One of these groups would be lead to firing squads or, in

some camps, gas chambers, to be dispatched as soon as possible. These

people were usually women, children, and the elderly. The second

group would be lead to the barracks or used for slave labor. This

group was usually comprised of able-bodied men. The prisoners were

given little food and forced to live and sleep in filthy, overcrowded

bunks where disease ran rampant. Thousands of prisoners in

concentration camps died simply of exposure, starvation, or disease.

As the war progressed, more and more concentration camps were

transformed into extermination or death camps, some of which were

equipped with gas vans or gas chambers and crematoria for quick and

easy extermination and disposal of the bodies of the captives. Some

of these camps also had facilities for scientific research, where men

like Josef Mengle, also known as "The Angel of Death", preformed

barbaric medical experiments on twins, dwarves, and other genetically

different subjects in hopes of advancing and breeding the so-called

"Aryan" race of perfect Germans for Hitler. Some of the most notorious

of the death camps were located in Poland. Some of these include

Auschwitz (1 million Jews killed), Treblinka (700,000-800,000 Jews

gassed), Belzec (600,000 Jews gassed), and Sobibor (250,000 Jews

gassed). These camps were the major centers for the slaughter of Jews

and other groups (The Holocaust: An Historical Summary. Article on the


In 1945, the great World War in Europe came to an end, with the Axis

powers surrendering before the Allied invasion of Europe. When the

concentration camps were liberated and the body counts tallied, the

resulting numbers appalled people the world over. Millions of people

lay dead, and dozens of top Nazis faced punishment for unspeakable war

crimes. When the allied powers liberated the concentration camps in

Germany, Poland, and other areas of Europe, what they found there was

beyond belief. Piles of bodies lay rotting in pits and sheds. The

gaunt, sickly prisoners wandered about, barely alive after the ordeal

they had faced. Some of the camps had few prisoners remaining, the

majority of the others led on a final death march to Germany

("Concentration Camps." Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia 1996).

Those who remained at the camps were rescued and taken to hospitals or

to shelters to recuperate from their terrifying experience at the

hands of the Nazis.

All told, the toll that the Holocaust took on the people of Europe,

especially Jews, was staggering. By the time it was all over, an

estimated 12 million people lay dead, nearly 6 million of which were

Jews ("Jewish Holocaust." Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia 1996).

It is believed that 3 million of these Jews died in concentration and

death camps, such as Auschwitz, alone ("Holocaust, the." Microsoft

Encarta 1996). An additional 1.5 million died by the bullets of the

mobile death squads, and over 600,000 died in the ghettos of the

cities ("Holocaust, the." Microsoft Encarta 1996). I find it

incredible that such a loss of human life could have occurred in a

period of just 12 years. For the vicious atrocities carried out by

some of the top men in Hitler's Nazi regime, dozens were killed or

imprisoned. In the trials at Nuremberg, Germany in 1946-47, a

multinational allied commission called 22 of Hitler's highest ranking

Nazis. The end result of these trials were eleven men being sentenced

to hang, one of which committed suicide in his cell, seven men were

imprisoned for life, and only three were acquitted of the crimes they

were accused with. Other trials were held in subsequent years that

successfully convicted hundreds of Nazis for atrocities carried out in


The Holocaust is one of the most famous events in modern history. The

senseless slaughter of millions upon millions of innocent people at

the hands of Nazi butchers was incited when a man by the name of Adolf

Hitler came to power in 1933. The Nazis wrought terrible death and

destruction on Europe in the following years, beginning with

Aryanization and ending with the Final Solution in a maniacal plot to

exterminate and purify the human race. The Holocaust should be

remembered by all as a dark point in modern history.