Music 310 MWF 9:00-10:00
In 1933, the Jewish population of Europe was about 9.5 million people. The number represented more than 60 percent of the worlds Jewish population at that time, estimated at 15.3 million. So how could two out of every three European Jews be dead by the end of World War 2? The answer to this question lies in the hand of Adolph Hitler. Adolph Hitler has helped destroy the lives of millions of families around the world, but how was he able to take part in these mass killing of Jews all around Europe.
When Adolph Hitler was 18, he became interested in German nationalism, because he lived on the German-Austrian border. He became interested in politics, only after failing in art. Hitler became close friends with the mayor of Vienna, Karl Lueger. Lueger was an anti-Semite and Jew hater. Even though Hitler still had a few Jewish friends, the messages from Lueger began to sink in. In World War 1, Hitler volunteered his services to Germany, claiming a sense of pride and belonging to the German army. He was not a great solider, but Hitler was stoic, loyal, and courageous. After the war he became increasingly anti-Semitic, which won the attention of his superiors.
The Rise of the Nazi party
At the end of 1919, the German army had Hitler, now age 30, and looks into an organization called the German Workers Party. Soon after, Hitler joined and became head of propaganda. The party fiercely attacked Communism, and was heavily anti-Semitic. As more and more people feared Communist revolution in Germany, the more and more people joined the party. In 1920, Hitler modified a common ancient symbol to form the swastika, or twisted cross, as a symbol for his party. He then changed the name of the party to the National Socialist German Workers Party, or, in the shortened German form, the NAZI party. By 1921, the Nazi party had over 3000 members, mostly drawing in large numbers of ultra-conservatives from Munich. Between 1921 and 1923, Germany had collapsed into financial ruin. Germany was presented with a 33 billion dollar bill, as reparations as a result of World War I. Inflation hit the roof, and the economy was finished. Life savings were completely wiped out. As a result, riots broke out. These riots incited extremist political groups into action, quickly bringing Germany to the brink of chaos. In 1923, the Nazis had a party population of 55,000 members, far more than any extremist group vying for power (Encarta). Hitler, knowing this, devised a plan, in which the Nazis would kidnap the leaders of the Bavarian government, and hold them at gunpoint until they accepted Hitler as their leader. The kidnapping was supposed to take place at a beer hall in Munich.
Of course, none of this was true, but the people in the beer hall did not know the difference. Hitler ordered the 3 Bavarian officials to a back room, and proclaimed I have four bullets in this gun: three for you gentlemen, and one for me.(Keegan 221). The three gentlemen finally succumbed to the Nazi government. They then went out to the podium in the beer hall, and publicly announced their loyalty to Hitler. All four, including Hitler then sang Deutschland uber Alles, the song of the Nazis. Hitler left the beer hall in pure happiness. This proved to be a fatal mistake for Hitler, for after he left the hall, the revolution fizzled into nothing, he was captured, tried for treason, and, on November 21st, 1923, Hitler was put in jail for five years (Encarta). While in jail, Hitler funneled all of his hatred-driven energy into a book, titled Mein Kampf. Hitler rambled from one subject to the next, one minute blaming the Jews for Germanys loss in World War I, and the next, talking about his future ambitions. Because of this, Hitler was banned from public speaking in Germany for 2 years, and the ban was not lifted.. During this two-year period, Hitler reorganized the Nazi party.
Time to seize power
In 1929, the American stock market crashed, and Hitler felt that it was time to seize the power he had wanted. The stock market crash in America affected Germany just as much, because America was still giving Germany help financially from the First World War. Because America needed money so badly, they forced Germany to pay back all of the loans at once. This drove Germany into an even greater economic despair. For some reason or another, Hitler attracted the wealthy, aristocratic families of Germany by his dynamic speeches. Because of this, these families decided to give Hitler private financial help in order to keep the party alive. At the end of 1929, Hitler had 100,000 total devoted members in his Nazi party, yet he would need to do much more to achieve any high-end position (Encarta). The Great Depression also split up the German Parliament, or Reichstag. No one had any idea how to fix the economic problems in Germany, so, in retaliation, President Hindenburg ordered the Reichstag dissolved at once, and a new election be held. In this new election for the Reichstag, the Nazi party gained over 6,000,000 votes, giving them 18 percent of the popular vote, and 107 seats in the Reichstag. This was achieved because of great parades and meetings arranged by Gobbles. Hitler told crowds what they wanted to hear, using his over-bearing speaking voice. The depression, though, did not stop Hitler from running up against President Hindenburg for the Presidency of Germany in 1932. Hitler lost again, and lost the majority. Even though they lost, the Nazis had gained great popularity, and the present government of Germany was unstable, at best. On July 17th, 1932, also called Bloody Sunday, Hitler marched over 400,000 SA and SS troops into a heavily Communistic part of Germany. Bullets were exchanged, and 19 Communists were dead, along with 300 wounded. Later that month, another vote was taken. This time, Hitler won 37 percent of the vote, giving the party majority in the Reichstag. Before the new Nazi government ousted him, the Chancellor ordered that the Reichstag be dissolved, and elections held again. Rumor got out that the Chancellor that was currently in office was backstabbing the President. Not wanting this, Hindenburg immediately made Hitler Chancellor.
The next election was supposed to take place on March 5th, 1933. Hitlers officials came up with a master plan, which would insure Hitler a victory. The night before, the Nazis helped a Communist arsonist burn down the Reichstag building, and the next day, the Nazis blamed it on the Communists. Because of this, the voters voted in favor of Hitler, giving him 44% of the votes, and full dictatorial powers. He had finally won. The reign had begun. Hitler wasted no time, persecuting anyone political that was anti-Nazi. As early as 1934, two prisons were built strictly for political prisoners. These prisons, or concentration camps, were set in Germany, and named Dachau (1934) and Buchenwald (1935). Laws were made which restricted the rights of non-Aryan people. To Hitler, an Aryan person was of German dissent, with blonde hair and blue eyes. These non-Aryans included Roma, Gypsies, and especially, Jews. Jews were not allowed to own any business or trade. Jews could not be bankers. Anyone against the Nazis was arrested.
The Propaganda of the Nazi’s made Hitler appear strong, autocratic and firmly committed to his beliefs. That the German people loved uniforms, parades, and military formations and submitted easily to authority was no secret and Hitler played on this with displays of military prowess and the strong symbols like the SWASTICA. He used propaganda to spring fear into people by using emotional harangues. Another way used, to show his power was to send “Stormtroopers” or “brown shirts” onto the street causing a lot of violence, often against communists and Jews (Keegan 297). They were also used to break up rival meetings. Hitler was the ‘man of the year’ in 1938 and the German people loved him. The other nations of Europe were scared of Hitler, but they were also uncertain. They didn’t know whether he meant what he was saying, whether he would be more restrained once in power. They allowed Hitler too much freedom by ignoring the regulation of the treaty of Versailles.
Britain did nothing until Germany attacked Poland in 1939, which heralded the start of World War 2. The next day, France, staying loyal to its ally, declared war on Germany. This was the very spark plug, which ignited World War II (Source #4). Now, Hitler had two wars: one against the Allies, and the other against the Jews.
Hitlers Master Plan- Holocaust
He really wanted to get rid of the Jews of the Europe. Ever since he lived in Vienna, with Karl Lueger as mayor, Hitler had developed a strong hatred for Jews. Now, one question loomed: What should the Nazi Party do to get rid of the Jews? This was the question that occupied Hitler’s mind. Hitler did not come up with the solution to the “Jewish question” himself, he had trustworthy people working on the solution for him. Hermann Goering, Hitlers Luftwaffe general and second hand man, was given the job of planning the master plan without drawing the world’s attention to the killing that would take place. At first, nobody knew about the plan to exterminate the Jews besides Hitler and his very close advisors. Slowly, the news got out and other government officials gradually became aware of what was going on. The whole Nazi government soon knew about the plan that Hitler was trying to carry out. The first major step towards the Final Solution came when Goering ordered the evacuation of all Jewish people to ghettos that were sealed off from the rest of the world. There were many different ghettos that the Jewish people evacuated to, located throughout Nazi-controlled territories. Some, like the ghetto of Lodz, held 230,000 Jews within their limits. Other ghettos, such as Warsaw, held up to 500,000 Jews and Poles. The conditions in these ghettos went from bad to worse. The people inside the walls were treated terribly. They suffered from malnutrition, exhaustion, and sickness (Korn). Goering had every ghetto strategically placed near railroad lines so he could easily accomplish the final goal, which became to destroy the Jewish people.
The Nazis confiscated the Jews’ assets in order to finance the ghettos.
During that time, Goering came up with one way of destroying the Jews. He formed the Einsatzgruppen, which was a group of Waffen SS, which went around Eastern Europe, mass killing people (Encarta). The Waffen SS would have the Jews line up along side a large mass grave, which they would make them dig. They would then be cut down with machine gun fire, and their bodies would fall into the grave. The SS would then bury the evidence. When the SS leader Heinrich Himmler witnessed one of these executions, he ordered a new, “humane” method to be developed for killing. These mass executions were the second step towards carrying out the Final Solution. Soon, a new form of execution was used on the Jewish people. They would be loaded into trailers and told they were being relocated. This trailer was a sealed compartment and was attached to the exhaust pipe of the truck that was towing it. This way, the Jewish people would be dead after a short drive to the gravesite, where their bodies would be thrown into a large ditch that had been pre-dug by Jewish slave labor, according to Keegan. The truck would then return to the ghetto to get more Jews. When the ditch was filled, they would kill the slave laborers, throw them on top, and once again, bury or burn the evidence. This form of execution was deemed inefficient because at most, only 25 people could be killed per trip. Plus, there was the unpleasant task of carrying the bodies from the truck to the burial site (Keegan 312).
The next form of execution was the use of large gas chambers. The first camp to experiment with the use of gas chambers was at Brandenburg, which was a former prison. Euthanasia of the sick and disabled was easily carried out here. Patients were lead into what appeared to be shower rooms, but were really hermetically sealed chambers connected to cylinders of carbon monoxide. The Nazis would turn on the gas and in about 25 minutes, all of the people inside the large shower room would be dead. Families of the patients were then notified that their loved ones had died from either heart failure or pneumonia. The bodies were then cremated at a very large crematorium inside the prison. When Hitler realized how efficient the prison was at Brandenburg, he ordered that many of the existing concentration camps be fitted with gas chambers. The town of Oswiecim (Auschwitz) in Poland was selected to be the main death camp for Jewish people. With this came the order for ghettos to be evacuated and the Jewish inhabitants be brought to Auschwitz to be put to death. By the end of the Second World War, Auschwitz could process over 9,000 bodies each day.
At first, the Nazis used carbon monoxide as they had in the Euthanasia centers, and at a camp called Chelmno, in which great vans were constructed with carbon monoxide tubes, to kill the Jews. Soon, experiments in 1941 found that Zyklon-B, a common industrial strength plant disinfectant, killed people much quicker than the carbon monoxide. Less Zyklon-B was needed to kill the same number of people as carbon monoxide (Keegan 378). On January 20th, 1942, the Nazi leaders met at the Wannsee Conference to coordinate how to finish carrying out the Final Solution.
To get rid of the evidence of the genocide that was happening, the Nazis had slave labor units dig up the mass graves throughout Europe and burn the bodies, or what was left of the bodies, effectively destroying all of the evidence of the mass killings. The same would happen when a concentration camp was shut down or moved: everything would be burned, bulldozed, and cleaned. Trees would then be planted, making it seem as if nothing had ever been there. This is one reason that it was very hard to confirm the mass executions that were reportedly going on in Europe. When the Jews arrived at the death camps, their valuables were immediately confiscated. This included all gold, silver, or items of any worth. These items were then sent to soldiers on the front lines to reward them for their hard work. By September 26, 1942, over 800 boxcars had left Auschwitz with confiscated items headed towards the SS Headquarters of the Economic Administration. Soldiers even sorted through the bodies of the freshly gassed Jews looking for gold teeth, which they would pull out of the body’s mouth with a set of pliers (Korn). The hair was even cut off the heads of the women and was used to stuff mattresses and cushions. Clothes and artificial limbs were also taken from the Jews before they were put to death. The Nazis would then send the clothes to German families, and give the artificial limbs to German soldiers who needed them (Korn).
To get the Jews to the concentration camps, the SS loaded them onto boxcars pulled by trains. For this, the ghettos were placed near railroad tracks. Although when the ghettos were first made, the purpose of the placement so near the railroad tracks was to make it very easy for the SS to transport the Jewish prisoners wherever they were needed. Hitler knew that eventually he would move the Jews in masses from certain areas of Europe. The death camps became the locations he intended to move the Jewish population to. The location of these ghettos made it simple to quickly move a huge number of Jews from one area of Europe to another. Many of the Jews died on the way to the camps due to lack of oxygen, water, and food. These bodies were usually thrown out of the boxcars when the train stopped. When the Jews arrived at the concentration camps, they were either killed immediately or made to work in a forced labor camp until they were to weak to work any longer, and then they were executed (Korn).
The Nazis encountered almost no resistance when they loaded the boxcars with Jews to send them to their deaths. This was because none of the Jewish people knew what awaited them at the end of the line. The Jews were told that they were simply being relocated. A good part of the time, the Jews were even allowed to bring a few items on board with them, to reassure them that they were sincerely being moved to another part of Europe. In the end, the Nazis would kill the Jews and steal their possessions. Rarely did a Jew escape this death. Because of this, word about the death camps rarely ever made it to the isolated ghettos.
By the end of the Second World War, many nations had become controlled by Germany and were forced to conduct the operations Hitler was employing against the Jews. Romania, Italy and Hungary all participated and aided the Germans, only because they were forced to, and threatened that if they didnt participate, they would also meet their death (Encarta). The reason the Allies did not try to stop or interfere with Hitler’s Final Solution was mostly because they did not have any proof he was carrying it out. The Allies knew Hitler was moving people in large amounts, but they did not know where or why. The first inspection of a concentration camp was in June of 1944. The Red Cross inspected Theresienstadt, a camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia that was thoroughly prepared by the Nazis before their arrival. The Red Cross gave the camp a good report. This hindered the rumors of mistreatment and mass execution in the Nazi-controlled areas. Even in the last hours of the war, the Nazis tried to carry out Hitler’s Final Solution. As the Allies approached Auschwitz, the guards forced the 25,000 Jews to evacuate the compound and walk over 100 miles in the snow, barefooted. Most of these prisoners ended up in the Buchenwald camp, in Germany, much farther west of the advancing Soviet army. Eventually these prisoners were liberated, but many died on the long trek. On May 1st, 1945, World War II was over, with Germany signing an unconditional surrender. The day before though, Hitler and his wife, Eva Braun, committed suicide by consuming cyanide capsules.
What contributes to the cultivation of bigotry and hate?
What happened during the Holocaust was a tragic moment for all mankind, but how does something like the Holocaust and hate exist in this world? It starts with no education towards other races, because those (most, not all) who are racist/hateful are uneducated. They were taught to hate others at some point in their life. But some were taught to hate others while they were young. I remember watching a talk show called Maury Povich and there were some parents on the show, who were racist. Well, when they asked their kids if they like blacks or Hispanics, they said No. When asked why, they said my parents told us not to. It made me feel very sad, because they never even had a chance to make their own decision. Some of the factors that help promote hate and bigotry is the Internet. Yes, most people can block hate sites off their computer, but a lot dont. So those who are not getting these hate site blocked from their computer, can access these sites and get influenced by what they see. The sites promote to the youth, because they are the most vulnerable. Its a known fact that the two Columbine shooters went to these sites, which influenced them to hate the African American sport athletes in their school. Those who go to these sites are able to hide behind a screen at home and gain hate knowledge.
Powerful leaders are also a key factor to the cultivation of hate and bigotry. Look at Hitler; until he started talking about the Jews and their destruction to Germanys economy, he was nothing. If you have a strong leader, he can reach out to the minds of the followers more than a website, because he is proof in the flesh of a man with power. Other factors that contribute to hate and bigotry are hate books and music. Most people know that Hitlers book Mein Kampf was a major reason for his Nazi party more power and recruits. It talked about anti-Semitism and himself, which helped his party as a major player. Those who ignored him before were now going to his side. Hate books and pamphlets still exist today. Today, some of the most popular singers are selling millions of hate tapes, mostly coming from musicians Marilyn Manson and Eminem. Those two singers are both top sellers, but contain tons of hate words like faggot, etc. To the young kids who are listening to their music, these words become everyday language and create an unstable life. Unstable meaning, getting into fights, suspended, or put in jai, due to using these words. These words are also heard on television shows like Howard Stern or Jerry Springer. They sometimes get censored, but thats not always the case.
Many new and old groups of hate are growing like the Klu Klux Klan, Panthers, and a anti-Semitic group in Russia called Pamyat. The Pamyat is a nationalistic group, which blame Jews for the evil of the country and encourage violence(Franklin). So we may not be able to stop these groups, but maybe we can help contain them.
Why does Shindlers list make a significant contribution to understanding the Holocaust?
When Shindlers List first came out, it was a very controversial film. Why? The Holocaust was one of the worlds worst moments, with the death of over six million Jews dead. Many critics felt Steven Spielberg would be bringing up the horrors of the Holocaust all over again. So many Jews were against the movie coming out. Film critic Alan A. Stone of the Boston Review says that Spielbergs decision to make a film about the Holocaust was a monumental task, because he was Jewish. His own personal Jewish identity was on the line. He knew that he was making the important film in his life and anything less than a success would be a failure, according to Stone. The movie was a success and won a lot of awards, but it did something more special than awards and money. Shindlers List gave all those non-Jews who are too young to remember the Holocaust, a chance to feel the grief for themselves.
This movie was an experience that most people never had the chance to feel before. Not many people have relatives that are Holocaust survivors to talk to and put the traumatic story together for them. So people like myself had to read about the Holocaust and wondered what it must have been like. Its kind of like what Stone said about the color of the film (black and white), This creates and sustains a style throughout the film which adds to our sense of watching history unfold, in real time. Thats what this movie gives to those who dont know about the Holocaust, a feeling that we are watching this happen in real time. This film takes us in the ghettos, the boxcars, the concentration camps, the torture, the home raids, and the Final Solution, which is the most heartbreaking. This movie shows us that although bad was everywhere, good was present. The good being Oskar Shindler, because even though he was quick to make an early dollar, he found good in himself to free as many Jews as he could. Spielberg made this movie more real than any so called reality show, because it brought the human compassion out of all the viewers. Thats what made this movie so great, was that it captured different age groups and different races.
What changes need to be made to American society in order to move beyond tolerance to empathy and compassion for all?
In order to move towards compassion for all people and be sensitive towards another persons feelings, it must start at home. The parents of young children, whose minds are vulnerable, must teach love, not hate. If you can get to a young child early and teach them that we are all the same, as in races, then thats getting a head start. You cant teach a young kid to love a Hispanic, Jewish, or African-American kid, if hes been taught that whites are above them. Its too late. Another way to get to a young child early is through his teacher. Teachers have always been known as secondary parents. If a teacher teaches love and equality, then you may be able to reach a few kids, whom were thinking otherwise. They are with their kids for up to six hours a day, so pushing this ideal wouldnt be so hard.
The schools need to also promote diversity in all ages, even in high school and universities. Promoting diversity would be like having African American day or Jewish week, etc., because it could let people know about the hardships that all cultures endured. Most schools let Martin Luther Kind Jr. day off of school, but do most people know what he accomplished or endured, same goes for Jewish holidays, do most know about the Holocaust. Schools and the country need to also promote the awareness of the crimes, because if most people knew of the hate crimes that still go on, they would be shocked. Schools need to be stricter on harassment at schools as well. To know that kids shoot up schools, because they were picked on or singled out is terrible. These shootings could have been prevented, but instead families and friends will never see their loved ones again. One of the signs that this nation is learning about being sensitive about others feelings is with the Souths flag. That flag may represent the South to many, but to some it represents racism. So after many protest, arguments, and cries, the flag was changed to a new one. That is just a small example of how a giant nation like America could change for the compassion of others. If we could do it then anyone could.
Doraplean, Andreas. Adolf Hitler. Microsoft Encarta Multimedia
Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Microsoft Multimedia. 1995
Franklin, Mike. We Must Remember the Holocaust. 1990.(4/26/01)
Hilberg, Raul. Holocaust. Microsoft Encarta Multimedia
Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Microsoft Multimedia. 1995
Keegan, John. The Second World War. New York: Penguin Books, 1989. 79-468.
Korn, Joey. Abes Story: Excerpts & Synopsis.
Stone, Alan A. Spielbergs Success. 1993. http://bostonreview.mit.edu/Br19.3/Stone.html
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