The Holocaust

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The Holocaust

Historically, the word holocaust meant a religious rite in which an
offering was completely consumed by fire. In current times the word
holocaust has changed to a darker more tragic meaning and refers to
more than a religious sacrifice. During World War II, a fire raged
throughout Eastern Europe. Guns, bombs, and military groups did not
ignite this fire. This fire burned intensely in the hearts of men --
sparked by centuries-old prejudice. One man, Adolf Hitler, took this
flicker of hatred and fanned the flames. Hitler energized and stoked
the embers, spreading them throughout Eastern Europe causing widespread
destruction in the pursuit of a perfect Aryan nation. Although the
Holocaust is measured over the course of twelve long years, it does not
begin with the mass murder of innocent victims. Michael Berenbaum, a
survivor of the Holocaust believes, Age-old prejudice led to
discrimination, discrimination to incarceration, incarceration to
elimination (Altman 1). Thus, the progression of prejudice in the
Holocaust began as a flicker of hatred in the heart of a leader and
became a blazing inferno consuming the lives of the men, women, and
children who crossed its radical path.
After World War I, the social climate in Germany was depressing. The
German people were humiliated by their country's defeat and by the
terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The financial depression that
resulted left millions of individuals out of work. The German
government was weak, and the people sought new leadership. These
conditions provided an opportune setting for a new leader, Adolf Hitler,
and his party, the National Socialist German Workers Party. Hitler,
reckless and powerful, was able to fan the flames of an ancient hatred
into a wild and out of control holocaust (Altman 12).
As with most hatred and prejudices, the hatred that fueled the
Holocaust started with verbal abuse. As soon as Hitler was named
chancellor, he persuaded the cabinet to declare a state of emergency
allowing him to end all personal freedom. Among the rights lost were
freedom of press, freedom of speech, and freedom of gathering. He then
voiced his beliefs in the supreme Aryan race. As his beliefs spread,
spoken or verbal abuse escalated. Those who were not considered to be
of the perfect Aryan race were jeered and mocked. Fred Margulies, a
survivor of the Holocaust, recalls:  When I was about ten years old
there was a knock on my apartment-house door: and there was my best
friend, Hans. And he spat in my face, and he said 'Manfred, you
dirty…Jew' my best friend changed overnight (Shulman 7). The Jews
endured burning words tossed at them consistently. At first, they were
told Jews were not desired, and finally, they were told Jews were
prohibited. Jews were not the only ones attacked. Jehovah Witnesses,
handicapped individuals, and foreigners were also considered racially
and genetically poor. These verbal attacks became the match that would
ignite a much bigger fire.
Verbal attacks sparked an avoidance of those considered undesirable. On
April 1, 1933, Hitler called for a boycott of all Jewish businesses.
Nazi storm troopers stood in front of stores owned by Jewish
proprietors holding signs that warned: Don't buy from Jews, The Jews
are our misfortune, and Buy Aryan (Bachrach 14). Many Jews lost
their businesses as a result of the boycott. Restaurant signs
cautioned, No Jews or Dogs Allowed(15). Radio broadcasts and
newspapers became Nazi advertisement tools to spread lies about the Jew.
Schools taught that the Aryans were the most intelligent race.
Pictures were displayed showing the sizes of different brains and
always depicted the Aryan brain as the largest. Furthermore, the
people were told it was a sin against the German people, their
ancestors, and the Aryans' future to associate with the Jews. The Nazi
Party distributed leaflets urging pure Germans to keep their distance
from the Jews and to shun the Star of David with great ridicule
(Shulman 35).
The large-scale avoidance of the immoral Germans made German society
more receptive to legalized discrimination. The government was quick
to pass laws that in essence torched Jewish citizenship and their legal
standing within society. The Nuremberg Laws prevented immoral Germans
from being citizens, owning property, or marrying pure Germans. These
laws were further

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