“Holocaust” or the final solution is the word originated from two Greek words “holos” meaning whole and “kaustos” meaning burned. Historically, Holocaust signifies sacrifices offered on the altar. After 1945, the word modified to take horrible meaning of mass destruction and loss of life. Owing to the brutal murder of 6 million European Jews and few people of oppressed groups of homosexuals and Gypsies the word acquired an awful form. This phase was during the Second World War. The anti-semitic Nazi leader Adolf Hitler considered Jews to be an inferior race. After years of struggle of Jews under the rule of Nazis, Hitler comes up with a “final solution” the Holocaust behind the world war. The camps turned into mass killing centers. So, how long did the Holocaust last? And how Jews and other minor groups suffered and the aftermath? Read the article to know more about this.
How Long Did The Holocaust Last?
Before getting into the phase of the holocaust, it is crucial for you to know the prior developments that lead to this mass destruction. So, let us see the prior developments.
Before The Holocaust
The anti-Semitism though referred to Adolf Hitler’s period but existed much before Hitler. Since, ancient time hostility toward Jews existed. The Jews were asked to leave Palestine forcefully after the Roman authorities destroyed their temple in Jerusalem. So, the term anti-Semitism dates back to 1870s. Later 17th and 18th century came in the Enlightenment with emphasis on religious toleration. In the 19th century, other European rulers along with the Napolean ordained legislation to remove the long-standing confinements on Jews. However, anti-semitic feelings began to take racial character rather than a religious one.
The origin of anti-Semitism especially the virulent brand of Hitler is vague. Adolf Hitler was born in Austria in the year 1889 and served the German army during the World War I. Similar to most of the anti-Semites in Germany even Hitler blamed the Jews for the defeat in 1918. Once the World War I ended, he joined the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) known among the English speakers as Nazis. He was imprisoned due to treason for his part in the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. During the confinement period, he penned the memoir “Mein Kampf” meaning “My Struggle.” In his work, he predicted the general European war resulting in the complete annihilation of the Jewish race from Germany. Further, he was obsessed with the thought of “pure” German race. He called this race as “Aryan” and people of this race required living space or “Lebensraum” to expand. Hitler rose the party from abstruseness to power eliminating the rivals within a decade after his release from the prison. He became the Chancellor of Germany on January 20, 1933, following the death of President Paul von Hindenburg. Then Hitler became a “Fuhrer ” – Germany’s Supreme ruler following an anointing.
Nazi Revolution 1933-1939
The spatial expansion and racial purity were the goals of Hitler and from 1933 these two formed the motivating factors to shape the domestic and foreign policy. Initially, Nazis were opposed by the harsh political components like Social Democrats and Communists. In Dachau near Munich was the first official concentration camp opened in March 1933. Most of the first prisoners here were communists. The camps sprang up and were widely spread to become the killing grounds – the Holocaust. The German concentration camps by July 1933 hold about 27,000 people in protective custody. Nazis hold huge rallies, public burning of books by Jews were some of the symbolic acts enacted by them.
The population of the Jews remained meager by1933 it was about 525,000 amounting to 1 percent of the complete German population. In the next six years took place “Aryanization” lead by the Nazis in Germany. This process fired non-Aryans from Civil services, stripped Jewish lawyers, doctor, and their Jewish clients, knocked off Jewish-owned businesses. As per the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 any person with three or four Jewish grandparents was designated as a Jew. And one with two grandparents (Jews) was considered as half-breeds or Mischlinge. According to Nuremberg laws Jews were always the targets of persecution and stigmatization. The synagogues (Jewish worship place) burned, and their shops were destroyed. And about few 100s of Jews killed and left 1000s imprisoned. Between 1933 and 1939 few thousands of Jews left Germany while those remained in the country suffered fear and state of uncertainty.
The War (1939-1940)
By September 1939, the western half of Poland was occupied by the German army. A lot of hundreds of thousands forced into ghettos from their homes. All those left back property was confiscated by Germany and was handed over to the ethnic Germans. Ethnic Germans were the people residing outside Germany identified themselves as Germans and were non-Jews. These ethnic Germans were probably Polish gentiles or Reich. On the other hand, Jewish ghettos wore horrified looks with barbed wires surrounding and high walls. Poland functioned as captive city-states and were governed by the Jewish councils. Additionally, diseases like typhus spread over the ghettos owing to the overpopulation and hunger. Further, Jews were unemployed and suffered poverty.
In 1939, Hitler came up with Euthanasia Program looking forward to more destruction. According to the program, Nazi officials picked up 70,000 Germans suffering from mental illness or other disabilities to be gassed until death. However, the program came to an end after few well-known German religious leaders protested in August 1941. But, the program indeed was implemented in secrecy and around 275,000 suffering from any of the disabilities were killed all over the Europe. When you analyze the scenario, you can find out the Euthanasia leading the Holocaust.
Towards The Holocaust (1940-1941)
All through the summer and spring of 1940 Hitler’s empire was extended all over the Germany with the aid of army. The Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, France, and Luxembourg were conquered. In early 1941, Jews present in the whole of the continent and several thousands of European Gypsies were transferred into Polish ghettoes. Further, in June 1941, new brutal combat was initiated with the German invading Soviet Union. Einsatzgruppen were the mobile killing units employed to murder around 500,000 or more Soviet Jews and other communities generally by shooting as part of German occupation.
On July 31, 1941, the Hitler’s top commander Hermann Goering the chief of Security Service Reinhard Heydrich mentioned there is a need of “final solution” to the problem of Jews. Consequently, by September 1941, every Jew in the German-held territory mandatorily should carry a yellow star. These yellow stars make them open targets for shooting. Simultaneously, about tens of thousands of people were exiled to the Polish ghettos and cities occupied by Germans in USSR. From the mid of 1941 the killing experiments went on at the camps Auschwitz, near Krakow. Using a pesticide Zyklon-B around 500 officials killed 500 Jews in August. Additionally, the Security Service placed a huge order for the fatal gas with one of the leading German pest-control firm indicating more horrible holocausts are waiting.
The HoloCaust: Death Camps (1941-1945)
By late 1941, the Germans transported the masses from the Polish ghettos to concentration camps. The massed included the old, sick, weak, and young. The first gassing that is where people killed in masses began near Lublin in the Belzec camp, and the chain of disasters took place on 17th March 1942.Further, around five mass killing centers were set up in Poland, Sobibor, Chelmno, Majdanek, and Treblinka. Among all the setup centers, the Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest. Between 1942 and 1945 all Jews residing in Europe, German controlled territory and countries associated with Germany deported to the deadly camps. During summer in 1942 the hefty deportations took place. In this around 300,000 people were deported from only the Warsaw ghetto.
Though Nazis tried to keep the death campaigns a secret, it was no possible due to high death tolls. Most of the eyewitness of the German atrocities approached the allied governments, but they failed to respond. And these governments were harshly criticized about their disability to act against such mass slaughter. The allied governments fail to take any action as they completely concentrated on the war in the hands and general disbelief on such atrocities happening on such a huge scale. Similar to large industrial operation over 2 million people killed at a camp of Auschwitz alone. A huge population of non-Jews and Jews were found working in the labor camp in this place. While Jews were gassed, the other population lost their lives due to disease or starvation. During 1944 in summer months even on the D-Day of World War II which spelled the end of Germany the Jews not spared from killing. About 12,000 Jews killed per day by deporting huge population to Auschwitz.
The Jewish Resistance
Germany’s overwhelming repression made it difficult for the Jews to resist. However, Jewish population tried to resist in several forms. Some of the Jewish religious traditions showcase their resistance against the inhuman act of Nazis. And attempts made by the Jews to escape from the camps and ghettos were a type of resistance. Most of them who succeeded to escape from deadly camps and ghettos managed to get into the mountains and forests and lived in the family camps set up there.
One of the significant revolts against the Nazis was Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. This took place following the massive deportations of the Jews from the prison to ghettos in September 1942. Again in January 1943 when Germans attempted to take several thousands of Jews a small unorganized group of Jews attacked them. The Germans ended up taking few people than the expected numbers. However, all of these revolts remained largely unsuccessful to face the superior powers of Germans.
Nazi Rule Ends Yet Holocaust Claims Lives (1945)
The German leadership started descending owing to internal dissent between Hitler and Goering, Himmler. Both opted to remain distant from Hitler and to snatch his power. In the political testament and last will the German dictator urged the Germans to follow “the strict racial laws and resist the Jews and prevent them from poisoning the Universe mercilessly” on April 29. The very next day dictator committed suicide. Followed by a week around May 8, 1945 Germany formally surrendered.
Most of the death camps evacuated by the German forces by the ending of 1944. The inmates sent on a march in the guidance of a guard beyond the distances as the enemies were fast approaching. These marches termed as “death marches” and it continued until Germany’s surrender with a death toll between 250,000 and 375,000. The Italian Jewish author Primo Levi have captured the moments of fear and dread in his work. One of the lines read “We lay in a world of death and phantoms. The last trace of civilization had vanished around and inside us. The work of bestial degradation, begun by the victorious Germans, had been carried to conclusion by the Germans in defeat.” These lines depict the state of mind of the author and his mates a day before the arrival of Soviet Camp in January 1945.
Aftermath Of Holocaust And Its Impact Forever
Holocaust resulted in such wounds that took a lot of time to heal, and it was a catastrophe. Though few survived in the lethal camps found it hard to get back to their homes. Most of them lost their families and the non-Jewish neighbors they had betrayed them. Consequently, in 1940s huge number of refugees arose. Among them, most of them were Jews, and other groups of the population who were ill-treated and found roaming around Europe. As an effort to punish the culprits of Holocaust, the Allies conducted the Nuremberg Trials in 1945-46. As a result, the atrocities of the Nazi regime were exposed. Due to pressure the Allied powers created a homeland for the Jewish survivors. As a result, Israel created in 1948.
The decades following the Holocaust were a bitter legacy to the ordinary Germans. The families of victims and survivors sought restitution for the property confiscated and loss of wealth during the rule of Nazis. In early 1953, the German government made a responsible move by making some payment to the Jewish people due to crimes they suffered.