Nazi Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust

On this day in 1933, the German Reich President, Hindenburg appointed the head (Fuhrer) of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) Adolf Hitler as Chancellor. In the hall of the Berlin Kroll Opera House, the Reich Chancellor delivered a big speech to the members of the Reichstag, for which he carefully prepared. This speech became widely known thanks to the efforts of Holocaust propagandists. In January 1933, Hitler pursued a consistent policy of state anti-Semitism. Its first victim was the Jewish community of Germany, which numbered more than 500 thousand people. He considered himself to be recognized as saving the world from ‘Jewish domination’. ‘My struggle’ clearly expresses the racist worldview that divides people by origin. Hitler claimed that the Aryan race with its blond hair and blue eyes was at the top of human development. Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs belonged to the ‘lower races’.Soon Hitler moved from restricting the rights of Jews to their exclusion from the social, political, and economic life in Germany, and later on to their physical destruction. In 1937, the Nazis moved from theory to practice. They began sending Jews to concentration camps. In these camps, able-bodied Jews had to work as slaves when they ran out of strength and were killed. Old people and disabled people were headed straight for the gas chambers. Some were used for medical experiments.

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In Nazi Germany, all ‘inferior persons’ were subject to forced sterilization: Jews, Romani, the mentally ill, homosexuals, communists, etc.It was then decided that their physical destruction was more consistent. Nazi eugenics programs were first carried out as part of the state program ‘to prevent the degeneration of the German people as a representative of the Aryan race’ and later on in the occupied territories of other countries as part of the Nazi ‘racial policy’.The Nazis argued that the rescue and rebirth of Germany was possible only on the basis of the principles of ‘racial biology’, ‘eugenics’, and anti-Semitism used in politics. Their aim was to build a ‘racially pure’, homogeneous society in which ‘natural’ differences between people were recognized. Segregation of Jews began to change in society: most Germans either supported the government’s attempts to cleanse Germany of Jews or remained indifferent to them. One of the embodiments of this approach was the so-called Nuremberg laws of 1935, aimed at separating Jews and later Romani from the rest of society. The process, which lasted in Germany for five years, took place in Austria, annexed by the Third Reich in March 1938. ( ‘Anschluss’), just one night. This is what Anne Frank wrote about it: ‘The laws against the Jews followed one after the other, and our freedom was severely restricted. Jews must wear a yellow star; Jews must surrender their bicycles; Jews must not ride in a tram; Jews must not ride in cars, even in private cars; Jews are only allowed to go to a Jewish hairdresser; Jews should not visit Christians; Jewish children should go to Jewish schools, etc. This was how we continued to live, and we were forbidden from one thing or the other. Jacques always says to me, ‘I’m afraid to do anything: what if it’s forbidden?”.

In September 1941, the segregation that had already taken place was symbolically fixed: the Jews were ordered to put a yellow ‘Star of David’ on their clothes. As for concentration camps, people were forced to wear distinctive signs on their clothes, including a serial number and a colored triangle (‘vinkel’) on the left side of the chest and right knee (in Auschwitz, the serial number was tattooed on the left forearm). All political prisoners wore a red triangle, criminals wore green, ‘unreliable’ black, homosexuals pink, and Romanis brown. The Jew who had broken the racial laws (‘racial profaner’) had to wear a black border around a green or yellow triangle. The foreigners also had their own distinctive signs: the French wore the embroidered letter ‘F’, the Poles ‘P’, etc. The letter ‘K’ denotes a war criminal (Kriegsverbrecher), the letter ‘A’ – a violator of labor discipline from him.

The ghettos were located in the worst parts of the city. They were usually separated from nearby neighborhoods by wall or barbed wire. Jews were warned about moving to the ghetto a day in advance, and sometimes a few hours in advance. Only hand luggage was allowed. Before moving to the ghetto, all valuables were confiscated from the Jews. The German authorities have decided that they accepted norms of existence in cities do not apply to the ghettos. The ghettos were deadly traps. Medical care became impossible because Jewish doctors and nurses did not have any medicine or the necessary equipment. Here is what one of the doctors wrote: ‘ The energetic, full of life people in front of their eyes turn into apathetic somnambulates. They are lying there all the time, barely able to get to the bathroom… They are killed by the efforts made to obtain food. Sometimes they die with a piece of bread in their hand. There has been no way to help the exhausted orphans, who are hanging around the streets. The corpses covered in newspapers were lying right on the sidewalks waiting to be transported. They were buried in mass graves. All-day long, the sun was ruthless. People were forbidden to stand, they didn’t give food and water. Once the Germans brought a large barrel of water, and when people rushed to it, they opened a machine gun.”

Renia Spiegel, a Polish girl between the ages of 15 and 18, kept a diary describing the bombings, the humiliation of the Nazi regime, and the atmosphere of terror during the creation of the ghetto. But this diary has a place for personal experiences of her first love with a boy named Zygmunt Schwarzer.

Renia wrote poems that were published in the school paper. Renia died on July 30, 1942. She was 18 years old when Nazi soldiers killed her after escaping from the ghetto.

From the record of June 7, 1942.

“ Wherever I look, there is bloodshed. Such terrible pogroms. There is killing, murdering. God Almighty, for the umpteenth time I humble myself in front of You, help us, save us! Lord God, let us live, I beg You, I want to live! I’ve experienced so little of life, nothing. I don’t want to die. I’m scared of death. It’s all so stupid, so petty, so unimportant, so small. Today I worry about being ugly; tomorrow I might stop thinking forever. Yes, yes, war is terrible, savage, bloody. I feel I’ve become like that because of it ”.

In 1942, Renia, including 20,000 Jews, were taken to a remote ghetto, from where, as rumors had it then said, no one would be able to escape alive. Meetings with Zygmunt were the only bright moments in Renia’s life. The situation in the ghetto changed dramatically in July 1942, when the Germans demanded a ransom from the prisoners ‘for their own safety and those who could not pay were promised to be taken to a concentration camp. Zygmunt then decided to organize an escape for his beloved and his parents. The last entry in his diary belongs to him: ‘Three shots! Three lives lost! It happened last night at 10.30 p.m. Fate decided to take my dearest ones away from me. My life is over. All I can hear are shots, shots…shots. My dearest Renusia, the last chapter of your diary is complete”.Zigmunt, Renia’s mother Rose, and Ariana’s sister were able to survive the war. Zigmunt was taken to Auschwitz, where he became one of Dr. Mengele’s patients, but he still managed to survive. After the end of the war, he left for New York, where he decided to start his life anew.

Those who have gone through hell camps, survived, and were released, are people whose pain is incommensurable with the pain of others, they get used to the usual life, and they learn to live in this world anew. The Holocaust has special features. Firstly, it is the propaganda of hatred against people, the demands for restriction of their rights, and expulsion from their territory. Second, the indifference and lack of opposition from the international community to the spread of racism in a given State, which eventually resulted in the death of 6 million people. Third, is the implementation of genocide on the basis of ethnicity. 

29 April 2022

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