children of the holocaust

Children of the Holocaust
Teachers Guide: Children of The Holocaust
The Holocaust
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The Holocaust

The Holocaust was the systematic persecution and annihilation of more than 6 million Jews as a central act of state by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945. Although millions of others, such as Romani, Sinti, homosexuals, the disabled and political opponents of the Nazi regime, were also victims of persecution and murder, only the Jews were singled out for total extermination.

Under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, this brutal campaign began with a deliberate series of progressively hostile acts of bigotry, repression, humiliation and discrimination. Authorized by the Nazis and their collaborators, such actions were based on the views that the German (or "Aryan") people were a superior "race," that all non-Germans were therefore inferior, and that Jews were race-poisoners. The intervals between each phase -- from antilocution (using hostile, bigoted language) to avoidance to discrimination to violence to genocide -- were frighteningly small.

Jewish victims of the Holocaust were rounded up from all parts of Nazi-occupied Europe and shipped to concentration camps where almost all were shot, hanged, subjected to hideous medical experiments, gassed or worked to death. Only a small percentage survived. It did not matter whether they were rich or poor, religious or secular, or decorated soldiers of the First World War. If they had even one Jewish grandparent (a provision of the Nuremberg Laws), they were marked for destruction.

Any act of resistance against this juggernaut demanded enormous courage. Those who helped or rescued Jews did so at great risk to their own lives and those of their families. While most people remained silent or excused their complicity on the grounds that they were only following orders, a few remarkable people, known today as the Righteous Among Nations, took the risks and hid or rescued Jews. Contrary to the bestiality of the Nazis and the indifference of most people in Germany and in the Nazi-occupied nations, these individuals represent the finest and noblest of the human spirit.

When the Nazi regime collapsed in 1945 under the onslaught of the Allied nations and the world learned the full extent to which the hatred of Jews had been carried, the few Jewish survivors faced living without homes, possessions, families and communities. Many left Europe -- the continent soaked with the blood of their fellow Jews -- and tried to rebuild their shattered lives in the United States, in Israel and elsewhere. The Nazi dream of a "master race" came to an end at the War Crimes Trials held at Nuremberg in 1945. The United States, England, France and the Soviet Union joined forces to stand in judgment of the Nazi crimes against humanity.




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2001 Anti-Defamation League