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Published: Friday 25th of January 2013

Holocaust History of European Jews Essay Example

We have happenings in history that we term ‘watershed events.’ Such events are of a high magnitude as they have a lasting impact worldwide and have the ability to change the world forever. An example was the Holocaust. We are going to explore the lasting impression of this event in this essay and how it changed the whole world.

Holocaust Meaning

The dictionary defines holocaust as ‘destruction or slaughter on a mass scale, especially caused by fire or nuclear war.’ It could be described by the actual event that was organized by the Nazi regime led by Adolf Hitler which wiped out an approximate of six million Jews. It took place between 1933 and 1945. By 1945, the genocide was on a massive scale with 2 out of every 3 European Jews killed.

The History

Long before Holocaust began, the Jews were mistreated most of the times. Anti-Semitism (hatred against Jews) can be traced back to thousands of years. The Jews stayed faithful and would not convert to Christianity; this made the early Christians hate them. Religious leader Martin Luther in the 1500’s put out a ferocious attack on the Jews who would not convert to Christianity. He called for violence against the Jews and referred to them as dangerous and deadly people in the society. Many people in the 1800s began discriminating the Jews based on their race rather than religion. In European politics, hatred for Jews became a dominant force. In many countries, people started believing that the Jews were the cause of all problems. A good example is when Czar Alexander II of Russia got killed by revolutionaries, and instead, the Jews received the blame. It led to an organized massacre called pogroms, and hundreds of Russian Jews got killed. A nationwide boycott of Jewish business and stores was ordered on April 1, 1933, by Hitler’s government. The Jews were forbidden to hold specific careers by the government. In the few years to come, Jews were denied their rights and belongings taken away from them by the Nazi government. Sitting in parks or going swimming was also not allowed. Jewish businesses, as well as personal properties, were taken away by the government. They used these methods to frustrate the Jews so that they could leave Germany. And indeed, thousands fled the country but they could not take their properties with them. November 9, 1938, the level of torture was on another level. Jewish owned properties and synagogues were destroyed and burned in Germany and Austria. Jews were attacked in their homes, attacked on the streets and many got killed. More than 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Kristallnacht a German name meaning Crystal Night was the name given to that night and Night of Broken Glass in English.

The Final Solution and What It Means

It was a plan made by Germans to physically kill the Jews that were in Germany and other European Countries. In 1939, after the World War II, millions of Jews came under German control. Many Jews were moved from cities and towns and sent to city ghettos. Others were killed or sent to concentration camps. In early 1941, the final details of the policy decision labeled “The Final Solution of the Jewish Question|” was put by the Nazi government. This policy allowed Jews to get killed under the German control. In June 1941, the killings began as squads called Einsatzgruppen rounded up the Jews, Soviet and Roma leaders and began shooting them one by one. They then decided that killing them in this way was not efficient and went with a different approach. It was proving hard to destroy an entire race one at a time. The alternative became sealed vans in which Jews and prisoners got chocked to death on exhaust fumes. Nazis leaders went on further to systemize the killings at Wannsee Conference held in Berlin in January 1942. Jews who were in German territory would get sent to concentration camps, and these camps would be used to exterminate the Jews. By the late 1930s, more than 10,000 political prisoners were held there by the Nazis. The Jews that were living in ghettos were taken in freight cars and transferred to the concentration camps. An SS physician would then pick the young and able-bodied, and those who seemed weak would get sent to the gas chambers. At one given time more than 2,000 Jews were sent to the gas chamber. The Jews heads were shaved and gold teeth painfully removed from their mouths by the guards. The Prisoners arms got tattooed with a number which was used to identify them. The Jews would be forced to work long hours and in harsh conditions. Auschwitz was a large camp and famous for its brutality. Reports indicate that about1 ¼ million people got killed there. Americans, British and Soviet troops swept through Europe as the war was ending. It forced the Nazis to hasten in emptying some camps to get rid of witnesses of their cruelty.

The Reason Why Hitler Despised the Jews

Hitler and the Nazis were racists, and that is why Holocaust happened. They believed the Germans were more superior to others and were a ‘masterpiece.’ They even went further and created a league table of ‘races’ with Jews and Aryans topping the list and black people and gypsies at the bottom. To prevent resistance, the Nazis kept everything a secret and worked on deceiving their victims. It was so secretive that the Jews in the ghettos were not aware of the slaughters planned for them. The Jews first response was no resistance, and they tried stopping the Nazis by using peaceful ways. A few Jews did fight. For instance, in 1943 in Warsaw, Poland, thousands of Jews in the ghetto revolted. They held out for four weeks. 60,000 Jews were either killed or sent to death camps after their capture. There was upraising in 1943 that took place at the Sobibor and Treblinka camps. Prisoners in Auschwitz revolted in 1944 and set the crematorium on fire. Only a few prisoners managed to escape.

The Holocaust Aftermath

In 1944 and 1945, the Allies advanced through Europe and found millions of displaced people. Among them were the Jews. Jews had no place to go. The world leaders were pressured to find a place for the Jews to go as they could not continue living with their former killers. An independent Jewish state in Palestine was what the Jewish wanted as it was their ancient homeland. After severe fighting several times between the British and Palestine’s in the 1920’s and 1930’s concerning the Jews, the British took the matter to United Nations. A proposition was made by the UN in 1947 to divide Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. The state of Israel came into existence officially in May 1948 opening its borders to Jews. Allied leaders declared determination to bring Nazi leaders to Justice for the killings they performed. From 1945 to 1949, the Nuremberg trials took place. There were four major types of crimes the Nazi leaders faced. The United Nations passed a Genocide Convention on December 9, 1948, designed to overcome the claims that Nuremberg defendants had violated no law. Genocide was made a crime in the convention. Those who had profited from the Holocaust were pressured by the Jewish groups in 1990’s to pay the victims or their descendants. The German government, German companies, and Swiss banks were among the groups that paid reparations. Giving the precise number of Jewish victims is impossible. Statistics point out the number to be 5,830,000. The authorities round off the number to six million Jews.


It is easy for a student to understand that Holocaust is an unacceptable crime which has an impact up to date. It made legal terms to be created to protect the rights of civilians especially those caught in conflicts and wars. Holocaust was an eye opener and the systems placed are encouraging to ensure that genocide of this magnitude never happens again, and if it does, the culprits will be punished.