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The holocaust, alternatively known as Shoah (Hebrew), was a tragic historical event that occurred between 1933 and 1945. The period is associated with Hitler's regime as the Chancellor of Germany (Bauer 28). The end of this tragic event was marked by the end of the war in Europe. The holocaust marked a period of tragedy for the Jews, Slavs and Gypsies that were systematically segregated and murdered due to racial prejudice, however; the Jews bore much of the brutality meted out by the Germans and other Europeans that expressed anti-Semitism sentiments. The onset of the holocaust period marked the start of progressive subjection to harsh persecution through property confiscation, denial of basic human rights, subjection to hard and forced labor, lethal gassing, starvation, human experimentation, slavery and outright mass murder.
The holocaust finally claimed an estimated six million Jews, with 1.5 million of them being Jewish children. The holocaust led to the annihilation of approximately two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe. Unfortunately, all these activities happened whilst the World watched and did nothing with regard to such inhuman acts against fellow humans. It so saddening to learn that all the Jew deaths were not as a result of war, but rather a result of a deliberate scheme to wipe out the entire Jewish population, in a process Hitler termed as the endlosung-"Final Solution." The main objective of this paper is to highlight main events of the holocaust as well as the reasons and events that may have contributed to its occurrence (Bauer 217).
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THE HISTORICAL TIME-LINE AND EVENTS OF THE HOLOCAUST
Zuckerman (1), states that the origin of the hatred against the Jews can be traced back to the last half of the 19th century and it associated with the development the development of the Völkisch Movement that spread throughout Germany, Hungary and Austria. This movement was conceived by völkisch thinkers such as Paul de Lagarde and Chamberlain Stewart, who were responsible for presenting the biologically based pseudo-scientific racism which portrayed the Jews as an enemy of the Aryan race in a fight for world dominion. It was from these early thoughts that Hitler was to base his claims that would lead to the annihilation of millions of Jews. In the immediate onset of the holocaust this may be cited as the most immediate cause of the hatred that would finally culminate into the holocaust atrocities, however; this may also be linked to anti-Judaism sentiments that had long existed in the prehistoric era among Christians (Mary 73).
The 1933-1940 periods: The chain of events began in 1933 when Hitler's Nazi party won the elections. Hitler became Germany's Chancellor and after a short while his party suspended all civil liberties. In order to save their face in the failing economy after a period of losing the war, the Nazis were determined to suppress any dissenting forces that would threaten their reign. The first goal directed towards achieving this goal involved the creation of concentrtion camps that would hold any opponents to the regime. The first camp located at Dachau held communist inmates in 1933. In the same period all books expressing ideas that were contrary to regime were destroyed. In 1934 Hitler combined the posts of presidency and chancellor and therefore, declared himself the "Fuhrer"-the ultimate German leader. During this period he banned the circulation of all Jewish newspapers.
In the following year the Jewish community was stripped off all its rights, and any opposing persons were persecuted alongside the Jews. (Bauer 412) In 1936 the Nazis collectively boycotted Jewish businesses and they attempt to set up signs to bar Jews from Olympic Games held in Germany in the year. In this year their suffrage rights were also stripped and Hitler stated that they should be treated as foreigners. In 1939 the Nazi troops took over parts of Austria and on "the night of the broken glass" the Jews were terrorized by the Jews and an estimated 30000 of them were arrested across the two countries. This night saw a full fledged and outright commitment of atrocities against the Jews. The Nazis were using the assassination of Ernst vom Rath (Nazi diplomat) in Paris by Herschel Grunspan (a Jewish minor) as an excuse to commit atrocities against the Jews.
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The Nazis snatched the opportunity and turned what had been a legal framework of repression into outright violence and murder. The Jews were compelled to carry passports and their children were segregated to Jew schools and all Jews were barred from holding businesses, attending concerts, plays and any other gathering s of the 'Aryans.' All these regulations and Laws against the Jews were collectively known as the Nuremberg Laws (Botwinick 57). In the same year Germany annexed Czechoslovakia and invaded Poland, and as a result World War II began after France and Britain declared war on Germany.
In this period Jews were supposed to observe curfews and wear the yellow 'star of David" for identity. The 1940 was perhaps the onset of the worst atrocities that would mark the onset of the holocausts evil events. In this year the Nazis deported millions of Jews into their conquered territory in Poland. The Jews were exclusively confined to ghettos and the Nazis began the mass murder of the deported Jews away from the German populace. The placement of Jews into concentration camps also began in this year.
The 1941-1947 periods: In 1941 the Nazi regime launched an attack against the Soviet Union, and at the same time it implemented more control measures on the Jews by forcing them into ghettos, limiting their use of communication lines and they were required to stay in their houses without leaving unless offered permission by the police. In 1942 the Hitler regime planned a final annihilation that was designated as the "Final Solution" and their plan was to kill all Jews in European Nazi territory, and before this the Jews were forbidden from keeping any animals, machinery, acquire formal education or make use of public transport and news networks (Botwinick 92). Mass murder groups were set up by the Nazi regime and the 'final solution' led to the opening of mass graves in to which the shot Jews were dumped after being shot by the firing squad from the killing squads.
During this period 70-80% percent of the murders were committed. Later Hitler captured Hungary and started deporting all Jews back to Auschwitz death camps. The Nazis moved 12000 Jews each day for murder. In 1945 the Nazis lost World War II and this marked the end of the holocaust as the allies took over the death camps and placed the remaining Jews into displaced people's facilities. In 1946 a tribunal was created and Nazi leaders were tried and later in 1947 the Jews got relief when the U.N established a home for the Jews in Palestine territory that would later become the present day Israel (Mary 29).
CONTRIBUTING FACTORS TO THE HOLOCAUST
Historical and religious factors: The most basic contributing factors to the holocaust were racial in nature. Anti-Semitism promoted by state religious institutions as well as other German state institutions are implicated as the major cause of anti-Judaism that later led to the development of the holocaust. The Jews were also a vulnerable lot because of their numbers and the bureaucratic nature of the systems that existed in Germany (Botwinick 172).
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Technological factors: According to Zuckerman (1), Large scale modernized warfare and warfare equipment made warfare appear simplistic and thus making human life less significant and easy to take. The modern weaponry also acted as a tool of suppression to the minority that had no power to put up any significant resistance. Therefore, human life was made expendable, easy to take and meaningless. The kind of military training offered and training to kill and offered a mandate to do so and this proliferated the acts with utter disregard of human life.
Political causes: These atrocities may also be attributed to political causes such as the "Treaty of Versailles' which left the nascent Germany vulnerable to take over in political leadership by radicals such as Hitler. The breaking of the Hungarian Austrian Empire may also have created a weakness that eliminated Germany's obstacles towards perpetrating these acts of atrocities and annexation. The Nazis were also trying to deliver on their campaign promises of punishing the Jews for allegedly plotting against the nation (Bauer 321). The shifting of blame may also have been at play in the turnout of events. The previous regime had lost the First World War and they sought to find a scapegoat for their failures and the Jews provided a perfect scapegoat. The persecution may have also been as a tactic to generate enmity so as to retain and gain power.
Conclusively, the holocaust was such a grim and unwarranted event, which portrayed how ugly humanity can get if left to go without the control. It also portrays the systematic ability to plot against other innocent, weak and vulnerable in society. This view of the holocaust calls to attention the importance of law and international bodies to protect the weak and the importance of the international community to universal peace.
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