Why Did the Holocaust End: Critical Essay

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“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me” -Martin Niemöller (. It affected mainly the Jews whose population dropped 67% by the time the camps were found and liberated. The weird part about it is the fact that during the 12 years it occurred, hardly anyone knew of the concentration camps. In order to understand the holocaust, it is important to know how it started. Another important thing to know is how Hitler and the Nazi’s final solution actually was done as, concentration camps, mobile killing units, and death camps. The end is also important for the remaining survivors. Importance to the world means that in order for this world to continue and become peaceful the Holocaust must never, never ever happen again. The holocaust was a terrible time for the Jews, Poles, Slavs, gypsies, and homosexuals, the start happened quickly in a time of 5 years, in the middle most of the people affected were sent to camps, and ghettos, and found out what a mobile killing unit was, or hid from everyone, the end happened after the 12 years were up after European Victory Day when the camps were all liberated, it is also important to recognize the impact that it had on the world.

Beginning, slowly but surely more and more rules were being put in place until the ropes were tight, and the Jews and the rest, were unable to escape. The most important part to realize is the fact that Germany needed a scapegoat, someone to blame for the problems they had. When Hitler rose to power:

“Most lived outside Germany, but Hitler still blamed Jews for many of Germany’s problems. He also promoted a belief in the racial superiority of the German people. There was no factual basis for Hitler’s anti-Semitism or for his claims about the German “master race.” However, for many Germans who had suffered through World War I, the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles, and the economic crises of the 1920s and 1930s, there was something appealing in Hitler’s twisted vision. Jews were a convenient scapegoat—a group to blame for Germany’s problems” (“Nazi Anti-Semitism”).

He continued to lower them more and more into the depths of having no citizenship and no right to leave the country. This kept them there and eventually took documentation of where the Jews were. The true start of the problems is when this happened:

“He did this by invoking the Enabling Act—emergency decrees of the German constitution which suspended individual freedoms and gave extraordinary powers to the executive. Hitler began to quickly escalate his campaign of intimidation, terror, and violence. He moved to ostracize Jews in all sectors of German society: economic, political, cultural, and social. The Nazis were able to use the government, the police, the courts, the schools, the newspapers, and radio to implement their racist ideology” (“Overview of the Holocaust”).

To put someone down the scale that much causes one to isolate themselves, to start to believe it is just a bad dream that they will wake up soon. But, sadly the “bad dream” is just beginning there is still more to come;

“On the nights of November 9 and 10, rampaging mobs throughout Germany and the newly acquired territories of Austria and Sudetenland freely attacked Jews in the street, in their homes, and at their places of work and worship. Almost 100 Jews were killed and hundreds more injured; approximately 7,000 Jewish businesses and homes were damaged and looted; 1,400 synagogues were burned; cemeteries and schools were vandalized; and 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Kristallnacht marked the beginning of the end, the turning point away from a policy bent on forced emigration to one of systematic physical annihilation. The next step was to force Jews from their homes, isolate them in ghettos, and finally deport them to labor and death camps” (“Overview of the Holocaust”).

The true beginning of the end, things would only get worse from here and would continue to get worse until an outside force brought things to an end. Kristallnacht or the night of broken glass was brought on by the anger of a French Jew whose parents were taken by the German police. To say that the beginning of the end is happening takes courage, but often seems true conditions for the Jews only got worse after these first five years.

In the middle of the holocaust in the 1940s, the majority of what was happening was in mobile killing units, death camps, and labor camps. The ghettos were also important for that was the first place they were taken:

“At first, some Jews were forced into a ghetto or a confined area within a city. Often, walls or barbed wire fences prevented the Jews from leaving, and armed guards shot those trying to escape. The most notorious ghetto was in the Polish city of Warsaw, which housed 400,000 people. Most of these people eventually died of starvation or were murdered by the Nazis” (“The Killing Begins”).

Ghettos also killed some of the people kept inside them, from starvation or disease. This was the easiest way to keep track of where they were otherwise the people would have a more likely chance of escaping. The next important thing is the mobile killing units:

“In the beginning, mobile killing units known as Einsatzgruppen were at work decimating the Jewish communities. Within 18 months, the Nazis shot or annihilated by mobile gas vans 1.3 million Jews. The mobile killing units continued to reduce the Jewish population of the ghettos” (“Life in the Ghettos and Camps”).

A quicker way to start things off but not complete it was these units. In Babi Yar, the mobile killing unit along with some of the police, killed over 3,000 Jews along with other unwanted people in 2 days. There were also concentration camps:

“Therefore, the Germans established a number of special concentration camps in Poland for the main purpose of killing large numbers of Jews and destroying their bodies. These death camps, such as Auschwitz, had specially designed gas chambers in which thousands of people were killed every day. The camps also had furnaces for the disposal of bodies” (“The Killing Begins”).

Since the mobile killing units were leaving too much evidence of Nazi crimes behind. Death camps were the result of this inference. They killed more quickly but they were also losing the able-bodied people that could be used for work. Another form of concentration camps was made; “In forced-labor camps, the Nazi regime brutally exploited the labor of prisoners for economic gain and to meet labor shortages. Prisoners lacked proper equipment, clothing, nourishment, or rest” (“Nazi Camps”). This was probably the best of the scenarios for they were allowed to live until they did not pass a wellness exam and were sent to a hospital or death camp. Though lacking multiple things made death more likely as long as they remembered to do what they were told to do, they often lived. All of these different methods made up the bulk of Hitler’s final solution.

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In the end, what a glorious statement to those who survived the camps and death marches. Though while the camps were liberated another 13,000 had died after the Bergen-Belson camp was liberated. This is from the first liberated camp and also the first realization that the rumors were true:

“When the Soviets liberated the Auschwitz death camp in January of 1945, they found about 7,000 starving survivors. They also found hundreds of thousands of pieces of clothing—a strong indication that many more people had been held there” (“The World Reacts”).

The first camp but one of the most used still not the most shocking camp though. There were also many shoes and other items besides the clothes. Next, is the Terezin camp:

“Among the many thousands who were sent to Terezin, 15,000 were children. They were forced to live in overcrowded, humiliating conditions. If they reached the age of 14, they were forced to work and live the life of adults. As the transports to the East continued to grow in number and frequency, more and more of the children were taken away - most never returned. By the end of the war and liberation, only 100 of the 15,000 children who passed through Terezin survived” (Life in the Ghettos and Camps”).

The shock of this would be devasting, for this was the camp that showed that nothing bad was ever happening to the prisoners. Located in Czechoslovakia this camp was only used as a stopping point and not a very long one at all. The next piece truly describes what it had been like:

“Though the scenes encountered at these camps defy description, they bear repeating. As Allied soldiers liberated these camps, they discovered mass graves, horrific torture rooms, and mounds of personal items that had belonged to the victims of the Nazi campaign of mass murder. Adding to the shock and heartbreak, these liberating soldiers also encountered throngs of emaciated, starving prisoners, abandoned by the retreating German forces. According to one account, General George Patton, upon witnessing the atrocities at one of Buchenwald’s sub-camps, ‘dashed behind a shed and vomited.’ Even battle-hardened soldiers could not stomach what they witnessed” (“On the Liberation of the Concentration Camps”).

This is shocking to anyone no matter the background the fact that it had happened, was the worst fact of all. Thankfully most of those left behind by the German forces were able to return to humanity. In conclusion, the end helped the survivors and brought the truth to the world to leave a lasting impact.

An impact is what is to be remembered and with something like the Holocaust, forever. For if is ever forgotten, it could happen again and destroy the world of the modern age. The reactions of many backgrounds will be listed here. First, a soldier:

“Leon Bass was an African American soldier who visited the Buchenwald camp in April 1945, shortly after it had been liberated by the Allies. Then we saw the crematorium where the dead bodies were outside, stacked up like cordwood, and we went into the crematorium and you could see the residue in the ovens—the rib cages, the skulls. And it was so hard to believe—to understand why. What did these people do that merited this kind of treatment? And it boggles the mind when you think that it had gone on for almost ten years before we got into the war! Why wasn’t it dealt with? Why did nobody scream and shout, ‘Stop!’ They never did” (“An American Soldier’s Reaction”).

This was shocking to the soldiers and was able to leave a lasting impact. The impact would have been left on everyone, from those who did it, to those affected, and those who found out. Secondly, a Nazi officer from the Nuremberg Trials:

“Maximilian Grabner was the head of the Gestapo, or secret police, at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. After the war’s end, he tried to explain his actions. To kill three million people is in my view the greatest crime of all. I only took part in this crime because there was nothing I could do to change anything. The blame for this crime lay with National Socialism [the Nazi Party]. I myself was never a National Socialist. Nevertheless, I still had to join the Party. … I only took part in the murder of some three million people out of consideration for my family” (“A Gestapo Officer’s Justification”).

Though leaving an impact there were also many things like the one described. The Nazis were often told to either join or face punishment. Finally, is a civilian’s response:

“Herman Graebe was a German engineer working in the Ukraine. On October 5, 1942, he accidentally discovered a Nazi mobile killing unit executing Ukrainian Jews. He later described what he saw. I heard rifle shots in quick succession from behind one of the earth mounds … I walked around the mound and found myself confronted by a tremendous grave. People were closely wedged together and lying on top of each other so that only their heads were visible. Nearly all had blood running over their shoulders from their heads. Some of the people shot were still moving. Some were lifting their arms and turning their heads to show that they were still alive. The pit was nearly two-thirds full. I estimated that it already contained about a thousand people. I looked for the man who did the shooting. He was an SS [Nazi military police] man, who sat at the edge of the narrow end of the pit, his feet dangling into the pit. He had a Tommy gun on his knees and was smoking a cigarette” (“A German Witness”).

The civilian would have been shocked to find it but understand that if they told anyone else, they would likely disappear. Worse than not knowing the civilian would be facing that fact until the liberations were happening. In conclusion, the impact would last for a long time and will save the world from another event like the holocaust.

Finally, the Jews and other unwanted people have been saved from the Nazis, the beginning happened quickly far faster than expected, the middle was when the camps were at their quickest, the end was the liberation of the camps after 12 years, and the impact is from 1933 to today and the future. The beginning of the end is what it was thought to be, but ended up being just a bad 12 years. The mobile killing units, ghettos, death camps, and forced-labor camps affected many but still missed some that were in hiding or made it away in time. The ending is always the best for those who got sent to the camps by the Nazis. Impact must be remembered or the world will become more messed up. “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”- Elie Wiesel.

  1. Anonymous. (2012). Overview of the Holocaust: 1933-1945. Retrieved from https://www.adl.org/sites/default/files/documents/assets/pdf/education- outreach/Overview-of-the-Holocaust-NYLM-Guide.pdf
  2. Hart, D. S., A. (2011, February 17). History - World Wars: Liberation of the Concentration Camps. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/liberation_camps_01.shtml
  3. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. (n.d.). Nazi Anti-Semitism, The World Reacts, A German Witness, A Gestapo Officer’s Justification, An American Soldier’s Reaction, & The Killing Begins. Retrieved from https://my.hrw.com/tabnav/controller.jsp?isbn=0030937752
  4. Johnson, J. (2015, May). On the Liberation of the Concentration Camps. Retrieved from http://origins.osu.edu/milestones/may-2015-liberation-concentration-camps
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  6. To honor all children: From prejudice to discrimination to hatred-- to Holocaust: New Jersey state Holocaust curriculum guide for grades 5-8. (2006). Trenton, NJ: New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education.
  7. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (n.d.). Concentration Camps. Retrieved from https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/concentration-camps-1942- 45?series=18121
  8. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (n.d.). Nazi Camps. Retrieved from https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/nazi-camps
  9. Martin Niemöller. Retrieved from https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/martin- niemoeller-first-they-came-for-the-socialists
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