Killed them in the medieval war
History of Anti-Semitism
The worst persecution of Jews in Germany took place during National Socialism from 1933 to 1945. How did the Holocaust catastrophe come about? Why did so few help their Jewish fellow citizens?
The history of anti-Semitism shows us what prejudice and indifference can do.
Christians often demanded that the Jewish citizens living among them should accept the Christian faith. Those who adhered to their Jewish faith did not have the same rights as non-Jewish citizens.
In Europe in the Middle Ages, Jews were forbidden from exercising certain craft trades. Since Christians were not allowed to lend money against interest for religious reasons, they left this "dishonorable" business to the Jews. A Jew who became a wealthy moneylender was even more hated for that very reason. Whoever cheated or robbed a Jewish moneylender very often got away without penalty.
From the 16th century onwards, the councils of many cities forced Jews to live in closed quarters, known as ghettos. The ghetto often had gates that were closed at night. In many cities, Jews were not allowed to leave the ghetto on high Christian holidays.
Jews had a duty to identify themselves as Jews, for example by wearing a yellow piece of cloth on their clothing or by wearing a high, pointed hat.
It could be a disaster for the Jews if a contagious disease raged in the area or if a child disappeared. Many people blamed the Jews and tortured and murdered them. Such an attack is called a pogrom. Seldom happened to the murderers because Jews had little chance of winning a trial.
It was not until the end of the 18th century, about 200 years ago, that European states began to give Jewish citizens the same rights as the Christian inhabitants of a country.
Anti-Semitism did not end there. Many still held onto their prejudices, claiming that Jews were bad for murdering Jesus. They would poison the wells or kidnap children.
In the 19th century, when fewer and fewer people believed the old horror stories, anti-Semites invented the "science" of human races. They claimed that there were human races with particularly good traits - courageous, beautiful, and clever - the master races, to which they themselves naturally belonged. Other races are "inferior", mean, devious, devious - the "Jewish race" for example.
There were still many people who were against Jews. These people were ready to believe the nonsense of "race theory".
The racial policy of the German National Socialists
From the "race theory" and from all prejudices that existed against the Jewish fellow citizens, the National Socialists under Adolf Hitler developed their "racial policy", which was mainly directed against Jews, but also against Sinti and Roma, the mentally handicapped and homosexuals.
In 1933 Adolf Hitler was appointed German Chancellor because his party, the NSDAP, had become the strongest faction after the November 1932 election. Within a few years his government restricted the rights of German citizens of the Jewish faith more and more: They were no longer allowed to work in any professions, no longer study, and children were no longer allowed to go to school with non-Jewish children.
The non-Jewish population was urged not to buy in stores owned by Jews. On November 10, 1938, synagogues were set on fire all over Germany and Jewish shops were destroyed during the "Pogrom Night".
Jews had to wear a yellow fabric star of David on their clothing and after a few years were no longer allowed to live anywhere.
Many Jews fled abroad, but there were also many who did not want to leave. They hoped the worst would soon be over. But the worst was yet to come:
From 1939 on, Hitler and his armies, the Wehrmacht, attacked neighboring countries. The Second World War began. The laws against the Jews also came into force in the occupied countries. In 1942 the so-called "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" began - all Jews were to die.
All over Germany and in occupied Europe the Jews were gathered and brought to "concentration camps" (KZ), where they were told to work. Many people died on the train ride in the overcrowded freight wagons.
Upon arrival at the camp, guards decided who should be killed immediately. Those who seemed strong enough were assigned to hard work. Auschwitz was one of the worst Nazi concentration camps. More than a million people were murdered in Auschwitz alone.
When the war finally ended in 1945 with the defeat of the German Reich, around six million Jews had been murdered.
Here's what the terms mean:
Anti-Semitism denotes hostility towards Jews and hatred of Jews.
Adolf Hitler and his followers - the National Socialists - were anti-Semites. They claimed that all Jews were inherently bad and accused them of being responsible for all problems in the world. They used this absurd, inhuman claim to persecute Jews.
The National Socialists took brutal action against Jewish people. Jewish children were no longer allowed to go to school, and many Jews were no longer allowed to practice their jobs.
When the National Socialists started World War II on September 1, 1939, the situation of the Jews worsened. From 1941 onwards, they had to wear a yellow star on their clothing, and were persecuted, imprisoned and mistreated. The National Socialists had large, so-called concentration camps built in Germany and the occupied countries, especially Poland. In these camps Jews and many others who did not like the Nazis or who were against them were imprisoned and forced to do hard labor. Many of them were killed. The National Socialists murdered around six million Jews during their rule.
A ghetto is a special district in which population groups live voluntarily or forcibly. In medieval cities in Germany, for example, Jews had to live together in one quarter, separate from the Christians. The residents were free to enter and leave the neighborhood.
The National Socialists locked the Jews in newly created ghettos. These quarters were surrounded by high walls or barbed wire. Nobody was allowed to leave them without permission. Anyone who tried to flee was murdered. In Poland in particular, the living conditions under the German occupiers were inhumane. The residents of the ghettos suffered from hunger and disease and often had to do forced labor. A great many people died. The National Socialists deported many Jews from the ghettos to concentration camps.
The largest ghetto in Poland was in the Polish capital, Warsaw. The entire Jewish population of Warsaw and many displaced persons, at times over 400,000 people, had to live together in a confined space in the Warsaw ghetto. In Lodz (renamed Litzmannstadt by the National Socialists) there was the second largest ghetto in Poland: at times over 160,000 people lived here in dire conditions in the poorest district of the city and had to do forced labor in many factories.
Adolf Hitler, born in Austria in 1889, was a brutal dictator who ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945. His supporters, the National Socialists, called him "Führer". During his reign, his followers imprisoned and murdered millions of people. His hatred of the Jews was particularly great, whom he systematically persecuted and finally had killed. The National Socialists killed around six million Jews in special camps during their rule.
Adolf Hitler was greedy for power and wanted a large German Reich. Therefore, he equipped the military and attacked first Poland and then other countries. With that, Germany began the Second World War - a cruel war in which millions of people died. When Germany lost the war, Hitler committed suicide.
Holocaust is the name for the targeted exclusion, persecution and, above all, the murder of certain population groups by the National Socialists. The term comes from the Greek and originally means “completely burned.” European Jews in particular were systematically persecuted and murdered: Between 1941 and 1945, the National Socialists killed around six million Jewish people, but also many others - such as political opponents, homosexuals or others Sinti and Roma - were persecuted, captured and killed.
The concentration camps under National Socialism were prison camps in which people were locked up who the National Socialists had declared their enemies. These included political opponents, homosexuals, Sinti and Roma and others, but above all Jews. The persecuted were held in these camps for an indefinite period of time and without judgment.
Many concentration camps were like labor camps in which prisoners were forced to work to the point of exhaustion. There was hardly any food and people slept in dirty and cold barracks. The aim was to kill these people. The National Socialists scornfully described this project as "annihilation through work".
The so-called extermination camps were set up by the National Socialists for the targeted mass murder of Jews, Sinti and Roma and other persecuted groups of people. The National Socialists had gas chambers built in these camps in order to kill the prisoners with gas.
Millions of people - men, women and children - were murdered in the camps by the National Socialists. After the end of the war and the defeat of the Germans, the victorious powers, the Americans, British, French and Soviets, were only able to save a few survivors from the camps.
One camp in which a particularly large number of people died was Auschwitz-Birkenau in Germany-occupied Poland. Today it is an important place where the crimes of the German National Socialists are remembered.
National Socialism emerged in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. It was a collective movement of political currents and groups that were against democracy and had extremely nationalist and racist, especially anti-Semitic, ideas and goals.
The Germans lived in a democracy in the late 1920s; it was called the Weimar Republic. Times were not easy back then and people had to struggle with major problems: hunger, poverty and unemployment dominated everyday life. Adolf Hitler, the leader of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), pretended to have simple solutions to these problems. Many Germans became enthusiastic supporters of the National Socialists. In November 1932, Hitler's National Socialist Party won the elections (but only with around 33 percent) and Hitler became head of government two months later. In the end he had all other parties banned, so that the NSDAP was the only party.
The Nazis claimed that the Jews were inherently bad and accused them of being responsible for many problems in the world. They invoked this absurd, inhuman claim to humiliate, persecute and harm the Jews. With the help of the National Socialist Party, Hitler built a cruel dictatorship.
In 1939 he started the Second World War. Over 55 million people died in this war. During Hitler's rule, which lasted from January 1933 to May 1945, the National Socialists murdered around six million Jews. This time is also called the time of National Socialism today.
Before Hitler came to power there were many different parties in Germany. The Germans lived in a democracy in the late 1920s; it was called the Weimar Republic. Times were not easy back then and people had to struggle with major problems: hunger, poverty and unemployment dominated everyday life.
Adolf Hitler, the leader of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), claimed to have simple solutions to these problems. In July 1932 the NSDAP won the elections and Hitler became head of government two months later. He finally had all other parties banned, so that the NSDAP was the only party.
With the help of the NSDAP, Hitler built a cruel dictatorship: he abolished freedom of expression and freedom of the press, associations and parties were dissolved. Hitler and his party violently silenced all opponents and dissenters in the course of a few years.
Sinti and Roma are ethnic groups that used to be referred to by the discriminatory term "gypsies". They came from north-west India hundreds of years ago. Due to war, persecution, displacement or economic hardship, they had become homeless and settled in Europe. There were and still are many prejudices against this population group. The National Socialists took advantage of this. They labeled Sinti and Roma as inferior people and brutally persecuted them. They deported Sinti and Roma to concentration camps and killed around 500,000 of them.
The Wehrmacht was the German army under Adolf Hitler. It had a strength of 4.5 million soldiers and was divided into three parts: the army, the navy and the air force. The soldiers had to take their oath directly on Hitler, since he was the chief, the "Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht".
Even before the war began, from 1933 onwards, Hitler began a major rearmament program: he had huge quantities of weapons and ammunition produced and airplanes built and prepared for war.
On September 1, 1939, the German Wehrmacht invaded Poland. The Second World War began. The Wehrmacht committed horrific crimes during their campaigns of conquest.
You can find further definitions of terms here.
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