The Holocaust systematically murdered 11 million people across Europe, more than half of those people were Jewish. The Jews were blamed for the German’s failures, such as World War I. As a result, Hitler established anti-Semitism throughout his army and the majority of Europe. The Holocaust consisted of three phases to annihilate the Jews. The phases did not create racial purity and they did not successfully annihilate all of the Jews as the Nazi party planned.
The first phase began when the Nuremburg Laws were passed in 1935. These laws stripped Jews of their German citizenship, property, and jobs. Jews were required to wear a bright yellow Star of David attached to their clothing to make it easy for Nazis to identify them. The Nuremberg Laws, as they became known, did not define a, “Jew”, as someone with particular religious beliefs. Instead, anyone who had three or four Jewish grandparents were defined as a Jew, regardless of whether that individual identified himself or herself as a Jew or belonged to the Jewish religious community. Many Germans who had not practiced Judaism for years found themselves caught in the grip of Nazi terror. The Nuremberg Laws also prohibited marriage between Aryans, which were considered Hitler’s master race and Jews. Hitler implemented these laws to ostracize, discriminate and expel Jews from German society. Hitler’s obsession to rid Europe of Jewish people created the, “Final Solution”.
This phase was the implementation of committing mass genocide of the Jewish people. To preserve Hitler’s, “master race”, the Nazis condemned to slavery and death not only the Jews but also other groups that they viewed as inferior or unworthy were considered enemies of the state. The Nazis silenced all of their political opponents regardless of their political affiliation. Many Jews were re-located into ghettos. Ghettos were segregated areas where Jews lived. Life inside the ghetto was a living hell. The Jews were forced to work in German industry factories that were built alongside the ghettos. There bodies of dead Jewish victims that littered the streets. The ghettos were filthy, and had very poor sanitation. Extreme overcrowding forced many people to share rooms. Disease was rampant and staying warm was difficult during the bitter cold winters. Lack of adequate clothing, heating fuel and food were in short supply. This lack of supplies caused many Jews to starve to death.
The first phase of the holocaust did not successfully identify and relocate all of the Jews. The law prohibiting marriages between Jews and Germans failed to determine exactly who should be considered a Jew. Many Jews were able to get around the Nuremberg Laws. Therefore, if they were not identified as a Jew they would not be re-located into the ghettos.
The second phase of the holocaust was relocation from ghettos to concentration camps or labor camps. Jews would be relocated to concentration camps during ghetto liquidation day. Ghetto liquidation day was when the Nazis would empty the ghettos by force. Anyone who refused to leave the ghetto or resisted the Nazi soldiers would be shot. All personal belongings would be left behind. Life in the concentration camps was a continuous cycle of hunger, humiliation, and work that almost always ended up in death. The prisoners were crammed into crude wooden barracks that held up to a thousand people each. Prisoners shared their crowded quarters and meager meals, with rats and fleas. Hunger was so intense that a survivor recalled, “That if a bit of soup spilled over, prisoners would converge on the spot, dig their spoons into the mud and stuff the mess into their mouths.” Inmates on the camp worked from dawn to dusk, seven day a week until they collapsed. Those too weak to work would be killed. Jews were killed and severely beaten everyday at concentration camps. They were forced to wear striped uniforms and armbands or labels to identify the type of prisoners that they were. The different colors of the bands represented different groups of people.
The second phase of the holocaust was not as successful as the Nazi party had planned because not all of the Jews were relocated to the concentration camps from the ghettos. Some of the Jews were able to hide out in the ghettos. Others were able to escape from the concentration camps. In some cases organized resistance was formed in the ghettos amongst the Jews. For example, in the Polish capitol of Warsaw, individual Jews continued to hide themselves in the ghetto ruins for many months after they were forcefully told to leave by the Nazis. These resistance fighters often attacked German police officials on patrol. Approximately 20,000 Warsaw Jews continued to live in hiding in Warsaw long after the liquidation of the ghetto.
The third phase of the holocaust was known as the final stage. In 1942 at a meeting held in Wannsee Poland, Hitler’s top officials agreed to begin a new phase of the mass murder of Jews. In addition to mass slaughter and starvation they would add a third method of killing. This third method was committing murder by poisonous gas. As deadly as overwork, starvation, beatings, and bullets were, they did not kill fast enough to satisfy the Nazis. The Germans built six death camps in Poland. The first, Chelmno began operating in 1941, before the meeting at Wannsee. Each camp had several large gas chambers in which as many as 12,000 people could be killed a day. Auschwitz was the largest of the death camps. The Jews were told to undress because they would be taking a shower.
They would then enter the gas chamber and cyanide gas would spew from the vents in the wall killing everyone within the chamber. At first the bodies were buried in huge pits, but the decaying corpse gave off a stench that could be smelt for miles around. The mass graves also left evidence of the mass murder. At some camps the Nazis installed huge crematoriums, or ovens to burn the dead. At other camps, the bodies were thrown into a pit and simply set on fire. Gassing was not the only method of extermination. Prisoners were also hanged, shot, or injected with poison. Some died from medical experiments carried out by camp doctors. The victims were injected with deadly germs in order to study the effects of the disease.
The third phase of the holocaust was not as successful as the Nazi party planned it to be. Not everyone died in the death camps and there were survivors. Six million Jews died in the death camps. Some Jews had miraculously escaped. Sometimes ordinary people helped the Jews because they were appalled by the Nazis’ treatment of Jews. Other Jews survived because they never lost hope.
Though the holocaust killed an estimated six million Jews, Hitler and the Nazi party had a goal of a much higher number. When Germany was forced to surrender there were still Jews that either survived the camps or were able to hide or escape. Therefore the three phases of the holocaust did not completely exterminate the Jews. Hitler was not able to successfully create his “master race” of only blue eyed, blonde haired ethnic Germans.