The Holocaust is remembered as one of the most horrible tragedies of the twentieth century. Over 6 million Jews were brutally slaughtered in concentration camps designed to make mass murder as efficient as possible. Gas chambers, death marches, and shootings made the Holocaust a brutal slaughterhouse for those whom the Nazis considered to be inferior.
So why would genocide like this even take place? Well for starters, Germany needed someone to blame. After their defeat in World War I, Germany was in shambles. Their currency was worthless, their economy was a wreck, and their government was practically non-existent. A young Adolf Hitler, fresh off the battlefields of World War I, believed he had found someone to blame, the Jewish people. Hitler was convinced that Jews had forced Germany to surrender and had constantly undermined the German forces throughout the war. According to Hitler, if the Jews had not interfered, Germany would have easily won WWI. So, when Hitler rose to power, he intended to take his revenge on the Jewish people and wipe them out of Germany.
The attack on Jewish people began slowly. First, it was boycotting Jewish businesses, then forcing them to sell their shops, then relocating them to “ghettos”, cut off from the rest of the population. Through powerful speeches and his book “Mein Kampf”, Hitler had successfully convinced Germany that the Jewish people were evil and had to be destroyed. Concentration camps, originally designed to be hard labor camps and not death factories, saw gas chambers and ovens added to their facilities. Jewish people began to be shipped out of the ghettos in large trains to these camps, marked with a Star of David on their backs. Once the Jews arrived at the camps, they were stripped naked and forced to give up all valuable jewelry and possessions. From there, over 80 percent of Jews were immediately sent off to the gas chambers, where they were told they were merely taking a shower to prevent mass panic. The few chosen to live were put through brutal work, being fed almost nothing and living in horrifying conditions. Healthy, strong men and women were reduced to walking skeletons. Guards would shoot laborers just for entertainment while they worked. When the Allied forces began to approach the camps, the Jews would be forced to go on long, brutal “death marches”, traversing dozens of miles on nothing but bare feet and almost no food whatsoever. If anybody began to lag behind or fell, they would be shot on the spot.
The Nazis tried to hide the evidence of the atrocities by digging up mass graves and burning the bodies. Gas chambers and other murder facilities were dismantled and scattered to prevent the Allied forces from discovering their crimes. Eventually as Allied forces began to overpower Germany, the horrors and monstrosities of the death camps revealed themselves. Mass graves filled to the brim with starved bodies lay in the open air. The living were nearly indistinguishable from the dead as both were merely skin clinging to frail bones.
In the following years, the Nuremburg trials took place, punishing key Nazi leaders for their crimes against humanity. Survivors of the Holocaust told their stories in the hope that what happened would never be forgotten. Unfortunately for Germany, this was not the end of their struggles. Germany was separated into East and West. The East was ruled by the Soviet Union while the West was Democratic. The separation of Germany continued until the 1980’s when the Berlin Wall was demolished. Today, Germany is doing much better off, the country is free and their economy is thriving. The scars of the past are faded but have not vanished yet. A few of the death camps still stand to this day, serving as cold reminders to never forget what horrible atrocities took place there.