Hitler and the Nazis who surrounded him were dedicated to the racist ideology that claimed that Germans had been the forebears of all the great civilizations throughout history. In opposition to the Germans were the “racially inferior” Jewish people. German propaganda portrayed Jews as people without a home, whose “internationalist” lifestyle led them to degrade and destroy the nations they came into contact with.
This outrageous set of beliefs began to sweep Germany thanks to Hitler’s fiery speechmaking and the Nazi propaganda. Germans were desperate for reasons why their country was in such dire straits following World War I, and the Nazi Party was all too glad to lay the blame at the feet of Jewish people. Long-standing prejudices by German people against the Jewish communities grew into hatred backed by restrictive laws and mob violence.
Although the Holocaust death camps did not operate until the second half of World War II, the preparation for these camps goes back to the mid-1930s and the rise of the Nazi Party. In late January of 1944, leaders of the SS, the Gestapo, and other Nazi military organizations gathered in a secret meeting at a chateau in a Berlin suburb. This meeting, which was chaired by the notoriously violent and cruel SS officer Reinhardt Heydrich, was the beginning of what was called the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question.”
Nazis had long ago convinced many Germans that the Jewish and German people could not co-exist in peace. The “Jewish Question” was, therefore, what to do in order to completely eliminate Jewish influence. By this time in the progress of the Holocaust, Nazi authorities would no longer accept any concession from their Jewish victims. The members of the Wannsee Conference wanted to ensure that Jews would not be able to flee from extermination.
1944 marks the beginning of the wide-scale deportation and slaughter of Jews and other victims, but the death camps had already been established by this time. In order to realize their plan for wiping out an entire race, the Nazi Party had to induce major businesses, including German and international businesses, to construct the camps in secret. Much of this construction was overseen by the Nazi architect Albert Speer, who wanted to plan the camps so that they would be similar to factories.
These “factories of death” were responsible for the killing of millions of Jews and others in the period of just over a year before Hitler’s death in April, 1945.
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