What is the Holocaust – Understanding the Holocaust
The Holocaust is well known in generalities, but many people have no idea of how these atrocities truly came to pass or how severe the damage of the Holocaust was. When you understand what the Holocaust was, you can better understand the struggles that so many people face today in trying to move past the terrible legacy that so many Germans carry. The Holocaust was the organized genocide of over six million Jews. Though the persecution of the Jewish people is one of the best-known parts of the Holocaust, many other groups were killed in these efforts as well, such as the disabled, Gypsies, and homosexuals.
The Holocaust took place under the rule of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime known as the Third Reich. Hitler gained power because he was a charismatic leader who was skilled with public speaking and strategic planning. Germany was at a particularly vulnerable point when Hitler became ruler. Facing a great depression and national humiliation from the conclusion of World War I, the people were anxious for someone who would offer a solution to their suffering. Hitler promised just that, and in his hypnotic speaking style, it was easy to believe him. Hitler's climb to power was swift and successful.
Once Hitler was in a position of power, he set out to eliminate opposition. The Nazi party was made the only legal political party in Germany. Communists and Socialists could be imprisoned in concentration camps for disagreeing with Hitler's policies. Hitler and Germany became synonymous, so that people were made to feel as though they were loyally serving their country by serving Hitler's agenda. 'Heil Hitler' was heard throughout the streets. Even children were instructed to use the salute at home and school with their teachers and parents. With Hitler's power solidified, he was able to put his anti-Semitic plans and policies into place, which persecuted the Jewish people.
Hitler's persecution grew exponentially throughout the Holocaust. First Jews were required to identify themselves. Then they were excluded from certain professions and public places. Eventually, Jews were gathered up into ghettos and concentration camps. Finally, Hitler decided to implement what was known as the "Final Solution." This was to be the complete extermination of Jews in Germany and all of Nazi-occupied Europe. Jewish people were sent by train car to death camps where they were immediately gassed. Those who weren't gassed were put into forced labor that would likely kill them through starvation or disease. By the end of the Holocaust, two-thirds of the Jews in Europe had been wiped out.