How Did the Holocaust Happen – The Events of the Holocaust
When looking at the astonishing sights that the Allies found upon liberation of Nazi concentration camps, it's difficult to understand how something as horrific as the Holocaust could have come about. However, the Holocaust was something that grew very gradually. It began with a charismatic leader who was elected by the German people. With the belief that Hitler had their best interests in mind, many German citizens wholeheartedly supported Hitler's actions. Early on in the Holocaust, his anti-Semitism was not unusual for the time. The early restrictions that were placed on Jews seemed wholly appropriate to a people who had come to vilify them.
The Jewish community was seen as alien within much of Europe. Hitler began by emphasizing this in his propaganda. The Jews were depicted as the root cause of many of Germany's problems. They were racially inferior to Aryan Germans and thus posed a threat to their way of life. These beliefs took hold in Germany and would allow Hitler to gradually tighten his grip on the Jewish population more and more until he was systematically committing genocide. Though the majority of the people killed in the Holocaust were Jews, they were not the only segment of society that was persecuted. The Gypsies, Communists, Socialists, Jehovah's witnesses, homosexuals, and disabled were under fire as well.
The Holocaust began with increasingly strict restrictions on Jewish life. First, Jews were stripped of their citizenship and forbidden from marrying non-Jews. In later years, they were expelled from non-Jewish schools, evicted from homes with Aryan landlords, and stripped of any credentials for practicing medicine or law. Jews were required to have a red "J" on their passports. In some countries, they were forced to wear large yellow stars of David on their clothing to identify themselves. A curfew was enacted for Jews in Germany. They were forbidden to ride public transportation or own a radio. Jews were given stricter war rations than Aryans.
Toward the end of the Holocaust, Jews were rounded up into ghettos. Here, several families would be confined to a single apartment. Living conditions were horrendous with minimal rations, poor hygiene, and illness running rampant. Many died in the ghettos from the poor living conditions. When the Nazis implemented the Final Solution, Jews were moved from the ghettos to concentration camps where they faced forced labor or death in the gas chamber. Forced labor was often minimally productive and essentially designed to work and starve the laborers to death. By the end of the Holocaust, 6 million Jews and a total of 11 million prisoners had perished.