What Was the Holocaust – The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
The Holocaust is inextricably intertwined with the rule of Hitler and the Nazi party. In the aftermath of World War II, it was difficult to imagine how the German people could elect such a man to a position of leadership and follow his command through to the atrocities that were eventually performed in Germany. It's important to realize, however, that Hitler's rule started much more innocently. Though he always had undertones of anti-Semitism in his ideologies, this was not unusual at the time. Prejudices against the Jewish people were widespread and widely accepted. The Third Reich would eventually take them much further than anyone could have imagined.
In the aftermath of World War I, Germany was in a very difficult position. The country was facing a terrible economic depression and high levels of unemployment. The Treaty of Versailles was a particular embarrassment to the country. This treaty stated that Germany must take complete responsibility for the war and pay all of the associated war debts. Hitler took advantage of Germany's weakened state. With his powerful speaking style, he promised the people an end to all of their woes and a return to Germany's former glory. He did indeed improve the economy and decrease unemployment levels, so some of his promises were fulfilled.
Hitler quickly eliminated competition and solidified his hold over the country. With the Gestapo and SS under his control, it was soon a very dangerous thing to speak out against the Third Reich. Those who showed opposition could land in concentration camps alongside the other undesirables which included Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies, and Jehovah's witnesses. In the early years of the Holocaust, concentration camps were used primarily for forced labor. Later on, these camps were divided into three types – labor camps, transit camps, and death camps. Transit camps temporarily housed prisoners on their way to another location. Death camps were equipped with gas chambers for efficient execution.
At the end of the Holocaust, The Third Reich implemented a plan known as the "Final Solution." The purpose of this was to eliminate all Jews in Europe. Hitler believed in a superior Aryan race. Anyone who did not meet his racial requirements was a threat. Women and children were particularly dangerous because they represented the future of the Jewish people. As part of the Final Solution, millions of Jews were transported to death camps where they were killed in gas chambers and cremated in giant crematoriums. Auschwitz-Birkenau alone had the capacity to kill 6,000 people a day in the gas chambers. In the end, Hitler killed 2/3 of the Jews in Europe before he was stopped.