“Holocaust is an unprecedented manifestation of evil that cannot simply be left in the past and forgotten,” UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution and designated January 27 as Holocaust Remembrance Day. In doing so, the assembly urged the nations of the world to observe the day so that future generations will be spared acts of genocide. The date was not chosen by chance – on that day the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated.
What is the Holocaust?
In a broad sense, the word "Holocaust" means the Nazi persecution and mass extermination of certain social and ethnic groups, such as Jews, patients, gypsies, and homosexuals.
In a narrower sense, this word means the persecution and extermination of the Jews who lived in Germany, as well as in the union and occupied territories during the Second World War.
The word "Holocaust" is translated from ancient Greek as "burnt offering."
The Holocaust of European Jewry
Hitler's policy against the Jews began with his appointment as Chancellor of Germany in 1933. One of the first concentration camps in Germany, Dachau, was created, officials and doctors of Jewish nationality were deprived of their jobs, and quotas in educational institutions were introduced. The situation was becoming increasingly complicated and gaining momentum right up to the Nuremberg racial laws adopted in 1935.
The Nuremberg laws carried out the isolation of Jews on a racial basis. The decrees that followed them first barred Jews from access to almost all professions, then restricted their freedom of movement, and also introduced a special and mandatory mark on racial identity in their identity cards - “Jew.” As a result, the Jews were outlawed and given to the arbitrariness of the police.
But Hitler did not stop there. After the Anschluss of Austria, Austrian Jews were also persecuted, and, according to the personal order of the Führer, Kristallnacht took place on November 9-10. A series of coordinated attacks swept across Nazi Germany, parts of Austria, and the Sudetenland, which were carried out by paramilitary SA and civilian units. Kristallnacht marks the beginning of a "final solution to the Jewish question."
The final solution to the Jewish question
Despite the fact that Hitler first applied the term “final solution of the Jewish question” back in 1919, the Nazis set about the “final goal” precisely during the Second World War.
After Germany attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, Polish Jews were also persecuted. As early as September 21, Polish Jewish ghettos appeared, and Germany began broadcasting anti-Semitic radio programs in North Africa and the Middle East in order to attract the Arab world.
However, in 1940, the Jews had the opportunity to at least survive - in Germany, they discussed the "Madagascar plan", which included the deportation of Jews to the island of Madagascar and the creation of a prisoner colony there. However, later this idea was abandoned.
During the war, the Nazis killed thousands of people, however, special attention was paid specifically to Jews and Roma people. Ghettos and concentration death camps were created. Since 1941, there have been four camps specializing exclusively in the extermination of people - Chełmno, Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka. Later, two more were adapted for these purposes – Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek.
Only a small group of people remained alive in the death camps - so that there was someone to remove the corpses from the gas chambers, and then burn them. The rest were subject to immediate destruction.
For the murder of Jews in 1941, they even used special cars, gas cars, designed to poison passengers with carbon monoxide.
However, despite all the atrocities that have been going on for more than a year, the decision on the mass extermination of Jews was made on January 20, 1942. In February, the first mass shootings took place - in the village of Khaschevate, Ukraine, 986 Jews were shot. On March 2, the Minsk ghetto was destroyed in Belarus – about five thousand people were murdered. From February to March, Polish ghettos were liquidated – their inhabitants were sent to death camps.
Chełmno concentration camp became the first place where the mass extermination of Jews began, 320,000 people were killed, 98% of them were Jews.
Treblinka-2 existed for a year, during which from 750,000 to 810,000 people were killed, 99.5% of whom were Jews.
Bełżec concentration camp took the lives of at least 434,500 people.
During the year of the existence of Sobibór, about 250,000 Jews were killed on its territory.
About 80,000 people became victims of the Majdanek camp, 60,000 of whom were Jews.
Auschwitz-2, also known as Birkenau, was one of the largest concentration camps in Nazi Germany. From 1.4 to 4 million people, mostly Jews became its victims.
It is difficult to estimate the number of Jews killed during the genocide, but according to rough estimates this figure reaches six million people - this number is indicated in the sentences of the Nuremberg Tribunal.
Nazi Germany destroyed about 60% of the Jewish population of Europe and about a third of the world.
Righteous Among the Nations
The title of the “Righteous Among the Nations” is assigned to people who saved Jews at the risk of their lives during the Nazi occupation. 25 513 people from 51 countries of the world were awarded this title.
All 117 inhabitants of the village of Nieuwland, the Netherlands, and more than 40 inhabitants of the French village of Chambon-sur-Lignon were righteous of the world.
Residents of Nieuwland during World War II decided that the inhabitants of each house should shelter a Jewish family or at least one Jew. At the initiative of the local pastor and his wife, the inhabitants of Chambon-sur-Lignon hid Jews throughout the commune. So they saved from death from 3 to 5 thousand people.
The most famous righteous people of the world are Raoul Wallenberg, Irena Sendler, Chiune Sugihara, Oskar Schindler.
Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat. Using his diplomatic status, Wallenberg issued the Jews "protective passports" of Sweden. In addition, by threatening punishment for war crimes, he persuaded some German generals not to comply with orders for the removal of Jews to death camps and prevented the destruction of the Budapest ghetto. Raoul Wallenberg managed to save about 100,000 Hungarian Jews. After the Soviet army occupied Budapest, Wallenberg was detained and secretly transported to Moscow. He supposedly died there in 1947. Sweden officially recognized Wallenberg dead only in 2016.
Irena Sendler was an employee of the Warsaw Health Authority and a member of the Polish underground organization. She often visited the Warsaw ghetto and watched there for sick children. Thanks to this, she and her comrades managed to remove 2,5000 children from the ghetto. They were taken out in the back of the car, through the basements of houses, gutters. Sometimes children were carried out even in bags, baskets and cardboard boxes.
Chiune Sugihara served as a Japanese diplomat in Kaunas, Lithuania. He issued Japanese transit visas to those who fled, thanks to which it was possible to travel to the Far East through the territory of the USSR. Sugihara saved more than 6,000 Polish and Lithuanian Jews from the Nazis.
Oskar Schindler "bargained" from Nazi officials for the possibility of accepting Jews from the Plash concentration camp at their factories in Poland. He actively used this opportunity and during the war saved about 1,2000 people.
After the war ended, many of the surviving Jews chose to leave Europe, so they emigrated to Israel and the United States.
Abba Kovner, an Israeli poet and prose writer, who became partisan and underground, in 1945 created the secret organization Nokmim, which included 50 people.
The most ambitious and destructive plan of Nokmim was the intention to poison water pipelines in Hamburg, Munich, Nuremberg, and Frankfurt. Thus, the organization would have killed six million Germans – that is how many Jews died during the Holocaust. However, the operation was foiled by the British military police.
After that, the members of the group switched to a backup plan. They poisoned prisoners of war in the prisons of Nuremberg and Dachau with arsenic hidden in bread. 2283 German prisoners of war were poisoned, about 350 were killed.
There are dozens of Holocaust museums in the world, hundreds of monuments to victims, the Holocaust is reflected in literature, cinema, music, and visual arts.
“The memory of these events is important not only as a reminder and condemnation of the crimes of the Nazis but also as a warning about the danger of persecution of people on the basis of race, ethnic origin, religion, political views or sexual orientation,” the European Parliament resolution condemns the Holocaust.