Hitler was one of the most notorious dictators the world has ever seen. He engineered the most horrific activities in the history of humankind, the holocaust. The rise of the Nazis to power in 1933 led to the establishment of thousands of concentration camps, which were centers of mass murders of Jews. Most Germans supported the ideology that led to the persecution of the Jews.
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The Nazis viewed the Jews as a foreign race that was in an eternal battle for dominance with the Aryans. Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, is a clear illustration of his contempt towards the Jews. The book regards the Jews as an inferior race that should not take part in Germany’s political, cultural, and intellectual life.
The book, which was a best seller, during his time as Germany’s leader, brainwashed Germans into conforming to his ideas. Therefore, Hitler had millions of ardent followers who were willing to persecute Jews. In fact, there is no record of coercion of civilians by the Nazis to persecute Jews.
Civilians did so out of their own free will. Even German intellectuals conformed to the Nazi ideology. Doctors used Jews as guinea pigs for undertaking various medical tests (Fishel, 1998).
During the holocaust, there was institutionalization of persecution of the Jews. All institutions helped in the persecution of the Jews. The intellectual society did not raise a finger to prevent the mass murder of the Jews. In fact, it aided the mass murders. Dr. Josef Mengele was one of the most notorious intellectuals who supported the persecution of the Jews.
Dr. Mengele carried out medical experiment using human subjects from various concentration camps. Some of the experiments included testing of drugs, surgeries, and amputations. This inhuman treatment inflicted great suffering to the people. In most instances, it culminated in the death of the human subjects. This is despite the fact the medical profession requires doctors to obtain consent from the patients before using them in undertaking any experiments.
Dr. Mengele killed and dissected most of the patients who did not die from the experiments (Fishel, 1998). However, not all intellectuals supported Hitler and his ideologies after he ascended to power. Hitler gained the support of the intellectuals gradually. When Hitler ascended to power, he attacked several groups that had opposed him gradually and systematically.
Hitler first attacked members of parties that did not support him. Afterwards he attacked intellectuals at universities. Hitler then attacked prominent church leaders. Finally, Hitler turned to his main targets, the Jews. Hitler attacked each of the above groups as minority groups (Zassenhaus, 1974). Gradual attack and isolation of the groups reduced the resistance of the groups.
These groups were the only institutions in the society that were capable of mobilizing people against Hitler’s ideologies, which advocated for mass murder of Jews. Therefore, removal of these obstacles facilitated the propagation of Hitler’s ideologies by the masses.
During the holocaust, pogroms were common within the regions that were under the control of the Germans. Pogrom refers to mob attacks by civilians against Jews. Pogroms usually led to the killing of Jews and destruction of property and religious centers of the Jews. Authorities usually condoned the persecution of the Jews during the pogroms.
Pogroms may also target certain ethnic groups in the society. In the Nazi Germany, pogroms were very common. Civilians killed thousands of Jews in the streets of various towns. Various scholars trace the beginning the holocaust to an anti-Jewish riot in 1938 – Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass). During the riot, civilians attacked Jews and vandalized their property.
The riots led to the killing of nearly 100 Jews. In addition, the Nazis sent approximately 30,000 Jews to various concentration camps. The Jews stayed in the concentration camps for several weeks. The government granted the Jews freedom on condition that they would transfer their property to the Nazis or if they proved that they would emigrate in the near future. During the pogrom, civilians destroyed approximately 7,000 Jewish businesses and more than 1,600 synagogues.
The riots took place simultaneously in Germany and Austria. The major cause of the pogrom was the assassination of a German diplomat by a Jewish minor in Paris. The Nazis took advantage of this event to instigate civilians to undertake widespread persecution of Jews (Zassenhaus, 1974). The fact that the Nazi party could mobilize people to undertake widespread persecution of the Jews is a clear indication that many people prescribed to the ideals of the Nazi party.
Not all pogroms occurred at the hands of the Germans. Citizens of other countries also persecuted Jews. One such pogrom was the Iasi Pogrom, which was one of the deadliest pogroms during the holocaust. The pogrom occurred in Romania. It resulted in the death of more than 13,000 Jews. Civilians, police, and military officials carried out the mass murder of the Jews (Frank, 2001).
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Between June and July of 1941, the Nazis and Ukrainian police organized two large pogroms in the Ukrainian city of Lwow. The pogroms resulted in the death of approximately 6,000 Jews. The pogrom was a retribution for the alleged collaboration of the Jews with the Soviet government. Poland was one the regions that had the largest number of Jews in Europe.
As a result, there was widespread persecution of the Jews by both the civilians and the Nazis. The holocaust resulted in the death of more than three million Jews in Poland. The Jedwabne pogrom, which occurred in July 1941, is one of the many pogroms that took place in Poland. During the pogrom, non-Jewish Poles burned more than 300 Jews in a barn house.
The non-Jewish Poles undertook the killing of the Jews under the supervision of the police (Herzog, 2006). In Lithuania, anti-Jewish pogroms in Kaunas resulted in the killing of approximately 3,800 Jews and the burning of Jewish settlements and synagogues. The Nazis and the Lithuanian police led the anti-Jewish pogroms in Kaunas (Fishel, 1998).
In all the pogroms that took place in various parts of the German territory, the Nazis did not use coercion to instigate civilians to kill Jews. Civilians killed Jews out of their own free will. In addition, the Nazis did not impose punishments on people who did not take part in the killings. Most attacks involved unarmed Jews and heavily armed civilians.
The police usually supervised the killings of the Jews by the civilians. This made it difficult for the Jews to defend themselves. However, the number of the Jews killed by civilians during the anti-Jewish pogroms is only a small fraction of the total number of Jews who died during the holocaust. Millions of Jews died in the extermination camps.
Fishel, J. (1998). The holocaust. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing.
Frank, B.G. (2001). A travel guide to Jewish Europe, Third edition. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing.
Herzog, D. (2006). Lessons and legacies vii: The holocaust in international perspective. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
Zassenhaus, H. (1974). Walls: Resisting the third Reich- one woman’s story. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.