Tuesday, April 21, 2009
In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were passed that saw classification of German citizens by race. If all four of your grandparents were of German blood, then you were a good German. If three or four of them were Jewish, then you were Jewish. With one or two Jewish grandparents, you were considered a 'crossbreed'.
The laws prohibited marriage and intercourse between Jews and Germans, as well as the employment of German females under age 45 in Jewish households. They also stripped those of the non-German blood of their German citizenship.
Efforts to begin eliminating Jews from German society began even prior to World War II. Those of Jewish ancestry were slaughtered in mass killings and became the victims of 'pogroms' - systematic riots against and attacks on their population centers. The attacks included physical violence and murder against people, destruction of businesses, and destruction of their places of worship.
Beginning in September of 1941, all Jews living in the lands under German control were required to wear yellow patches on their clothing for identification. Jews were not permitted to become doctors, lawyers, or journalists, could not use state hospitals, and would not be schooled by the state beyond age 14.
By the time that 1942 rolled around, with WWII underway fully across the globe, one million Jews had already been killed by the Nazi regime. But this was only the beginning of the worst slaughter of one group of people in the history of mankind.
On January 20th, 1942 at the Wannsee Villa in Berlin, a conference named after Hitler's statement of 'The Final Solution to the Jewish Question' was held by a group of Nazi officials. It was here that the idea was born to build actual 'extermination camps' at which mass extermination of Jewish people would occur. Many Jews would also be held at 'concentration camps' if deemed healthy enough and would be utilized as slave labor, until they either died of disease or exhaustion.
As the Germans conquered new territories, they set up a system of mass warehousing of Jews, and their transportation on trains to the extermination camps. Built under the direction of Heimlich Himmler in Nazi-occupied Poland, this use of actual extermination or death camps was the beginning of the final phase of the Jewish mass murders that has become known as 'The Holocaust'.
This coordinated genocide of mostly Jews, but also Serbs and gypsies, was accomplished by herding those who survived arduous train rides into the concentration camps. Here they would be led one-by-one into gas chambers, with the bodies then being either cremated or buried in mass graves.
Between two and three million people, most of them Jewish, were killed during the years that the death camps operated. As many as 10 million more Jews were killed by the Germans when you count in mass shootings and other murder victims.
Today, April 21st, is 'Holocaust Remembrance Day', on which we call to mind all of those who were murdered by the German Nazis in that final racist solution. Still today, over six decades after their use, the death camps with their gas chambers and crematories are lasting symbols of the pure evil that existed within Germany during the years just prior to and during World War II.
Evil is a very real force, a real entity in our world that exists still today. We need only do what today calls on us to do, remember the Holocaust in the Nazi final solution, to plant that knowledge of evil firmly in our consciousness. We must always be willing to fight to overcome that evil.