Before 1939 the discrimination of Jews was only in Germany, their situation was not good, they had been subjected to discrimination in public life, persecution and Terror. However this was to change in September when Hitler invaded Poland. There were now millions of Jews under Hitler’s power. Hitler’s objective, the reason for invasion, was that he wanted more territory and more space for the Aryan race, and also to have more Jews und Nazi oppression. After just 55 days of occupation the Jews were kept in Ghettos, part of a town surrounded by walls to isolate the Jews from the other inhabitants.
Warsaw Ghetto was home to 40,000 Jews from 15 towns and dozens of villages in West Poland. They lost all their belongings and their way of life. The Ghettos were established to separate Jews from other races and to malnourish them so they look subhuman. The Nazi propaganda betrayed them as ready work forces. To separate them completely, the Madagascar plan was created. The Nazi’s decided that the best way to eliminate the Jews completely from Europe was to send them to Madagascar, an island off the east coat of Africa.
They would have to have been sent by boat, however the British ruled the seas, so this plan failed. In 1941 the invasion of the USSR took place. There were even more Jews under Nazi control and now communists. There were 4 groups of soldiers called Einsatzgruppen; they were the elite SS soldiers, the men who killed all of the Jews. Their methods for killing them were the gas vans where Jews were gassed in the vans, and the shootings. This was when they dug ditches and the Einsatzgruppen lined up the Jews along the ditches and shot them down into it. The ditch then became their graves.
However these methods were too stressful, inefficient and slow. The shootings were emotional burdens on the soldiers, so it had to stop. In January 1942 16 Nazi’s held the Wannsee Conference to decide on the final solution about the Jews. This was because the other solutions hadn’t worked properly. So the final solution was to be a modern method for eliminating the Jews, deporting them to camps. The final solution solved the previous problems of slowness and stress. It also solved the problem of the lack of work force due to the war, the young German men were at war, Germany needed a work force…
In the camps, the strong and young people were used as forced labour. This policy was to replace the German men at war. There is also evidence of German Industrial Collaboration with the forced labour for example Siemens profited from the labour for their buildings at Ravensbruck. In the forced labour the Jews were treated like objects, the labour was more important than their lives. They were subjected to violence and terrible living conditions, such as no medical aid, hardly anything to eat and being worked to death so that in the end 1/2 million Jews died from forced labour.
The other Jews ho were not used in forced labour were killed in gas chambers at the concentration camps. The concentration camps were not designed for people to stay there; they were designed just as a place to kill people on arrival. The first camps were in Poland and were called Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. To conclude we can say that in 1944-5 the extermination camps had reached their peak, the weak were gassed and the strong forced to labour. All of this was in order to obtain more Jews under Nazi oppression and therefore more space for the Aryan race.
In what ways did the Nazi’s try to eliminate all Jews in Europe in the years from 1941 onwards? In 1941 most of the Jews in Europe are in the Ghettos. They were there to separate them from the other people. The conditions in the Ghettos were disgusting. The poverty and over population was scary, 1000’s of Jews died in the road because of starvation. Their calory intake was a mere 10% of our 2000. Hygiene in the camps was also horrific further 1000’s of Jews died from disease because of bad hygiene, there was no sanitation at all. The soldiers humiliated the Jews in the roads.
The strongest were sent to forced labour until they died of exhaustion. The other proposal to eliminate the Jews was the Madagascar plan (1941). The conditions in the boats would probably have been similar to those in the slave trade when taking slaves from Africa to America. The Einsatzgruppen were the elite SS soldiers. There were 4 groups of them and their head was Himmler. To start with they were happy to just humiliate and kill small numbers of Jews in central Europe however when Hitler attacked the USSR in 1941 they entered into a giant Jewish massacre from Poland to the USSR.
Going from village to village in ghetto to ghetto, the Einsatzgruppen assembled all the Jews, those who could work were to die from exhaustion from the forced labour in the concentration camps. The others, women, children, the old, the sick, were taken to the countryside and killed. They dug ditches and stood in a line along the edge. The Einsatzgruppen would then shoot them all and they would all fall into the ditches that then became their graves. As we can see in source F the methods of the Einstatzgruppe and their treatment of the Jews was beyond measure.
They stood naked, tightly packed, having been transported in lorries and waited to be told where to stand in order to be shot. They were under the command of the SS men, armed with whips. Hitler got these willing executioners through his propaganda that it was the right thing to do. He was also helped by Lithuania and Latvia as the Einsatzgruppe were very small groups. The 20th January 1942, the Wannsee Conference took place to decide what to do on, “the final solution of the questions of the Jews”. The final solution was to create new modern industrial methods to exterminate the Jews in the quickest way possible.
The method was to be gassing them in gas chambers. The strongest were to be taken to the east for forced labour. As we can see in source G, large labour gangs were formed and sexes separated. We can also see that the Nazi’s knew the conditions were extremely harsh and that they would die “No doubt a lot of them will drop out through natural wastage”. The Jews who were gassed were to be gassed in extermination camps, ‘death camps’ specifically built, with the separation of sexes.
To get to these camps the Jews were deported from the Ghettos in cattle wagons with neither food nor water nor sanitation. 00 people were crammed into the wagon for the whole journey, which could have been days. So with bodily functions taking place and people dying, the stench was unbearable. On average one woman would give birth during these journeys, and there was no medical aid at all. The wagons had one entrance and one small window. The deportations came from all over Europe: France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Luxembourg, Italy, Poland, Greece, the USSR, Norway, Finland, Denmark, The Baltic States, Hungary, Romania, Austria, Bulgaria, Czchekoslavakia and Yugoslavia, all to the camps.
Arriving at the concentration camps, men and women separated into 2 lines, where they were chosen to work or to die. Those who were to die went immediately to the gas chambers. Their belongings were taken by the Nazi’s. The fate of these people was decided by Dr. Mengele who also chose people to conduct human experiments on. Those who were chosen to work weren’t much better off; they could expect to live just 3 months before dying of exhaustion. To eat they had 350g of bread and 500ml of Ersatz coffee as Breakfast and potato soup for lunch and dinner.
Times a week there was meant to be 20g of meat in the soup, this wasn’t always the reality, and when it was, it sank to the bottom, so it was better to be at the end of the queue. Women and men were separated into giant dormitories with about 10 people in each bed. They were bunk beds with several levels; it was better to be at the top so that excrement from others didn’t fall on you. The Jews also had their hair shaved off and were tattooed with a number that then became their name. For clothing they wore a dress of thin material that was bad quality and soon became dirty and smelly.
Their only belongings were a plate, a glass, a spoon and a fork. Each morning there was a register to see who had died or escaped in the night. The register took place outside in the freezing cold, people often died. This time was also used to punish people to serve as examples. The largest extermination camp was Auschwitz-Birkenau, situated in Oswieciem, Poland. At Auschwitz more 1/2 million Jews were killed. It was also a labour camp too, where they were tattooed and worked to death.
There were 4 gas chambers at Auschwitz, when arriving at the camp those who were ‘not fit to work’ were taken to changing rooms where they were spoken to in their language and told they would be taking a shower and to leave their belongings somewhere they’d find it because they would be coming back. Everything was made to be very convincing, so when the Jews went into the shower rooms, they actually looked like shower rooms with showerheads and pipes. However when the doors were locked, it wasn’t water that came out, but Zyklon B gas, a deadly hydrogen cyanide poison.
This was one of the improvements made to Auschwitz; another was that the chambers could now hold up to 2000 people. Once the gas was released people started staggering and gasping for air. It took 3-15mins to kill everyone, after about 30mins the doors were opened. Everything was reused, the Nazi’s went through everyone and removed gold teeth etc, they cut off hair to make rugs. They searched everywhere for valuables, even in the most intimate of places. It was often difficult to search people because they had been climbing all over each other to get air, so limbs were interlocking. The bodies were then burnt, 3 in an oven.
The ovens often broke down from too many corpses; in that case they were burnt in ditches. The people doing forced labour could see the smoke from the burning bodies, often members of their own families. Their belongings were taken to a place called Canada where the Nazi’s searched them and then sent them to Germany. To conclude the Jews were marched back into Germany at the end of the holocaust because the Russians, American, British and French were advancing on them, so as to hide the evidence the Jews were taken back into Germany on what was called the death march where even more Jews died.
Lots of camps were liberated by the allies, but the Nazi’s also tried to destroy all the evidence by knocking all the buildings down and making everything look innocent. On a last note I would like to say how even though throughout this piece of work the victims have been referred to as Jews, it wasn’t only Jews who were attacked, there were also Gypsies, homosexuals, black people and Slavs.