Six Million European Jews

When World War II ended in 1945; six million European Jews were dead, killed in the Holocaust. More than one million of the victims were children. All of Europe’s Jews were lined up for destruction: the healthy, the sick, the rich and the poor, the religiously orthodox and converts to Christianity, the aged and the young. The Nazi persecution of Jews began in Germany in 1933. By 1939, the country’s Jews had been thoroughly deprived of their civil rights and property and hated from the national community. German conquests in Europe after 1939 led to the performance of nti-Semitic policies in the occupied territories.

Though the pace and cruelty of persecution differed in each country, Jews were marked, pulled to pieces, and isolated from their neighbors. On October 3, 1939 Hitler orders the doctors to kill physically or mentally defective Germans, the first order to murder a group of people based on radical principles. The Jews were sent to ghettos where they struggled daily to keep their dignity. Larger cities had closed ghettos, with brick or stone walls, wooden fences, and barbed wire surrounding the boundaries. Guards were laced tactically at gateways and other boundary openings.

If the Jews left their residential districts, they would be penalized with death. The smallest ghetto housed approximately 3,000 people. Warsaw, the largest ghetto, held 400,000 people. The Germans created the ghettos and had the Jews run them. They created a Jewish council who regulated the food and money exchange, which came into the ghettos. If the Jewish leaders refused the Nazi rules, then they were shot and replaced immediately. The Jews battled for survival daily. During the long winters, heating fuel was imited, and many people lacked proper clothing.

People weakened by hunger and exposure to the cold had an easier time catching diseases; tens of thousands died in the ghettos from illness, starvation, or cold. Some people killed themselves to get away from their hopeless lives. Ninety-five percent of the apartments had no water or toilets. “Their bodies [were] horribly emaciated; one [could] see their bones through their parchment- like yellow skin”(Mary Berg). They no longer had human appearance; the children looked more like monkeys than human. The victims of the smuggling ere mainly Jews, but they were not lacking either among the Aryans.

Several times smugglers were shot if caught by the guards. Among the Jewish victims of the smuggling there were tens of Jewish children between 5 and 6 years old, in which the German killers shot in great numbers near the passages and at the walls; and regardless of that, without paying attention to the victims, the smuggling never stopped for a moment. When the street was still slippery with the blood that had been spilled, other smugglers already set out to carry off with their work. Every day children became rphaned, and many had to take care of even younger children.

Orphans often lived on the streets, begging for small pieces of bread from others who had little or nothing to share. Many froze to death in the winter. In order to survive, children had to be resourceful and make themselves useful. Thousands of Jewish children survived the Holocaust because people and institutions of other faiths protected them. The kinder transport sent young Jews to Palestine starting in 1934 till 1939. They were either sent to find a new life elsewhere or be faced in a dangerous situation back at ome. From August 1939 till December 1939 the British took in nearly 10,000 children.

Dozens of Catholic convents in German-occupied Poland independently took in Jewish children. Belgian Catholics hid hundreds of children in their homes, schools, and orphanages, and French Protestant townspeople protected several thousand Jews. Children quickly learned to master the prayers and rituals of their “adopted” religion in order to keep their Jewish identity hidden from everyone. Many Jewish children were baptized into Christianity, with or without the consent of their parents. Some Jews risked their lives by hiding out. Life in hiding was always dangerous.

Throughout German-occupied Europe, the Nazis made an intensive effort to locate Jews in hiding. German officials ruthlessly punished those who supported Jews and offered rewards to anyone willing to turn in Jews. Beginning in March 1943, the Gestapo granted some Jews in Germany pardon from deportation in exchange for tracking down the Jews who had gone underground. By 1945, when the Nazi regime lay in ruins, these informers had turned in as many as 2,000 Jews. In other countries, neighbors betrayed thers for money or out of support for the regime.

In German-occupied Poland, blackmailers squeezed money or property from Jews by threatening to turn them in to the authorities. One may think that the Holocaust wasn’t very interesting, or something that should be paid no mind to because it was so many years ago. However, with millions dead, families destroyed and countries left in ruins, the Holocaust proves to be a subject of interest for anybody, and one of which that should be studied thoroughly in order to gain the knowledge it takes to prevent an event of this magnitude to ever take place again.

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