We explain what the Holocaust is, its history and what were its causes and consequences. In addition, who participated and how it ended.
What was the Holocaust?
Holocaust is a word that means “sacrifice” and is linked in the Bible with bloody offerings to God in the Old Testament. However, in the context of modern European history , it is known as the Holocaust (Shoá in Hebrew, which translates “Catastrophe”) to the genocide perpetrated by the rulers of the German Nazi regime during World War II (1939-1945) in against the people they considered inferior, particularly against the Jewish people.
This persecution and massacre of the Jewish people, known in Nazi terminology as the “Final Solution” (Erdlösung) of the “Jewish question”, was perpetrated in concentration and extermination camps built in Eastern Europe, where it was conducted by trains inhospitable to the population of Hebrew origin of all the countries occupied by the German army, together with political opponents, gypsies, blacks, homosexuals, criminals, psychiatric patients and residents of the annexed regions during the expansion of the German Third Reich on the Soviet Union , considered according to Nazi philosophy as “inferior” and “worthy of extinction.”
To this day, the Holocaust is considered the worst and bloodiest systematic killing of human beings in the contemporary history of mankind , partly because of the millimetrically planned system that Nazism implemented to kill millions of people and then dispose of their bodies, creating them in industrial furnaces, making soap, buttons and other materials for common use.
Although there were few episodes of armed resistance against Nazism , the Holocaust was put into practice with brutal efficiency, which has subsequently been interpreted as the most sinister and dangerous side of human reason, which may well be put to work in the service of dark forces, rather than for the progress of humanity.
The Holocaust has important antecedents in the anti-Semitism of some countries of Europe and Asia , generalized in the 20th century and sharpened specifically in Germany, when the Nazist ideology came to power by the hand of Adolph Hitler and began his campaign of demonization of the Hebrew people, making him responsible for the crisis that this nation was submerged after its defeat in World War One . This dynamic worsened as Nazism took over the German republic and began to forge it at will, dictating racist laws that gradually restricted freedomscivilians of the Jewish people, taking away the right to be business owners without the participation of a German partner, forcing him to wear yellow stars sewn to clothes, taking away his capitals and property, and eventually forcing them to live in ghettos in various sectors of the cities .
This situation worsened once the war began , when the Nazi leaders decided that their racial enemies (mainly Jews, but also gypsies, blacks and Slavs) and politicians (communists, opponents) had to work in concentration camps and forced labor, which were built in Germany and other Eastern European countries. This forced emigration of Jews to the labor camps began in 1938 , under the planning of Lt. Col. Adolf Eichmann, pursuing the successive “cleaning” of his Jewish population from Germany, Austria, Poland and other occupied countries.
The most sadly famous of these concentration camps was the huge Auschwitz-Bierkenau complex in Poland, where not only prisoners were prepared for work, but their methodical extermination was planned through various techniques, among which were gas chambers, medical experiments and forced labor in conditions of hunger , overcrowding, disease and cold. The prisoners were treated like animals and, in some cases, much worse than animals.
Causes of the Holocaust
In principle, it is difficult to find plausible causes that explain such behavior against other human beings . However, it is known that the Nazis blamed the Jewish people for their hardships and convinced themselves that they were part of a global conspiracy against them, in an unlikely alliance with communism and with the German socialists of the Weimar Republic . In the articulation of this racist and violent thought, the appearance of Adolph Hitler, the leader and political, military and spiritual guide of the self-styled III German Reich, was key.
In this way, the holocaust would be a consequence of the need for a scapegoat to justify the poverty to which Germany was reduced after the First World War and the abusive terms of the Versailles Pact , which was experienced as a humiliation by The Germanic people. To this it should be added that the Holocaust gave the Nazi regime the opportunity to gain wealth, property and slave labor, which illicitly enriched its leaders and contributed to the efforts of the war.
Consequences of the Holocaust
The most obvious consequence of the Holocaust was the 6,000,000 Jews killed in one way or another in the almost 25,000 concentration camps built at that time, along with as many thousands and millions of murders of other ethnicities and nationalities.
Such monstrosity not only impacted the entire world once the war was over, but justified the measures taken by the victorious allies (such as the bipartition of Germany) and represented, next to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima by the United States, the maximum point from the horror to which human intelligence can lead us as a species .
The latter had important philosophical consequences in the West and the world. The post-Holocaust philosophical doctrines were assumed deeply disenchanted with life and the idea of progress, since technological invention and scientific discovery, as demonstrated by the Holocaust, are no guarantee of well-being or happiness. Faith in humanity seemed broken and, in the particular case of Germany, the symbols of National Socialism (Nazi) have become a national shame and taboo.
Who participated in the holocaust?
In the Holocaust, it was designed by various members of the Nazism staff, especially:
- Adolf Hitler Ideologist of the whole process, political and military leader of the Nazi party;
- Heinrich Himmler Director of the SS internal security military body, organizer and supervisor of the deportation and extermination system;
- Hermann Göring Marshal of the Air of the Reich, in charge of the executive guidelines of the “Jewish resettlement”;
- Reinhard Heydrich Director of the Reich Central Security Office, who designed the Aktion Reinhard plan and the paramilitary settlement groups called Einsatzgruppen.
- Odilo Globocnik. General of the SS that implemented, administered and supervised the first concentration camps in Poland and executor of the Aktion Reinhard in various countries;
- Adolf Eichmann Lieutenant Colonel Organizer of the forced deportation plans in the occupied countries, using rail networks for this;
- Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger. Politician and jurist responsible for the loss of civil rights of the Jewish population in Europe, legalizing the confiscation of their assets;
- Eugen Fischer Nazi doctor and anthropologist, whose theoretical studies contributed to the construction and design of the concentration camps;
And many other officials of the German Nazi regime, as well as possible collaborators in the occupied countries, who directly celebrated or contributed to the extermination of Jews in Europe.
The end of the Holocaust
The Holocaust formally ended with the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945 , when its troops were defeated by combat on both fronts: the Soviet and the ally. The first concentration camp to be released was that of Majdanek, near Lublin, Poland, in July 1944, at the hands of the Soviet army. In spite of the efforts of the Nazi personnel to destroy in their flight the evidence of the horrors committed there, the gas chambers were found intact. In the summer of that same year the Red Army liberated the death camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka, and in January 1945 it released Auschwitz-Biernkenau in Oswiecim, Poland. The story of what they found there traveled the entire world.
The allies, for their part, first released a concentration camp in April 1945 , when British and Canadian troops liberated the Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany. That same month, the Americans released Ohrdruf’s death camp in Germany, much smaller but full of horrific evidence of the Holocaust.
Those responsible for the Holocaust were mostly arrested (many of the high dome committed suicide with Hitler) and prosecuted by the international community in what became known as the Nuremberg Trials, between November 1945 and October 1946. Mostly They were sentenced to death or life imprisonment. Subsequently, between 1963 and 1965, the Auschwitz Trials in Frankfurt were held, the first entirely German trial of the SS officers and personnel who collaborated with the extermination in the Auschwitz camp and its other sub-camps. 789 individuals were tried on that occasion.