The Holocaust
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The Holocaust, anti-Semitism,
and Aryan supremacy

   The Holocaust is the term for the murder of an estimated six million Jews in
Europe during World War II.  Even before the war started, however, Hitler and other Nazi leaders in Germany began stirring up anti-Semitism, which means hatred of Jews. 

   Anti-Semitism has a long history in Europe, but it was actually fading away in the early 1900s.  Hitler and his Nazi followers made the old hatred come blazing back to life by constantly blaming Jews for all of Germany's problems.

   The Nazi Party also declared the principle of Aryan supremacyThis phrase referred to the Nazi belief that the Germanic / Northern European ethnic group was a superior race that should rule the world.  They called this ethnic group the Aryan race.


Hitler's goal was to rid
Europe of all Jews

   By the mid-1930s the Nazi Party was already pushing the Jews of Germany into a second class legal status.  The situation grew steadily worse.  Nazi tactics included:
  • boycotts of Jewish stores.
  • threats and violence against Jews.
  • concentration camps.
  • segregated areas for Jews.
  • death camps.

   The photo on the left shows a large sign telling Germans to boycott (not shop at) Jewish owned stores.  It was 1935.

   Below are photos showing other ways the Nazis bullied and eventually began the mass murder of the Jewish people.

Threats and violence against Jews

    Nazi leaders used threats and violence against Jews in Germany in the years leading up to World War II.  The photo shows a Jewish shop owner cleaning up broken glass in his shop.  The windows were broken by Nazi thugs who went through towns and cities vandalizing Jewish owned stores.

Concentration camps and death camps

    The Nazi leaders of Germany started a system of concentration camps in the mid-1930s.  These were large prison camps, used to hold anyone they considered a threat to their power.  Jews were often sent to these camps.  Overcrowded conditions, disease, and harsh treatment caused many of the prisoners to die.

During World War II, Hitler ordered the building of large death camps in which the Jews still alive in Europe could be killed in large numbers.  These looked like other concentration camps, but large poison gas chambers were installed that could kill hundreds of people at a time.

   The photo below shows the outer fence and guard tower of a concentration camp in Germany around 1935.

Segregated areas for Jews in cities

    As Hitler's armies spread across Europe, Jews living in the conquered countries were often murdered by Nazi soldiers.  Many others were forced into segregated areas for Jews in large cities.  These areas - called ghettoes - became gigantic prisons.  Attempting to escape was punished with death.

   The photo below shows Jews who were rounded up by German soldiers in Poland and forced into the Jewish ghetto in the city of Warsaw.  Almost all of them were later killed in the Nazi concentration camps and death camps.

The Allied armies liberated (freed)
the concentration camps in 1945

   As the Allied armies pushed into Poland and Germany in 1945, they discovered the true horror of the Holocaust.  The photo below shows a pile of dead bodies that the American soldiers saw when they liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany.

Allied soldiers helped the survivors

   The photo below shows American soldiers helping survivors when they liberated the Nordhausen concentration camp in Germany.  In one camp they liberated, American soldiers took off their own shirts to wrap around the women survivors to help them keep warm.

Looking deeper:
How could this have happened?

   In all, about 12 million men, women, and children were murdered by the Nazi government of Germany and its followers.  Six million of them were Jews - the only group specifically targeted for complete extermination. 

   Why did Hitler try to destroy the Jews of Europe?  The writings of the ancient Jews, called the Hebrews, are the foundation of both Jewish and Christian moral values.  These values make up a big part of the civilization of Europe and America, which is called Western civilization.  Anyone who is an enemy of our civilization and its values must know that Jews will never accept their lies or their cruelty.

   The Holocaust raises disturbing questions about human beings and the evil they are capable of doing.  If you think about such questions, hold on to this fact:  Millions of people from all over the globe, including the United States - and even some people in the Axis countries - stood up against evil.  These were people of every race, religion, and social class - and they offered their own lives in the struggle for humanity.

   You can learn more about this topic at this web site:

All photos are from the Library of Congress.
Some have been edited or resized for this page.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright 2009, 2014 by David Burns.  All rights reserved.  As a guide to the Virginia Standards of Learning, some pages necessarily include phrases or sentences from that document, which is available online from the Virginia Department of Education.  The author's copyright extends to the original text and graphics, unique design and layout, and related material.