Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Urban Youth International Journalism Program in partnership with Paul Robeson High School in the Englewood neighborhood. Students participated in a field trip to see “State of Deception,” a traveling exhibit from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The UYIJP is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation.
Many of my classmates don’t know about the Holocaust so I did some research and found some important facts such as Propaganda was used to convince Germans that Adolf Hitler was their perfect leader. Adolf Hitler convinced them to vote for him as dictator of Germany. Hitler made himself sound like a savior and a hero and encouraged “pure German” descendants to follow him. Hitler had plans to create a better world – but just for himself and his followers, which he did by starting with the Holocaust.
“The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators,” according to the U.S. Holocaust Museum web site. This lasted from December 1933 to June 1945 and it happened in the heart of Europe. The Germans believed that their race was somehow similar to those of gods and that they should run everything. Dictionary.com states the word Holocaust is a Greek word origin meaning “sacrifice by fire.”
After first winning an election, Adolf Hitler made himself dictator and started to build an army to take over Europe using those who were all German. They had a chart to tell if you were all German. It was very crazy because you had to be full German; if not, then they looked at you as if you were part of the Jews. If you were German and had any Jewish friends, you were not allowed to have conversation with them anymore. Most Germans grew up with Jews all their lives and after Hitler became dictator, they had to instantly stop talking to them or they would be treated like a Jew also.
The Holocaust destroyed many homes and families of Jews because Germans thought of them as an alien threat to their community. The Germans even took their properties from them. When the Jews would leave home after work, the Germans would come later that night and just destroy everything. The Jews had nothing left and were sent to the camps by the German soldiers.
Adolf Hitler had an army of 3.5 million soldiers and growing. Once he had a big enough army he started to move out of Germany and began to take over other countries. He took over countries like: Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, France, Poland, Luxembourg and many other countries. Over five million kilometers of Europe territory was under German control by December 1941. Some countries stayed neutral during this time period like Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Turkey. Hitler was becoming too powerful and the other countries had to act. Although Hitler made a pact with the Soviet Union, he was still planning to overthrow them and after he attacked, the Soviet Union joined with Great Britain, France and the United States for war against Hitler’s army. The war ended in the spring of 1945 discovering that Hitler’s dictatorship was the cause of death for over 5,933,900 Jews according to the Jewish Virtual Library.
In my opinion the Jews were treated like slaves. They were deported to the camps, at least 3 million Jews. In the camps, they were sent to two chambers, the showers or the gas chambers. In the gas chambers, they used carbon monoxide and Zyklon B gas. If you were born with or had any disabilities (glasses, asthma, disease, etc.) then you were sent to the gas chambers where you most likely would die. However, even though Germans were doing all the killing, there were some Germans who did not agree with what Hitler was doing, but there was nothing they could do about it, according to the “Days of Remembrance” videos on the web site of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
By the end of World War II, American troops entered the concentration camps to discover piles of corpses, bones and human ashes. Troops also found thousands of Jews suffering from starvation and disease. After being taken from their homes, tortured, burned and starved, Jews were afraid to return homes and some didn’t have homes to return to. Jewish families were torn apart due to separation – children from parents, husbands from wives as they were sent to different camps. For survivors, the Holocaust came to an end after the years of World War II and the final defeat of Adolf Hitler.
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