Post 1945, a Standard English dictionary carries a new meaning for the word ‘Holocaust.’ Etymologically, it is derived from the word Holos (whole) and Kaustos (burned), thus meaning a sacrificial offering burned on an altar.
However, since 1945, Holocaust also refers to the mass murder of some six million European Jews by the German Nazi Regime during the Second World War.
To Adolf Hitler, the anti-Semitic Nazi leader, Jews were an inferior race, an alien threat to German racial purity and community.
A major tool of the Nazis' propaganda assault was the weekly Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer (The Attacker). At the bottom of the front page of each issue, in bold letters, the paper proclaimed, "The Jews are our misfortune!"
Der Stürmer also regularly featured cartoons of Jews in which they were caricatured as hooked-nosed and ape-like. The influence of the newspaper was far-reaching: by 1938 about a half million copies were distributed weekly.
Soon after he became chancellor, Hitler called for new elections in an effort to get full control of the Reichstag, the German parliament, for the Nazis. The Nazis used the government apparatus to terrorize the other parties, especially the ones that were funded by the Jews.
After years of Nazi rule in Germany, during which Jews were consistently persecuted, Hitler’s “final solution”—now known as the Holocaust—came to fruition under the cover of the Second World War.
Camps dedicated solely to the extermination of Jews had been created before, but this was formalised by SS Lieutenant General Reinhard Heydrich in a speech at the Wannsee conference. The extermination camp Auschwitz II (or Auschwitz-Birkenau) was opened in 1942.
Near the end of the Second World War, on January 27, 1945, Soviet soldiers entered the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp complex in south-west Poland. The site had been evacuated by the Nazis just days earlier. The Soviet troops discovered a horrifying mass grave in Auschwitz.
Precise numbers are still debated, but according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the German SS systematically killed at least 960,000 of the 1.1-1.3 million Jews deported to the camp. Other victims included approximately 74,000 Poles, 21,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war and at least 10,000 from other nationalities.
More people died at Auschwitz than at any other Nazi concentration camp and probably than at any death camp in history.
In November 2005, the General Assembly of the United Nations designated the date—January 27—as the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.
It is a memorial day for all the victims of the genocide that killed approximately 6 million Jews, 220,000 Gypsies, 250,000 people with mental and physical disabilities, and 9,000 homosexuals in the hands of the Nazi regime and their collaborators. About 10,000 Spanish Republicans were deported to extermination camps, and 60% of them died.
This year, the United Nations program of dissemination is titled “Holocaust Remembrance and Education: Our Shared Responsibility“.
The theme emphasizes the universal dimension of the Holocaust and underscores that education about this tragedy should encourage humankind to firmly reject all forms of racism, violence and anti-Semitism.
On this day, the Weekend Tribune suggests one book, one documentary and one movie for its readers to read and see, so as to have a better understanding about this harrowing incident in our history.
Don’t be fooled by the slim profile of this book written by Elie Wiesel— the harrowing personal acount of Nobel Peace Prize-winner Elie Wiesel’s experience in Auschwitz. Though the death camp scenes described in Wiesel’s account will undoubtedly scar your psyche, the fact of the author’s survival amidst such circumstances is inspiring in its own right — and his many accomplishments following the war provides even more proof of Wiesel’s tenacious love for life and humanity.
Auschwitz: Inside The Nazi State
More than any other documentary about the Holocaust, Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State reveals the inner workings of the Nazi implementation of Hitler’s infamous Final Solution. Drawing on latest academic discoveries, this six-part documentary series presents a wide-ranging, meticulously researched biography of the titular “killing factory” and its evolution into a highly efficient location for industrialized extermination of well over one million Jews and some other races including the Gypsies.
Considered to be Director Steven Spielberg’s finest masterpiece, multiple Oscar winning Schindler’s List barely needs an introduction. A remarkable work by any standard, this searing historical and biographical drama is about a Nazi industrialist who saved some 1,100 Jews from certain death in the concentration camps. With this movie, Spielberg has made sure that neither he nor the Holocaust will ever be thought of in the same way again. With every frame, he demonstrates the power of the film maker to distill complex events into fiercely indelible images.