Explain how and why the Jews were persecuted in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. Explain why it was so difficult to stop the persecution of the Jews.
Between the years 1920 and 1930, many stereotypes of Jews developed in Europe. All Jews were seen as large nosed, wealthy, obese, dirty, ugly, smelly, dishonest, greedy, and deceitful people. They were also seen as drunk, perverted, and seducing people. In fact any bad point you can say about anybody, they were classed to be. “The only thing that Jews could understand was the whip.” There was a lot of propaganda in Der Sturmer, a German magazine/ newspaper about the Jews. A good example of that is a cartoon of a stereotypical Jew hugging what could be taken for a young Aryan woman. There is a bottle of alcohol on the floor. This shows the Jew to be a perverted, alcoholic user. Looking at the propaganda on the Jews, all of the visual pictures of the Jews had elderly people on them instead of young Jews. They used old people because it is easier to make an older person look uglier than she/he actually is.
The ideas for these stereotypes originally formed when the Romans became Christians. These Christians were against those who remained “traditional Jews”. They tried to turn people against Judaism. The Christian stereotype of a Jew was a dishonest, scheming character, responsible for lots of evil things. During the Medieval period, myths developed, enhancing the general appearance of the stereotypes that had previously been formed. The Blood Libel was a myth that stated that Jews used Christian children’s blood to bake their Passover bread. This idea was often aroused when a Christian child went missing. The Black Death was supposed to have been caused by Jewish people poisoning the rivers and seas. This could not have happened, because otherwise it would also have affected the Jews themselves.
“Life was very normal before the Nazis came to power,” says a woman who was a Jewish girl born in 1921. Jewish children could go to a Yiddish speaking schools. There was little conflict between the two religions and 13 million Jews lived in Europe. In Germany, Jews formed 1% of the population. They had a sense of belonging to the German race.
After World War I, Germany was forced to sign, the Treaty of Versailles, which meant that she, was plunged into a desperate situation. In 1929, the Wall Street Crash occured, and America wanted all the money she had lent to Germany back, to fund her recovery. This meant that Germany was destroyed economically as well as socially, so everyone suffered. To get them out of this difficult situation, they all looked to extremist political parties to run Germany. There were two extremist parties, the Communists and the Nazis. People had little confidence in the democratic system and turned towards the extremist political parties like the Communists and Nazis during the Depression because they needed to get out of the crisis that they were in at the time. The Nazis bullied all the other parties out of the July Election in 1932, so the only party to vote for were the Nazis. After the failure of the Munich Putsch in 1923, Hitler tried to gain power in a lawful way. He wanted to be elected rather than to seize control. In 1930, the Nazis won 107 seats in Reichstag (the German parliament) from the 12 seats it had in 1928. The Nazi vote was slow to increase during the 1920s while things were going well, but the Depression changed the situation dramatically.
Because Hitler had despised the Jews all his life, he made a scapegoat of them. He blamed the Jews for all of the things that had gone wrong with World War I, and because this man who was to get them out of this “Depression” said so, the German public hated them also. Hitler believed in a hierarchy, in which Aryans, people with blue eyes and blond hair, were at the top. These were commonly known as the master race. Jews were at the bottom of this list. He believed that the Jew was trying to destroy the world and therefore Germany needed to be saved and rid of them. He also stated that there was scientific proof that Jews were a sub-human race.
In 1933, Hitler became chancellor and the Nazi party was the largest in the Reichstag, even though the other parties, working together, could still outvote them. On 23rd March 1933, a law was passed “for removing the distress of people and Reich”. This became known as the enabling act. From now on, Hitler could make rules of his own. The Germans voted for the Nazis in the 1933 general election. There were many reasons for this.
Firstly, Hitler was a great speaker. He could say what he wanted to say very well and with force. This gave him favour amongst the German public.
Secondly, the other political parties were not prepared to work together. This gave the German public a feeling of mistrust for the other political parties.
The Depression of 1929 created many economical problems. The Nazis said that they would get rid of all this. That was what the German public wanted to hear.
The Chancellors appointed by President Hindenburg did not have enough support in the Reichstag and had to rely on the President’s emergency powers.
In addition to this, a very clever and organised man called Goebbels arranged a very effective propaganda campaign. Hitler and the Nazis targeted specific groups of society with different slogans and policies to get their support.
The fact that the strong views of the Nazis gave the impression that they knew what they were going to do also made them favourite to the German public. The industrialist, Alfred Hugenberg, offered Hitler money and support from his publishing and media companies to attack the Young Plan for German reparations.
Lastly, the fact that the SA and SS attacked other political groups, so in the end the Nazis were the only political party left.
Between 1936 and 1939 the poor treatment of Jews increased. In 1935, a Law was passed called the Nuremberg Law, which stated that ‘A Jew may not be a citizen of the Reich. He has no vote. He may not fill public office. Marriages between Jews and Nationals of German and similar blood are forbidden.’ In 1933, Hitler ordered Germans not to use Jewish shops, doctors, and lawyers. Jews were made a scapegoat of. They were blamed for almost every wrong thing. They were forbidden to go into any public place like cinemas, theatres, swimming baths, between certain hours, if at all.
In schools, young Jews were made fun of and humiliated. The propaganda used at the time showed them to be dirty and inferior. They had to wear the Star of David to make it clear who was Jewish and who was not.
The Nazis gave their consent to attacking Jewish shops and businesses and Jews were insulted and assaulted. They had to escape or do something about it.
On 7th November somebody did. A Jew shot and killed a member of the Reichstag. This brought on fury to the Nazis. That night, ‘Kristalnacht’ (Crystal Night), violence against Jews erupted when almost every Jewish property was destroyed ,and people were marched off to concentration camps where they either died, there or moved onto a death camp where they did.
In January the following year Hitler announced that if another war were started he would blame the Jews, thus would mean the destruction of Jews throughout Europe.
In 1941, ghettos were made for Jews to live in. These were very crowded and food was very sparse. Anybody trying to escape was brutally murdered and anyone who tried to smuggle in food were harshly punished.
When Germany invaded Russia that same year, five million Jews were found adding to that, the three million found in Poland. If the Nazis were to succeed in making Europe a ‘Jew free-zone’, they would have to ‘kill them all’. So a solution was made, this was called “The Final Solution”. This was to gas all the Jews in Europe in camps such as Auschwitz like “rats”.
Back at the ghettos, volunteered Jews were told that they were going to be resettled and they were given food to fool them about where they were going. When they were really to go to ghettos. When they got there, they were put into two rows, those able to work, and those not. Those not, were murdered almost straight away. Most did not survive the horrific conditions there, either by being murdered or gassed, or by dying of diseases.
A number of factors help us to understand why it was so difficult to stop the persecution of the Jews. A very significant reason, is the fact that the people in Germany were frightened to challenge the Nazis. They had fear of opposing them, firstly, because the Nazis had totalitarian power, which brainwashed people using propaganda and censorship. This made it very difficult to persuade others. Also, the Nazi state was so organised and very efficient, that things happened so fast, people didn’t know what was happening until they caught up and saw how horrible things really were becoming. By then, for most people, it was too late. This became an essential factor in how the Nazis ruled over Germany. Secondly, other countries did not believe what was going on in Germany, until it was too late. In 1939-1945, other countries priority was not about rescuing the Jews, it was about fighting the Germans.
Lastly, but most importantly, there was very little will to stop what was going on. The German public were so brainwashed, they really didn’t dare to think otherwise. Only a minority did. There were attempts to hide Jews, some successfully and some failing. People tried to smuggle food into ghettos and kill Hitler, even though, no attempt really worked.
In this essay, I have used a wide range of sources of information, including photos, quotations from witnesses, video footage and first hand accounts.
The quotations I have used in this essay include a first hand description of a Jewish child talking about her life before and during the Nazis came to power. This is a good source to use because it describes the feeling of a typical Jew, and her views on the Nazi Germans. It is also very real because it is a personal viewpoint. This quotation actually describes what happened to this Jew. It makes it personal, so we do not just think of it as a mass murder. It brings out individuality and so we do not think everybody felt the same thing. Nevertheless, this can also make it a bias and subjective conception. In addition, it becomes less informative on a wider perspective, e.g. to the rest of Germany as a whole. However, I think that quotations help give preferred information to cartoons, because it will usually be reliable.
The problem with cartoons is that they often show the stereotype of the subject. This makes it unreliable and uninformative, unless however, you are looking for sources of information about certain stereotypes that either were created, or came about from the medieval period. This shows a one sided view of a specific group of people on another, but by no means, supports the idea that this is what everybody looked like, if anybody.
Photographs are a much better way of getting a reliable and visual source in comparison to cartoons. This is mainly because they come from the period. It also means that they are also first hand accounts, and instead of describing feeling and descriptions of what you have to imagine happened yourself, as with quotations, you can see it in a visual way. Nevertheless, photographs can become restricting with what you see. There are often photographers, who select the best things instead of the worst. This means that if he had an opinion, it could include what he wanted to see, instead of other peoples views.