Illustration Sample Essay
Who Allowed the Holocaust to Happen?
If one minute of silence were given for every civilian,
Jewish or otherwise, who lost his/her life as a result of the Nazi Holocaust
from 1939 until 1945, the total of minutes would equal almost 21 years of
silence. Over eleven million civilians were killed during this time.
Among them were the Sinti and Roma Gypsies because they were considered enemies
of the state due to their irregular employment habits; Poles because they were
needed for slave labor and because they
possessed the best farmland in Eastern Europe; Jehovah's Witnesses because they
would swear allegiance to no nation, only God; Homosexuals, especially males,
because they were unlikely to perpetuate the Aryan race; Handicapped individuals
because they could not work and contribute to national economy and because their
reproduction was undesirable; and, of course persons with one or more Jewish
grandparent because the Jews were accused of being the cause of economic crisis
in Germany and throughout Europe. In addition to these major groups, many
priests, many who assisted in the escapes of others in the targeted groups, and
many who protested the political climate of Germany were murdered as well. These are the people
to whom the Holocaust happened, but who are the people who made it so?
Among this group were the members of the Nazi party and their leaders, the
ruling bodies of many world nations, and the individuals--bystanders--who did
nothing to interfere with the established Nazi practices.
Our history books tell us of the evil Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime. Hitler's storm troopers, the SS (Schutzstaffel), Goebbels, Goering, Hess, Himmler, Frank, and many others carried out the Fuhrer's orders. Together, they established ghettos, work camps, and concentration camps to isolate the targeted groups. Conditions in these places were overcrowded, unsanitary, disease-ridden, and victims died of overwork, starvation, disease, and murder by way of the gas chambers. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "up to 8,000 Jews were gassed each day at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland...About 170,000 prisoners died in Majdanek...The last of the camp's 18,000 Jewish prisoners were shot in pits on November 3, 1943, in the 'Harvest Festival' operation, while powerful loudspeakers broadcast loud music... At least 152,000 people were killed at Chelmno." These are only a few of the eleven million victims. Below is a map furnished by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum of Nazi camps during World War II :
Not all camps were death camps; some were labor camps. Due to living
conditions, however, victims died in all of the camps. These camps were
well-staffed with guards. Some of those guards were responsible for separating
arrivals into groups to be gassed and groups to stay and work. Some victims were
sent to gas chambers immediately upon arrival. Among those were the
elderly and small children. Families were separated never to see one another
again. Crematoria spewed smoke from the burning remains of gas chamber
victims. Because the gas was so expensive, infants were often tossed live
into the flames.
Others guilty of assisting the Nazi's achieve their goals during the Holocaust were representatives of many nations of the world. At a League of Nations conference in July of 1938, thirty-two nations were represented and asked if they would offer sanctuary to Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler's Germany. All thirty-two nations declined. The United States War Refuge Board was not established until 1944. Once established, approximately 200,000 Jews were given sanctuary in the United States. Unfortunately, the Roosevelt administration was aware of Nazi efforts to exterminate Europe's Jewish population of nine million as early as 1942 but offered no assistance until 1944. By the end of the war, only 3 million of these Jews had survived.
Finally, countless individuals may be blamed for the shocking success of the Nazi Holocaust. The moral dilemma these individuals faced could not have been an easy one as often their unwillingness to offer assistance to their Jewish neighbors was what they felt necessary in order to protect their own families. These bystanders may not have even joined the Nazi party. Perhaps they were apathetic to any cause, save maintaining their daily creature comforts. Maybe they could have made a difference had they united against the Nazis and offered some moral opposition. But there was no widespread opposition to the Holocaust.
In spite of the thousands who were guilty of allowing the Holocaust to happen, only twenty-one Nazi officials were tried for their war crimes. Among these, only eighteen were convicted. Among those eighteen, seven received prison sentences in lieu of the death penalty. Among those seven, three were released early from their sentences. Some say the Nazi Holocaust is history's superlative example of man's inhumanity to man. Certainly the atrocities committed are without match. Equally significant, however, is the number of persons who through one means or another allowed it to happen, for their stories speak volumes on the morality of mankind.