World War II
What was it?
The Holocaust is one of the most terrible events in human history. It occurred during World War II when Hitler was leader of Germany. Six million Jewish people were murdered by the Nazis. This included as many as 1 million Jewish children. Millions of other people that Hitler didn't like were killed as well. This included Polish people, Catholics, Serbs, and handicapped people. It is thought that the Nazis murdered as many as 17 million innocent people.
A Jewish boy and mother being arrested
Why did Hitler and the Nazis do it?
Hitler hated Jewish people and blamed them for Germany losing World War I. He considered Jewish people to be less than human. Hitler also believed in the superiority of the Aryan race. He wanted to use Darwinism and breeding to create a race of perfect people.
Hitler wrote in his book Mein Kampf that when he became ruler he would rid Germany of all the Jews. Not many people believed he would really do this, but as soon as he became Chancellor he started his work against the Jews. He made laws that said Jews had no rights. Then he organized attacks on Jewish businesses and homes. On November 9, 1938 many Jewish homes and businesses were burnt down or vandalized. This night was called the Kristallnacht or "Night of Broken Glass".
During World War II when the Nazis would take over a city in Europe they would force all of the Jewish people into one area of town. This area was called a ghetto and was fenced in with barbed wire and guarded. There was little food, water, or medicine available. It was also very crowded with multiple families sometimes sharing a single room to live in.
All Jewish people were eventually to be brought to concentration camps. They were told they were relocating to a new and better place, but this was not the case. Concentration camps were like prison camps. People were forced to do hard labor. The weak were quickly killed or died of starvation. Some camps even had gas chambers. People would be led into the chambers in large groups only to be killed with poison gas. The concentration camps were horrible places.
Many Jewish people hid from the Nazis during World War II. They would hide with non-Jewish families. Sometimes they would pretend to be a part of the family and sometimes they would hide in hidden rooms or in a basement or attic. Some were able to eventually escape across the border into a free country, but many hid for years sometimes in the same room.
Stories and Heroes of the Holocaust
There are many stories of Jewish people striving to survive during the Holocaust and the heroes who helped them. Here are a few:
Anne Frank's Diary - This diary tells the real life story of a young girl named Anne Frank. She and her family hid from the Nazis for two years before they were betrayed and captured. Anne died in a concentration camp, but her diary survived to tell her story.
Schindler's List - This movie tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who managed to save the lives of over one thousand Jewish people who worked in his factories. Note: this movie is R-rated and not for children.
The Hiding Place - This tells the true story of Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch lady who helped to hide Jewish people from the Nazis. Corrie gets caught by a spy, however, and is sent to a concentration camp. Corrie survives the camp and is let free at the end of the war.
Take a ten question quiz at the Holocaust questions page.
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