- The term “Holocaust” became popular after the airing on NBC of a four-part fictional miniseries on the subject called “Holocaust” in 1978. The cast included Meryl Streep. Click play on the video above to watch the trailer for the miniseries.
How They Survived
- Many Holocaust survivors, including some of those who came to Houston after WWII, were never held in concentration camps. They survived in hiding, in ghettos, by fleeing into the Soviet Union, or by passing as non-Jews.
- Jewish people were not the only victims of the Nazis. Other victims of Nazi mass murder included Roma and Sinti, people with disabilities, Poles, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gay people, and Soviet prisoners of war.
Documenting the Numbers
- A common statistic claims 11 million people were murdered by the Nazis (6 million Jews and 5 million others). While the number of 6 million Jews is supported by evidence, the 5 million others is not. It was invented by the Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.
Germany’s Jewish Population
- When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Jewish people made up less than 1% of the German population.
Jewish Victims’ Origins
- Most Jewish victims of the Holocaust were not from Germany but from Eastern Europe.
How the Nazis Came to Power
- The Nazis came to power legally.
More Than 1 Million Children
- Of the about 6 million Jewish people who were murdered in the Holocaust, more than 1 million were children.
- Publicly displaying Nazi symbols, including their version of the swastika symbol, is banned in Germany today. There is an exception, however, for its use in Buddhist and Hindu temples, where in its original form it symbolizes good luck and well-being.
- The Nazis didn’t invent concentration camps. The idea of a camp holding civilians considered enemies of those in power had precedent in several other places first, including South Africa, Cuba, the Philippines, Namibia, and the United States. The Nazi innovation lay in their use of poison gas to murder people at sites we now call killing centers.
- Book Suggestion: Concentration Camps: A Short History by Dan Stone
People with Disabilities
- The earliest victims of Nazi mass murder were people with disabilities. The Nazis saw people with disabilities as a “burden” and killed them using gassing facilities often located at hospitals in Germany. As the Nazis invaded most of Europe, the program expanded to target people with disabilities in multiple countries and people no longer able to work in concentration camps.
Hitler’s Religious Beliefs
- Despite many rumors, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was not Jewish. Being Jewish means following the religious and/or cultural traditions and beliefs of Judaism, which Hitler never did (he was raised in a Catholic household). Hitler also did not have Jewish ancestors.
What the World Knew
- People around the world knew about the Holocaust while it was happening. The leaders of the Allies received reports and ultimately decided that ending WWII was the best way to end the Holocaust. Reports of mass murder also appeared in newspapers, including in the U.S.
- Only about 10% of the Germans who worked at Auschwitz were ever put on trial.
- Most concentration camp survivors weren’t liberated in the same place they spent most of the war because they were put on death marches toward the center of Germany in the last days of WWII.
- The Nazis believed that Jewish people were a separate race, but they were wrong. Being Jewish means following a religion and a culture, not being part of a race.
Inspiration from the United States
- The Nazi’s approach to citizenship laws and their restrictions on marriage between people of different “races” was inspired by race laws in the United States.
- Although “Nazi” is short for “National Socialist German Worker’s Party,” the Nazis weren’t actually socialist or supportive of workers. They picked words they believed would get Germans to support them.
- Jewish people resisted the Nazis in a wide variety of ways, including combat fighting, mutual aid, spiritual resistance, and recording evidence.
Nazi Control of Germany
- The Nazis believed they would rule for 1,000 years. They were actually in control of Germany for 12.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- In the aftermath of the Holocaust, many countries decided that they could not leave it up to individual countries to protect the rights of their citizens. This was the birth of the modern human rights movement, beginning with the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- In the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust, many people weren’t interested in learning from survivors. After the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel, during which Holocaust survivors were called as witnesses, interest in the Holocaust and in survivor testimony began to grow.
- Multiple countries, including Germany, France, and Austria, ban denying that the Holocaust happened.
- The Holocaust is not the only example of a genocide. There are genocides happening today.
- To learn more: https://www.ushmm.org/genocide-prevention