The systematic persecution and killing of Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II is known as the Holocaust .
The word “holocaust” comes from ancient Greek and refers to a religious sacrifice in which the victim, usually a ram, was burned in its entirety. Jews use the word “shoah,” which means “catastrophe,” to refer to the Holocaust.
During World War II, the Nazis created concentration camps where they forced Jews to live and work in subhuman conditions. They also set up death camps to carry out what the regime called “the final solution of the Jewish question,” that is, the systematic killing of Jews by shooting, hanging, beatings and the use of poisonous gases .
To carry out the Holocaust, the Nazis assembled a network that included some 40,000 installations, distributed mainly in Eastern Europe.
In 2005, the United Nations established January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day , to promote the fight against anti-Semitism, racism and all forms of ethnic and religious intolerance. January 27 was chosen, because on that day in 1945 the Red Army liberated the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp.
In 2007, a law came into force in the territory of the European Union that penalizes all those who deny the Holocaust and other crimes committed by the Nazis.
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Characteristics of the Holocaust
The main characteristics of the Holocaust were the following:
- It was planned, organized and executed by Nazi Germany , based on the ideas developed by Adolf Hitler. Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Göring, and Reinhard Heydrich were some of the main organizers of the Holocaust.
- They were used camps and extermination as places of confinement and systematic killing of people using different methods, including the executions, hangings and showers with poisonous gases. The corpses were later cremated in large ovens.
- The main concentration and extermination camps were those of Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belżec, Jasenovac, Majdanek, Chelmno and Sobibor.
- The main targets of the Nazi extermination plan were Jews , but the Holocaust also claimed the lives of non-Jewish victims, including homosexuals, the disabled, Gypsies, Soviet POWs, and political opponents.
- The vast majority of those deported to the concentration camps were citizens of different European countries, who were separated from their societies of origin, their property was stolen and they were forcibly transferred to the different confinement centers.
- Many deportees were forced to work as slaves before being executed; others, especially women, children, the elderly and the sick, were directly executed.
Causes and consequences
The main causes for which the Holocaust was unleashed are the following:
- The ideas developed by Hitler and the main Nazi hierarchs about the superiority of the Aryan race and that the unions of Germans with Jews threatened the purity and strength of that race.
- The belief of many Germans that the Jews were responsible for the defeat of Germany in the First World War .
- The idea developed by the Nazis about the existence of an international conspiracy of which the Jews were part. The alleged aim of this conspiracy was to harm Germany.
- The economic and financial crisis that Germany was going through during the Great Depression . To alleviate the consequences of this crisis, the Nazis set out to segregate the Jews, confiscate their property and use them as slave labor in the weapons factories.
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The main consequences of the Holocaust are the following:
- Although the figures are not exact, some 6 million Jews are believed to have been victims of the Holocaust. About 5 million more people were killed in the death camps, for a total of about 11 million .
- It is estimated that the Germans murdered a third of the Jews living in Europe in 1939, leaving the European Jewish community weakened and deeply traumatized by the experience.
- The Holocaust led the United Nations to promote the creation of the State of Israel , so that Jews scattered throughout the world would have a place to establish their homeland. This decision, which took place in 1948, was the origin of a conflict between Israel and the Arab countries, most of which did not accept the creation of a Jewish state in a territory inhabited by Palestinians.
- The main Nazi leaders responsible for the Holocaust were tried and sentenced to death during the Nuremberg Trials .
- Nazi hierarchs who managed to escape from Germany were persecuted by groups linked to the intelligence services of the State of Israel. The most notorious case was that of Adolf Eichmann, who in 1962 was kidnapped in Argentina, tried in Jerusalem, sentenced to death and executed.
- The rejection and rejection caused by the crimes committed by the Nazis convinced the United Nations of the need to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.