Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Holocaust Memorial Museum

First, I am going to warn you that some of the pictures are graphic and some of what you will read is horrific. The Holocaust Museum is not for the faint hearted.
The Museum is extremely well done and very educational. They have a lot of artifacts from the Holocaust, stories from survivors and pictures of those who died.


"The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. Millions of others, including political opponents, persons with disabilities, homosexuals, Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), Jehovah's Witnesses, Poles, and Soviet prisoners of war, died as a result of Nazi persecution and mass murder. In the twelve years of its rule, the Nazi state established more than 42,000 ghettos, concentration camps, killing centers, and other places of incarceration. On entering the concentration camp, victims were dispossessed of their property, including their civilian clothing, and given a uniform like this one."

"The things I saw beggar description...the visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were...overpowering....I made the visit deliberately in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to "propaganda." Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower April 15, 1945



Before the Hitler regime there were 572,455 Jews in Germany making up .088% of the entire population and 250,000 Jews in Austria making up 3.71% for the entire population.




"The Nazi's promoted Hitler as the ultimate source of power and justice. Slogans such as "One People, one Reich, one Leader" helped catalyze the public's perception of Hitler as national savior. Individuals were urged to sacrifice themselves for a greater "People's Community." Even elementary schools became forums of political indoctrination and racial hatred. Hitler even stated, "Let me control the textbooks and I will control the state." And again, "Give me the German youth, and Germany will rule the World." Political reliability was measured by a person's adherence to racist ideas, especially antisemitism. These messages helped realize another aim of propaganda: the public's total obedience to the unlimited power of regime."

"Hitler transformed Nazi racism from a political philosophy into a concrete public policy. As part of the overall effort to "purify" the German population, a program of forced sterilization was announced on July 14, 1933. The Law for Prevention of Hereditary Diseased Offspring required that certain categories of persons be sterilized: anyone suffering from "congenital feeblemindedness," schizophrenia, or manic depression, epilepsy, Huntington's chorea, congenital blindness or deafness, a severe physical deformity, or severe alcoholism. So-called Genetic Health Courts administered this program. The sterilization began in January 1934. Within a decade, between  250,000 and 300,000 people - most of them Germans - had been forcibly sterilized. Only the Roman Catholic Church opposed the program consistently; German Protestant Churches accepted it and often cooperated with it. Nazi Germany was not the first or only country to sterilize people considered "abnormal." Before Hitler, the United States had led the world in policies of compulsory sterilization. But no nation carried sterilization as far as Nazi Germany did. There, it led to a euthanasia program: the systematic murder of the physically and mentally handicapped."

The Germans kept close track of everyone. "We are recording the individual characteristics of every single member of the nation on a little card....We are proud to be able to contribute to such a task, a task that provides the physician of our German body politic (Hitler) with the material for his examination, so that our physician can determine whether, from the standpoint of the nation's health, the computed data correlates in a harmonious, that is, healthy, relationship - or whether diseased conditions must be cured by corrective interventions...We have firm confidence in our physician and will follow his orders in blind faith, for we know that he will lead our nation toward a great future. Heil to our German people and their leader!" Willy Heidinger, Managing Director of DEHOMAG January 8, 1934

The Night of Broken Glass (November 9, 1938) was a massive, coordinated attack on Jews throughout the German Reich. They burned books, defaced synagogues, and destroyed Jewish businesses. "Where books are burned, in the end people will be burned." Heinrich Heine, German-Jewish poet


"The Nazi regime characterized almost an act of opposition as a political crime. Until the "Night of Broken Glass," most victims of political persecution were Communists and Social Democrats. Wave after wave of mass arrests, trials, and executions effectively disrupted these parties. By 1938, the regime had crushed virtually all organized opposition, although some Communists and Social Democrats continued to operate underground. Nazi persecution of political opponents exacted a terrible price in human suffering. Between 1933 and 1939, the criminal courts sentenced tens of thousands of Germans for "political crimes." On the eve of the war, concentration camps held about 25,000 inmates, most of them political prisoners.
As part of their attempt to "purify" German society and propagate a "master race," the Nazis condemned homosexual men and lesbians as "socially aberrant." Soon after taking office, Hitler banned all homosexual and lesbian organizations. Meanwhile, storm troopers raided institutions and gathering places of the homosexual and lesbian community. In 1934, the SS chief, Heinrich Himmier, created a special police bureaucracy to combat male homosexuality. As early as December of that year, homosexual men were subjected to systematic criminal persecution. Many of them were imprisoned in concentration camps. Their uniforms sometimes bore an identifying mark, such as a black dot. Later this was replaced by a pink triangle. The vast majority of homosexual victims were males; lesbians were persecuted to a far lesser extent.
Nazi harassment of Jehovah's Witnesses began in 1933. Because they refused military service and would not swear allegiance to the regime, Witnesses were often accused of espionage and conspiracy against the state. The Nazis interpreted the Witnesses' predictions of future anarchy as revolutionary threats, and their prophecies about the return of Jews to Palestine, as Zionist statements. Nevertheless, the Witnesses continued to meet, preach, and distribute literature. They lost their jobs, pensions, and all civil rights, and beginning in 1937 they were sent to concentration camps. There, the Nazis designated them as "voluntary prisoners;" Jehovah's Witnesses who renounced their beliefs could be freed. Not one of them recanted.
Freemasons as well were considered ideological foes by the Nazis. In 1935, all Masonic lodges were abolished. Like the Jews, the Freemasons were dismissed from civil service. During the "Night of Broken Glass," SA men were encouraged to paint anti-Masonic slogans on damaged shops and synagogues. Beginning in 1938, the persecution slackened. In April of that year, Hitler declared a partial amnesty for Freemasons, and in September, low-ranking Freemasons were readmitted to the civil service. Nevertheless, harassment of Freemasons who remained active continued, and "obstinate" Freemasons were imprisoned in concentration camps."


In Nazi Germany, power was centralized in one person, Adolf Hitler. The Hitler dictatorship demanded the public's unconditional obedience, and it tolerated no criticism or dissent. Organizations refusing to conform with Nazi ideology were destroyed. Most German organizations were quickly placed under Nazi control. Belonging to them was advisable if not compulsory. Farmers were forcibly united in the nationwide association of "Reich Food Producers;" labor unions were replaced by the "German Labor Front." In 1934, acting in accordance with the Nazi "Leader Principle," soldiers in the German army swore allegiance not to the constitution or the state, but to Hitler personally. Even the Christian churches fell under under Nazi influence, and many Protestant and Roman Catholic officials openly supported the regime. Only the dissident Protestant Confessing Church, of which the famous pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a member, declared that unquestioning obedience to the state was not compatible with Christian faith. From childhood, every stage of a German's life was dominated by the Nazi state. The Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls prepared young people for lifelong service to the party. Tours of duty in the Reich Labor Service and the army were obligatory for men. Women were expected to bear "pure Aryan" children as a service to the Nazi society, and mothers were given awards according to the number of children they bore."


"To conquer a nation, first disarm it's citizens." Adolf Hitler, 1933

"I have issued the command - and I'll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad - that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness - for the present only in the east - with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space which we need. Who, after all, speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?" Adolf Hitler, August 22, 1939

This is a mass grave marker. "It marked the site of mass grave near the Polish village of Palmiry. German security police executed some 1,700 civilians there. In 1939 and 1940, Nazi authorities in occupied Poland waged a brutal campaign against the country's intelligentsia and suspected resistance members."

This bed came from the Sachsenburg clinic, one of about 30 institutions with a special children's ward where the young patients were killed by starvation, lethal injections or overdoes of medicine mixed with their food. Their bodies were then burned in a crematoria." Sadly many of these were disabled children.

"Today I will once more be a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the bolshevizing of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!" Adolf Hitler, January 24, 1929
"The Nazis' program to physically destroy the Jews of Europe evolved over time. Before 1940, Nazi policy focused on forced Jewish emigration from Germany. But this failed to provide a "solution" to the "Jewish question" since few counties were willing to offer Jews a haven. As German troops overran countries in the East and West, more Jews fell under Nazi control. The possibility of havens within Europe vanished. After considering alternative plans for dealing with the Jews, Hitler and the Nazi leadership turned to a policy of genocide - the "Final Solution." The exact date of the decision, which originated with Hitler, may never be known. Mass shootings of Jews began in the newly conquered areas of the Soviet Union in June 1941, soon after the start of the German invasion. Plans to send SS and police killing squads to these areas had been finalized in the spring, before the invasion. The first methodical gassings of Jews began on December 8, 1941 at a death camp in Chetmno, a town in Poland. Preparations for these gassings had been under way for months."
"The photographs in this tower were taken between the years 1890 and 1941 in Eishishok, a small town near Vilna, in what is now Lithuania. Eishishok (the town's Yiddish name) was a shtetl, one of many Jewish communities in eastern Europe. In 1939, its Jewish population of 3,500 constituted a majority of the town, which was known as Ejszyszki in Polish. The cemetery stone bore witness to the fact that Jews had lived in Eishishok for almost 900 years. The Jewish community had a rich religious culture and an energetic secular life. Famed for its Talmudic academy, it also fostered a wide range of political and cultural organizations, in which young people were especially active. The photographs were gathered from more than 100 families."

"Throughout the conquered territories of eastern Europe, the German authorities segregated Jews in ghettos, or restricted zones, where they were compelled to wear the Star of David badges. For each ghetto the Germans selected a Jewish Council, to serve a the Jews' government and as an instrument of German control. The first ghetto was established in Piotrkow Trybunaiski, Poland, on October 8, 1939. Others were soon set up in Warsaw, Lodz, and elsewhere in Poland. In the summer and autumn of 1941, ghettos were created in the German occupied parts of the Soviet Union. By 1942, most of the Jews in eastern Europe were confined in ghettos. Ghettos are originally instituted to concentrate Jews and separate them from the non-Jewish population. Later, the served as staging grounds for the extermination of Jews. The Germans gradually  removed more than 2 million Jews from ghettos to concentration and death camps. First to be deported were the elderly, the sick, and the children. By the autumn of 1944, no ghettos remained."
"Before the war, Warsaw was the center of Jewish life in Poland and contained the greatest concentration of Jews in Europe. Soon after the German conquest on September 29, 1939, Warsaw's 375,000 Jews were required to wear white armbands with the blue Star of David. A Jewish Council was appointed. The German authorities closed Jewish schools, confiscated Jewish-owned property, and conscripted Jewish men into forced labor. In the autumn of 1940 a ghetto was established, and Jews were required to move into it. On November 16th of that year, the Warsaw ghetto was sealed. The Jewish Council sought to placate the Germans, who used their council to carry their orders. It also tried to help the Jewish population, for whom life was a struggle against starvation and disease. Headed by Adam Czerniakow, the Warsaw Jewish Council developed an extensive bureaucracy in its efforts to meet the needs of 445,000 residents, including Jews from other parts of Europe and several hundred Gypsies. The first deportations from the Warsaw ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp began in July 1942. By September 6, the SS had deported about 250,000 Jews from Warsaw. Another wave of deportations began in January 1943. The third and final wave ended that spring on May 16, after the Germans defeated an armed revolt by the remaining ghetto Jews. The German officer in charge of the operation, SS Gen Jurgen Stroop, declared: 'The Jewish quarter of Warsaw no longer exists.'"
Warsaw ghetto wall

The remnants of a 1929 Mauser rifle found in Warsaw ghetto

Bricks from the ruins of Warsaw

"The Germans seized Lodz on September 8, 1939, and later renamed it Litzmannstadt. In April 1940, the Lodz ghetto was sealed, trapping 164,000 Jews. With little food, medicine, or running water, the inhabitants lived amid overcrowding, starvation, disease, and the stench of raw sewage. Conditions worsened with the arrivals of Jews from Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, and Czechoslovakia. 5,000 Gypsies were also imprisoned at the ghetto. The Germans established a Jewish Council, headed by an Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski. Rumkowski hoped to save the Jews of Lodz by making them an indispensable work force to the Germans. These hopes were doomed. Between January and May 1942, 55,000 Jews and 5,000 Gypsies were deported to the Chetmno death camp. That September, the Germans demanded that 25,000 elderly people and children under the age of 10 be "resettled" from the ghetto. Still hoping to save deathly adults, Rumkowski complied. The deportations stopped, but on June 23, 1944 they resumed. Almost all of the Jews remaining in the Lodz ghetto, including Rumkowski, were killed in death camps."
Lodz hospital door

"By the summer of 1942, over 400 ghettos of varying sizes had been established throughout German-occupied eastern Europe. More than 2 million Jews and over 8,000 Gypsies were confined in them. In all the ghettos, severe overcrowding, terrible sanitary conditions, and starvation were the norm."
Tarnow cemetery gate

The Holocaust even expanded to Romina who had one of the largest populations of Jews in Europe at 750,000.


"After the German capture of Kiev in Ukraine thousands of Jews were taken to Babi Year, a ravine 2 miles from the city. They were forced to hand over their valuables and remove their clothes. Groups were then herded into the ravine, where member of a German killing unit shot them. More than 33,000 Jews were killed at Babi Yer in 2 days. Soviet reports after the war estimated the number of Jews, Gypsies and Soviet prisoners of war executed here at 100,000."
Map of the German ghettos, Gestapo prisons, death camps, concentration camps. "During the war the number of Nazi camps extended into the thousands, and at its peak the camps contained over 700,000 prisoners."

"The Nazi deportation of Jews and Gypsies took three main forms: transports from towns and cities to internment camps or ghettos; from smaller ghettos to larger ones; and, beginning in 1942, from camps and ghettos to six killing centers, all in Poland: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, Chetmno, Treblinka, Betzec, and Sobibor. Fright trains were the primary means of transportation. During the summer of 1942, about 250,000 Warsaw Jews were transported in freight cars to Treblinka, where they were gassed with carbon monoxide gas. Between May 15 and July 9, 1944, more than 437,000 Jews from Hungarian ghettos and camps were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 147 trains. Most of them were gassed at Birkenau soon after their arrival. As many as 100 victims were packed into one car. Deportation trains usually carried between 1,000 and 2,000 people and sometimes as many as 5,000. Between June 1941 and May 1945, more than 3.3 million Soviet prisoners of war died in German custody. In the Soviet Union, Poland, and the Balkan countries, units of the SS, police, and German army killed as many many as 200,000n Gypsies. Thousands more were imprisoned in concentration camps. 20,000 were brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Almost all of the Gypsies in Birkenau were gassed or worked to death, or fell victim to epidemics. Many, including children, died from being subjected to inhuman "medical experiments." On July 31, 1944, the camp was liquidated and all remaining Gypsy men, women, and children were killed in the gas chambers. About 10,000 homosexuals, most of them German or Austrian, were imprisoned in the camps. They often received the hardest work assignments, as a result of which more than half of them died. More than one-third of the Jehovah's Witnesses imprisoned in camps died."


"The inscription over the main gate to Aushwitz, "Arbeit mahct frei" ("Work will make you free"), was a cynical falsehood, suggesting that the purpose of the concentration camps was to reform inmates, who could earn their freedom through work. In reality, the aim of the camps was to extract the maximum amount of work from the prisoners, whatever the cost to health or life, and to kill all Jewish inmates through overwork, starvation, and gas."


"Nazi Germany set up some 20,000 camps to imprison millions of victims from all over Europe. At many of these sites, prisoners were housed in uninsulated wooden barracks that quickly become overcrowded. In late 1941, the SS ordered more than 250 pre-fabricated wooden barracks to be shipped to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The structures, originally designed to house horses, could be erected by forced image labor in less than one day. This restored barracks building came from the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp complex."




"Nazis began using carbon monoxide gas for mass killings in 1940 to murder hospital patients with disabilities. Employing some of the personnel and the expertise gained from the "euthanasia" program, the SS expanded the use of carbon monoxide to most of the killing centers in  occupied Poland. In the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdankek, the SS used the commercial pesticide Zyklon B to kill human beings. The highly poisonous hydrogen cyanide caused its victims to die by asphyxiation. This is a casting of the gas chamber door at Majdankek concentration camp. Once the victims were forced inside, the door was barred on the outside, and the SS guards could view the killings through the small peep hole. The green cans below the door are insert pellets of Zyklon B found at the Majdanek concentration camp and canisters for the pesticide, some bearing the manufactures label."

"This is a model of Auschwitz gas chamber and crematorium. The four gas chambers could kill and average of 1,000 victims per day. About one million Jews and thousands of non-Jewish victims were killed in these chambers. After entering the camp by train, those selected for immediate death were marched to the underground entrance go the gas chamber. When the victims had taken off their clothes, they were herded into the underground gas chamber, disguised with fake shower heads as a shower room. As soon as the chamber was filled with people, sealed, and locked, SS guards poured Zyklon B pellets in through special vents in the roof, and the deadly gas was released. Most victims died within a few minutes. After about 20 minutes, when all were dead, ventilators expelled the poisonous air. Smaller groups of victims were sometimes shot instead of being gassed. The shootings took place at a site just outside the Crematorium building. Frequently, arriving deportees who were unable to walk were separated from larger groups of victims and shot at this site. The bodies were then cremated in the Crematorium."

At the Mauthausen camp in Austria, prisoners hauled heavy stones up the 186 steps of the "staircase of death," unloaded them, and repeated the task endlessly. A survivor recalled: "It was a common saying in Mauthausen that each rock....cost the life of a man." These stones are from the Mauthausen quarry."






"The SS guards often pushed exhausted prisoners off the "staircase" to their death. This prisoner, with the number 1469, was killed this way.

Despite all the terrible things going on some people still tried to help the Jews. Among them is the well known Ten Boom family who hid Jews in a closet. "Another hiding place for polish Jews was the house of Stefan Petri in Wawer, a Warsaw suburb. This workbench concealed an entrance to a hiding place. For two years he hid the Shapiro family in his basement. When German police came to search the house, the Szapiros hid in a small crawl space under the basement. They entered it through a trapdoor beneath the workbench."

"We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses. We are the shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers from Prague, Paris and Amsterdam, and because we are only made of fabric and leather and not of blood and flesh, each one of us avoided the hellfire." Moses Schulstein, Yiddish poet

"Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it." George Santayana
Let us us never forget so that history does not repeat itself.

I recommend the book The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and the movies The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Schindler's List if you're interested in leaning more about the Holocaust (movies are graphic and may contain language). For younger audiences I highly recommend the Torchlighters movie The Corrie Ten Boom Story.

posted by Sarah 

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