THE NAZI MASTER PLAN
THEME: EXPLORE | ENCOUNTER | EXCHANGE
The first year, the annual theme was exploration, encounter, and exchange. I decided to explore Hitler’s ideas and rise of the Third Reich. The encounter portion discussed the abhorrent tragedies of the Final Solution along with Holocaust victims’ experiences. The exchange section explained the aftermath and its impact. I interviewed several Holocaust survivors to get a primary source insight to complete my projects. Their stories were heart breaking, every word spoken moved me; their experiences more than tragedy however, demonstrate accounts of bravery, strength and exceptional courage.
The Nazi Master Plan to Exterminate European Jewry
As the Nazis conquered new territory during World War II, they quickly inherited millions of Jews and other minorities under their jurisdiction. Jews were considered subhuman or evil, not worthy of life.
Endless attempts were explored to “cleanse” the Greater Germany from Jews but none were successful.
The Nazis’ encounter with the Final Solution was the answer to the so called “Jewish Problem”–the need to exterminate 11 million of them.
After the war, exchange came about in the form of memories, museums, treaties, and restitution funds, educating new generations about the horrors of the Holocaust, hoping it never happens again.
EXPLORING THE ORIGINS
Hitler’s imprisonment led to the exploration of his beliefs in his book, Mein Kampf, driving people to identify with his ideas.
Hitler was a major advocate of antisemitism. Born in Vienna, Austria, Hitler grew up in the midst of a culture that looked adversely at minorities, particularly the Jews. He was drawn to German values. During his early life, he experienced many failures which he explicitly blamed on the Jews. He was denied admission into art school, became homeless, and lost his parents at a young age. He grew suspicious of other people succeeding while he failed. Hitler came to believe that these minorities stood in the way of the Great German race.
” I was convinced that the State (Austria) was sure to obstructively really great German and to support….everything .everything un-German un-German…..I hated the motley collection (in Austria) of Czechs, Ruthenians, Poles, Hungarians, Serbs, Croates, and above ..I hated the motley collection (in Austria) of Czechs, Ruthenians, Poles, Hungarians, Serbs, Croates, and above all that ever-present fungoid growth–Jews all that ever-present fungoid growth–Jews….I became a fanatical anti-Semite.” .I became a fanatical anti-Semite.”
~ Adolf Hitler
Hitler was sentenced to five years at Landsberg Prison after a failed coup attempt. He served only nine months after political followers forced his release. While imprisoned, he pondered about Germany’s devastating defeat in World War I and recorded his thoughts in his book ” Mein Kampf ” (My Struggle).
In repeated rants, he attempts to rationalize his hatred towards minorities and how they influenced the outcome of the war. It was to ultimately become the bible of Nazi Germany. He also discusses his ideas to control and take away people’s freedoms.
“…the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew.”
– Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf
As the Nazis gained influence and power, Jews were pressured to leave Germany. Hitler’s goal was to cleanse Germany of “the Jewish vermin.” From 1933 to 1937, 129,000 out of 525,000 of the country’s Jews emigrated. Anger towards the Jews continued building.
On November 9, 1938, the Nazis vandalized Jewish storefronts and synagogues, while 30,000 Jewish men were arrested. This became known as “Kristallnacht”–the “Night of the Broken Glass.”
” Their Synagogues should be set on fire…
Their homes should be likewise broken down and Their homes should be likewise broken down and destroyed. destroyed. Let us drive them out of our country for all time! Let us drive them out of our country for all time!”
~ Martin Luther
From 1939 to 1942, Germany successfully acquired vast territories after its invasion of Poland and Russia. The newly conquered territories were home to millions of Jews and other undesired minorities. The need to segregate minorities from the remaining population led to the establishment of Ghettos. These were effectively prison towns and neighborhoods. They were meant to be temporary because most inhabitants died from starvation, disease or were shot to death.
“And I was already in the second class, and there was a kid in the first class that said to me “ dirty Jew” and all of my friends in my class jumped on him and hit him. ”
~ Zizi Lichtenstein (Holocaust Survivor)
THE SOLUTION’S ENCOUNTER
Plans to expel Jews and undesired minorities from Germany were unsuccessful leading to the encounter with the idea of the Final Solution.
Ghetto population was soaring. After exploring several alternatives to deal with this “Jewish Problem,” the question arose at a higher level. On January 20, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich, a high-ranking Nazi official, convened the Wannsee Conference. The objective was to gain the government’s support for the mass extermination of the Jews.
“…to coordinate a policy aimed at the total annihilation of the European Jews.” European Jews.”
~ Reinhard Heydrich
Heinrich Himmler, a top SS commander conceived the master plan, dubbed “The Final Solution.” It was to be a death factory. The Jews would be transported in mass to extermination camps by rail, gassed to death, and their bodies disposed in crematoriums.
The Extermination Camps
Before Wannsee, many camps had already been operating under the Nazi Empire. Chelmno was the first camp established on Polish soil. Victims were forced into vans where exhaust fumes were used to kill them. This system, however, was inefficient because the gas was not sufficiently lethal and van capacity was limited. As demand to kill larger numbers skyrocketed, this system was no longer viable. It required a far more extreme solution.
Between 1933 and 1945 the Nazis established over 40,000 concentration camps and prisons across Europe. The map shows the location of the main camps. (Endless Night: A History of the Holocaust)
AUSCHWITZ THE DEATH FACTORY
Auschwitz was a highly efficient killing machine, central to the Nazis’ plan to annihilate the Jews. Upon arrival in packed rail cars, victims were separated into those destined to die and those few who would live.
” …You could hear the children screaming, mother! Father! ”
~ Rose Schindler (Holocaust Survivor)
The weak and younger children were to be killed immediately. They were stripped of their possessions and coerced into large, tightly packed shower rooms. Shower heads would emit a potent poison gas, Zyklon-B. Victims dropped to the floor within minutes. Their bodies were then burned in the crematoriums.
” I can’t even describe how bad it was….how would anyone think people would do this to other people.”
~ Rose Schindler (Holocaust Survivor)
” First we were deprived of our address, then of our citizenship, then of our home, then of our family, then of our names, then of our life. ”
~ Elie Wiesel (Holocaust Survivor)
With little nutrition and horrendous conditions, these laborers eventually died and were replaced with new arrivals. Over one million of the six million Jews that perished at the hands of the Nazis died at Auschwitz together with 2.5 million other minorities.
” All of this could not be real….Just a nightmare perhaps? ”
~ Elie Wiesel (Holocaust Survivor)
” You would think you are in hell, worse than
hell…..They just wanted to kill, that’s it.”
~ Rose Schindler (Holocaust Survivor)
Today, Auschwitz is evidence to the horrors of the Holocaust, serving as a museum and sacred ground for those coming to pay their respects to the millions tortured and murdered here.
AFTERMATH AND EXCHANGE
Following the end of the war, people exchanged memories and new museums were established. New treaties and restitution funds were set aside for the victims.
Aftermath and Prevention
On January 27, 1945, Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz. Shortly after, on May 8, Germany surrendered. In all, the Nazis murdered 11 million innocent people. Of Europe’s 9 million Jews, only 3.5 million survived. The Holocaust moved world opinion making a case for the need of an independent state for the Jews to call home. On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel was born.
“It is still to painful, nearly 70 years after evidence from the death camps was revealed to a horrified world, for any Jew to death camps was revealed to a horrified world, for any Jew to attempt a dispassionate analysis of the mass extermination of attempt a dispassionate analysis of the mass extermination of between five and six million European Jews during the years of between five and six million European Jews during the years of Holocaust.”
~ David J. Goldberg (author of The Story of the Jews)
Memories and Museums
Victims, perpetrators and witnesses to the Holocaust exchanged memories of their experiences through books, recordings and museums. Today, 27 countries in all continents host museums commemorating the Holocaust in an effort to never forget this catastrophic event in the history of humankind.
For many world nations, the catastrophe of the Holocaust and feelings of guilt made a compelling case for a home for the Jewish People. It is widely believed that the Holocaust was an influential factor in the founding of the state Israel. Today, Israel stands strong in defense of any possibility of a similar horror ever happening again.
Treaties and Restitutions
Following the Holocaust the nations of the world established new treaties and agreements. Reparation agreements and restitution funds were allocated to the victims of Nazi horrors
A restitution fund that was established in 1988 made German and Austrian governments pay Holocaust survivors for damages every month for the rest of their lives. West Germany agreed to pay a total of 845 million
As Jews and other refugees attempted to leave Europe during the war, many countries refused to accept them. The 1951 Refugee Convention established the responsibilities of nations to grant asylum to refugees of war-torn countries.
Remembering the Holocaust
The Final Solution was the Nazi’s plan to exterminate the entire Jewish population throughout Europe. The plan almost succeeded- -murdering 6 million of Europe’s 9 million Jews.
Future generations have a duty to honor the memory of the victims killed by the Nazis and to remember the atrocities committed against them, beginning with Hitler’s exploration of his antisemitic philosophy, the Nazis’ encounter of the Final Solution, and the exchanges that followed the war.
Fewer and fewer survivors remain today to tell their stories and to stand witness to the horrors of the Holocaust. The world’s nations have an obligation to combat hatred and intolerance to prevent a Holocaust event from ever happening again.
Rose and Max Schindler, Holocaust survivors who fell in love at first sight, visited Auschwitz to pay their respects on the grounds where their family, friends, and fellow Jews were murdered.