Holocaust Remembrance Day

Special to the S-E

This Friday, Jan. 27, is Holocaust Remembrance Day. The United Nations declared it a day for observance in 2005, to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazis’ Auschwitz death camp in Poland. Prior to WWII there were 18 million Jews, with an estimated six million killed due to Adolph Hitler’s extermination plan, “The Final Solution.”

Soviet troops liberated the few inmates they found at Auschwitz; before their arrival, the Nazis sent the other inmates on a death march, trying to avoid discovery of what was happening at the facility. At Auschwitz, 1.1 million people were gassed with the cyanide-based insecticide Zyklon B. Ninety percent of Auschwitz victims were Jews.

Germany itself saw the death of 4.3 million Nazi soldiers and the loss of up to a half million civilians. Of U.S. soldiers who fought in WWII, 291,557 died in combat. All told, a desire for inordinate control led to the deaths of 60 million people worldwide.

Beyond six million Jews perishing, there were another 11 million Holocaust victims: people who were deaf, mentally or physically disabled, drug and alcohol addicted, Freemasons (regarded then as part of a “Jewish conspiracy”), Jehovah’s Witnesses, LGBT, Roman Catholics, Romany gypsies, Slavs, Soviet POWs, prostitutes, Spanish Republicans, people of color (especially African-Germans), vagrants, anarchists, communists, dissidents, leftists, socialists, trade unionists, common criminals (often recruited to become guards) or, people otherwise considered non-Aryan, or not useful to the Aryan concept of a “Master Race.”

The rise of Hitler

When Soviet civilian deaths are added, which included many Jews, the number of holocaust victims is 17 million.

Hitler came to power in 1933, having learned to tone down his frowned-upon anti-Semitism, and to focus on jobs, and making Germany great again. But his true sentiments quickly showed when, in spring of 1933, he instituted boycotts of Jewish businesses, barred Jews from the national health plan, and then restricted Jews from going to school. (The thinking class at first ignored boycott orders, until Hitler called for death or imprisonment for failure to obey.)

In 1941, Hitler decided to proceed with extermination of the Jews. The massacres began in June, with transport from ghettos to concentration-death camps: Aushwitz, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Maly Tostenets, Sobibor, Treblinka and others. Priests who spoke out about Nazi actions – 1,700 of them -- were sent to the first established camp, Dachau.

Those with a moral calling to hide Jews faced the death penalty.

The Nazi’s “Solution” was intentionally secretive. In the beginning, many Jews had no idea what awaited them after their transport. Husbands would be sent away, then wives and children were told they could join them on the next transport. Often they were told they were going “East,” to be “resettled;” some were forced to write home and tell how wonderful their new lives were.

Those not sent to the gas chambers were starved, worked to death or died from disease. The first report about the Jews’ treatment was in 1942 in The New York Times; they had a front-page story about the “unconfirmed” fate of the people sent to the camps. Slaughter was speculated. But camp escapees had such horrific stories--they were hard to believe.

Read the full story in the Jan. 25 edition of the Statesman-Examiner. An e-edition will be available Jan. 25 at http://www.statesmanexaminer.com/e-edition.