“Auschwitz taught us what man is
capable of doing.
Hiroshima taught us what is at stake.”
Three Questions to Consider
Posed by Lucy
The War Against
the Jews (1975)
How was it possible for a
modern state to carry out the
systematic murder of an entire
people for no other reason than
that they were Jewish?
The Holocaust and Modernity
Only a modern state, with its capacity
for bureaucratic organization, mass
modern technology (e.g. railroads,
mass communications) could carry
out murder on such a scale.
The Holocaust was systematic
The Holocaust was centrally planned
and an expression of state policy. To
carry out the transport and murder of
millions took significant organization
and involved many government
agencies and tens of thousands of
Why the Jews?
Anti-Jewish attitudes deeply rooted in
European Christian culture and society.
Jews historically charged with the crime of
deicide (murder of God).
All measures taken by the Nazis against the
Jews had precursors in European history
(badges, ghettos, restrictive laws, etc).
This is a poster from
movie, The Eternal
Jew. It was shown in
Germany and depicted
Jews in the most
The History of anti-Semitism
Early Christianity: You cannot live
among us as Jews.
Middle Ages: You cannot live
Holocaust: You cannot live.
The Holocaust was systematic
The Nazis came to power in January 1933.
The systematic murder of Jews didn’t begin
The Holocaust was preceded by government
policies designed to isolate the Jews and
condition the population to accept antiJewish policies.
Stages of the Holocaust
Anti-Jewish Legislation (1933-1935)
(a) Boycott of Jewish businesses in
Germany (April 1, 1933)
(b) Nuremberg Laws (1935) stripped
Jews of rights of citizenship and barred Jews
from education, professions, and public
spaces (parks, pools, theatres, etc). Jews
disappeared from German public life.
Stages of the Holocaust
*Kristallnacht (November 1938)
Anti-Jewish pogrom orchestrated by
Nazis after murder of German
diplomat by Jewish youth.
*Expulsion: Germany attempted to
expel many Jews from the Reich. Few
nations would accept Jewish refugees.
(Night of Broken Glass)
On November 9, 1938, the
Nazis orchestrated an
attack on Jews throughout
the Reich. Synagogues
and Jewish business were
burned. Jews were
arrested and interned. The
Jewish communities had
to pay for the damage to
States of the Holocaust (3)
The German invasion of Poland in
September 1939 brought millions of Jews
under German control in an area called
the General Government. Jewish ghettos,
reminiscent of the Middle Ages, were
established. Jews were segregated in
ghettos were they were systematically
starved and exploited as slave labour.
A child is
arrested in the
Ghetto Life (2)
Stages of the Holocaust (4)
The Final Solution
began with the invasion of Russia in June
• Nearly 2 million Jews murdered by
Einsatzgruppen (“special action” units)
• Method of killing (mass shooting) deemed
too slow and difficult for killers
Stages of the Holocaust (5)
Wannsee Conference (Jan 1942) SS
leaders (under Heydrich and Eichmann) met
in Berlin to confirm plans for “final
solution” to the Jewish question.
Extermination camps (1941-1944)
Millions of Jews killed at Auschwitz,
Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor and
Notice how the entrance
looks like a
Auschwitz was made up of three main camps and thirty-nine sub-camps where
prisoners did forced labor.
Auschwitz I had three purposes: capture Nazi enemies, create a forced labor
group, and ensure Germany’s safety by getting rid of certain groups.
Auschwitz II, Birkenau, was the main death camp.
Auschwitz III, Monowitz, was a.k.a. the Labor Education Camp where prisoners
were forced to work
Upon arrival, prisoners were either sent directly to the gas chambers or
were put to forced labor.
The 10-30% chosen for labor were mostly strong men from about age
eighteen to forty.
The young, old, or weak were sent to be killed.
After selection, prisoners stripped their clothes, and their belongings
were taken to “Kanada.”
Next, all of the hair on their bodies was painfully shaved off and they
were sent to take a shower.
Their left arm was tattooed with their identification number and they
were given uniforms with their ID number sewn on.
At first, the murdering was done close-range, but this left the killers
traumatized, so they looked for new methods.
They began using Hell Vans, where the carbon monoxide rigged to
the back would suffocate them.
The main killing methods were the gas chambers and medical
The prisoners would be shoved into the back of a truck, and it would drive
off into the woods
The exhaust fumes with carbon monoxide were hooked up to the back,
and the gasses would suffocate the prisoners to death.
“We could hear the screams, but we couldn’t see the people. They were
loaded in and murdered there. It was hell. That’s why we called these vans
Hell Vans.” ~Zofia Szalek, witness~
Chambers & Crematoria
Zyklon B, the gas used in the chambers and the Nazi’s best killing
method, was the pesticide used to kill lice on clothing.
The Nazis had to continue building more chambers and ovens
because they underestimated their rate of killing.
Before toilets and taps were built in the barracks, the prisoners went
to the bathroom in a huge hole covered by a wooden bar with holes.
When they got toilets, the prisoners were timed, and if they were in
the bathrooms to long, they would be beaten. Day’s Rations at best:
Breakfast- coffee or tea
Lunch- turnip and potato soup
Dinner- bread with either sausage, cheese, butter, or jam (Shuter,15)
The Nazis tried to blow up all of the gas chambers/crematoria and burn or
erase all records when they heard the Soviets were coming.
They evacuated the camp and began the death marches.
When the Soviets arrived, there was still some evidence such as piles of
corpses and undestroyed records.
The Soviets freed 7,600 prisoners, and the truth of the camps was out!
When the Soviets were rumored to be coming, the Nazis had to get
everyone out of the camps, so they started marching. If someone
fell from being too sick or tired to march, they were immediately
About 15,000 people died of starvation, being too cold, and exposure
on the marches. (“Auschwitz” n.p.)
The Nazis were eventually able to kill 2,000-3,000 people per hour at
There were about 1.3 million people that went into the camps, and
about 1.1 million were murdered!
Out of the 1.1 million killed, 90% of them were Jews!
1938 10,000 Jews
Main gate sign
“Arbeit Macht Frei”
Jourhaus - gate
Main bldg. & bunker
The roll call square
It was in this area that the
prisoners were counted
every morning &
evening, & assigned to
their work. Punishment
measures were announced
& carried out here
publicly to intimidate the
prisoners. As the number
of prisoners increased, the
roll-call procedure also
became longer & more
prisoners were brought to
roll-call & included in the
The prisoner’s bath
The baths were the last station
of the admission procedure.
This is where newly arrived
prisoners had their heads
shaved, were disinfected,
showered & then sent to the
barracks dressed in their
prisoner clothing. Those
already imprisoned came here
once a week at the beginning later less frequently - to
"bathe," a procedure that
according to the recollection of
many survivors often involved
chamber is built
April 29, 1945 liberated by the US 7th
27,400 prisoners left alive in camp
Nazi doctors conducted as
many as 30 different types
of experiments of
They did these without
consent of the victims who
permanent disability, or in
the case of many…death.
In 1942, Sigmund Rascher and
others conducted high-altitude
experiments on prisoners at Dachau.
•Eager to find out how best to save
German pilots forced to eject at high
altitude, they placed inmates into lowpressure chambers that simulated
altitudes as high as 68,000 feet and
monitored their physiological
response as they succumbed and died.
•Rascher was said to dissect victims'
brains while they were still alive to
show that high-altitude sickness resulted
from the formation of tiny air bubbles in
the blood vessels of a certain part of the
•Of 200 people subjected to these
experiments, 80 died outright and the
•To determine the most effective means for treating
German pilots who had become severely chilled
from ejecting into the ocean, or German soldiers
who suffered extreme exposure on the Russian
front, Rascher and others conducted freezing
experiments at Dachau.
•For up to five hours at a time, they placed victims
into vats of icy water, either in aviator suits or
naked; they took others outside in the freezing cold
and strapped them down naked.
•As the victims writhed in pain, foamed at the
mouth, and lost consciousness, the doctors
measured changes in the patients' heart rate, body
temperature, muscle reflexes, and other factors.
•When a prisoner's internal body temperature fell to
79.7°F, the doctors tried rewarming him using hot
sleeping bags, and scalding baths.
•For the benefit of the German Army, whose
frontline soldiers suffered greatly from gas
gangrene, a type of progressive gangrene, doctors
at the Ravensbruck concentration camp
performed studies to test the effectiveness of
sulfanilamide and other drugs in curbing such
•They inflicted battlefield-like wounds in
victims, then infected the wounds with bacteria
such as streptococcus, tetanus, and gas gangrene.
•The doctors aggravated the resulting infection by
rubbing ground glass and wood shavings into the
wound, and they tied off blood vessels on either
side of the injury to simulate what would happen
to an actual war wound.
•Victims suffered intense agony and serious injury,
and some of them died as a result.
•In an effort to find ways to more
effectively multiply the German
race, Dr. Josef Mengele
performed experiments on twins
at Auschwitz in hopes of
plumbing the secrets of multiple
•After taking all the body
measurements and other living
data he could from selected twins,
Mengele and his collaborators
dispatched them with a single
injection of chloroform to the
•Researchers at Buchenwald
concentration camp developed a
method of individual execution by
injecting Russian prisoners with
phenol and cyanide.
•Experimenters also tested various
poisons on the human body by
secreting noxious chemicals in
prisoners' food or shooting inmates
with poison bullets.
•Victims who did not die during
these experiments were killed to
allow the experimenters to perform
•To determine if people had any natural
immunities to tuberculosis, and to develop
a vaccine against the disease, Dr. Kurt
Heissmeyer injected live tubercle bacilli
(bacteria that are a major cause of TB)
into the lungs of inmates at the
Neuengamme concentration camp.
•About 200 adult subjects died, and
Heissmeyer had 20 children from
Auschwitz hung in an effort to hide
evidence of the experiments from
approaching Allied forces.
Bone, Muscle, and Joint
•To learn if a limb or joint from one
person could be successfully attached to
another who had lost that limb or joint,
experimenters at Ravensbruck
amputated legs and shoulders from
inmates in useless attempts to
transplant them onto other victims.
•They also removed sections of bones,
muscles, and nerves from prisoners to
study regeneration of these body parts.
•Victims suffered excruciating pain,
mutilation, and permanent disability as a
•Dr. Hans Eppinger and others at
Dachau conducted experiments on
how to make seawater drinkable.
•The doctors forced roughly 90
Gypsies to drink only seawater while
also depriving them of food.
•The Gypsies became so dehydrated
that they reportedly licked floors
after they had been mopped just to
get a drop of fresh water.
• The experiments caused enormous
pain and suffering and resulted in
serious bodily injury.
• Few today would disagree about denouncing the Nazi
experimenters as barbaric and their experiments as little
more than sadistic torture executed under the guise of
• As such, many feel that findings from those studies should
never be published or used. However, some of the research
resulted in data that potentially could save lives today.
• Nazi hypothermia studies, for instance, have been cited in
the medical literature for decades, and recently several
scientists have sought to use the data in their own work.
Examples of Jewish Resistance
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (1943)
Revolt of the Sonderkommando at
Sobibor Uprising (1943)
Jews as partisans
Thousands of acts of individual resistance
1943, the surviving
Jews in the Warsaw
They held off the
Nazis for nearly
three weeks before
they were subdued.
Why was resistance limited?
There was little support in the larger
Jews were deceived about their fate.
Nazi retaliation threatened the entire
Family members protected each other.
Dehumanization of victims diminished
capacity to resist.
Why was resistance limited? (2)
The Jewish experience with persecution
“conditioned” Jews to accept their fate.
The concept of the total annihilation of the
Jewish communities of Europe was
inconceivable to the victims.
From 1935 until the outbreak of war, many
Jews tried to leave the Reich (Germany and
Austria), but found few nations willing to
Why? Economies suffering by depression
had little capacity to absorb refugees. AntiJewish attitudes pervasive among world
leaders and among larger populations.
International Response (2)
After war broke out, opportunities to
rescue Jews diminished.
Historians debate whether nations
responded adequately to the Holocaust.
Allies threatened Nazi leaders with
punishment for crimes against the Jews and
International Response (3)
Some Jews did
manage to find
sanctuary. This is a
visa for a Jewish
person admitted to
International Response (4)
Could Allies have done more, such as bomb
Auschwitz or the rail networks leading to death
camps? Were there opportunities to ransom the
surviving Jews in Nazi occupied Europe?
Of all the nations of the western world, Canada’s
response was the most dismal. Between 1933 and
1946, Canada admitted only 5,000 Jewish
refugees, fewer than Cuba, Paraguay and the
Issues in Holocaust Studies
Origins of the Holocaust
• Intentionalism (the straight road) Hitler planned
the annihilation of European Jews from the start.
There is evidence of this in Mein Kampf (1924)
• Functionalism (the twisted path) The decision to
annihilate Europe’s Jews emerged gradually in
response to wartime developments. By the
summer of 1941, the direction was assured.
Issues in Holocaust Studies (3)
Christianity and the Holocaust: To
what extent did long-standing Christian
anti-Semitism make the Holocaust
possible? Did the organized churches
fail to respond morally to the plight of
Christianity and the Holocaust
criticized the silence
of Pope Pius XII.
of the killings by the
Hitler’s policy toward
Roles in the Holocaust
Who were the perpetrators? Where they
monsters or ordinary people? There
have been many attempts to understand
the behaviour of perpetrators. The sad
truth is that few individuals resisted
orders to kill Jews.
Adolph Eichmann: Perpetrator
Adolph Eichmann was
hung in Israel in 1961
for his role in the
murder of 600,000
Arendt covered the
trial and referred to the
“banality of evil”.
Roles in the Holocaust
By far the largest group in Europe were
bystanders. To varying degrees they knew
what was taking place, but did nothing.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil
is that good men do nothing.”
– Edmund Burke
Roles in the Holocaust
There were 11-12 million victims of the
Holocaust, including Jews, Gypsies,
political prisoners, Jehovah Witnesses,
“Not every victim was Jewish, but every
Jew was a victim.” – Elie Wiesel
Roles in the Holocaust
Despite grave risk to themselves and their
families, some individuals and
communities rescued Jews.
What do you think that rescuers had in
Oskar Schindler saved
1,000 Jews (700 men
and 300 women) in
Crakow. His heroism
was the subject of the
film, Schindler’s List.
The White Rose
Brother and sister, Hans
and Sophie Scholl (left
and centre in photo) were
students who organized
resistance to the Nazis.
They were murdered by
the Nazis for their heroic
As in the case of all historical events, there
is much about the Holocaust that is subject
Some people claim that the Holocaust
never took place or that the number of
victims has been greatly exaggerated.
Holocaust Denial (2)
There is no legitimate debate about the
reality and extent of the Holocaust any
more than there is debate about whether
World War I or the French Revolution
occurred. There are mountains of evidence
including documents and testimonies by
eyewitness, including perpetrators, victims
Famous Holocaust Quotes
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not
speak out-Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak
The Holocaust illustrates the consequences
of prejudice, racism and stereotyping on a
society. It forces us to examine the
responsibilities of citizenship and confront
the powerful ramifications of indifference
"When I came to power, I did not want the
concentration camps to become old age
pensioners homes, but instruments of
terror." - Adolf Hitler