Nazi Germany

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The Jewish community suffered to a huge extent from Nazi propaganda, terror and repression between 1935 and 1945. Persecution on the Jewish community varied from the destruction of Jewish businesses and homes to the ‘final solution’ plan to wipe out the Jewish race. Key individuals such as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels played an integral part in the propaganda, terror and repression on the Jewish community between 1933 and 1945. After Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany in January 1933 his drive to achieve a ‘volksgemeinschaft’ began to take effect on the Jewish community.

Hitler aimed to achieve a society compromising of strong, healthy Aryans. In ‘Mein Kampf’, Hitler further developed the idea of the Jews as an evil race struggling for world domination. Hitler believed the Jewish race was vastly inferior. He blamed the Jews for every problem Germany faced and believed they were the cause of defeat in World War 1. In 1933 anti-Jewish action began from Hitler youth and SA activists ordered by Adolf himself. The Nazi party’s propaganda (led by Joseph Goebbels, ministry of propaganda) campaigned against the Jewish community.

It was the central tool that the Germans used to sway the hearts and minds of the German people. Pamphlets were widely given explaining the sub-human character of the Jewish race. The word ‘sub-human’ entered newspapers and radio and was soon a part of everyday language to describe Jews. SA party activists soon started their own anti-Jewish campaign which began the terror on the Jewish community in 1933. SA men began to stand in front of Jewish shops to warn off customers and Jews were excluded from Government jobs. Other methods were also used to separate Jews from the rest of society.

All schools had to give lessons on how the Jews were working to destroy Germany and Jewish children were no longer able to attend school or university. Jewish property was being sold at low prices to Aryan firms or individuals. Tens of thousands of Jews left Germany although many stayed either because they were to poor or because they believed the persecutions would die down in time. Such propaganda was put into practice by Joseph Goebbels and had a huge, detrimental impact to the quality of living for the Jewish community. In 1935 the Nuremberg laws were introduced to Germany to avoid losing support from the radicals.

All citizenship rights were taken from the Jewish people living in Germany. The right to vote was withdrawn as well as the right to hold an office of State. Other anti-Semitic laws were also introduced during 1935 which forbid marriages and sexual relations between Jews and citizens of Germany. Adolf Hitler also inspired anti-Semitism acts in other countries. Anti-Semitism was active in France, Hungary, England and in the United States from various anti-Semitism activist parties. Such groups began to demonstrate similar behaviours of the SA such as rallies and general mistreatment of Jews.

Joseph Goebbels aimed for the Berlin Olympics of 1936 to be a propaganda triumph. Employed by Hitler, Leni Riefenstahl directed the film ‘Olympia’ which followed the Berlin Olympics. One aspect of the film focused on the Nazi idealisation of the classical Greek body as the perfect Aryan form. Such idealisation further increased the anti-Semitic practices in Europe, and in particular Germany. Joseph Goebel’s was successful once more in encouraging anti-Semitism views and behaviours into German and European societies. Nazi terror and repression stepped up again in 1938 when a young Jew shot and killed an official of the German embassy in Paris.

Hitler responded by banning Jewish newspapers and fining the community. On November 9, Goebbels organised a mass number of SS and SA to attack Jews, Jewish property and Jewish businesses. Thousands of windows from Jewish shops were smashed, which covered the pavement of broken glass leading to the name of ’Crystal Night’. The amount of damages came to twenty-five million marks, and to add further grief to the Jews, the Germans added a one billion mark fine. Over one hundred Jews lost their lives and many more were seriously injured.

Thirty thousand Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps and surviving businesses were confiscated by the state. By 1939, there was a significant decrease in the Jewish population of Germany. With three-hundred thousand Jews in Germany, a further 2 million were under Hitler’s power after the capture of Poland. The introduction of the ghettos, in particular the ‘Warsaw ghetto’, saw Jews dying at a rate of four thousand a day from starvation and no medical help. The ghettos were walled up similar to a prison, and if someone did escape they were usually killed by German soldiers.

Hard labour, malnutrition, overcrowding and appalling sanitary conditions made ghetto life extremely hard. Many died of starvation and disease. Terror on the Jews further intensified in 1941. Groups of about three thousand soldiers were ordered to kill any remaining Jews across recently gained German territory, including men, women and children. After the Germans conquered Western Europe and had invaded Russia, eight and a half million more unwanted Jews were under Hitler’s control. During January 1942, the ‘Wannsee’ conference took place to find a solution on how to deal with the remaining Jews.

They decided on a plan called the ‘final solution’ where special extermination camps were set up in Poland. With this plan, Jews were removed from ghettos and their homeland and packed into freight wagons. They then undertook a selection process to find those suitable for work. Those useful were put to work until death, while the others were stripped naked, deprived of possessions and killed in gas chambers before being burned in large ovens. Around 6 million Jews were killed from Nazi terror, the most being killed in death camps. Only 100,000 Jews survived the camps.

The impact of the Holocaust varied from region to region and nowhere was the Holocaust more intense and sudden than in Hungary. Hungary deported 438,000 Jews to Auschwitz in 47 days. In Romania it was primarily the Romanians themselves who slaughtered the country’s Jews. Toward the end of the war, however, when Germany was close to defeat, the Romanian government found more value in living Jews who could be held for ransom or used as leverage with the West. Bulgaria permitted the deportation of Jews from neighbouring Thrace and Macedonia, but government leaders faced stiff opposition to the deportation of native Bulgarian Jews.

In conclusion Nazi propaganda, terror and repression between 1935 and 1945 had a huge, detrimental impact on the Jewish community. Joseph Goebbels led the propaganda against the Jews that helped raise anti-Semitism views in Europe and around the world. Adolf Hitler was primarily responsible for the terror and repression on the Jewish community after putting into action the numerous laws and murderous acts which took the lives of around 6 million Jewish men, women and children.

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