The Holocaust is the time between 30th of January, 1933 when Adolf Hitler was declared Germany’s chancellor and 8th of May, 1945 when Europe officially ended the Second World War. Throughout this period, Jews who were in Europe became subjected to increasingly harsher persecutions which eventually led to 5,000 Jewish communities being destroyed and to the murder of over 6 million Jews, including 1.5 million Jewish children. These deaths were two thirds of the Jews population in Europe and a third of all the Jews in the world. Jews who got killed during the Holocaust were not the causalities involved in the European fight during WWII, but they were the fatalities of Germany’s systematic and deliberate attempt to wipe out the entire population of Jewish people in Europe, a plan that Hitler regarded as the “Final solution”. This essay describes several effects that the Jewish population endured during the Holocaust in WWII. The effects were physical, psychological, spiritual, and emotional. This paper intents to delve into the perceived reasons for the Holocaust, then explore the physical, psychological, spiritual, and emotional effects that plagued the Jewish population during WWII. The paper also highlights why the entire Jewish population had to engage in the war and it reevaluates how their human rights had been invalidated and why it took so long for other countries to come to their aid.
Initially, Germany had been defeated in WWI, and was feeling humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles that lessened its prewar region; moreover, it significantly lessened its military forces, authorized the country to recognize its guilt in engaging in the WWI, and specified it to compensate the allied authorities. Since, the German empire was destroyed, a fresh parliamentary government was formed, and it was called Weimer Republic. The country suffered greatly from economic instability. Adolf Hitler was initially Nazi’s (National Socialist German Workers) leader. He became the chancellor when his party won a considerable percentage of votes. As a result, the party gained threshold and provoked clashes among the communists.
The Nazi party ruled Germany for 12 years. Within this period, an innermost belief was evolved that a certain group of people, who were dangerous, existed in the society and, therefore, there was a need for them to be eliminated in order to allow the German society to survive and flourish. These people included the Russians, the Poles and the Gypsies, but the central focus was placed on the Jews. The Jews were conservative people in respect to their actions, beliefs and behaviors. However, in spite of the numerous actions and efforts that they made to appear transformed, that did not help to change the perceptions of the Germans towards them. The government also conducted a propaganda campaign that was vicious against weak political opponents such as the Weimar government, as well as the Jews who were perceived to be the cause of the ills of Germany. The Jews were declared by the Nazi in their weekly newspaper as the cause of the country’s misfortune. The influence that the newspaper created was far reaching and resulted to a half a million newspaper copies being distributed weekly. Therefore, when Hitler became the chancellor, he called for fresh elections in order to gain full Reichstag control. The party employed government resources to crush other parties; it banned political meetings and arrested other parties`s leaders.
During the election campaign on 27th of May, 1933, Reichstag building was set ablaze and the columnist was blamed for the act. The fire symbolized the end of democracy in Germany because on the day that followed the government abolished individual protection and rights: press freedom, expression and assembly freedom, and privacy rights. The Nazis won the elections and established a dictatorship government that devised rules and acts to silence critics. The party also established a military and police force that was sophisticated. Once the infrastructure of police was in place, Nazi opponents were beaten, terrorized and sent to the camps of concentration that were mainly constructed to imprison them. Dachau was one of such camps that were eventually converted to a brutal Jews concentration camp. When Hitler gained absolute control over the country, his campaign to eliminate the Jews progressed.
The Nazis complained that pure German culture had been corrupted by the Jewish mongrel and foreign influence. They proclaimed the Jews to be cowardly and evil, whereas the Germans were honest, courageous and hardworking. On the other hand, Nazis claimed that the Jews that majored in the press, commerce, finance, literature, arts and theater weakened the economy and culture of Germany. As a result, the massively supported government propaganda developed an anti-Semitism race that was diverse from the anti-Semitic tradition longstanding in Christian Churches. The Nazi started to isolate the Jews from the rest of the society. As the fittest and the strongest, the Germans were predestined to rule, while the racially adulterated and weak, Jews were doomed to extinction.
Hitler started to restrict all Jews with terror and legislation that entailed the burning of book that Jews wrote, eliminating Jews from public schools and professions, confiscating their property and businesses and barring them from participating and attending public events. This was the Nuremberg Law, the most renowned anti-Jewish legislation, enacted on 15th of September1935.This law formed the basis that was legal to exclude the Jews from the German society. The majority of Jews tried to flee Germany. Thousands of Jews managed to immigrate to countries like England, Holland, France, Belgium and Czechoslovakia. It proved difficult for the Jews to escape from Europe. As a result, the Jews encountered immigration quotas that were stiff in the majority of the countries in the world. Even when the necessary documents were obtained, they could wait for long before they could leave. In some cases, desperate families sent their children first.
In July1938, representatives of 32 courtiers gathered in Evian, a town in France, to resolve the immigration and refugee problem that the Nazi had created in Germany. However, nothing useful was decided or done at the Conference. Therefore, it was apparent to the Nazis and their leader Hitler that no country needed the Jews, and thus, he could not encounter any resistance in implementing Jewish policies. In autumn of 1941, Europe became sealed in effect to the majority of legal emigration and as a result, the Jewish who had not escaped were trapped in Europe. On, 9-10th ofNovember1938, attacks became violent, Jews were killed, their businesses and homes destroyed and looted, and synagogues burned. The majority of Jews were killed and beaten; 30, 000 Jewish people were arrested and taken to the concentration camps. Germany employed the superiority of their military forces to terrorize and defeat the Jews. Worst of all was when Germany started using massive appraisals threats. Hundreds of Jews were shot due to the resistance of even one Jewish person. In thousands, Nazis, as well as their allies, searched European countryside and cities with great efficiency to capture the Jews, catching every Jewish who attempted to escape. The Jews became abandoned by the rest of the world. They had no ways to defend themselves, and there was no country they could turn to or call their own. As a result, the Jews remained unmoved to their doom, and many of them assisted the Nazi’s in arresting and deporting their fellow Jews to the camps of death.
At the beginning of WWII, Poland was invaded by the Germans who established ghettos for the Jews to reside. Out of the total population in Poland, 10% comprised of the Jewish. They were deported forcibly from their homes to go and live in the ghettos that were crowded, isolating them from the society. This move aided the Jew’s deportation to the camps of death. The ghettos lacked essential food, space, sanitary facilities and water needed by numerous people living within the constricted boundaries. As a result, many Jews died of starvation and deprivation.
In June 1941, Germany invaded Russia and started its “Final Solution” operation. They formed four killing groups,namely Einsatzgruppen A, Einsatzgruppen B, Einsatzgruppen C, and Einsatzgruppen D. These groups gathered Jews from every town and marched them towards huge pits, which had been dug earlier, stripped and lined them, then shot them using automatic weapons. The dying and the dead would fall to be buried massively, and above 1.3 million Jews were murdered in such a manner. On 20th of January, 1942, top officials of the German government held a “Wannsee Conference” to coordinate civilian and military branches to arrange the murder of Jews in mass numbers. This meeting marked the start of comprehensive and full-scale extermination operation, and laid the basis for the organization that was started immediately once the conference ended. While in the process of eliminating the Jews, other ethnic and national groups were murdered such as gypsies, Polish intellectuals, and Society war prisoners, however, the Jews were systematically marked for total annihilation. In each country that the Nazis overrun, Jews were compelled to put on badges marking them. They would be rounded up in concentration camps or ghettos and then transported to centers where they would be killed. Death camps were special factories where the murder of Jews took place. Thousand were shipped to the death camp and killed after being stripped of their possessions and valuables. They could be gassed until they die, then their corpses would be burned in crematoriums, designed specifically for that purpose. The majority of young healthy and strong Jews were instantly killed.
The Final Solution and the German effort in war needed a great deal of manpower. As a result, Jews were reserved in huge pools to provide slave labor. The Jews who were imprisoned in labor and concentration camps were compelled to work whenever laborers were needed in munitions and other factories. They could work from morning till night without adequate shelter and food. As a result, the majority of Jews died in the factories. When German army retreated, the Jews were marched towards the controlled territories. The sick and the starving ones were forced to march for several miles. Many of them were shot and died as they marched.
The Jew’s power to resist was limited due to the overwhelming repression of the Germans and the existence of many allies in several local populations. However, the resistance of the Jews did occur in various forms. Staying clean, alive and observing the religious traditions of the Jews constituted their resistance in the dehumanizing conditions that they were exposed by the Germans. The Jews also started an armed revolt in Vilna ghettos. The biggest ghetto revolt was the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The Jews fought from sewers and bunkers for 27 day and evaded being captured. However, the Germans burned all buildings and destroyed the ghetto. All the resistance acts that the Jews staged were immensely unsuccessful before the superior forces of German. However, they were extremely significant spiritually, giving hope to the Jews that the Nazis will also be eventually defeated.
The concentration camps were gradually liberated when Allies started attacking the German troops. For instance, Maidanek was liberated in July 1944 and Auschwitz in January 1945 by the Soviet forces. Bergen-Belsen was librated in April 1945 by the British forces, and Dachau - the same year by the Americans. Initially, there were various steps that the Nazis took before the Final Solution. The operation was reported to the German public. In addition, several foreign correspondents reported on the operation. Even if the information failed to reach the West earlier enough, the report was smuggled and arrived in Britain in 1942. Thereafter, the details of the Final Solution operation reached all allied countries. The government of America confirmed the operation report to the leaders of the Jewish towards the end of November 1942. The Allies were made aware of the Nazis persecutions. In spite of being aware of the Nazis activities, the responses from the Allies towards the destructions and the perception of the Jews in Europe proved to be inadequate. It was only in the beginning of 1944 that an agency “War Refuge Band” was formed for the purpose of providing express endeavors to save the Nazi persecution victims. Before the agency was formed, all the Allies had been extremely reluctant and little efforts had been made. On 17th of December, 1942, the Allies condemn the atrocities against Jews. This was the lone declaration that the Allies made before 1944.
The Allies failed to make any attempt to request the local people in Europe to stop offering the Nazis assistance in their orderly Jews murder. Even after the War Refuge Band was established, as well as several rescue efforts initiated, Allies declined from bombing the Auschwitz death camp or the railroad that led the camp, in spite of the fact that the bombers of the Allies were at that moment involved in bombing the factories that were near the camp, even though everyone was certain of its function and existence. On the other hand, Allies failed to deal with the refugee problem. Initially, the refugees had sought to gain access to America; however, they were excluded by the stringent policies of the American immigration system. Furthermore, the considerably small visa quotas that existed remained unfilled, even though the amount of applicants was relatively more that the available number of places. The countries that the Great Britain, as well as the United States invited were informed that no single country will be requested to alter the laws of immigration. In addition to that, Britain agreed to get involved, provided that Palestine did not get considered. Consequently, the conferences that were conducted in Bermuda (1943) and Evian (1938) to deal with the problem of refugees failed to contribute in providing a solution. At Bermuda, Conference delegates dealt with the issue of the Jews who had managed to escape to safer lands instead of handling the matter of the Jews entrapped in Europe.
The Allies could have saved the Jews from further persecution by mobilizing practical evaluations which would have helped the Jews rescue. These measures could include the provision of permission to refugees to get temporary admission to Allies countries; the Allies could have made the entry requirements that were stringent easier. The Allies could also have offered unequivocal and frequent warning to local populations and Germans throughout Europe that people who will participate in murdering the Jews will be held accountable. Alternatively, the Allies would have bombed the death camp to stop the murdering of the Jews.
The Holocaust’s major element as the genocidal machine of the Nazi aimed at not only destroying the Jewish Community in Europe, but also at destroying the Jewish seed. The Holocaust was not only focused on the racial existence of the Jews, but it was also against the proactive potential of the Jewish people. The numbers of Jewish people who were imprisoned and killed in the concentration camps can challenge the ability of a person to comprehend the suffering enmity that the Jews experienced. Several exterminations were repeated in the ghettos; they also continued at arrival in the camps, and were repeated at each medical examination persistently. Any Jew who showed any signs of a physical disease was eliminated. This resulted to enormous deprivation and suffering.
Another aspect is that those Jews who lived in Western Europe, as well as Germany failed to perceive themselves as the separate state minority in the countries they lived. The Jews claimed to be diverge from the rest of the citizens in regard to religion. They desired to possess equal and full rights as the nationalists since they felt that they had become an integral constituent of every country in regard to nationality. For instance, in German, out of half a million Jews, two-thirds of their population was involved in commerce and trade, one forth was working in industries and one-eighth in medicine, law and public service. Before the Second World War, during the Republic of Weimar, the socioeconomic position was overwhelmingly upper and middle class. On the other hand, some Jews gained high positions in the political arenas of the countries in which they resided.
The other Holocaust element was that anti-Semitism became much more evident due to social antagonism, inferior status and economic depression of Jewish people that existed in some parts of Europe, more especially, in Eastern Europe. On the other hand, in Romania, Hungary and Poland, the Jews were claimed to be a foreign element in the indigenous population who occupied high civil and profession positions that belonged to the local population by right. In spite of the anti-Jewish policies and the economic depression, religious self-identity led to increased levels of cultural creativity. Jews were the ones responsible for publishing periodicals and daily newspapers; Jews in thousands joined various political parties and Jewish trade unions, Zionist youth movements; and the Jewish theaters exhibited drama of high quality. In some parts of Europe, especially in Lithuania and Poland, Yiddish and Hebrew school systems existed and young students studied in the yeshivot, whose superiority, in Poland particularly, was recognized all over the Jewish world. These elements contributed to the Holocaust.
On 8th of May 1945, WWII ended. At the end of the war, around 10 million people were in the concentration and Nazi camps, war camps and units of forced labor. Out of 10 million, 200, 000 Jews out of around 6.5 million survived. They had no countries or homes to go to. Jews from France, Hungary, Belgium and Holland returned to their origin countries. However, many Jews from Lithuania and Poland, who survived, were rejected by their countries of origin in spite of the persuasion and efforts of America and other nations. This was because they had no friends or family in their original communities and homeland. On the other hand, the Holocaust survivors found themselves living in DP (Displaced Camps) waiting to be immigrated to Israel. These were Jewish survivors from Austria, Poland, Italy, and Germany. The Jewish found Poland to be no longer viable to the Jewish community, furthermore, those Jews who survived became objects of murder by the Polish nationalists. The Holocaust survivors were predestined to wait several times and for long months and even years to be able to immigrate to Israel. The determination of the survivors to go back to their homeland became the major contribution towards the gaining of Israel’s independence, as well as the Jewish life and State renewal.
The Holocaust psychological effects were complex and long range on the mental condition of the survivors. For the survivors to recover from the Holocaust shock that they experienced, they had to go psychic settings. This implied that some form of denial or psychic numbing, depersonalization or derealization had to occur. On the other hand, the senses of the survivors became heightened, or in some cases they lived as animals that are hunted, constantly being alert for threat. Furthermore, any vengeful, aggressive impulse became constant for them. Apathy became a period filled with acute danger in that any Jew who arrived and was exhausted from the ghettos or dehumanizing conditions of transportation and remained being in shock died. Alternatively, the Holocaust survivors who retreated to themselves for long became shunned by the rest of the group and became deprived of support. The survivors developed ways to manage with the Holocaust horrors through sustenance of the hope of family union. However, upon liberation, they were not only confronted with the perishing of their family members, but also with the horrifying circumstance of their death. The survivors became pervasive and developed a depressive temper with a morose behavior . They also developed general apathy that alternated with irregular feeling of helplessness, anger outbursts, shortness and insecurity, less interest and initiative, significant psychosomatic stress prevalence, persecutory expression and attitude.
The Holocaust survivors developed a silence reaction that proved to be extremely damaging to their psychological state, their families, as well as to the integration of new cultures. As a result, the silence reaction intensified the sense of isolation that resulted to the formation of another barrier to the process of mourning. On the other hand, the silence imposed by others proved to be particularly painful to those survivors determined to bear witness. Therefore, these offered the survivors the option of withdrawing completely into newly formed families.
The other psychological effects of Holocaust were inability to talk and work, fears and anxieties of being persecuted, for instance, the fear of police officers who were uniformed became apparent. The Holocaust survivors also developed feeling of guilt because they had survived the persecution when so many people had died, they showed signs of nightmares, death, panic attacks, as well as several psychosomatic symptoms. On the other hand, the survivors became agitated and anxious of their inner tensions, feeling helplessness and being constantly afraid and requesting to be accompanied all the time. The personality of the survivors changed, they showed less or more radical disruption in behavior, outlook and development. The deaths that occurred from the Holocaust denied the survivors the chance to not only have a physical mourning arrangement like the remains, the grave or the service, but also denied them the psychological ability to feel and absorb the deaths of their beloved ones and finish the process of mourning.
The conditions and the nutrition at the concentration camps were terrible and they turned the survivors to living corpses, musclemen. The rate of mortality was extremely high due to frost bites, multiple infections, atrocities injuries, respiratory tract disease, diarrhea, and chronic malnutrition. There was no housing or clothing. There were rampant cases of scabies and lice infections, as well as several infectious diseases like typhus. Even after liberation, in spite of the diseases being treated extensively, some of the survivors had developed defective conditions that were permanent. The survivors developed failing memory, increased fatigability, inability to concentration, irritability, emotional liability, restlessness, and sleep disturbance. The survivors also developed premature aging, ulcers, cardiovascular disease, coronary disease, arteriosclerosis, cerebrovascular diseases, arthritis and kidney stones.
Religion was one of the major contributions of the Holocaust. It has meant for the Jews who faced the most realities that were painful what it means to be a Jew. The Holocaust was the aspect that gave the Jews the options of choosing whether to remain being a Jew. The earliest experiences of psychological reaction when Jews learned about the Holocaust resulted to extreme unconscious and conscious anger directed at the non-Jewish world. It was observed as the effect of gentile indifference and assault. This was a painful experience since for the last thousands years, the gentile world had persecuted the Jews. Initially, from the time of Emancipation in around 1815, the Western Europe Jews desired to be equally treated, with the law protecting the right of people. Therefore, the Holocaust extremely affected the religion relationships. Since then, there has existed an irreversible burst in the relationship between the Jewish and the Christians. Initially, the anti-Semantic regimes allowed the Jews to convert, flee or assimilate their persecutors, however, during the Holocaust, no Jew escaped the executioner. The silence of the world smashed all the Jewish beliefs and traditions that the Gentiles would, and could control themselves and not use hate expressions.
The Holocaust experiences made the survivors desire to find a purpose in what had happened; that resulted to the development of a belief system that was viable. Some of the survivors found meaning in their lives through the use of creative resources in searching for a rationale or simply transmitting the horrifying incidents of the Holocaust to the unknown world. On the other hand, some of the survivors accomplished a similar goal by the relentless Nazi pursuit thus, reaffirming the belief that they had; justice exists even in the experience. For other survivors, the development of Israel as a state was a meaningful and good outcome. The majority of the survivors were in need of a life purpose, an aspect that resulted to the never ending reliving horrors of the past, or displacement or blanket denial. Such survivors started to believe that God does not exist, neither does a believe system exist that can maintain them during the times of a crisis like the Holocaust. The majority of the survivors started questioning the existence of God. The silence of God during the Holocaust raised painful questions, the awful reality that God’s chosen nation and people were almost wiped off the face of the earth while God remained silent. Therefore, the faith that the Jews had in their God became under scrutiny.
Holocaust survivors, who were emotionally affected, were families, children and mothers who had children. Jewish families traditionally invested everything in their children since they were highly valued, more especially mothers who played the larger part in upbringing, offering them heritage foundational values and self worth. However, the holocaust changed the perceptions of such emotions. Because of the difficulties, encountered by the parents, they developed severe impairment in their ability to respond to their growing children appropriately, setting limits, encouraging curiosity, and accepting their robust activity. The Holocaust experiences led to parents who viewed their children as the rewind of their personal encounter with destruction and death. This resulted to some parents giving varying responses to their children. Some of them became unable to invest emotionally in their children. They became preoccupied with their losses and mourning. On the other hand, the majority of them became emotionally spent. As a result, the resources that could have been used formerly in handling an extended family catastrophe became unavailable. Furthermore, the manner in which parents administered discipline became chaotic or rigidly ineffectual and hardly ever related to the children’s’ needs.
After WWII, the entire Jewish population engaged in serious evaluation of how Allies had invalidated their human rights and why it took so long for them to be rescued from persecutions. As a result, the UN (United Nations) was established in 1945 with the dedication to learn the lesson of failed experiments. However, the inclusion of principles of human rights within the founding UN charter was not uncontentious. It involved sustained campaigns by respected NGOs lobby, inclusive of the Jewish Committee of America. Together with other councils and federations, they argued that the contempt for human dignity that the world had witnessed throughout the Holocaust needed the introduction of international human rights. The mass killing of women, children and men all over Europe needed a passive or active alliance of their fellow Jews. An injunction of the Universal Declaration was formed that every human should be endowed with conscience and reason, and should therefore act towards other fellow human beings in a brotherhood spirit.
The essay has comprehensively discussed the ways in which the Holocaust severely affected the Jewish population during the Second World War. The essay has also elaborated the factors that led to the Holocaust and several spiritual, emotional, physical, as well as psychological effects of Holocausts on the Jews. It is apparent from the essay that the atrocities committed by the Nazis against the Jews were severe and against human dignity and rights.
There is no doubt that the effects of the Holocaust transformed the life of the Jewish people. The Jewish culture and economic situation have changed in comparison to the times of the Holocaust. Usually, the passing of time assists in relieving loss and helps to diminish the degree of grief in losing a community or a relative. However, it can be stated that time develops various perspectives that accentuate the significance of historical events. More than fifty years have passed, but what has the society learned from the Holocaust? Countries like Poland, Germany and other states where the Jews resided ought to ask themselves why several countries offered silent agreements on the deportation of the Jewish people. All the countries were either in the presence of the scenes, and even if they were far, they never lacked power, resources and information, thus they cannot be exempted from being held responsible for the crimes against humanity.