HOLOCAUST AND GENOCIDE

Section 3: The Holocaust

Holocaust (hol'ukôst", hō'lu–) [key], name given to the period of persecution and extermination of European Jews by Nazi Germany. Although anti-Semitism in Europe has a long history, persecution of German Jews began with Hitler's rise to power in 1933. Jews were disenfranchised, then terrorized in anti-Jewish riots (such as Kristallnacht), forced into the ghettos, their property seized, and finally were sent to concentration camps. After the outbreak of World War II, Hitler established death camps to secretly implement what he called “the final solution of the Jewish question.” Extermination squads were also sent to the fronts: In one operation alone, over 30,000 Jews were killed at Babi Yar (Ukr. Babyn Yar), outside Kiev. After 450,000 Jews were sent to death camps from the Warsaw Ghetto, news of their fate led the last 60,000 to rebel (1943), fighting until they were killed, captured, or escaped to join the resistance. The main Jewish resistance was spiritual: observing their religion and refraining from suicide, while Zionists evacuated some to Palestine. By the end of the war 6 million Jews had been systematically murdered. The Allies refused rescue attempts and American Jews were warned against attempting them. While the European churches were silent, some clergy and individual non-Jews saved many. The Danes sent most Danish Jews to Sweden in private boats while under German occupation.

After the war Nazi leaders were tried for war crimes at Nuremburg, and West Germany later adopted (1953) the Federal Compensation Law, under which billions of dollars were paid to those who survived Nazi persecution. In the mid-1990s a number of suits were filed against Swiss banks that held accounts belonging to Holocaust victims but had denied the fact and failed to restore the money. A settlement reached in 1998 established a $1.25 billion fund to be used to compensate those who can document their claims and, more generally, Holocaust survivors, the latter as restitution for undocumented accounts and for Swiss profits on Nazi accounts involving Holocaust victims' property. In 1998 the Roman Catholic Church issued a document acknowledging Catholic complicity in the long-standing European anti-Semitism that was background to the Holocaust. Under the terms of an agreement signed in 2000 by the United States and Germany, a $5 billion fund was established by the German government and German industry to compensate those who were slave or forced laborers or who suffered a variety of other losses under the Nazi regime.

The destruction of European Jewry has demanded a reevaluation by Jews the world over. The renascent Jewish community in the state of Israel, itself largely a byproduct of the Holocaust, now serves as a focal point for much of this energy. A vast literature consisting of histories, diaries, memoirs, poetry, novels, and prayers has emerged in an effort to understand the Holocaust in terms of its religious and secular implications. The secular materials attempt to explain how it happened and the reactions of the victims; some have suggested that an underlying and pervasive anti-Semitism in Germany was fueled by a deep and complete despair combined with a corrosive and unacknowleged sense of worthlessness that had been created by crushing and humiliating hardships and the disintegration of the Weimar Republic. The religious materials focus on the problem of whether one can still speak in traditional Jewish terms of a God, active in history, who rewards the righteous and who maintains a unique relationship with the Jewish people. Museums and memorials have been established in a number of cities worldwide to preserve the memory of the Holocaust.

genocide

genocide, in international law, the intentional and systematic destruction, wholly or in part, by a government of a national, racial, religious, or ethnic group. Although the term genocide was first coined in 1944, the crime itself has been committed often in history. It was initially used to describe the systematic campaign for the extermination of peoples carried on by Nazi Germany, in its attempts in the 1930s and 40s to destroy the entire European Jewish community, and to eliminate other national groups in Eastern Europe. In 1945, the charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal listed persecution on racial or religious grounds as a crime for which the victorious Allies would try Nazi offenders. It established the principle of the individual accountability of government officials who carried out the extermination policies. The United Nations, by a convention concluded in 1949, defined in detail the crime of genocide and provided for its punishment by competent national courts of the state on whose territory the crime was committed, or by international tribunal. Charging that the convention violated national sovereignty, especially in its provision for an international tribunal and in the potential liability of an individual citizen, the United States did not ratify it until 37 years later, in 1986. An international tribunal was established to prosecute genocide cases in the aftermath of the slaughter of more than 500,000 Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. In 1995 top civilian and military Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat leaders were charged by an international tribunal with genocide in the killing of thousands of Muslims during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

 
UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM
 

 

HOMEWORK FOR 2/10/12

Read the 2 documents entitles Night - Reading 001 and 002. Then answer the Night - 1170 document that has a series of questions.

 

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