The SD (Sicherheitsdienst) was a Nazi Party intelligence service. It was part of the SS (Schutzstaffel, Protection Squadron), an elite Nazi Party paramilitary organization that was under Heinrich Himmler’s control. Over the course of the Nazi era, the SD took on an increasingly prominent role in Nazi anti-Jewish policies. Most infamously, the SD was a key component of the Einsatzgruppen.
The July 20 plot was a failed attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. It involved a number of both civilian and military officials. The motivations of the conspirators and their place in the history of the Third Reich remain an area of intense debate.
Jan Karski, an underground courier for the Polish government-in-exile, was one of the first to deliver to the Western Allies testimony and evidence of Nazi atrocities in the Warsaw ghetto and of the deportation of Jews to killing centers.
The 1936 Berlin Olympic Games were more than just a worldwide sporting event, they were a show of Nazi propaganda, stirring significant conflict. Despite the exclusionary principles of the 1936 Games, countries around the world still agreed to participate.
Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany and its allies established more than 44,000 camps and other incarceration sites (including ghettos). The perpetrators used these locations for a range of purposes, including forced labor, detention of people deemed to be “enemies of the state,” and mass murder. Millions of people suffered and died or were killed. Among these sites was the Drancy transit camp in France.
The German-Soviet Pact was signed in August 1939. It paved the way for the joint invasion and occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that September. The pact was an agreement of convenience between the two bitter ideological enemies. It permitted Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union to carve up spheres of influence in eastern Europe, while pledging not to attack each other for 10 years. Less than two years later, however, Hitler launched an invasion of the Soviet Union.
The Burmese military has targeted the Rohingya people because of their ethnic and religious identity. The military’s actions constitute genocide and crimes against humanity. For many Rohingya victims and survivors, the future remains uncertain, as threats against their community continue.
We Will Never Die, a musical stage performance with a large cast and orchestra, raised awareness among Americans about the murder of European Jews. The pageant, written by Hollywood screenwriter Ben Hecht and sponsored by the Committee for a Jewish Army, was performed in several American cities during the spring and summer of 1943.
The Security Police (Sicherheitspolizei, SiPo) was a new German police organization created by SS leader and Chief of the German Police Heinrich Himmler in 1936. The Security Police united the criminal police (Kripo) and the political police (Gestapo). It was closely aligned with the SD (Sicherheitsdienst), the intelligence agency of the SS. The institution and individuals of the Security Police were major perpetrators of the Holocaust.
The United States remained neutral during the first two years of World War II, from September 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, to December 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. As the Axis forces expanded their territorial holdings in Europe and Asia, Americans debated whether to aid the Allied powers economically or militarily.
Nazi Germany’s persecution of Europe’s Jews was not a secret in the United States. Though some Americans protested Nazism, the US response during these early years was limited, in large part because Americans were suffering through the Great Depression and did not want to become entangled in an international conflict in the aftermath of World War I.
Between 1938 and 1941, Nazi Germany invaded and occupied much of Europe, bringing millions of Jews under its control. The United States remained neutral during this period. Though many Americans were sympathetic to the plight of Europe’s Jews, the majority did not want to increase immigration, nor see the United States become involved in World War II.
Between August 1946 and May 1948, the British government intercepted more than 50,000 Holocaust survivors seeking to resettle in Palestine. They interned these survivors in detention camps established on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.
Numerous organizations and individuals attempted to bring unaccompanied children, mostly German Jewish children, to the United States between 1933 and 1945. More than one thousand unaccompanied children escaped Nazi persecution by immigrating to the United States as part of these organized efforts. This article provides a summary of this work.
The 1939 Wagner-Rogers Bill is the common name for two identical congressional bills (one in the US House of Representatives and one in the US Senate) that proposed admitting 20,000 German refugee children to the United States outside of immigration quotas. Despite congressional hearings and public debate in the spring of 1939, the bills never came to a vote.
Judaism is a monotheistic religion, believing in one god. It is not a racial group. Individuals may also associate or identify with Judaism primarily through ethnic or cultural characteristics. Jewish communities may differ in belief, practice, politics, geography, language, and autonomy. Learn more about the practices and beliefs of Judaism.
After the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked US forces at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, bringing the United States into World War II, fear of espionage or sabotage by people of Japanese ancestry gripped the country. In the aftermath of the attack, the US government relocated approximately 120,000 people of Japanese descent—mostly American citizens—from their West Coast homes to “relocation centers” in remote areas of the country.
Edward R. Murrow was a pioneer in radio and television journalism in the mid-twentieth century.
As the events of the early 1930s began to unfold, Americans turned to foreign correspondents to keep them informed about threatening conditions across the globe. Historians of journalism describe this period and the 1940s as the “golden age” of American journalism, because of the influence of such figures as Edward R. Murrow, William L. Shirer, and Dorothy Thompson.
American journalist, foreign correspondent, author, and pioneer radio broadcaster William L. Shirer was one of the major observers and chroniclers of the Nazi regime.
As President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins helped create legislation to ease the ravages of the Great Depression and rebuild the American economy, such as the Social Security Act of 1935. Perkins also played a significant role in the rescue of European Jews whose lives were threatened by the Nazi regime.
Many German businesses were involved in the policies of the Third Reich, from arms manufacturing to the expropriation of Jewish property to the use of forced labor to even more direct support for Nazi policies. The Topf and Sons (in German, Topf und Söhne) company is an example of how one company became involved in the worst of the Holocaust.
World War I (1914–18) marked the first great international conflict of the twentieth century. The trauma of the war would profoundly shape the attitudes and actions of both leaders and ordinary people during the Holocaust. The impact of the conflict and its divisive peace would echo in the decades to come, giving rise to a second world war and genocide committed under its cover.
"Weimar Republic" is the name given to the German government between the end of the Imperial period (1918) and the beginning of Nazi Germany (1933). Political turmoil and violence, economic hardship, and also new social freedoms and vibrant artistic movements characterized the complex Weimar period. Many of the challenges of this era set the stage for Adolf Hitler's rise to power.
Adolf Hitler was the undisputed leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party—known as Nazis—since 1921. In 1923, he was arrested and imprisoned for trying to overthrow the German government. His trial brought him fame and followers. He used the subsequent jail time to dictate his political ideas in a book, Mein Kampf—My Struggle. Hitler’s ideological goals included territorial expansion, consolidation of a racially pure state, and elimination of the European Jews and other perceived enemies of Germany.
Before the Nazi takeover of power in 1933, Germany had a thriving Jewish population with strong community organizations. Jews had lived in Germany since Roman times. They were well integrated into German society—they spoke the language, identified with the nationality, and worked alongside non-Jews.
The Nazi Party was one of a number of right-wing extremist political groups that emerged in Germany following World War I. Beginning with the onset of the Great Depression it rose rapidly from obscurity to political prominence, becoming the largest party in the German parliament in 1932.
The Nazis effectively used propaganda to win the support of millions of Germans in a democracy and, later in a dictatorship, to facilitate persecution, war, and ultimately genocide. The stereotypes and images found in Nazi propaganda were not new, but were already familiar to their intended audience.
The Nazis frequently used propaganda to disguise their political aims and deceive the German and international public. They depicted Germany as the victim of Allied and Jewish aggression to hide their true ideological goals and to justify war and violence against innocent civilians.
Shortly after taking power in January 1933, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis succeeded in destroying Germany’s vibrant and diverse newspaper culture. The newly created Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda handed out daily instructions to all German newspapers, Nazi or independent, detailing how the news was to be reported.
After Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany on January 30, 1933, the Nazi leadership decided to stage an economic boycott against the Jews of Germany. Local Nazi party chiefs organized the national boycott operation. Although it lasted only one day and was ignored by many individual Germans who continued to shop in Jewish-owned stores, it marked the beginning of a nationwide campaign by the Nazi Party against the entire German Jewish population.
A key part of Nazi ideology was to define the enemy and those who posed a threat to the so-called “Aryan” race. Nazi propaganda was essential in promoting the myth of the “national community” and identifying who should be excluded. Jews were considered the main enemy.
After the devastation of World War I, the victorious powers imposed a series of treaties upon the defeated powers. Among the treaties, the 1919 Treaty of Versailles held Germany responsible for starting the war. Germany became liable for the cost of massive material damages. The shame of defeat and the 1919 peace settlement played an important role in the rise of Nazism in Germany and the coming of a second “world war” just 20 years later.
The story of Anne Frank is among the most well-known of the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust. Her diary is the first encounter many people have with the history of Nazi Germany's attempt to murder all the Jews of Europe during World War II.
The Diary of Anne Frank is the first, and sometimes only, exposure many people have to the history of the Holocaust. Meticulously handwritten during her two years in hiding, Anne's diary remains one of the most widely read works of nonfiction in the world. Anne has become a symbol for the lost promise of the more than one million Jewish children who died in the Holocaust.
Millions of people suffered and died in camps, ghettos, and other sites during the Holocaust. The Nazis and their allies oversaw more than 44,000 camps, ghettos, and other sites of detention, persecution, forced labor, and murder. Among them was the Börgermoor camp.
Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Lutheran pastor in Germany. He emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. He is perhaps best remembered for his postwar words, “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out…”
During the Holocaust, the creation of ghettos was a key step in the Nazi process of brutally separating, persecuting, and ultimately destroying Europe's Jews. Jews were forced to move into the ghettos, where living conditions were miserable. Ghettos were often enclosed districts that isolated Jews from the non-Jewish population and from other Jewish communities.
In the fall of 1940, German authorities established a ghetto in Warsaw, Poland’s largest city with the largest Jewish population. Almost 30 percent of Warsaw’s population was packed into 2.4 percent of the city's area.
For survivors, the prospect of rebuilding their lives after the Holocaust was daunting. Many feared to return to their former homes.
The Einsatzgruppen (task forces, special action groups) were units of the Security Police and SD (the SS intelligence service) that followed the German army as it invaded and occupied countries in Europe. Often referred to as “mobile killing squads,” they are best known for their role in the systematic murder of Jews in mass shooting operations on Soviet territory.
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