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 Dachau, the longest operating camp.
Beginning on May 10, 1933, Nazi-dominated student groups carried out public burnings of books they claimed were “un-German.” The book burnings took place in 34 university towns and cities. Works of prominent Jewish, liberal, and leftist writers ended up in the bonfires. The book burnings stood as a powerful symbol of Nazi intolerance and censorship.
Despite great obstacles, Jews throughout occupied Europe attempted armed resistance against the Germans and their Axis partners. They faced overwhelming odds and desperate scenarios, including lack of weapons and training, operating in hostile zones, parting from family members, and facing an ever-present Nazi terror. Yet thousands resisted by joining or forming partisan units.
The Germans invaded Poland in September 1939. Leo and his family were confined to a ghetto in Lodz. Leo was forced to work as a tailor in a uniform factory. The Lodz ghetto was liquidated in 1944, and Leo was deported to Auschwitz. He was then sent to the Gross-Rosen camp system for forced labor. As the Soviet army advanced, the prisoners were transferred to the Ebensee camp in Austria. The Ebensee camp was liberated in 1945.
Robert and his family were Jehovah's Witnesses. The Nazis regarded Jehovah's Witnesses as enemies of the state for their refusal to take an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, or to serve in the German army. Robert's family continued its religious activities despite Nazi persecution. Shortly before Robert's birth, his mother was imprisoned briefly for distributing religious materials. Robert's hip was injured during delivery, leaving him with a disability. When Robert was five years, he was ordered to report for a physical in Schlierheim. His mother overheard staff comments about putting Robert "to sleep." Fearing they intended to kill him, Robert's mother grabbed him and ran from the clinic. Nazi physicians had begun systematic killing of those they deemed physically and mentally disabled in the fall of 1939.
Coenraad was born to a Jewish family in Amsterdam that traced its roots in the Netherlands back to the 17th century. After graduating from public school, Coenraad went on to train as a pastry maker at a trade school. But after completing his training at the age of 13, he decided for health reasons to change professions, and he began to study tailoring.
1933-39: Coenraad finished apprenticing as a tailor in 1937 when he was 20. Then he spent a year working as a nurse in a Jewish home for the permanently disabled. It was there that he met Bep, a nurse. She wanted him to go back to tailoring so that they could build a secure future together. In 1939 Coenraad opened a tailor shop in Amsterdam, and in September that year he began to work as a tailor for the military, which fulfilled his Dutch military service.
1940-44: The Germans invaded the Netherlands in May 1940. In 1942 Coenraad was deported and spent the next three years in 11 different German labor camps, where he saw all of his Dutch friends meet painful deaths. In the Annaberg camp a 16-year-old boy came to him. He had ragged slippers on his feet. He offered Coenraad his soup for some shoes. Since Coenraad had two pairs, he gave him one and told him to keep the soup. "Idiot," said another man. "The boy will be dead in a week and then somebody else will take your shoes."
Of the 81 members of his extended family deported by the Nazis, Coenraad was one of seven survivors. His wife Bep survived in hiding, and they were reunited after the war.
Betty was one of 14 children born to a religious Jewish family in Aufhausen, a village in southwestern Germany. Her father was a successful cattle dealer in the area. On May 8, 1903, at age 20, Betty married Max Lauchheimer, a cattle merchant and kosher butcher. They lived in a large house by an orchard in the village of Jebenhausen. Betty and Max had two children, Regina and Karl.
1933-39: In late 1938 Betty and Max were visiting their daughter in Kippenheim when police arrested Max and their son-in-law. Hoodlums stoned the house, shattering the windows. Betty, her daughter, and granddaughter hid until it was quiet. Later, they learned that the town's Jewish men had been deported to the Dachau concentration camp; three weeks later, Max and his son-in-law returned home. That May, Max died of a heart attack.
1940-41: Regina's family moved into Betty's home in Jebenhausen. Many anti-Jewish laws went into effect: Jews couldn't use the bus; Jews had to wear yellow stars; Jews couldn't travel. In late 1941 the household was ordered to report for "resettlement in the east." Betty's son-in-law appealed to the local Gestapo to spare them, hoping they might listen sympathetically because he was a disabled World War I veteran. Though they granted his appeal, it did not extend to Betty. She was forced to report for the transport.
Betty was deported in early December to Riga, Latvia. In the Rumbula Forest near Riga, Betty was shot in a mass execution of Jews.
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 Holocaust was the state-sponsored, systematic persecution and annihilation of European Jewry by Nazi Germany and its collaborators, between 1933 and 1945. Jews were the primary victims - six million were murdered. Roma (Gypsies), physically and mentally disabled people and Poles were also targeted for destruction or decimation for racial, ethnic, or national reasons. Millions more, including homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war, and political dissidents also suffered grievous oppression and death under Nazi tyranny.
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