Deliberate and Systematic Destruction of a Racial, Political, or Cultural Group
This genocide that is going to be discussed was state-sponsored and became known as one of the world’s most notorious times to be alive. The official definition of a holocaust is a thorough destruction involving extensive loss of life (Merriam-Webster, Holocaust ). When it pertains to the Holocaust, almost everyone knows what it is. It was the mass killing of almost six million Jewish, Slavic, and mentally disabled people by Nazi Germany during World War II. Nazis had the hope of creating a master race . To bring this into perspective, before the Holocaust occurred, Poland had a Jewish population of 3,300,000. After the Holocaust, there was a staggering decline to 300,000, killing over ninety percent of the Jewish population. Another country with a large Jewish population, then the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, had a Jewish population of over 3,000,000 before the Holocaust, after, the USSR had a Jewish population of 1,900,000, killing thirty-six percent of the Jewish population. The Holocaust exterminated around two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe, in a matter of four years. With some numbers estimating the deaths over seventeen million, the Holocaust is considered the largest genocide in the world.
Section Two: Causes, Theories & Explanations of Violence
There are several reasons that have been attributed to the cause of the Holocaust. To start, I will focus on antisemitism. Antisemitism is one of the cultural explanations that has been provided and is based on Nazi Germany’s values and beliefs. Antisemitism is the feeling of animosity or discrimination towards Jewish people as a religious, racial, or ethnic group. Do not get me wrong, not everyone inside of Germany was antisemitic. Some had no problem with Jews, at all. The root of the success of Nazi Germany was instilled in people doing what they felt was best for themselves and their families, just trying to get by without getting caught up in the law. A small part of the population saw Jewish people as the enemy and that they were a threat to their survival, but that was a small minority. Much of the country tolerated Jewish people but had no bone to pick with them. What they tolerated even more was the antisemitic regime that they experienced every day. They dealt with it, because along with it come a good economy and a strong leader, something that Germany strongly needed.
In addition to following this regime of antisemitism, people also went along with it, because they wanted to prove that they were not against Germany. They hoped that cooperating would allow them a normal life and safety. Another major explanation for why the Holocaust was as large and lethal as it was, was fear. The country had been seized by the enemy, who would want to go against them when they see everyday what Nazi Germany was capable of? Many people had no relationship with the Jews, besides them owning the local businesses and interacting there. Why defend these people that they did not really know, when it could cost them everything? There were times when people that did speak out were not punished. For example, when non-Jewish wives would protest the deportation of their husbands that were Jewish, they were not punished. This was not enough reassurance for some people to defend Jews, though.
For the soldiers that were under Adolf Hitler and the local police, they were just following orders. Even now, when you are given an order by a superior, you follow it. You trust their judgment. That was the sole reason for many people to participate in such atrocious acts. I was just following orders. That erased much of the guilt that these people would have normally felt.
Listening to people that are above us is something that we are trained to do from childhood. We go to school, and we must listen to our teachers. When we are home, we must listen to our parents. It is second nature to do what we are told. This is what Nazi Germany counted on. They wanted children to learn at an early age, so that it was engraved in them. As children, we do not want to stick out, so of course, the children in Germany just went along with what was being taught to them, even if they did not fully believe in it. This made the youth of Germany susceptible to exploitation.
A good theory to explain why people were okay with what was happening to the Jews, Slavs, and mentally disabled people is Neutralization Theory, from Sykes and Matza. Their theory proposes different techniques that were used to neutralize guilt and empathy that people generally feel when something like this is happening. Some of the techniques are the denial of victim (They had it coming. ), appeal to higher loyalties (I did it for my superior. ), and the condemnation of the condemners (Everybody does it. ). The denial of victim was supplied by Nazi propaganda that exposed people to how bad Jews really were and explained why it was okay to do what they were doing to these people. As humans, it is instinctual for us to empathize with people when we see them hurting; that is natural. As a result of this, we sometimes find ourselves dehumanizing people so that we do not feel so much guilt when something bad happens. With some of these main motivations in play, the Holocaust has become an instrumental part of the history of the world.
Section Three: Prevention Strategies
In my opinion, I do think that genocide can be prevented. There will always be people that have hate in their heart towards a group of people, whether it be a religious group or a racial group, people will always come up with a reason to justify their hate. With that being said, I think putting an end to genocide starts at home and at school. We must raise our children to think a different way, to see people in a different light. We are all human, all born equal, and that should guide us in life. No, not everyone is afforded the same opportunities, but that should not make us feel any different about someone. No one is in the position to judge someone based off something that most of the times cannot be controlled. Seeing people for who they truly are can act as a start for putting an end to these heinous acts.
In 1946, at the United Nations General Assembly, genocide became a crime under international law. As we can see, this law was created right after the Holocaust ended. Under this law, genocide does not have to occur during times of war, but can be during times of peace, as well. This law has the intentions of preventing genocide from happening.
Some other strategies that have been implemented in response to past genocides are the Early Warning Project, the Genocide Prevention Task Force, and the International Efforts to Prevent and Respond to Mass Atrocities project. The Early Warning Project is a tool that gives insight to policy makers about areas that are at a high-risk for genocide and violent activities. It was designed by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Dartmouth College. It was designed to track risk factors and data from experts on the issue to predict future acts. This allows for resources to be allocated appropriately and to not be wasted. There has never been a tool like this used before, but the hopes are that the Early Warning Project allows for the opportunities to prevent these issues before they happen. The Genocide Prevention Task Force was created in 2007, and it is funded by private donations that want to put a stop to mass violence. It was created to prioritize genocide and to come up with real policies to put a stop to it. The International Efforts to Prevent and Respond to Mass Atrocities contains the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle which has been adopted by many nations, to protect its citizens from mass violence.
There seems to be mixed feelings about whether the strategies that have been implemented have been helpful or not. There has been an increase in the awareness of genocide. Not many people want to think about something bad like that happening in our world, but it does, and it is important to make it known. That is an important step in addressing it and ending it. As a response to there being more awareness of the issue, authorities can to it respond quicker when it does happen. As the times change, so does the culture. There is now so many different types of technology available to aid in the prevention of mass violence. We are now taking advantage of those technologies. With all the prevention efforts being put forth, we see a new age of responsibility coming forward. We are now seeing people being held responsible for heinous acts, such as genocide. We are still a long way from genocide being just a thought, but progress is being made.
Section Four: Response Strategies Overview
Police Response: At the beginning of the Holocaust, the police were very skeptical of the activities that were going on with the Nazis. They followed protocol and kept their personal beliefs separate from their work life. They began to investigate the Nazis and their activities. The police were put at ease by Hitler, when he assured them that he planned to uphold the values and traditions of Germany. The police were even excited by the thought that they had a new leader that was strong and would lead their country to success. The police were often criticized for allowing the Nazis to get away with what they did, but since the media was censored by the Nazis themselves, the police experienced less of the criticism. The police were enhanced by the Nazis by receiving more funding to fight local crime, pay for new equipment, and go through proper training. The police had all discretion when it came to the law sector. The police did what they were supposed to do. Crime went down, local gangs disappeared, and there was order, again. The police’s happiness did not last long, though. They soon realized that the Nazis were not going to enforce German values and traditions, as they said they would. All the Nazis were concerned about were racism and oppression. The police soon lost their place and were combined with the SS, and the main goal became to enforce the Nazi regime, eliminating enemy races and incapacitating inferior races . The police did not argue this change in pace, many embraced it and joined them willingly. With Hitler’s right-hand man, Heinrich Himmler, as the leader of the police now, he had all the authority to decide what he saw fit to do to create this utopian society. If that meant killing off an entire population of people, he was there to ensure that it happened. This fusion of departments was responsible for majority of deaths during the Holocaust, the Final Solution.
Court Response: The court’s response to the Holocaust was a genuine one. There were trials in military, international, and domestic courts to dish out justice for these unjust events. Many of the leaders of Nazi Germany were brought before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in
Nuremberg, Germany. Going after the leaders was to make a point, but most of the trials after that were of police officers and people that collected and executed all those men and women. The Allied powers of WWII declared that they were going to hold trials for Axis powers war criminals. The Moscow Declaration confirmed that criminals that were involved in the Holocaust would be sent to the country where their crimes were committed and tried there under those laws. The charges brought forward during these trials were on counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, conspiracy, and crimes against peace. Twelve of the people that were charge were sentenced to death, three were sentenced to life in prison, four received a sentence of ten to twenty years, and three people were acquitted. After those trials of the IMT, twelve other trials were held by U.S. attorneys. These trials tried 177 people and of those, 97 were convicted.
In addition to those trials, each of the Allied powers held trials of their own to punish offenders for wartime crimes. These trials included crimes, such as the murder of military personnel that held been held against their will, and they tried guards and doctors that we stationed at concentration camps for the crimes committed against the inhabitants of the camps. The court system of Germany was implemented again, as a step towards rebuilding the nation. With all the trials that were held for these offenders, many were not tried and were not convicted. They continued in their life like nothing happened.
Correction System’s Response: Spandau Prison in west Berlin, Germany was dedicated to housing criminals that were convicted of war crimes in WWII. It used to house individuals that opposed Nazi Germany and journalists that would spread propaganda, but when the war ended, the prison was allotted to hold seven prisoners that were convicted of war crimes. These were the leaders of Nazi Germany that were convicted of crimes. They were serving sentences, ranging from ten years to life. This prison was managed by the Allied powers of the U.S., Britain, France, and Russia. The conditions of how these prisoners were housed was strict and allowed for no communication of any sorts, even writing. Although these were the rules, sometimes they were not enforced by guards that had relationships with the prisoners. The prison was highly guarded, because many people wanted to take their anger out on the prisoners that were responsible for all the lives lost during the war. This prison was highly regarded, and the prisoners inside were known as the Spandau Seven. Many of the other people that were convicted of war crimes were not focused on as much as the leaders were, so less information is available of their whereabouts.
Community’s Response: Looking at the Holocaust from the outside, people were shocked that something like this could even happen. How could this have really happened without anyone noticing? The media came in like a storm and printed hundreds of articles about the horrible events that happened under Nazi Germany. Where were the Allied powers? Why did they not send help? There was anger and shame and fear. Millions of people were dead, because a group of closeminded people wanted to make this perfect society to live in. The information was transmitted during the war by underground channels, and nothing was done. If someone had responded to those underground channels, millions of people could have been saved. Some survivors took responsibility for not doing enough, not helping save more people, for losing their family, others could not stand the thought that something like this could happen around them. They could not wrap their mind around the fact that they fell victim to something so terrible. The Holocaust is very well-known, all around the world, and it is still in the hearts of people today. No one has anything but sadness and disgust when thinking about it.
Section Five: Concluding Comments
I think there is going to always going be something that we can characterize as genocide. There is war, where soldiers go in a kill women of a certain nationality or kill off an entire population a people, because that is what they are instructed to do. The government supports its troops when they go into other countries, because it is just another war. I do not think that there will be another event like the Holocaust, but I do think that killing will always happen There is going to always be an excuse. The amount of people killed in all these countries in exponential. The number might decrease soon, but it will never completely go away, in my opinion. The decrease that will come will be because of all the media attention that people are getting. It is not going to be as easy to get away with something like this anymore. People are beginning to fight for the injustices in the world, and I think that is going to make all the difference.
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