English 261 NA
Prof. Rondell
February 20, 2004
Holocaust Museum Paper
When World War II ended in 1945; six million European Jews were
dead, killed in the Holocaust. More than one million of the victims were
children. All of Europe’s Jews were lined up for destruction: the healthy,
the sick, the rich and the poor, the religiously orthodox and converts to
Christianity, the aged and the young. The Nazi persecution of Jews began
in Germany in 1933. By 1939, the country’s Jews had been thoroughly
deprived of their civil rights and property and hated from the national
community. German conquests in Europe after 1939 led to the performance of
anti-Semitic policies in the occupied territories. Though the pace and
cruelty of persecution differed in each country, Jews were marked, pulled
to pieces, and isolated from their neighbors. On October 3, 1939 Hitler
orders the doctors to kill physically or mentally defective Germans, the
first order to murder a group of people based on radical principles.

The Jews were sent to ghettos where they struggled daily to keep their
dignity. Larger cities had closed ghettos, with brick or stone walls,
wooden fences, and barbed wire surrounding the boundaries. Guards were
placed tactically at gateways and other boundary openings. If the Jews left
their residential districts, they would be penalized with death. The
smallest ghetto housed approximately 3,000 people. Warsaw, the largest
ghetto, held 400,000 people. The Germans created the ghettos and had the
Jews run them. They created a Jewish council who regulated the food and
money exchange, which came into the ghettos. If the Jewish leaders refused
the Nazi rules, then they were shot and replaced immediately. The Jews
battled for survival daily. During the long winters, heating fuel was
limited, and many people lacked proper clothing. People weakened by hunger
and exposure to the cold had an easier time catching diseases; tens of
thousands died in the ghettos from illness, starvation, or cold. Some
people killed themselves to get away from their hopeless lives. Ninety-five
percent of the apartments had no water or toilets. “Their bodies were
horribly emaciated; one could see their bones through their parchment-
like yellow skin”(Mary Berg). They no longer had human appearance; the
children looked more like monkeys than human. The victims of the smuggling
were mainly Jews, but they were not lacking either among the Aryans.

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Several times smugglers were shot if caught by the guards. Among the Jewish
victims of the smuggling there were tens of Jewish children between 5 and 6
years old, in which the German killers shot in great numbers near the
passages and at the walls; and regardless of that, without paying attention
to the victims, the smuggling never stopped for a moment. When the street
was still slippery with the blood that had been spilled, other smugglers
already set out to carry off with their work. Every day children became
orphaned, and many had to take care of even younger children. Orphans often
lived on the streets, begging for small pieces of bread from others who had
little or nothing to share. Many froze to death in the winter. In order to
survive, children had to be resourceful and make themselves useful.

Thousands of Jewish children survived the Holocaust because people and
institutions of other faiths protected them. The kinder transport sent
young Jews to Palestine starting in 1934 till 1939. They were either sent
to find a new life elsewhere or be faced in a dangerous situation back at
home. From August 1939 till December 1939 the British took in nearly 10,000
children. Dozens of Catholic convents in German-occupied Poland
independently took in Jewish children. Belgian Catholics hid hundreds of
children in their homes, schools, and orphanages, and French Protestant
townspeople protected several thousand Jews. Children quickly learned to
master the prayers and rituals of their “adopted” religion in order to keep
their Jewish identity hidden from everyone. Many Jewish children were
baptized into Christianity, with or without the consent of their parents.

Some Jews risked their lives by hiding out. Life in hiding was always
dangerous. Throughout German-occupied Europe, the Nazis made an intensive
effort to locate Jews in hiding. German officials ruthlessly punished those
who supported Jews and offered rewards to anyone willing to turn in Jews.

Beginning in March 1943, the Gestapo granted some Jews in Germany pardon
from deportation in exchange for tracking down the Jews who had gone
underground. By 1945, when the Nazi regime lay in ruins, these informers
had turned in as many as 2,000 Jews. In other countries, neighbors betrayed
others for money or out of support for the regime. In German-occupied
Poland, blackmailers squeezed money or property from Jews by threatening to
turn them in to the authorities.

One may think that the Holocaust wasn’t very interesting, or something
that should be paid no mind to because it was so many years ago. However,
with millions dead, families destroyed and countries left in ruins, the
Holocaust proves to be a subject of interest for anybody, and one of which
that should be studied thoroughly in order to gain the knowledge it takes
to prevent an event of this magnitude to ever take place again.