Adam\'s Paper

Fuel…. Flame…. Fire…. Inferno…. Ash….


Historically, the word holocaust meant a religious rite in which an offering was completely consumed by fire. In current times the word holocaust has changed to a darker more tragic meaning and refers to more than a religious sacrifice. During World War II, a fire raged throughout Eastern Europe. Guns, bombs, and military groups did not ignite this fire. This fire burned intensely in the hearts of men -- sparked by centuries-old prejudice. One man, Adolf Hitler, took this flicker of hatred and fanned the flames. Hitler energized and stoked the embers, spreading them throughout Eastern Europe causing widespread destruction in the pursuit of a perfect Aryan nation. Although the Holocaust is measured over the course of twelve long years, it does not begin with the mass murder of innocent victims. Michael Berenbaum, a survivor of the Holocaust believes, "Age-old prejudice led to discrimination, discrimination to incarceration, incarceration to elimination" (Altman 1). Thus, the progression of prejudice in the Holocaust began as a flicker of hatred in the heart of a leader and became a blazing inferno consuming the lives of the men, women, and children who crossed its radical path.

After World War I, the social climate in Germany was depressing. The German people were humiliated by their country\'s defeat and by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The financial depression that resulted left millions of individuals out of work. The German government was weak, and the people sought new leadership. These conditions provided an opportune setting for a new leader, Adolf Hitler, and his party, the National Socialist German Workers Party. Hitler, reckless and powerful, was able to fan the flames of an ancient hatred into a wild and out of control holocaust (Altman 12).

As with most hatred and prejudices, the hatred that fueled the Holocaust started with verbal abuse. As soon as Hitler was named chancellor, he persuaded the cabinet to declare a state of emergency allowing him to end all personal freedom. Among the rights lost were freedom of press, freedom of speech, and freedom of gathering. He then voiced his beliefs in the supreme "Aryan" race. As his beliefs spread, spoken or verbal abuse escalated. Those who were not considered to be of the perfect "Aryan" race were jeered and mocked. Fred Margulies, a survivor of the Holocaust, recalls: " When I was about ten years old there was a knock on my apartment-house door: and there was my best friend, Hans. And he spat in my face, and he said \'Manfred, you dirty…Jew\' my best friend changed overnight" (Shulman 7). The Jews endured burning words tossed at them consistently. At first, they were told Jews were not desired, and finally, they were told Jews were prohibited. Jews were not the only ones attacked. Jehovah Witnesses, handicapped individuals, and foreigners were also considered racially and genetically poor. These verbal attacks became the match that would ignite a much bigger fire.

Verbal attacks sparked an avoidance of those considered undesirable. On April 1, 1933, Hitler called for a boycott of all Jewish businesses. Nazi storm troopers stood in front of stores owned by Jewish proprietors holding signs that warned: "Don\'t buy from Jews," "The Jews are our misfortune," and "Buy Aryan" (Bachrach 14). Many Jews lost their businesses as a result of the boycott. Restaurant signs cautioned, "No Jews or Dogs Allowed"(15). Radio broadcasts and newspapers became Nazi advertisement tools to spread lies about the Jew. Schools taught that the Aryans were the most intelligent race. Pictures were displayed showing the sizes of different brains and always depicted the Aryan brain as the largest. Furthermore, the people were told it was a sin against the German people, their ancestors, and the Aryans\' future to associate with the Jews. The Nazi Party distributed leaflets urging pure Germans to keep their distance from the Jews and to shun the Star of David with great ridicule (Shulman 35).

The large-scale avoidance of the immoral Germans made German society more receptive to legalized discrimination. The government was quick to pass laws that in essence torched Jewish citizenship and their legal standing within society. The Nuremberg Laws prevented immoral Germans from being citizens, owning property, or marrying pure Germans. These laws were further rectified to include statutes prohibiting