Holocaust – Concept, causes, consequences and participants

We explain what the Holocaust is, its history and what were its causes and consequences. Also, who participated and how it ended.

The Holocaust has been interpreted as the most sinister and dangerous side of human reason.

What was the Holocaust?

Holocaust is a word that means “sacrifice” and is linked in the Bible with the bloody offerings to God of the Old Testament. However, in the context of modern European history, it is known as the Holocaust (Shoah in Hebrew, which translates “Catastrophe”) to genocide perpetrated by the rulers of the German Nazi regime during WWII (1939-1945) against the peoples they considered inferior, in particular against the Jewish people.

This persecution and massacre of the Jewish people, known in Nazi terminology as the “Final Solution” (Erdlösung) of the “Jewish question”, was perpetrated in concentration and extermination camps built in Eastern Europe, where the population of Hebrew origin from all the countries occupied by the German army, together with political opponents, were driven in inhospitable trains, gypsies, blacks, homosexuals, criminals, psychiatric patients and inhabitants of the regions annexed during the expansion of the German III Reich on the Soviet Union, considered according to the Nazi philosophy as “inferior” and “worthy of extinction”.

To this day the Holocaust is regarded as the worst and bloodiest systematic slaughter of human beings in history contemporary of humanity, in part because of the millimetrically planned system that Nazism implemented to kill millions of people and then dispose of their bodies, cremating them in industrial ovens, making soap, buttons and other commonly used materials with them.

Although there were few episodes of armed resistance against Nazism, the Holocaust was carried out with brutal efficiency, which has subsequently been interpreted as the most sinister and dangerous side of human reason, which may well be put to work in the service of dark forces, rather than for progress. of humanity.

History of the Holocaust

Concentration camp - Holocaust
The prisoners were treated like animals and, in some cases, much worse than animals.

The Holocaust has a strong background in anti-Semitism in some countries in Europe and Asia, generalized in the 20th century and sharpened specifically in Germany, when the Nazi ideology came to power at the hand of Adolf Hitler and began his campaign of demonization of the Hebrew people, making him responsible for the crisis in which this nation was submerged after its defeat in the First World War. This dynamic worsened as Nazism took over the German republic and began to forge it at will, dictating racist laws that little by little were restricting the civil liberties of the Jewish people, taking away the right to own businesses without the participation of a German partner, forcing him to wear yellow stars sewn into his clothes, taking away his capital and property, and eventually forcing them to live in ghettos in various sectors of the cities.

This situation worsened once the war started, when the Nazi leaders decided that their racial enemies (mainly Jews, but also Gypsies, Blacks and Slavs) and politicians (communists, opponents) should work in concentration and forced labor camps, which were built in Germany and other Eastern European countries. This forced emigration of Jews to labor camps began in 1938, under the planning of Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann, pursuing the successive “cleansing” of its Jewish population from Germany, Austria, Poland and other occupied countries.

The most infamous of these concentration camps was the enormous Auschwitz-Bierkenau complex in Poland, where not only were prisoners arranged for work, but their methodical extermination was planned through various techniques, including gas chambers, medical experiments and forced labor in starvation conditions, overcrowding, sickness and cold. The prisoners were treated like animals and, in some cases, much worse than animals.

Causes of the Holocaust

Holocaust - Nazi Regime
The Holocaust provided the Nazi regime with the opportunity to gain great wealth.

In principle, it is difficult to find plausible causes that explain such behavior against other human beings. But nevertheless, it is known that the Nazis held the Jewish people responsible for their hardships and they convinced himself that he was part of a global conspiracy against them, in an unlikely alliance with communism and with the German socialists of the Weimar Republic. Key to the articulation of this racist and violent thought was the appearance of Adolf Hitler, the leader and political, military and spiritual guide of the self-styled III German Reich.

Thus, the holocaust would be the consequence of the need for a scapegoat to justify the poverty to which Germany was reduced after the First World War and the abusive terms of the Pact of Versailles, which was experienced as a humiliation by the German people. To this should be added that the Holocaust gave the Nazi regime the opportunity to seize wealth, property and slave labor, which illicitly enriched its leaders and contributed to the war effort.

Aftermath of the Holocaust

The most obvious consequence of the Holocaust were the 6,000,000 Jews murdered in one way or another in the almost 25,000 concentration camps built at that time, along with thousands and millions of murdered people of other ethnic groups and nationalities.

Such a monstrosity not only shocked the entire world after the war, but it justified the measures taken by the victorious allies (such as Germany’s bipartition) and represented, together with the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima by the United States, the peak of horror to which human intelligence can lead us as a species.

The latter had important philosophical consequences in the West and the world. The philosophical doctrines after the Holocaust were assumed deeply disenchanted with life and with the idea of ​​progress, since technological invention and scientific discovery, as was demonstrated with the Holocaust, are not a guarantee of well-being or happiness. Faith in humanity seemed to be broken and, in the particular case of Germany, Symbols of National Socialism (Nazi) have become a national shame and in taboo.

Who participated in the holocaust?

Adolf Hitler - Holocaust
Adolf Hitler was the ideologue of the whole process, political and military leader of the Nazi party.

In the holocaust it was designed by various members of the Nazi staff, especially:

  • Adolf Hitler. Ideologist of the whole process, political and military leader of the Nazi party;
  • Heinrich Himmler. Director of the SS military internal security corps, organizer and supervisor of the deportation and extermination system;
  • Hermann Göring. Reich Air Marshal, in charge of the executive directives of the “Jewish resettlement”;
  • Reinhard Heydrich. Director of the Reich Central Security Office, who designed the Aktion Reinhard plan and the liquidation paramilitary groups called Einsatzgruppen.
  • Odilo Globocnik. General of the SS who implemented, administered and supervised the first concentration camps in Poland and executor of Aktion Reinhard in various countries;
  • Adolf Eichmann. Lieutenant colonel organizer of the forced deportation plans in the occupied countries, using railway networks for it;
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger. Politician and jurist responsible for the loss of civil rights of the Jewish population in Europe, legalizing the confiscation of their property;
  • Eugen Fischer. Nazi physician and anthropologist, whose theoretical studies contributed to the construction and design of the concentration camps;

And many other officials of the German Nazi regime, as well as possible collaborators in the occupied countries, who celebrated or contributed directly to the extermination of Jews in Europe.

The end of the Holocaust

The Holocaust formally ended with the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945, when his troops were defeated by combat on both fronts: the Soviet and the Allied. The first concentration camp to be liberated was Majdanek, near Lublin, Poland, in July 1944, at the hands of the Soviet army. Despite the efforts of Nazi personnel to destroy evidence of the horrors committed there, the gas chambers were found intact. In the summer of that same year the Red Army liberated the Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka death camps, and in January 1945 it liberated Auschwitz-Biernkenau in Oswiecim, Poland. The story of what they found there traveled the world.

The allies, for their part, they first liberated a concentration camp in April 1945, when British and Canadian troops liberated the Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany. That same month, the Americans liberated the Ohrdruf death camp in Germany, much smaller but just as full of dire evidence of the Holocaust.

Those responsible for the Holocaust were mostly arrested (Many of the high leadership committed suicide along with Hitler) and prosecuted by the international community in what was known as the Nuremberg Trials, between November 1945 and October 1946. Most were sentenced to death or life imprisonment. Subsequently, between 1963 and 1965, the Auschwitz Trials in Frankfurt were carried out, the first entirely German trial of the SS officers and personnel who collaborated with the extermination in the Auschwitz camp and its other sub-camps. 789 individuals were tried on that occasion.