Development of the Holocoust;
The Holocaust of European Jewry can be divided into four periods of time:
1. 1933-1939: The aim of the Nazis during this time was to “cleanse” Germany of her Jewish population (Judenrein). By making the lives of the Jewish citizenry intolerable, the Germans indirectly forced them to emigrate. The Jewish citizens were excluded from public life, were fired from public and professional positions, and were ostracized from the arts, humanities, and sciences. The discrimination was anchored in German anti-Jewish legislation such as the Nurnburg Laws of 1935. At the end of 1938, the government initiated a pogrom against the Jewish inhabitants on a particular night which came to be known as Kristallnacht. This act legitimized the spilling of Jewish blood and the taking of Jewish property. The annexation of Austria in 1938 (Anschluss) subjected the Jewish population there to the same fate as that in Germany.
2. 1939-1941: During this time, the Nazi policy took on a new dimension: The option of emigration (which was anyway questionable because of the lack of countries willing to accept Jewish refugees) was brought to a halt. The Jew-hatred, which was an inseparable part of Nazi policy, because even more extreme with the outbreak of World War II. As the Nazis conquered more land in Europe, more Jewish populations fell under their control: Jews of Poland, Ukraine, Italy, France, Belgium, Holland, etc. The Jews were placed in concentration camps and compelled to do forced labor. Ghettos were set up in Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic states in order to segregate the Jewish population. In the camps and ghettos, great numbers of Jews perished because of impossible living conditions, hard labor, starvation, or disease. Hitler’s political police force, the Gestapo, had been founded two months after the Nazi rise to power. It became the most terrifying and deadly weapon of the Nazi government, and was used for the destruction of millions of Jews.
3. June 1941 – fall 1943: This was the time during which the Nazis began carrying out the Final Solution to the Jewish problem. Systematic genocide of the Jewish people became official Nazi policy as a result of the Wannsee Conference (Jan. 1942). Special task forces, known as Einsatzgruppen, would follow behind the German army and exterminate the Jewish population of newly conquered areas. In this manner, entire Jewish communities were wiped out. At this point, many concentration camps which had been set up shortly after the Nazi rise to power, became death camps used for the mass-murder of Jews in gas chambers. Some of the more well-known extermination camps were Auschwitz, , Bergen-Belsen, Treblinka, and Belzec.
4. 1943 – May 1945: The beginning of 1943 was a turning point in the war. This time saw the gradual collapse of the Third Reich until its ultimate surrender on May 7th, 1945. Despite the weakened position, the Nazis continued with their plan of destruction of the Jewish population in the ghettos and camps still under their control. As the Soviet army proceeded westward, the Nazis hastened the destruction of the Jews and then of their own facilities in order to cover the tracks of their crimes. In the fall of 1944, the Nazis began the evacuation of Auschwitz, and in January 1945, Himmler commanded to evacuate (by foot) all camps toward which the Allied forces were advancing. In this so-called “Death march”, tens of thousands of more Jewish lives perished.