Anti-semitism And The Holocaust - אנטישימיות ושואה

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Estimated Time: 45 minutes

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Resource Goal


1. You will begin to understand the nature and uniqueness of the Holocaust.

2. You should be able to begin to understand the enormity of the "war" against the Jews.

3. You should begin to understand that the Shoah was perpetrated by human beings - normal people who were fathers, mothers, architects, lawyers, engineers, doctors, church-goers, cultured people.

Resource Contents

This Chapter And You...

At the Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek death camps you will see gas chambers and ovens. You will walk along the same path as our mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers on their way to their annihilation. Ovens and pathways built primarily for the destruction of the Jewish people. Your "March" will be different. You will bear testimony with thousands of Jewish teens from every corner of the world, proclaiming: "Am Yisrael Chai - The people of Israel live!"

The word, "holocaust" (with a small "h") has been used to describe car crashes, burning buildings and fiery eruptions. The word "Holocaust" (with a capital "H") has been used to describe many other tragedies.

On the March you will ask yourself how could this have happened? You will think back to this chapter and wonder at how anti-Semitism led to the horror of the Holocaust.

Haman said to King Ahasuerus, "There is a certain people, scattered and dispersed among the other peoples in all the provinces of your realm, whose laws are different from those of any other people and who do not obey the King's laws; and it is not in Your Majesty's interest to tolerate them. If it please Your Majesty, let an edict be drawn for their destruction, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the stewards for deposit in the royal treasury...

Accordingly, written instructions were dispatched by couriers to all the King's provinces to destroy, massacre, and exterminate all Jews, young and old, children and women, on a single day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month - that is, the month of Adar - and to plunder their possessions."

(Esther, 3)

Reading #1

From prejudice to anti-Semitism is part of the gradual march from racial slurs to extermination. The next three readings deal with this inevitable gradual shift in intensity in hatred, and its ultimate results.

About the Jew - by Adolf Hitler - The Holocaust Years: Society on Trial taken from Mein Kampf

Nazism to 1939: Anti-Semitism becomes law of the land

1. Hitler's rise to power (1919-1933). Germany suffered defeat and humiliation in the First World War, and severe economic and political crisis in the years that followed. The traditional democratic political parties seemed unable to cope with the problems, and the new radical parties - the Communists on the left and the Nazis on the right won widespread popular support. Anti-Semitism was only one part of a wide-ranging platform with which the Nazis appealed to both the resentments and needs of many classes of German society. The Jews became a convenient scapegoat for a nation unwilling to accept defeat and eager to place the blame for its humiliation on a group that many did not regard as an organic part of German society. The Nazis never won a majority of the popular vote, but they used a large plurality to manipulate themselves to the pinnacle of power.

2. The emergence of Nazi racial policies (1933-1935). After Hitler took power on January 30, 1933, the racial doctrines that had been put forth in Mein Kampf (My Struggle) which Hitler had written in prison, in the Nazi press and at party meetings, became the official policy of the German government.

a. In the early days of the Nazi regime there were anti-Jewish riots in the streets, a virulent propaganda campaign and starting on April 1, 1933, a general boycott against the Jews of Germany. This boycott of Jewish businesses was conducted by Julius Streicher, editor of the grossly anti-Semitic periodical Der Stuermer.

b. The government sought to exclude the Jews from the cultural life of Germany where they had hitherto played a prominent role. There were book burnings and Jews were turned out of the universities, the press and the theater.

c. There followed legal measures aimed at making Jews into second class citizens and separating them from the rest of the German population economically and socially. These legal measures were to prove an extremely important step leading to the eventual destruction of the Jews, for once a Jew was defined and isolated, it would be that much easier to deport and ultimately kill him.

1) The expropriation of Jewish property was begun through a procedure called "voluntary Aryanization" by which Jews were pressured to sell their businesses to non-Jews, generally at disadvantageous terms. As measures against the Jews were stepped up, this process became less and less "voluntary."

2) The step-by-step legal exclusion of Jews from German life culminated in the Nuremberg Laws enacted in 1935. They consisted of two basic laws which were followed up by other laws intended to implement them.

a) The "Reich Citizens Law" declared that only persons of "German blood" were Reich citizens, while those of "impure blood" were of inferior status.

b) The "Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor" forbade marriage and sexual intercourse between Jews and "bearers of German blood." It also forbade Jews to employ German servants and to fly the Reich flag.

How did Germany become a criminal State?

Reading #2

In this reading a noted historian gives insight into the components of hatred toward Jews.

The Jews In Hitler's Mental World - by Lucy Dawidowicz (source: file copy)

The Jews inhabited Hitler's mind. He believed that they were the source of all evil, misfortune, and tragedy, the single factor that, like some inexorable law of nature, explained the workings of the universe. The irregularities of war and famine, financial distress and sudden death, defeat and sinfulness - all could be explained by the presence of that single factor in the universe, a miscreation that disturbed the world's steady ascent toward well-being, affluence, success, victory. A savior was needed to come forth and slay the loathsome monster. In Hitler's obsessed mind, as in the delusive imaginings of the medieval millenarian sectarians, the Jews were the demonic hosts whom he had been given a divine mission to destroy.

All his life Hitler was seized by this obsession with the Jews. Even after he had murdered the Jews, he had still not exorcized his Jewish demons. At 4:00 A.M. on April 29, 1945, the last day of his life in the Berlin bunker, he finished dictating his political testament. His last words to the German people were: "Above all I charge the leaders of the nation and those under them to scrupulous observance of the laws of race and to merciless opposition to the universal poisoner of peoples, international Jewry."

As an example, here is what Hitler wrote:

Reading #3

About the Jew - by Adolf Hitler - The Holocaust Years: Society on Trial (Not taken from Mein Kampf)

"The Jewish people, despite all apparent intellectual qualities, is without any true culture, and especially without any culture of its own. For what sham culture the Jew today possesses is the property of other peoples, and for the most part it is ruined in his hands.

Thus, the Jew lacks those qualities which distinguish the races that are creative and hence culturally blessed.

The Jew never possessed a state with definite territorial limits and therefore never called a culture his own...

He is, and remains, the typical parasite, a sponger who like a noxious bacillus keeps spreading as soon as a favorable medium invites him. And the effect of his existence is also like that of spongers: wherever he appears, the host people dies out after a shorter or longer period.

Thus, the Jew of all times has lived in the states of other peoples, and there formed in his own state, which, to be sure, habitually sailed under the disguise of "religious community" as long as outward circumstances made a complete revelation of his nature seem inadvisable. But as soon as he felt strong enough to do without the protective cloak, he always dropped the veil and suddenly became what so many of the others previously did not want to believe and see: the Jew."


What was the role of Adolf Hitler in the development of Anti-Semitism?

Reading #4

Throughout our visit in Poland we will see Catholic churches everywhere. Even the smallest town has a huge church. You will wonder how the Church could stand by idly when people (Jews) were being discriminated against, and ultimately killed? These next two readings will help you understand.

Canonical And Nazi Anti-Jewish Measures - Raul Hillberg

Destruction of the European Jews

Canonical (Church) Law

Nazi Measure

Prohibition of intermarriage and of sexual intercourse between Christians and Jews, Synod of Elvira, 306

Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor, September 15, 1935

Jews and Christians not permitted to eat together, Synod of Elvira, 306

Jews barred from dining cars (Transport Minister to Interior Minister, December 30, 1939)

Jews not allowed to hold public office, Synod of Clermont, 535

Law for the Re-establishment of the Professional Civil Service, April 7, 1933

Jews not allowed to employ Christian servants or possess Christian slaves, 3d Synod of Orleans, 538

Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor, September 15, 1935

Jews not permitted to show themselves in the streets during Passion Week, 3d Synod of Orleans, 538

Decree authorizing local authorities to bar Jews from the streets on certain days (i.e. Nazi holidays), December 3, 1938

Burning of the Talmud and other books, 12th Synod of Toledo, 681

Book burnings in Nazi Germany

Christians not permitted to patronize Jewish doctors, Trulanic Synod, 692

Decree of July 25, 1938

Christians not permitted to live in Jewish homes, Synod of Narbonne, 1050

Directive by Goring providing for concentration of Jews in houses, Dec 28, 1938

Jews obliged to pay taxes for support of the Church to the same extent as Christians, Synod of Gerona, 1073

The "Sozialausgleichsabgabe" which provided that Jews pay a special income tax in lieu of donations for Party purposes imposed on Nazis, Dec. 24, 1940

Jews not permitted to be plaintiffs, or witnesses against Christians in the Courts, 3d Lateran Council, 1179

Proposal by the Party Chancellery that Jews not be permitted to institute civil suits, September 9, 1942

Jews not permitted to withhold inheritance from descendants who had accepted Christianity, 3d Lateran Council, 1179

Decree empowering the Justice Ministry to void wills offending the "sound judgment of the people," July 31, 1938

The marking of Jewish clothes with a badge, 4th Lateran Council, 1215, Canon 68 (Copied from the legislation by Caliph Omar II [634-44], who had decreed that Christians wear blue belts and Jews, yellow belts.)

Decree of September 1, 1941

Construction of new synagogues prohibited, Council of Oxford, 1722

Destruction of synagogues in entire Reich, November 10, 1938

Christians not permitted to attend Jewish ceremonies, Synod of Vienna, 1267

Friendly relations with Jews prohibited, October 24, 1941

Jews not permitted to dispute with simple Christian people about the tenets of the Catholic Religion, Synod of Vienna, 1267

Compulsory ghettos, Synod of Breslau, 1267

Order by Heyrich, September 21, 1939

Christians not permitted to sell or rent real estate to Jews, Synod of Ofen, 1279

Decree providing for compulsory sale of Jewish real estate, December 3, 1938

Adoption by a Christian of the Jewish religion or return by a baptized Jew to the Jewish religion defined as heresy, Synod of Mainz, 1310

Adoption by a Christian of the Jewish religion places him in jeopardy of being treated as a Jew, June 26, 1942

Sale or transfer of Church articles to Jews prohibited, Synod of Lavour, 1368

Jews not permitted to act as agents in the conclusion of contracts between Christians, specially marriage contracts, Council of Basel, 1434

Decree of July 6, 1938, providing for liquidation of Jewish real estate agencies, brokerage agencies, and marriage agencies to non-Jews.

Jews not permitted to obtain academic degrees, Council of Basel, 1434

Law against overcrowding of German schools and universities, April 25, 1933


After Reading #4, comment on the following:

1. What does the comparison between "Church Law" and "Nazi Measures" help us understand?

2. Which laws do you think were the most damaging to the Jews? Why?

3. At what point would you have realized that the "Nazi Measures" were getting to a serious level? What would you have done? What would you do today?

4. Which items in our "Bill of Rights" or in our Constitution protect us from these Measures?

Reading #5

Concerning the Jews and their Lies by Martin Luther, 1542 (Excerpts from)

"First, their synagogues or churches should be set on fire...

Second, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed. They ought to be put under one roof or in a stable, like Gypsies, in order that they may realize that they are not masters in our land, as they boast, but miserable captives...

Third, they should be deprived of their prayer books and Talmuds in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are wrought.

Fourth, their rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any more...

Fifth, passport and traveling privileges should be absolutely forbidden the Jews.

Sixth, they ought to be stopped from usury. All their cash and valuables of silver and gold ought to be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. For this reason, as said before, everything that they possess they stole and robbed from us through their usury, for they have no other means of support...

Seventh, let the young and strong Jews and Jewesses be given the flail, the ax, the hoe, the spade, the distaff, and spindle..."


1. Which of the laws and practices followed by Nazi Germany can be traced to the above ideas of Martin Luther?

2. Which themes and beliefs of Adolf Hitler does Martin Luther, the founder of one of the mainstream Protestant churches, share in common?

3. The fact that Martin Luther was the founder of Protestantism sent a powerful message to Adolf Hitler. What was that message?

Reading #6

"We had a beautiful apartment...but lived a short time there and had to move because there were occurrences of anti-Semitism. In other words, you, the tenants were mixed, Jews and non-Jews, and there were many incidents where stones were thrown at our windows and my father was very worried while working that something would happen to us. In 1939, when there was talk about...I was fourteen years old at the time, thirteen and a half, but very much aware of everything that went on around me. There was talk about Hitler, of occupying Sudetenland, which was right near us because we bordered with Czechoslovakia on the south and Germany on the west...and at last we went away for the summer to the country and the air was just filled with talk about war and very, very tight atmosphere...very, very. Everybody was very jittery, but I remember my father being terribly nervous about the oncoming war but never thinking about the war that would only be a war against Jews. He thought about the war in terms of any other war: bombs, lack of food for his children, and this is what concerned him, this was what worried him. But I never remember any mention of Hitler actually coming to annihilate the Jews.

(Rose Rechnic, a survivor, from In Their Words, pp.3-7) "A Teacher's Guide To Teaching the Holocaust."


1. What type of anti-Semitism did Rose Rechnic experience as a young teenager?

2. How is it that Rose Rechnic's father never assumed the war would be against Jews?

Reading #7

Is the Holocaust unique? Surely you know of other atrocities? Other attempts at genocide? What makes the Shoa unique?

Content: Major Facts and Concepts - from Auschwitz, A Crime Against Mankind by Donna Lee Goldberg, UJA, NY

1. "Holocaust", defined in The New Columbia Encyclopedia (Columbia University Press, 1975), is the name given to the period of persecution and extermination of European Jews by Nazi Germany between 1933-1945. After the outbreak of World War II, Hitler began implementation of what he called "the final solution of the Jewish question", which meant the extermination of the Jewish people in all of the countries conquered by this armies. By the end of the war, six million Jews had been systematically murdered.

2. While it is essential that we recognize the distinctively Jewish nature of the Holocaust, we need to realize that there were other victims of the Nazi regime. We need to distinguish the differences behind the ideology involved in the Nazi policy toward the Jewish victims and victims belonging to these different groups.

3. The universality of the Holocaust lies in its uniqueness; the Event is essentially Jewish, yet its interpretation is universal. The Holocaust was similar to and very different from genocidal events elsewhere.

4. The Holocaust was a unique crime in the annals of human history, different not only in the quantity of acts of violence, but in its manner and in its purpose: a sophisticated killing enterprise organized by the state against defenseless civilian populations. The only victims who were specifically designated for total annihilation were Jews. They were considered irredeemably evil. As Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Laureate, said, "Not all the victims were Jewish, but all the Jews were victims."

5. The concept of annihilation of an entire people, as distinguished from their subjugation, was unprecedented in the history of mankind. Never before had mass murder been an all-pervasive policy of a government, a policy without a territorial or economic consideration, conducted in a total contempt of accepted moral and religious values.

The belief that the architects and perpetrators of the mass murder system were either insane or brainwashed is untrue. The fact is that while these stereotypes are comforting, they are not valid. We must face the fact that the majority of the perpetrators were "normal", well-educated, human beings who fully believed that they were serving a new and higher, moral and scientific truth.

6. Jews were particular targets despite the fact that they were not an integral part of the military struggle. Many activities relating to their destruction, frequently conflicted with, and took priority over, the war effort. Trains that could have been used to carry munitions to the front or to retrieve injured soldiers were diverted to allow transporting of victims to the death camps. Even after the Nazi defeat on the Russian front, when it became evident that the Germans had lost the war, the killings were intensified in a last desperate attempt at complete annihilation. Mass murder was an end in itself, totally independent of the normal requisites of war.

Use Reading #7 to pinpoint important information in the text. After reviewing the reading you should be able to answer these questions:


1. What is the meaning of the term "final solution"?

2. Were there victims of the Nazi regime who were not Jews?

3. If so who were they?

4. Was ideology different toward the non-Jew?

5. If so what were the differences?

Reading #8

Teacher And Child : A Book for Parents and Teachers - by Haim Ginott

On the first day of the new school year, all the teachers in one private school received the following note from their principal.

Dear Teacher:

I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness:

- Gas chambers built by learned engineers.

- Children poisoned by educated physicians.

- Infants killed by trained nurses.

- Women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates.

So, I am suspicious of education.

My request is: Help your students become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns.

Reading, writing, arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more humane.
















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